The Problem

Women are excluded from decision-making. Gender inequalities are neglected. Implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda lags behind words and rhetoric. Too much is spent on arms and military security, and too little on gender equality and women's meaningful participation. Sexual and gender-based violence is endemic and rape in war is perpetrated with impunity.

Women may often be victimised, yet, women also have voice and power to be agents of change – to be Peace Women!

The Women, Peace and Security Agenda gives us the tools to change our worlds.

Absence of Women's Voices

Around the world, there is a consistent deficit of gender expertise: Women are excluded from peace negotiations and decision-making. 

According to the 2017 UN Secretary-General report on Women, Peace and Security, in 2016, there was a slight decrease in women's overall participation among delegations to peace processes led or co-led by the United Nations compared with the previous year. Of the 9 processes tracked, senior women were represented in 11 delegations, compared with in 8 processes and 12 delegations in 2015 and 9 processes and 17 delegations in 2014. In 2015, the United Nations provided gender expertise to four of seven (57 per cent) relevant mediation processes, a decrease from 89 per cent in 2015, 67 per cent in 2014 and 88 per cent in 2013. Of 6 peace agreements signed in 2016, 3 (50 per cent) contained gender-specific provisions, as compared with 70 per cent in 2015.

In Libya and Yemen, security situation has now degraded to the point where military dominions have left a very limited space for women to participate in peacebuilding, reconciliation and peace processes, despite them constituting forces for effective change. In Colombia, gender expertise was not included in disarmament work. 

Excluding women from peace processes, peace agreements, and post-conflict reconstruction efforts has severe consequences”not least because it prevents the realisation of real and sustainable peace. The figures and facts above indicate that holistic action the Women, Peace and Security Agenda are needed to facilitate women’s increased and meaningful inclusion in peace work across the conflict cycle. Changing the failed status quo requires that women and women-led civil society have the opportunity to actively contribute to peace processes as independent leaders on women's rights and peace. 

"It is not 'political correctness' for women to participate - it is common sense."

Business as Usual Has Failed

War, violence and conflict are both rooted in and contribute to gender inequality. Yet policies incorrectly assume a fair playing field and ignore gender and women. As a result, business as usual continues inequality and violence. The patterns and violation of human rights and gender inequality exist not only during conflict, but also before and after conflict.

In Bosnia, the failure to address women's economic empowerment in the context of transition has precluded effective participation and contributed to the continuance of violence and abuse. The complex transition from conflict to post-conflict to sustainable development and the prevention of renewed armed conflict is a critical opportunity.

In the DRC, women are forced to live and work in mining camps that are inhumane and where the human rights violations are extensive. Subsequently, there is not any international legal framework in which corporations and states can operate while being required to legislate in order to ensure that human rights are observed and upheld, both within and outside their borders.

The neo-liberal economic models dictate "business as usual", an unquestioning assumption that capitalism is the only economic model, regardless of the gendered, human rights and environmental consequences. Such models support economic growth based on patriarchal assumptions that inflate and prioritise the war economy

Women and gender analysis have the potential to transform their communities through promoting disarmament, violence prevention and securing active participation, protection and human rights for themselves and their communities.

"We live in a world defined by inequality and conflict."

Big Words, but not Enough Action

Implementation lags behind words and rhetoric.

As the 2015 Global Study on UNSCR 1325 found, there is a consistent, striking disparity between policy commitments to gender equality and women's empowerment and the financial allocations to achieve them.

The commitments on paper do not match practice: from poorly planned, underfunded provision of services in conflict-affected situations, to impunity for acts of sexual exploitation and abuse, to continued impunity for SGBV, to lack of support for women's civil society participation in peace processes; there continues to be a disconnected, fragmented and siloed approach to WPS implementation in the Security Council and UN system. There is also a gap to transform international normative frameworks into meaningful developments at the local level and to enable local understandings and demands to be fed back into the international system - enhancing and reinforcing norms.

The key gaps in effective implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda include militarised investments, tokenised and sidelined women's peace leadership, strong focus on women as victims of conflict and absense of context-specific and gender-senssitive analysis of each situation.

"The UN has the financial and political resources, so they have the opportunity to make a difference on the ground. But to make that change on the ground they have to include the civil society organisations on the ground in the designing and implementation of that support."

No Resources to Address Root Causes & Challenging Militarism

Too much is spent on arms and military security, and too little on gender equality. Dedicated resourcing for Women, Peace and Security, especially for civil society advocates in this area, is very limited. States continue to invest in militarised state security, which exacerbates violence, including sexual and gender based violence, rather than human security based in women's experiences.

In 2016, there was a global military spend of $1.686 trillion (SIPRI), a 0.4 percent increase on 2015. 

Meanwhile, gender equality and peace remain drastically under-funded: As the 2015 Global Study on UNSCR 1325 (Global Study) found, there is a consistent, striking disparity between policy commitments to gender equality and women's empowerment, and the financial allocations to achieve them (p. 372). 

The approach to security is built on the belief that military action, or the threat of it, can solve problems and conflicts, and that human security is dependent on weapons. This 'traditional' security approach has been proven to create adverse economic and political consequences that do not reduce conflict but rather increase injustice and inequality.

The marginalisation of women's human rights, the proliferation of arms and pervasive gender inequality are closely interconnected: they are not only a consequence of unrest, but are key sources of conflict.

Adding women to military structures is not changing the structures, culture and impacts of militarisation.

"We cannot let bureaucracy and patriarchy continue taking over the women's agenda within the UN."

Holistic Agenda for Change to address Violence and Inequality Spiral

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence is part and parcel of gender inequality. On one hand, gender inequality promotes violence. On the other, violence also contributes to gender inequality. Gender inequality also is itself a form of violence that restricts the flourishing and capabilities of both women and marginalised groups.  

Sexual and gender-based violence is prevalent in and is a consequence of inequality, patriarchal values, stereotypes, exclusion, oppression and predicated on social and cultural conditions, which are highly gendered. These complex gendered causes and consequences exist differently in pre-conflict, conflict and post-conflict settings. 

Women, especially in conflict, continue to be patronisingly stereotyped as inherently "vulnerable victims". This ignores the agency, equality and participation aspects of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. It ignores how business as usual puts women and feminised groups at particular risk to begin with. It also takes a limited, narrow approach, which ignores the bigger picture. 

“According to a global research on LGBTQI funding conducted by the Global Philanthropy project, funding specifically focused on the needs of gay and bisexual men and men who have sex with men is more than two times higher than the amount of funding focused on lesbian and bisexual women and queer women.”

Impact of War on Women

The system is broken when it comes to Women, Peace and Security. We live in a world which invests in and glorifies war. Yet the war system does not protect women from violence. Instead, it makes violence worse. Preparing for, engaging in, and cleaning up from war diverts critical resources from gender justice and peace. It glorifies militarism and violence.  It contributes to rape culture and gender discrimination. And it puts the spotlight on men and violence while putting behind a curtain over women and leadership for peace.

Militarism normalises and legitimises gender inequality and military action. However, militarism is about more than just the military industrial complex. Militarism as a way of thought affirms the idea that we live in a dangerous world and that we need just warriors to protect beautiful souls. It relies on gendered and racial understandings to value things associated with the military and devalue things associated with non-violence. Militarism and cultures of militarised masculinities create a climate of political decision-making in which resorting to the use of force becomes a normalised mode of dispute resolution. In doing so, militarism enables the legitimisation and continuation of violence.

“The largest agency of the UN is the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), and there is a self- interest of keeping this part of the organisation large. It is therefore necessary to untangle the entrenched norms within the UN, and the political and economic interest of the organisation itself and its Member States. There are interests to continue war, highly economic benefits.”