Highlights from the UNSCR1325+18 week: Dismantling Patriarchy and Ensuring Women’s Meaningful Participation
Participants of WILPF’s Internal Workshop titled, “Feminist Peace Dialogue: Tackling Root Causes for Women’s Meaningful Participation” on 22 October 2018 (Visual: Nathaniel Hamlin)
In October 2018, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR1325) celebrated its 18th Birthday!
As a product of long-term advocacy and push from civil society, UNSCR1325, along with seven subsequent Women, Peace and Security (WPS) resolutions, affirms the Security Council’s responsibility and commitment to strengthening women’s participation, protection and rights across the conflict spectrum.
The UNSCR1325+18 week brought together women from all over the world to New York to present progress made and remaining challenges to the implementation of the WPS Agenda.
On the occasion, WILPF facilitated engagement from our global activist network with peace leaders from Colombia, Cameroon, Lebanon, Spain and Syria. Together, we mobilised to raise awareness around the need for leaders on peace to raise their standards on women’s participation in peace and conflict work. We called for action that does not just add women to the war system, but which addresses root causes of conflict and violence. We demanded women's meaningful participation that orients action on peace and security around local women’s voices for nonviolence and justice.
WILPF at the UNSCR1325+18 week
WILPF supported a variety of events, meetings and discussions across the week, including high-level bilateral meetings with our partners as well as open events around meaningful participation and its link to disarmament, elections, humanitarian work, peace processes and feminist peace movement-building.
Our engagement contributed to a significant shift in the discourse across the week: rather than the typical tokenistic references to “women as victims but also agents of change”, discussions highlighted systems of patriarchy and economic institutions for war, brought up the critical importance of not just changing the face of leadership by adding women, but tackling the tough challenges of gender inequality by changing political, economic and social systems from violence to equality and justice.
Panellists and organisers from the event titled, “Political Movements and Electoral Processes: Strengthening Women’s Meaningful Participation in Formal and Informal Spaces” (Visual: Nathaniel Hamlin)
To start off the week, WILPF and our partners held an internal workshop, entitled “Feminist Peace Dialogue: Tackling Root Causes for Women’s Meaningful Participation”. Activists shared experiences on how they are tackling pernicious obstacles and mobilising for systemic change. In Cameroon, women have been flagging gendered early warning signs for years, and have worked around this year’s elections to address electoral violence by building partnerships between women civil society leaders and local authorities through the Cameroon Women for Peaceful Elections. In Colombia, the women’s movement was critical to the creation of the historic peace agreement, yet have faced a surge in killings of human rights defenders since its signing. Despite these risks, Colombian women leaders continue to push for agreement implementation, especially of the gender provisions of the agreement, and call for “more life and less arms”. In Lebanon, feminist activists are engaging men to prevent violence against women and promote women’s rights, and are using legal reform of personal status laws to ensure social protection from rape and domestic violence.
On 24 October 2018, Wo=men, Oxfam, Cordaid, Care, International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN), WILPF and the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands co-hosted an event titled, “Reality check: What is working in Yemen and CAR when it comes to international support for women’s leadership in peace and security?”. Although she was unable to participate in person since her visa was not approved by the US government, our partner Rasha Jarhum, Founder and Director of the Peace Track Initiative, along with two other panellists, participated via video link. She highlighted how Yemeni women are bearing the brunt and exacerbated the impact of the war, yet are playing an underappreciated and increasingly marginalised role when it comes to meaningful participation at the peace table. She called on the UN to not give up on supporting women’s participation beyond the transitional period and to strengthen action to enhance the participation of Yemeni women, youth and Southerns at all levels and focus on reconstruction and economic recovery that supports Yemeni women, especially heads of households, including through social protection, reparations and accountability.
Together with the Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations, WILPF organised the 24 October side-event entitled, “Political Movements and Electoral Processes: Strengthening Women’s Meaningful Participation in Formal and Informal Spaces”. Although there is much attention to women’s participation in the WPS Agenda, action tends to be disjointed and project-based. This panel discussion provided a forum to explore how to interlink action on women’s meaningful participation around elections processes. Women peace leaders working around Afghanistan, Cameroon, Colombia and Syria identified elections as a mobilising space to catalyse women’s leadership on multiple levels. They explored how violence and discrimination prevent all forms of women’s participation -- from civil society activism to women’s participation as voters to political candidates -- and called for donors to invest in local women’s movements and women’s political participation as voters and local to presidential candidates as part of long-term funding strategies. They also called for Member States to support enabling environments for women’s participation by crafting constitutions based on women’s rights, nondiscrimination, preventing arms proliferation and mitigating climates of fear that repress participation. As one participant stated, “women’s exclusion from peace processes is a reflection of women’s low participation and status worldwide”.
On 25 October 2018, the Canadian Mission in partnership with Small Arms Survey and WILPF held and event entitled “The Converging of Agendas: Women, Peace and Security, Small Arms Control, and Sustainable Development”. Although all three Agendas affirm the importance of addressing gender and disarmament, especially addressing the gendered impacts of small arms and the importance of women’s participation in disarmament work, too often efforts remain disconnected. This event was an opportunity to increase convergence across the three Agendas, by exploring opportunities to enhance coordination and policy coherence that strengthens women’s participation and accelerates gender-responsive arms control. WILPF Cameroon President Sylvie Ndongmo highlighted that action on the three Agendas must address extraterritorial accountability on arms transfers that promote humanitarian and gender-based violence consistent with the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). In the same vein, participants also explored how violent masculinity is linked to guns as status symbols of patriarchal power, and how easy access to guns (i.e., being able to rent a gun for $50/day in Colombia) contributes to deaths and violence against women, and how controlling arms and ensuring women’s leadership is critical to upstream prevention and sustainable development and peace.
WILPF took on a leadership role in mobilising with our coalitions to create community spaces for strategic discussions and build synergies for action across the WPS week.
As part of the NGO Working Group on WPS, WILPF worked with the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UN Women to design and facilitate the Tuesday 23 October Multi-Stakeholder Meeting on Women, Peace and Security. The Forum aimed to provide a substantive dialogue on strengthening accountability and joint action for implementation of the WPS Agenda among Security Council Members, key UN agencies and global women civil society. Reporting back on the 2018 Expert Group meeting on women’s meaningful participation, UN Women Peace and Security Deputy Head Sarah Douglas asked “Why isn’t women’s participation happening? It it about discrimination and patriarchy”. In reports back from the break-out sessions, participants called for action to enhance incentives and strengthen accountability mechanisms for holistic action; enhance elected member leadership and progressive leadership by the Council as an influencer across the UN system; fund gender analysis; address gender bias in planning; model and exceed gender parity; and work toward a feminist peace agenda by 2020. In a nutshell, as one participant stated: “Counter patriarchy!”
Building on this conversation, on 26 October, WILPF worked with the NGO Working Group on WPS to hold a Civil Society 2020 Planning Session. 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of UNSCR1325, as well as the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the 5th Anniversary of the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Climate Agreement, and the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations, among others. Ahead of this milestone year, the Forum provided space for the global feminist peace movement to build consensus around key tensions and obstacles for holistic implementation and accountability. Participants identified mobilising spaces to work together in 2019 and 2020, and affirmed that as a movement, 2020 must be not about empty new commitmentments, but about concrete behavioral shifts that change the lives of local women through participation, justice, and peace.
WPS Debate and Advocacy
Randa Siniora Atallah, General Director of the Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counselling in Jerusalem, addresses the Security Council meeting on Women, Peace and Security. (Photo: UN Photo/Manuel Elias)
On 25 October, the Security Council debate on WPS was convened under the Presidency of Bolivia, with a focus on “Promoting the Implementation of the WPS Agenda and Sustaining Peace through Women's Political and Economic Empowerment".
The debate built on the 2018 Secretary-General’s report on WPS, which for the first time had a thematic focus on women’s meaningful participation, as well as an Expert Group Meeting on women’s meaningful participation earlier in 2018. All three also built on WILPF’s calls in our 2017 Geneva Convening on Strengthening Women’s Meaningful Participation at the UN to move from top-down to bottom-up action, and design work for peace based on local women’s leadership for rights and justice
This year’s debate was historic for having a woman peace activist from Palestine officially brief the Security Council. Randa Siniora, General Director of the Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counselling in Jerusalem, spoke on the experiences of women under Israeli Occupation and its gendered implications.
“The Israeli occupation and the resulting humanitarian crisis are deeply gendered and exacerbate existing gender inequalities,” stated Ms. Siniora, noting the disproportionate and therefore gendered effects of violence, lack of access to resources and funding cuts of UNRWA to women in Palestine. She also called on the Security Council to end its military occupation and settlement expansion, commit to a political solution with women at the table, stop exporting arms to Israel when there is a serious risk of violating international human rights and humanitarian law, and ensure gender-sensitive humanitarian support.
As a whole, the debate included powerful statements that went beyond traditional calls to action and included addressing masculinities and patriarchy, economic resilience and access to resources, and root causes. In addition, statements made by representatives alluded to the progress and positive steps undertaken by Member States in the implementation of the WPS Agenda, such as the improving the inclusion of more civil society briefers to the Security Council, supporting the creation of regional mediation networks, and implementing the work of the Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security (IEG). Several proposals that were shared at the debate included providing increased financial support to the women’s mediation network FemWise by Germany, supporting the inclusivity of the security sector reform (SSR) in the Central African Republic by Slovakia and strengthening women’s initiatives in combating terrorism by Jordan.
Many representatives praised this inclusion as progress for women’s meaningful participation. In particular, the representatives of Mexico, the Netherlands and the United States highlighted the importance of increasing the number of civil society speakers in future UNSC briefings. The representative of Sweden, which during its Presidency of the UNSC invited three women civil society briefers to address the meetings, noted the importance of including civil society as a role model. More broadly, the importance of the work of civil society organisations was noted as the foundation for encouraging women’s meaningful participation. Furthermore, the representatives of Norway and Switzerland recognised WILPF for its work on the WPS Agenda.
This year, a number of women peace activists were unable to attend the UNSCR1325+18 week due to the discriminatory impact of the US Travel Ban, including WILPF partners from Yemen and Libya. WILPF continued to raise an alarm that the US travel ban is a threat to the integrity of the United Nations, as it violates fundamental human rights principles and further restricts space for the leaders of civil society, including human rights defenders and peacebuilders.
WILPF continued to bring attention to women’s #MissingVoices and call for the UN to reclaim its Charter and become the peace organisation it was intended to be by ensuring women’s access and meaningful participation for peace. We worked with partners and coalitions to revitalise conversations about #MissingVoices and strategise on overcoming around for women’s participation in the context of exclusion and shrinking space for women civil society.
As part of addressing a broad range of obstacles to women’s meaningful participation, we also supported our partners in Iraq by participating in a public action bringing attention to killings of women human rights defenders in Iraq. On the morning of the Security Council Open Debate, 25 October, we participated in a vigil and stood in solidarity with the women of Iraq in light of the recent targeted assassinations of Tara Fares, Suaad al-Ali, Rasha al-Hassan, and Rafif al-Yasiri in Iraq. We supported the calls of brave women in Iraq to stop efforts to push women out of politics and public life and to restrict their movements, not just in Iraq, but also in Colombia, Guatemala, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Honduras and around the world.
WILPF appreciates the statements by six speakers at the Security Council debate which acknowledged the importance of encouraging and supporting civil society action on the ground. We welcome public statements at events across the week, such as by the Netherlands, that brought attention to how the ongoing shrinking of civil society space impedes progress towards women’s meaningful engagement.
However, more action is needed. The US must urgently overturn its discriminatory travel ban. If it does not, the UN needs to have a serious conversation about what measures it will put in place to ensure local women’s participation in peace and security work, or it will not be doing its job.
The recent Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, served as a good reminder to participants of the need to listen to survivors and seek justice for them. Several mechanisms have been announced as key for making this happen, including the Group of Experts on the rule of law and sexual violence, Commission of Inquiry on Syria, among others.
At the Arria Formula Meeting on 22 October 2018, participants also discussed how to ensure accountability mechanisms for perpetrators of sexual violence. While UNSCR 1325 addresses the need to consider the impact of sanctions on civilians including women and girls to address humanitarian exemptions (OP 14), later WPS resolutions have called for targeted individual sanctions to include perpetrators of conflict related sexual violence to ensure that rape is not a “cost-free” act. This Arria discussion brought attention to the need to orient accountability mechanisms around the voices of survivors, in order effectively address the violation within the context of power, norms and stereotypes surrounding sexual violence.
On 26 October, the Global Network for Women Peacebuilder’s (GNWP) launched their Young Women for Peace and Leadership (YWPL) Programme. The Programme used to be known as “Girl Ambassadors for Peace” and serves to connect the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda with the WPS Agenda. The Programme is meant to empower young women from conflict-affected countries to be leaders and agents of peace. At the event launching the revived program, young women peacebuilders from Canada, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Philippines shared their work towards peace in their respective contexts.
Affirming the importance of magnifying the voices and experiences of local women peacebuilders and experts, Oxford launched the “The Oxford Handbook of Gender and Conflict” to enhance the understanding of what works to promote women's participation in peace and security, what works to protect women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence and other human rights violations, and what works to prevent conflict, drawing on women's experiences and knowledge of building peace from local to global levels.
Women have historically led the way towards peace and security that work for women and all people. The conversations during the UNSCR1325+18 week have demonstrated that adding women is just a first step. Meaningful participation requires holistic and effective action that amplifying experiences of women and women’s groups and putting them at the centre of peace work.
Join us in demanding that the international community steps up!
As we prepare for 2020 and the 20th anniversary of WPS, the international community must put local women’s voices for feminist peace at the center of their work, and move from commitments to concrete implementation for accountability.
We encourage you to: