New WPS Resolution a High Water Mark in WPS Commitments

On Friday, October 18th, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2122, addressing challenges to women’s participation in peace and conflict arenas. 

This resolution is a high water mark in Women, Peace and Security commitments, and provides the most extensive elaboration of methods to combat obstacles to women’s participation to date. Its passing has swung the pendulum back from the recent narrower focus on sexual violence in conflict (e.g., SCR 1820, 1888, 1960, and 2106) to a more holistic approach to peace and security (e.g., SCR 1325 and 1889).

Together with key civil society partners and like-minded Member States, WILPF was actively involved in advocacy to push for action that moved the WPS agenda forward and welcomes the new resolution as a step in the right direction. The resolution can be interpreted as a sign of the Council’s willingness to accord greater systematic attention to the implementation of the WPS agenda to its own work. It now remains for us to observe the implementation of this resolution for much needed change to be achieved.
Resolution 2122 generally reinforces the role of women as agents and promotes full participation. Specifically, it adds new accountability checks within the UN systems, which are welcomed and aim to change the business as usual approach in the UN.
The resolution also confirms the Council’s intention to convene High Level review in 2015 to assess progress, renew commitments and address obstacles currently hindering the full implementation of resolution 1325. Additionally, it requests for the first time the commission of a global study. This in itself is not transformative but could offer potential to build further political support and action. Civil society can use the Council request to States to “formulate new targets” (op15) to push their national governments on key areas.

As our coalition, the NGO Working Group, has consistently advocated for, the resolution includes points to promote more timely information and analysis (op2). These may seem like small additions but can be effective and practical measures to promote implementation such as requesting senior DPKO and DPA officials, Special Envoys and all UN Commissions of Inquiry to update the council on WPS issues (OP2 a-e).

For the first time, the Council recognizes the need to address “root causes of armed conflict” and threats to the security of women and girls (PP 14) and explicitly affirms an “integrated approach” to sustainable peace “based on coherence between political, security, development, human rights, including gender equality, and rule of law and justice activities” (PP 11). This is critical to the holistic approach and intention of SCR 1325.

Furthermore, the resolution builds on WILPF advocacy linking disarmament and gender equality and addresses the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) twice – acknowledging its adoption (PP 16) and looking forward to its contribution to reducing violence against women and girls (PP17). It also builds on the recent SCR 2117 in urging Member States to ensure women’s full and meaningful participation in combating illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) transfer and misuse (OP 14). However, consideration of these issues should be strengthened. Moreover, the resolution includes less language on capacity building than in previous years, more action on which would be welcomed.

It is critical that these commitments translate from words to full and effective action. WILPF looks forward to continuing our ongoing work to leverage these commitments into meaningful change, and to working with all of you to make this possible.

Further details

The resolution strengthens commitments to gender aware action in a number of ways. This includes integrating gender equality and women’s security provisions into UN mission work and mandate renewals (OP 4 &5); providing Council meeting with women’s organizations and civil society in Council field missions (OP 6); requesting SG Special Envoys and Special Representatives to consult with women organizations and leaders; encouraging dedicated funding mechanisms to enhance women’s leadership development and full participation; requesting the SG to make gender expertise available to all UN Mediation teams and support senior women as UN mediators and in mediation teams; and calling on all parties to peace talks to facilitate the equal and full participation of women (OP 7a-c).

Affirming Human Rights Obligations

This resolution also breaks new ground in recognizing state human rights obligations. In the resolution, the Council recognized that “States bear the primary responsibility to respect and ensure the human rights of all persons” as provided by international law (PP 10). This language does not fully capture the Maastricht Guidelines of the Convenient on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which details member state obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill women’s equal human rights without discrimination or retrogression using maximum available resources. However, it is still a strong step in the right direction.

Breaking Down Silos

Resolution 2122 addresses the ongoing disconnect at the UN between discussion of development and human rights, on one hand, and of security and conflict, on the other, which are particularly evident in the current Post-2015 sustainable development discourse. Addressing this gap, it recognizes the need to address root causes of armed conflict and threats to the security of women and girls (PP 14) and explicitly affirms an “integrated approach” to sustainable peace “based on coherence between political, security, development, human rights, including gender equality, and rule of law and justice activities” (PP 11).
In addition, the resolution breaks ground in other areas such as ensuring multisectorial services for women affected by conflict and postconflict, including regarding pregnancies resulting from rape without discrimination (PP 8).