UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Trial in Northern Ireland: Summary of Proceedings and Outcome

Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Western Europe
Peacewomen Comment: 


Resolution 1325

The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 is effectively a piece of international law binding on all 191 UN member states. Resolution 1325 calls for:

· Participation of women in peace processes

· Gender Training in peacekeeping operations

· Protection of women and girls and respect for their rights

· Gender mainstreaming in the reporting and implementation systems of the UN relating to conflict peace a security.


A unique event took place at Stormont, the parliament buildings of the Northern Ireland Assembly. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 was put on trial for its effectiveness. The trial was organised by the Northern Ireland Women's European Platform, NIWEP, an umbrella NGO with membership groups across a wide range of civil society and social partners in Northern Ireland. NIWEP works with its members to strengthen the place of women in civil society in policy and decision making and in all women's roles in their communities.

The trial selected two elements of 1325 for scrutiny:

· increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management and resolution of conflict

· adopting a gender perspective when negotiating and implementing peace agreements

Three witnesses gave evidence on policing and the machinery in place, women in public bodies and on peace building and politics.

See the evidence below and then see how you agree with the jury's verdict.


A report published in September 2004 by the Office of the Oversight Commission, who is tasked with overseeing the implementation of the Patten Report into policing in Northern Ireland, stages the following:

"Of the five completed and two ongoing recruitment competitions, Consensia have received a total of 38,098 applications as at April 2004... 37% from females."

The Patten Report itself includes the following recommendations:

122 - "Priority should be given to creating opportunities for part-time working and job-sharing, both for police officers and police service civilians, and career breaks should be introduced."

123 - "Childcare facilities should be introduced where applicable, or childcare vouchers and flexible shift arrangements offered."

Little has been done so far to implement these recommendations. Part-time and job-share working have been introduced for civilian staff but not for police officers. The Gender Action Plan (see below) is intended to take further action on these and other recommendations.

The Gender Action Plan: Dismantling Barriers to Reflect the Community we Serve was published in October 2004, with the vision:

"PSNI is an organisation which recruits, retains, promotes and deploys females throughout the Police Service in a way that allows them to maximise their full potential to the benefit of both the Police Service and the community we serve." It states that current female representation is 16.47% and is on the increase, in line with the national average. I argue that, in light of the confirmed ratio of applications being received, this is not acceptable and that PSNI should be striving to better the national average in line with the true percentage of the population. It gives further information about the under representation of females in various areas of work, however females are over represented in the civilian staff, and disproportionately more so at lower grades.

There are some good examples of female participation on, for example, District Policing Partnerships and Community Safety Partnerships, however this is not widespread.

· The Police Ombudsman is the only obvious example of a female taking a high-level role in policing.

· The Policing Board has 19 members of whom only two are women

· No local women were involved in producing the Patten Report.

Public Bodies

Much criticism has been targeted at NDPBs - that they are not democratic, members represent an elite and they are often unaccountable. However, less attention has focused on the way in which the membership is male dominated and the consequences of this.

It is worth drawing attention to some stark statistics:

· Currently of the 2,060 appointment, approximately two thirds are held by men;

· The percentage of female chairs is 27%;

· With reference to bodies which attract remuneration for chairs - 70 per cent are held by men;

· If we take one body established since the Good Friday Agreement, the Policing board, the membership is made up of 17 men and 2 women.

The tradition has also been for women to be congregated in particular areas, for example they are represented to a much greater extent on bodies falling within the remit of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, to a much lesser extend on bodies linked to agriculture and rural development, regional development and bodies linked to 'sensitive' issues such as policing, parades and cross border issues, a pattern which serves to reinforce the idea of women as being more 'suitable' for particular areas of public life.

Since the 1990s efforts have been made to increase the transparency around public appointments and to provide more information about the composition of bodies. The post of Commissioner of Public Appointments was established and a Code of Practice for Public Appointments was drawn up. This has resulted in positions for Executive and NHS Public Bodies being advertised, the need for 'job' specifications and in some cases interviews in order to attract a wider pool of applicants and to dispel allegations of political patronage and sleaze. Greater information has been made available through the publication of an annual report by the Commissioner.

It has to be concluded that there has been a failure to effectively address the under-representations of women in decision-making in Northern Ireland. We need to be clear that addressing the problem requires stronger affirmative action measures. Sensitive Bodies - those linked to the peace process and important for post conflict society - need to be gender proofed. Gender balance needs to be tackled with the same vigor as religious inequality - and stronger powers of monitoring reporting and sanctions should be attached to the women's representation.

Peace Building

Although the number of women involved in the negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement was relatively small, the quality of their contribution was valuable and significant. On the British Government side day-to-day oversight of the negotiations was in the hands of Dr. Mo Mowlam, the then British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. As Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Liz O'Donnell formed part of the Irish Government delegation. The Northern Ireland Women's Coalition made a major contribution to the Agreement.

At the June 1998 elections, 14 women, to be followed by one other, were elected to the NI Assembly (13.8%). Despite their few numbers, during the lifetime of the Assembly and Executive they played an important role in decision-making. Although the SDLP's Brid Rodgers, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and Bairbre de Brun, Sinn Fein Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety were appointed because men did not want these difficult positions, both symbolically and practically, they were important in dispelling myths about women's capabilities.

The role of women in the peace process, considered in its broadest sense to include community-based women and women in other areas of public and political life, must be sustained and the commitment of the GFA to ensure 'equal opportunity in all social and economic activity' must be lived up to.

The November 2003 elections saw 18 women (17%) elected in an election dominated by the constitutional issue.

In a Life and Time Survey March 2003 66% women and 57% men said they wanted to see more women elected. 55% of all who were surveyed said that parties should have more women candidates. Yet the reality was that 25 women from the 5 main parties stood, compared with 142 men.

The Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002 allowing for all women shortlists in the selection process has not been implemented by any political party as a means of redressing imbalance in candidates.

The lessons of the past decades clearly demonstrate women's contribution to community development, to peace, to social justice and the necessity of securing gender parity in the political process, both in negotiations and in implementation.

The Verdict

In closing the defense asked the jury to consider some of points:

· 1325 is still very young; it is only four years old. Compared to other international laws such as CEDAW and BPfA, 1325 is still in its infancy

· There has been progress in the areas of NDPBs, policing and the peace process, through such mechanisms as training, gender action plans, and incentives, among others

· The UK government is in the early stages of developing a Government wide Action Plan for implementation of 1325 'linking development, humanitarian, defense and diplomacy work...', currently considering what type of body would be most appropriate to work on this plan and examining potential models from other countries. The UK Government has committed itself to action on 1325 in its presidencies of both the European Union and G8 in 2005.

In reply prosecution argued that 1325 did not exist in a four year vacuum.

· The government of the UK has been a participant in the movement to ensure women's full and equal participation in decision-making and the prevention of armed conflict and the protection of women' rights at both the international and regional level

· The government has also signed up to and ratified commitments to the full and equal participation of women in all decision-making, including decision-making on peace and security issues - at Nairobi, in Mexico, CEDAW, BPfA.

· If action is in its infancy then that does not signal clear or sufficient commitment to the implementation of Resolution 1325.

The jury - people from the community and voluntary sector, political and academic life, the statutory sector and trade unions - voted on the resolution:

..... "Have the United Kingdom Government, the Northern Ireland Executive and Northern Ireland Assembly (when in being) and Northern Ireland's political parties, demonstrated sufficient commitment to the implementation of Resolution 1325 in Northern Ireland, and in particular to those elements of the Resolution that have been highlighted here today?"

The Result was a unanimous "NO".

A unique event took place at Stormont, the parliament buildings of the Northern Ireland Assembly. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 was put on trial for its effectiveness. The trial was organised by the Northern Ireland Women's European Platform, NIWEP, an umbrella NGO with membership groups across a wide range of civil society and social partners in Northern Ireland. NIWEP works with its members to strengthen the place of women in civil society in policy and decision making and in all women's roles in their communities.