Leveraging the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for Gender Equality and Peace: WILPF Webinar on the 2017 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF)


On 28 June 2017, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) held a webinar entitled, “Leveraging the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for Gender Equality and Peace”. The webinar was designed to share information and lessons learned on where are we now in the SDGs, what are the challenges and opportunities and how can activists leverage the SDGs for local action on gender equality, disarmament and sustainable peace.

The webinar was well attended with civil society activists and scholars from across the world and focused on developing ways to foster local action around SDGs to leverage existing peace work. It highlighted how the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) and the Sustainable Development Agenda cannot be separated from the global holistic agenda for development and peace that is based on the international law, including CEDAW, ATT, UNSCR 1325 and other legal instruments.  

WILPF PeaceWomen Programme Director Abigail Ruane introduced the discussion by reminding participants that sustainable development comes at the intersection of three different dimensions. “Sustainable development is at its roots a development of cultivation rather than exploitation,” Ruane stated.  “It is economic development that protects the environment and promotes human rights, including women’s human rights.” Unlike the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the SDGs are both universal and explicitly address peace and conflict. This is critical, since the conflict was a key gap on the MDGs, and since realising the SDGs will not be possible without addressing conflict situations including women. However, Ruane noted that the SDGs are not always addressed from either a conflict or a gender lens, and gender and peace financing remain far from a reality: only 2 per cent of aid on peace and security targets gender equality; the $1.6 trillion global arms trade could cover a third of the SDGs; and one F-35 plane has the same budget as the entire global women’s movement. Ensuring that the SDGs work for women in conflict situations requires: 1) extraterritorial accountability on sexual and gender-based violence (5.2) due to arms (16.4) consistent with the Arms Trade Treaty; 2) innovative financing (17.2) that takes action to #MoveTheMoney from war to gender equality and peace consistent with Beijing Platform for Action (E2) and Agenda 21 (22.16); 3) political and financial support for national and regional platforms enabling women civil society’s meaningful participation (17.17) with impact consistent with Rio Principle 10; and 4) an enabling environment that overcomes systemic obstacles to respect, protect, and fulfil women’s human rights. Ruane concluded by bringing attention to how engaging through coalitions to bring a conflict and militarism lens to the implementation of the SDGs is a key opportunity in making the SDGs work for women and girls in conflict situations. The SDG Major Group and Other Stakeholder system, which is rooted in Rio Principle 10 and commitments to procedural justice, has created space at the international level for WILPF to engage through the Women’s Major Group. Regional and national civil society engagement mechanisms are now being explored including in Asia and Europe  and provide additional opportunities for ensuring civil society space.

Gabriella Irsten of WILPF Sweden then provided insights and suggestions from Sweden’s national perspective on how local civil society organisations can leverage the SDGs and 2030 Agenda to strengthen the work they are already doing. According to Irsten, leaving no one behind requires a global perspective that ensure accountability for national impacts both within and outside of member states. “A comprehensive approach which combines local, regional and international efforts, and connects different SDGs (with SDG 5 and 16 as cross-cutting) is crucial for holistic accountability,” she stated. In this vein, developing SDG National Action Plans should address obligations under other international frameworks, including the CEDAW, the Arms Trade Treaty, and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. Irsten shared how WILPF-Sweden has utilised the SDG commitment to leaving no one behind and promoting policy coherence to strengthen advocacy on restricting arms exports to countries that discriminate against women and addressing immigration and asylum policy. She also shared how WILPF-Sweden has leveraged other goals, such as SDG 14 on oceans, to address action on demilitarisation and disarmament, including by advocating to repeal Swedish military authorisation of testing weapons in Swedish lakes. While recognising Sweden as a global actor and ensuring accountability outside of its borders is a challenge, the SDGs have provided a useful tool to promote an integrated approach that strengthens women’s human security in their work on peace. Irsten recommended that civil society activists do not see SDGs as additional work, but instead utilise them as a tool to strengthen the work that they are already doing by connecting with national and regional SDG coalitions. This will not only help civil society to strengthen their work but also mobilise the feminist movement to recognise the holistic and gendered dimension of the 2030 Agenda.

After this discussion of challenges, WILPF PeaceWomen Programme Associate Marina Kumskova presented WILPF’s HLPF Social Media Package. This kit provides a tool for activists to mobilise recognition by member states, the UN, and the international community of local women’s important work, and mobilise action that implements the SDGs in a way that works for women in conflict situations. Each day, the women peace activists and women human rights defenders around the world contribute -  directly and indirectly -  to developing and mobilising local action to ensure sustainable development based on disarmament and women’s meaningful participation, political participation and human rights. Therefore, it is important to bring attention to these experiences and take action that strengthens local women’s work for peace and women’s rights especially in conflict situations and overcomes structural barriers to gender equality and sustained peace.

After presentations by speakers, the webinar then moved to a vibrant discussion. Participants shared experiences across regions and discussed opportunities including on engaging with local authorities and localising action around key areas including prevention and climate change. Sharing knowledge on creative approaches to mobilising and overturning continuing obstacles, including on ongoing restrictions to women’s local participation and inadequate funding, will be important to learn from experience in using the SDGs as a transformative tool and strengthening action for feminist peace.


Learn more about the 2017 High-Level Political Forum at: http://bit.ly/2rQzXRF

Review our HLPF Social Media Toolkit at: http://bit.ly/2sl340J

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