Analysis: Progress and Challenges


How is the Security Council making progress on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda?

Since the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 (2000), the Security Council has been developing the normative framework of Women, Peace and Security (WPS). Each of the additional WPS resolutions adds important elements to the framework.

- An Inclusive Agenda:

The Security Council has recognised that civil society provides ‘specialised knowledge, capabilities, experience, links with key constituencies, influence and resources to support peaceful solutions to disputes’ (S/PRST/2005/42, para. 4) and facilitates ‘community leadership, help shape public opinion, and facilitate as well as contribute to reconciliation between conflicting communities [while also] providing a bridge to dialogue and other confidence-building measures between parties in conflict’ (S/PRST/2005/42, para. 5). The Security Council has also affirmed civil society briefings as a way to strengthen integration of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda into its work (UNSCR 2242 (2015), OP 5 (c)).

- Focus on the local context:

The 2015 High-Level Review and UNSCR 2242 (2015) added important elements to improve member states' implementation efforts and called for the integration of the WPS Agenda throughout country-specific situations. This represents progress in establishing accountability measures on state commitments which all too often, go unfulfilled. UNSCR 2151 (2014) also encourages Member States undertaking Security Sector Reform to ‘take the lead in defining an inclusive national vision [...] informed by the needs and aspirations of the population’ (OP 3), including around women’s equal and effective participation (OP 19). Resolution 2122 (2013) also urges regional and sub-regional bodies to strengthen policies, activities and advocacy for the benefit of women and girls, including around mediation and decision-making (OP 7(c)), and to review existing plans and targets to accelerate action, including with participation of women civil society (OP 11).

- Prioritising Gender Analaysis:

With the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, the Security Council affirmed the need for a gender perspective, including the collection of better data to address the impact of armed conflict on women and girls (UNSCR 1325 (2000), OPs 5, 7, 8). The Security Council has also begun to address masculinities by affirming the importance of engaging men and boys as partners in promoting women’s participation in conflict prevention, resolution, peacebuilding and post-conflict situations (UNSCR 2242 (2015), PP 12, OP 4), as well as in preventing sexual violence and combating all forms of violence against women (UNSCR 2106 (2013), PP 5).

- Disarmament:

The Security Council has recognised the impact of illicit small arms and light weapons on women, called for women’s participation in the prevention for armed violence and disarmament (UNSCR 2220 (2015), OPs 18, 26) and encouraged risk mitigation of women becoming players in illicit transfer of small arms and light weapons (UNSCR 2242, OPs 2, 15). It has affirmed that a comprehensive conflict prevention strategy should include non-proliferation (S/PRST/2018/1, para. 12), recognised that the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is a risk for protection of civilians (S/PRST/2015/23, paras. 13-14) and called for gender in disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programmes (UNSCR 1325, OP 13)).

- Civil Society Enaggeement:

In Note 507 (2017), the members of the Security Council encourage Security Council missions to hold meetings with local civil society leaders (para. 123). Security Council Members also agree to consider using Arria-Formula meetings ‘to enhance their contact with civil society and non-governmental organisations, including local non-governmental organisations suggested by United Nations field offices’, encourage lengthened lead times and permit participation by video teleconference (para. 98).

- Other developments:

The elements added in UNSCR 2242 (2015) include the creation of the Informal Expert Group on Women Peace and Security (IEG 2242),  proposals for peacekeeping reform including the provision of comprehensive pre-deployment training, calls for the generation of gender research and expertise, and calls for increased WPS- and gender-focused financial contributions.

- Internalisation of WPS:

The most significant improvements in 2017 were in the context of the Security Council’s response to country-specific and regional crisis situations, such as the Lake Chad Basin region, as well as in resolutions adopted and reports considered on specific thematic issues, such as small arms and light weapons (SALW), trafficking, and counter-terrorism. Additionally, there were some positive developments regarding sanctions regimes and reporting by associated expert groups.

Further analysis and monitoring work on internalising the Women, Peace and Security in the thematic and geographic work of Security Council can be navigated in Security Council Monitor section of the website


Where are some of the gaps in the Security Council’s implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda?

The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda is still hindered by challenges. Despite some progress in policy, political recognition and a general increase in gender references, there remains a need for more systematic, consistent, and comprehensive implementation by the Security Council.

Some of these challenges include: accountability gaps, data gaps, analytical gaps, and the implementation gap within the Council.

Leadership and accountability through a concrete follow-up mechanism that includes regular review and assessment of the Council’s WPS work are not yet realised. These problems are reflected in the inconsistent integration of WPS commitments in the Council's reports, missions, briefings, presidential statements and resolutions.

Conflict prevention work is underemphasised and inconsistently undertaken. Small arms and light weapons (SALW) are not given the attention they warrant. Useful language calling for gender-responsive disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programmes, in addition to security sector reform, is not employed consistently, despite the clear need.

Beyond resolutions, the Council’s lack of a systematic and comprehensive approach is seen also in its reports, missions, briefings, and presidential statements. While many country reports received by the Council address parts of the WPS Agenda, they are overall inconsistent. The Council’s presidential statements are also still inconsistent in addressing WPS-related matters. The Council’s record on presidential statements is perhaps the most startling.

WILPF's research on the WPS implementation efforts by the Permanent member of the Security Council also confirms that strengthening women’s meaningful participation, conflict prevention and disarmament are critical gaps to address for achieving feminist peace. Read the full report here!

In sum, the Security Council has not responded to the demands of women’s organisations and integrated WPS obligations systematically, nor has it advanced progressive language. Without this language and specificity, the gender dimension of this work is overwhelmingly neglected.