Report of the Secretary-General on Women and Peace and Security, 2018 (S/2018/900)

Monday, October 22, 2018
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
General Women, Peace and Security
Security Council Agenda Thematic Topic: 
Women, Peace and Security
Document PDF: 

2018 Report of the Secretary-General on women and peace and security

Prepared by Colleen Bromberger

The United Nations Secretary-General’s 2018 Report on Women Peace and Security (WPS) tracks the progress made on the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, pursuant to recommendations and commitments made at the 2015 High-Level Review and Global Study on the implementation of UNSCR 1325. It was compiled through the analysis of data provided by United Nations offices, civil society and regional organisations, as well as Member States.

The Secretary-General’s report focuses on the importance of women’s meaningful participation in conflict resolution and demonstrates the commitment of the Secretary-General’s Office to holistically implementing the WPS Agenda, particularly in the areas of gender-sensitive peace agreements, implementing WPS programming at the local and regional levels, ensuring gender equality as a precursor to peaceful societies, and stressing the importance of Member States commitments to reliable WPS programme financing.


Since his previous report, the Secretary-General notes several positive developments in the implementation of the WPS Agenda. For example, at the country level, gender-sensitive recommendations from the Informal Expert Group on Women and Peace and Security regarding the reconstruction of Afghanistan were incorporated into the mission's engagement. At the UN level, the Secretary-General appointed the first woman Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Counterterrorism Executive Directorate (CTED), as well as achieved gender parity in the Senior Management Group. Furthermore, the Security Council increased the number of women civil society speakers that briefed meetings and debates. These developments exemplify that the gender dimension is being integrated into all levels of UN-related work.

In the report, the Secretary-General outlines many challenges to women’s meaningful participation in conflict resolution. Some examples of obstacles that are highlighted by the Secretary-General include poor representation of women in United Nations peace operations and in mediation, sexual and gender-based violence, pervasive violent masculinities and manipulation of gender norms and stereotypes. Furthermore, the lack of reliable data and consistent funding remain as challenges in implementing the WPS Agenda in the following year. 

In the wake of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of UNSCR 1325 (2000), the Secretary-General notes four key areas for continued prioritisation:

  • Women, Peace and Security for prevention and peace: Citing research that indicates gender equality as a precursor to conflict prevention, the Secretary-General reaffirms his support for Member States to commit to actualising the WPS Agenda.

  • Gender parity in peace and security: Despite the Secretary-General’s commitment to increase the number of appointed women in UN offices,  only 41 per cent of women comprised served as heads or deputy-heads of missions in either the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and/or the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) as of September 2018. Noting the lack of progress for gender parity in several offices, particularly in the fields of mediation and missions, the Secretary-General welcomes new initiatives with target efforts and calls on Member States to nominate gender balanced lists of candidates for senior posts in national administrations.

  • Ending sexual exploitation, abuse, and sexual harassment: Referencing his most recent report on protection measures from sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA), the Secretary-General reiterates his commitment to ending SEA within the United Nations.

  • Gender mainstreaming in peace and security: The Secretary-General highlights the importance of incorporating a gender-sensitive lens into programmes, policies and conflict analysis as a means to “unmask unequal power dynamics”. According to the report, DPKO and DPA employed 53 and 25 gender advisers respectively, with a further  21 Women Protection Advisers deployed in seven mission settings. In the face of budget cuts, the Secretary-General notes his concerns and downgrading and cutting these positions, and urges that management prioritises gender sensitive units and advisors as crucial to the conflict analysis and prevention.

  • Dedicated implementation follow-up: In his concluding remarks, the Secretary-General reaffirms his full commitment to implement the WPS Agenda through adopting and implementing gender-sensitive, concrete measures. In this vein the Secretary-General commits to include an assessment on implementation of recommendations made since 2015 in his 2019 report.


I. Women’s leadership and meaningful participation in conflict resolution

The Secretary-General recalls the successful interventions of women in conflict settings to facilitate peace in Central African Republic, Mali, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Syria and Yemen to highlight the importance of including women in formal peace processes and peace negotiations. Referencing the expert group meeting convened by UN Women in May 2018, the Secretary-General expresses his concerns that continued “institutionalised gender bias and discrimination, continued and high prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence, lack of women’s economic, social and cultural rights, low levels of women’s political participation prior to conflict, and the continued levels of poverty, food insecurity, disparity and deprivation placed upon women and girls” (para 30) serve as barriers to women’s meaningful participation in peace processes.

Suggested action steps to address persisting barriers were identified as follows:

  • Encourage Member States to support women’s equal footing within local, national and regional peace processes. This includes, requiring and advocating for processes to include meaningful and influential roles for women’s civil society and core, decision-shaping and making roles for women with the same access and level as men; platforms and mechanisms dedicated to addressing the full scope of women’s and girls’ human rights and gender equality, specifically as it is linked to prevention; and inclusion of gender expertise and gender- responsive analysis from the start (para 32);

  • Encourage creative and practical steps to remedy barriers, such as travel expenses, childcare, mobility and translation. This includes through the establishment of rapid response funding mechanisms, with capacities to approve short notice requests, thereby empowering women to seize critical opportunities in peace processes and related events (para 33); and

  • Incorporate women as a part of pre-negotiation processes if they are to influence and inform the entirety of the process. In addition, improved linkages, information flows and feedback mechanisms are needed between various mediation tracks to ensure decisions made are inclusive and rooted in realities on the ground (para 34).

II. Gender-sensitive peace agreements and their implementation

The Secretary-General highlights  that gender provisions are more likely to be present in comprehensive peace agreements that are concluded at the end of a peace process; therefore it is important to incorporate gender-sensitive language into peace processes in order to ensure full and meaningful participation of women in peacebuilding and implementation phases in post-conflict reconstruction.

However, women’s full inclusion in peace processes remains a key gap in implementation. Despite the evidence that women’s full inclusion in peace processes ensures sustainable outcomes for both prevention and reconstruction, the number of peace agreements signed in 2017 saw a reduction in gender sensitive provisions, moving from eight (50%) out of 16 in 2014, to seven (70%) out of 10 in 2015, to three (50%) out of six in 2016, to finally three (27%) out of 11 in 2017.

Suggested action steps to address persisting barriers were identified as follows:

  • Call on Member States and the United Nations system to ensure women’s voices and experiences are included across processes, including through support and engagement with civil society, and to create an enabling environment for their participation (para 46); and

  • Encourage Member States to support and fund these efforts, including the monitoring of the implementation of gender-related provisions in peace agreements; consideration of temporary special measures, such as gender quotas; and clear methods for civil society engagement across implementation mechanisms (para 47).

III. Regional and national strategies

In the vein of supporting the implementation of the WPS Agenda at the national and regional levels, the Secretary-General notes the importance of both adopting and implementing National Action Plans. In 2017, seven Member States adopted NAPs, with the total number of NAPs adopted at 76 Member States. Several regional organisations that were highlighted included, the Women, Peace and Security Focal Points Network, Global Network of Women Peace Builders and African Women Leaders Network in their work of integrating the WPS Agenda at the local and regional levels.

Suggested action steps to address persisting barriers were identified as follows:

  • Call on all members of the Network to use this moment to champion the full implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in words and deeds at global, regional and importantly, national level (para 49); and

  • Encourage regional organisations to strengthen and advance these efforts, including through gender parity strategies and actions to address the meaningful participation of  women (para 53).

IV. Gender equality for just, peaceful and inclusive societies

Within the framework of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Secretary-General focuses on the following ways in which gender equality supports just, peaceful and inclusive societies:

A. Promoting gender equality and women and girls’ empowerment in humanitarian action, including guaranteeing access to essential services

Agencies, such as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), assisted in providing access to essential services during the reporting period. However, data continues to indicate that barriers still exist to access in “education, physical and mental health care and services, including sexual and reproductive and HIV-related services, and maternal care in conflict-affected and humanitarian settings” (para 55), with gaps in services for conflict and post-conflict countries.

Suggested action steps to address persisting barriers were identified as follows:

  • Reiterate previous recommendations on the delivery of child- and adolescent friendly, non-discriminatory holistic health care and other services, including sexual and reproductive health care, particularly access to safe services for termination of pregnancies and mental health and psychosocial support, which should be delivered in accordance with international human rights law (para 58); and

  • Continue to acknowledge the leadership of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands to prioritise sexual and reproductive health and rights in humanitarian crises and call on other Member States to contribute to these efforts (para 58).

B. Sexual and gender-based violence – a principal obstacle to inclusive and durable peace

Sexual violence in conflict-related settings remains a concern for the Secretary-General, and as referenced in his previous report (S/2018/250), societies that experience gender inequality are more vulnerable to both conflict and violence resulting from conflict. With reference to his previous report on conflict-related sexual violence, the Secretary-General raises awareness about particular situations of concern, including the targeting of women involved in human rights, sector sectors and activism.

Suggested action steps to address persisting barriers were identified as follows:

  • Continue to call for dedicated protection mechanisms informed by those under threat, including women who face intersecting discrimination based on race, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation and gender identity, economic status and other factors (para 61);

  • Recognise efforts by all actors forming part of the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-based Violence in Emergencies (para 62); and

  • Encourage all relevant entities to continue working with Member States to further strengthen gender-based violence prevention, risk mitigation and response (para 62).

C. Economic recovery and women’s access to resources

Within the framework of women’s economic empowerment as a pillar to conflict prevention, the Secretary-General notes that failure to invest in women’s economic empowerment is failure to invest in peace. In addition to the issue of women’s lack of access to property and financial rights in both conflict and post-conflict settings, reconstruction financing in post-conflict societies further marginalise women by focusing on large-scale projects, such as infrastructure, as opposed to local initiatives that are gender-sensitive.

Suggested action steps to address persisting barriers were identified as follows:

  • Recognise the need for an enhanced focus on economic recovery and women’s access to resources for prevention and sustaining peace, particularly in conflict and post-conflict settings (para 66);

  • Encourage United Nations entities and Members States to take innovative, gender sensitive approaches to raise the bar in our progress on women’s economic empowerment in peacebuilding and conflict recovery by identifying what investments are taking precedence over women’s economic recovery and reinvesting in larger scale women’s economic recovery (para 66).

D. Promotion of women’s roles in disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control

As a call to improving the meaningful participation of women in disarmament efforts, as area in which women are significantly-underrepresented, the Secretary-General released his disarmament agenda, Securing Our Common Future, to support the implementation of the WPS Agenda.

The suggested action step to address persisting barriers was identified as follows:

  • Urge more countries to build capacity for such analysis and data collection (para 68).

E. Preventing and countering violent extremism and countering terrorism

Data collection is also critical in protecting women and preventing terrorism and violent extremism with a gender sensitive-approach. The Secretary-General notes that extremist groups often use violent masculinities as a tool for sexual and gender-based violence and discrimination.

Suggested action steps to address persisting barriers were identified as follows:

  • Encourage Member States and entities to tailor responses to reflect these experiences and am encouraged by efforts (para 73);

  • Encourage all Member States to stand firm in their commitments to international law in all their efforts, as reflected in the Global Counter Terrorism Strategy and Security Council resolutions (para 75);

  • Encourage UNODC, CTED, OHCHR, UN-Women and other relevant entities to continue working with Member States to mainstream gender analysis as a core component (para 75);

  • Encourage Member States to review national counter-terrorism policies for gender specific impacts, noting the good practices available (para 75); and

  • Urge Member States to also consider gender parity strategies in this field at the national and regional levels (para 76);

  • Urge Member States and United Nations entities tasked with implementation of Security Council resolution 2242 (2015), and the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy to prioritise upstream prevention, and meaningful engagement with women’s civil society organisations (para 78); and

  • Encourage UNOCT to continue mainstreaming gender throughout its work, including through advancing mechanisms for consistent and meaningful dialogue with women’s civil society organisations (para 79).

F. Governance and women’s political participation

Noting the trend in stagnant and decreased participation of women in politics in conflict and post-conflict societies, the Secretary-General notes the the importance of highlighting the violence against women in politics as a barrier to participation and advancement.

Suggested action steps to address persisting barriers were identified as follows:

  • Hope that the advancement of data collection methods on SDG 5.5 will encourage capacity-building on analysis, particularly on women’s registration as candidates and voter turnout.

G. Rule of law and women’s access to justice and security

The Secretary-General notes that both women’s access to justice, as well as their participation in rule of law institutions, remains low. During 2017, Member States and independent human rights organisations, with the help of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women released pertinent information regarding violations of women’s access to justice and security in conflict countries. The Secretary-General notes his support for the collaboration between Member States and civil society, highlighting the establishment of a “commission to provide reparations to survivors of conflict-related sexual violence” in Kosovo during 2018 as good practice (88).

No clear suggested action steps to address persisting barriers were identified.

V. Financing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda

In this section, the Secretary-General highlights the need for consistent and dedicated funding for WPS programmes, particularly in the wake of the 57 per cent global military spending since 2000. Despite the increased visibility and awareness of mainstreaming gender equality into programmes, bilateral financial support for dedicated gender programming is the primary channel for WPS funding. The Secretary-General highlights the good practices of Canada, EU institutions, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Sweden in their consistent funding and organisation of gender programmes and technical assistance. The Secretary-General highlights several funds, projects and programmes that serve as a platform for financing WPS, including: Gender and Youth Promotion Initiative, High-Level Task Force on Financing for Gender Equality, the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund, and the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund.

Suggested action steps to address persisting barriers were identified as follows:

  • Recognise calls by women-led civil society organisations for better management of funding;

  • Call on UN entities to measure the downward trend of funding for WPS programmes;

  • Reiterate call to ensure financial support for the PeaceBuilding Fund, so they may assist with gender-sensitive, peacebuilding programmes;

  • Increase support, particularly through dedicated funding, for women-led initiatives and organisations in order to combat the reduction of women-led civil society organisations that fight conflict; and

  • Call on Member States to increase funding for the “Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund and to help the Fund reach its target of US $40 million by the end of 2020” (para 98).

VI. The work of the Security Council

The Secretary-General notes the following areas of progress by the Security Council in reference to mainstreaming WPS in its work: in the inclusion of more provisions that include references to WPS, particularly within the mandates of the Central African Republic, Iraq and Mali; the increase in women civil society briefers to the Security Council meetings; and the  Informal Experts Group on Women and Peace and Security increased analysis of women. Furthermore, the Secretary-General states that 84 per cent of his reports to the Security Council, including country-specific, regional and peacekeeping operations, referenced WPS. The Secretary-General notes in particular that more work needs to be done on mainstreaming gender and the WPS Agenda throughout all countries on the agenda of the Security Council and the Informal Experts Group on Women and Peace and Security.

Suggested action steps to address persisting barriers were identified as follows:

  • Encourage further representation of women civil society briefers in future briefings and debates;

  • Encourage Member States of the Security Council to address issues related to WPS;

  • Encourage the inclusion of WPS provisions in Security Council field mission reports;

  • Encourage the mainstreaming of information from Informal Experts Group on Women and Peace and Security into national and regional channels;

  • Expect Special Representatives to ensure that gender sensitive monitoring and reporting is included in reports to the Security Council;

  • “Encourage Security Council Members to address specific questions on women, peace and security to field leadership during consultations” (para 105).


Overall the report of the Secretary-General indicates a clear and positive commitment towards advancing the participation of the WPS Agenda with clear, focused recommendations. The Secretary-General’s focused language on structural inequalities, namely “violent masculinities” and “power dynamics” are important steps forward to challenging the root causes of gender inequality. Furthermore, the Secretary-General’s commitment to gender parity and sustainable financing to the WPS Agenda indicate the clear intentions to turning rhetoric into practice.   

Moving forward, the Secretary-General provides the following three recommendations:

  • Call on Member States to adopt concrete measures and to make positive commitments as related to the Security Council’s agenda;

  • Encourage the Security Council to continue to implement the recommendations made by the Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security; and

  • Encourage Member States to conduct review processes on the implementation of UNSCR 1325 (2000) prior to the 20th anniversary in 2020.