Source: Make Every Woman Count (MEWC)
Eleven years ago on the 31st October 2000, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1325, the first Resolution on Women, Peace & Security.
According to Peace Women, a project of The Women's International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF), an organization dedicated to promoting the role of women in conflict prevention, “Resolution 1325 marked the first time the Security Council addressed the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women; and recognized the under-valued and under-utilized contributions women make to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peace-building.”
Resolution 1325 is a landmark legal and political document which calls for participation of women at all levels of decision-making, protection of women and girls in conflict, prevention of violence against women through the promotion of women’s rights, accountability and law enforcement, and the inclusion of a gender perspective in peace operations in conflict and post-conflict zones.
Despite its binding legal character upon all United Nations Member States Resolution 1325 has made little progress in its eleven-year history. Only 32 states have created National Action Plans as called for by the United Nations Secretary General to monitor the implementation of Resolution 1325. Six states are in Africa. There are 193 United Nations Member States, and 54 states in Africa.
Cote D’Ivoire was the first to adopt a National Action Plan in 2007, followed by Liberia in 2009, DR Congo, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Uganda in 2010. All of these countries are in conflict or just coming out of it.
The low level of National Action Plans in Africa is particularly worrying. Of the more than 30 conflicts in the world more than half of them are in Africa, according to the Uppsala University Conflict Encyclopedia, therefore there is an urgent need for national governments to create, adopt and implement plans on Resolution 1325.
Though these countries deserve recognition and praise for their efforts, there is still more to be done. For example, in DR Congo alone it is estimated that more than 400 000 women and girls have been raped as a result of the conflict gripping the mineral-rich central African state. Few of them if any will make it to the negotiations table. In Sierra Leone, 30% of the fighting forces during the 11-year conflict were women, yet very few were able to participate in the Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration programmes.
As a result, some positive changes have been made: While evaluating the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia with specific attention to gender across units, Mark Leon Goldberg found that having more women police, military, and civilian peacekeepers led to an increase in physical safety and security for vulnerable groups. “For one thing, more women in the field means more outlets for community-based intelligence gathering (through better interactions with women in the community).” He also saw lower rates of gender-based violence and fewer instances of impunity for perpetrators.
Ban Ki-moon commented on the anniversary of Resolution 1325: “Women’s participation remains low, both in official and observer roles. This has to change.” Although some positive changes have been made: the number of women leading UN peacekeeping, political and peacebuilding missions had gone up over the past year to six out of 28 missions.
In Liberia, the Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET) took matters into their own hands. They showed that women are powerful and integral players in the reconciliation process. WIPNET was formed in 2002 to mobilise women in Liberia to come together for peace. The mass mobilisation of women for peace was successful in urging the government and rebel groups to begin peace negotiations. Later, WIPNET led the grassroots movement that elected Africa’s first female head of state. This is just one example among many of women leading the way in building peace and increasing gender equity in Africa.
Funmi Olonisakin, a researcher with the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, in her report Ten Years Since the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325: Envisioning its impact on African Women in 2020, attributes the slow progress on the implementation of Resolution 1325 in Africa to culture. She highlights that in many African states, DR Congo one of them, women are considered second-class citizens. Cultural obstacles must be overcome in order for Resolution 1325 to be effectively implemented in nation states and for women to reap the benefits.
It is clear that how the roles of women are interpreted culturally is an important factor in the support and implementation of Resolution 1325. Through top-down and bottom-up policies and efforts, women’s position in society can be changed.
Women need to be fully integrated into conflict prevention and mediation efforts. The establishment of government quotas for women’s participation in decision-making is vital, as is a trained and effective government security force and judicial system that protects women and girls in times of peace as well as times of conflict. Moreover, The President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Lazarous Kapambwe, stressed that women must be integrated into post-conflict reconstruction programs as key players to rebuild societies, negotiate peace and participate in national reconciliation and recovery programs. In order to change the way women are viewed culturally, they must be fully incorporated into every aspect of peace and security; and this is the primary function of Resolution 1325.
Make Every Woman Count (MEWC) believes that Resolution 1325 is first and foremost about the inclusion and integration of women and girls in peace and security institutions and programming. As long as society victimizes women in conflict situations, they will not be seen as essential to the post-conflict reconstruction effort but simply as people who need saving. Resolution 1325 is important because it aims to undo the depoliticization and victimization of women’s roles in conflict and post-conflict situations. It sees the success of peace and security as absolutely contingent on the inclusion and integration of women.
Resolution 1325 calls for a reversal to years of human rights violations against women and girls during conflict and an end to their overwhelming absence in decision making positions in governments and international peace and security institutions. For this reason, MEWC sees the implementation of Resolution 1325 as integral to the path towards peace and gender equality.