There is now very wide acceptance of the fact that modern armed conflict has a disproportionate impact on women and girls even though most are not directly engaged in combat. The significance of Security Council resolution 1325--adopted in October 2000--lies in the way it links the impact of war and conflict on women on the one hand and also promotes their participation in various peace and security processes such as in peace negotiations, constitutional and electoral reforms and reconstruction and reintegration on the other.
The Council's decision to take up women, peace and security as a separate thematic topic flowed out of the Council's broader thematic agenda. In the twelve months prior to resolution 1325, the Council had adopted its first resolutions on protection of civilians and children and armed conflict. This thematic examination was taking place after a bloody decade of peacekeeping failures, such as in Somalia, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. As part of the examination of the broader atrocities committed, it became clear that, in Rwanda and Bosnia in particular, significant attacks had occurred specifically targeting women, including reports of systematic sexual violence.
Concerned about this pattern of gender-based violence, Council members in resolution 1325 agreed that it was important, in the future, to ensure that women's needs, and therefore their views, were taken into account in the planning and execution of all aspects of conflict prevention, peace processes, peacekeeping operations and post-conflict recovery on the assumption that women had a critically important contribution to make regarding how peace could be achieved and maintained. Put simply, by involving and taking into account the views of half of society a negotiated peace was more likely to be able to be implemented by that society.
Resolution 1325 laid out a normative framework. Furthermore, it asked the Secretary-General to carry out a study on the impact of armed conflict on women and girls, the role of women in peacebuilding and the gender dimensions of peace processes and conflict resolution and to report to the Council.
Resolution 1325 also recognised that women were combatants in many conflicts, and were also a significant part of the support systems to armed groups, and must be paid special attention in demobilisation and reintegration programs. It also highlighted the obligations under international law of parties to conflict to protect women in armed conflict. This aspect was considerably strengthened by subsequent resolution 1820 (2008), in which the Council recognised that systematic sexual violence can significantly exacerbate situations of armed conflict and may impede the restoration of international peace and security. Resolution 1888 (2009) followed up this conclusion and requested the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Margot Wallström of Sweden was appointed to this position on 2 February 2010.
Resolution 1325 made some very practical recommendations to the Secretariat and member states:
to increase the number of female peacekeepers; and
to increase the number of women leaders dealing with issues of peace and security both in national governments and the UN system.
The Council made these recommendations believing that increasing the numbers of women in these functions would improve prospects for peace by: empowering women in conflict through positive female role models; changing the relationship between traumatised civilians and security services by putting a female face on authority; and by offering an alternative perspective in providing solutions to conflict situations.
The normative framework created by resolution 1325 has guided work on gender ‘mainstreaming' policies (in practical terms taking into account women's needs and views across a broad spectrum of functions and projects in which the UN is engaged) across the UN system and has thrown a spotlight on issues preventing gender equality within UN agencies.
It also called attention to the Secretary-General's action plan to have gender equality in the Secretariat by 2000.
The framework also prompted the Council to continue taking up the thematic issue of women, peace and security in the ten years since. In the last three years it adopted three further resolutions on this subject (resolutions 1820, 1888 as well as 1889 which focused on the importance of women's involvement in post-conflict recovery). In 2010 alone, the Council was expecting five different reports from the Secretary-General stemming from resolutions 1888 and 1889.
Finally, the tenth anniversary of 1325 will be recognised by a ministerial-level open debate of the Security Council in October.
This report demonstrates that during the past decade, the Security Council has attempted to address in a cross-cutting way the issues facing women in conflict (as laid out in resolution 1325) in its consideration of country-specific situations. It has managed to succeed in achieving this in many country situations. But its approach has not been fully systematic. The Council appears to have been considerably more successful in addressing the protection rather than the participation aspects of resolution 1325.
It appears that addressing the impact of conflict on women in specific mandates relies largely on the efforts of a few Council members or individuals within the Secretariat.
Over the years, the Council has lacked consistent, high-level leadership on this issue. Responsibility to mainstream the issue across the broader Council agenda often falls upon junior officers who cover gender issues in their portfolio in the General Assembly. Many come into the Council delegation just to discuss this issue and therefore have little experience in negotiation in the Council context or the country-specific situations. Accordingly, a mainstreaming or cross-cutting methodology is often absent from the delegations.
The changing composition of the Council has also significantly affected the Council's approach to this issue. Elected members have tended to have a strong influence on Council dynamics.
At press time, negotiations were underway in the Council, ahead of the open debate in October, on an outcome for October. These are focused on the role of the Council in the implementation of resolution 1325 and ways to improve Council working methods in its consideration of women and peace and security across the Council agenda.