“Peace starts from the closest place to us – our home, then it takes us further – to our community, then our society, country and world. Men are included in peacebuilding at all of these levels, women are not. Peace, conflict and violence has an impact on us all – women and men – but only men are recognised and included. Only men are asked how conflict affects them and how peace can be built. But we women have the experience and education to tell the world that too. It is our right to be included in peacebuilding so that our homes, communities, societies and countries are free from violence.”
Hasina Safi, former Director, Afghan Women’s Network
Women, Peace and Security
The Women, Peace and Security agenda is central to peacebuilding, conflict prevention and conflict resolution. It recognises that women and men have different experiences of conflict and those very experiences should be reflected in peacebuilding. The impact of conflict is not only different for women, but women are also powerful agents of change who have the right, ability and experiences to build peace at all levels.
This can be seen in contemporary conflicts, including in Pakistan, Nigeria, Syria, Afghanistan, Israel-Palestine, Mexico and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The momentous impact of conflict on women is increasingly recognised through global initiatives such as the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative. However, there is less recognition of women’s right to participate in local, regional, national peace and security processes. Women continue to be severely under-represented in peace negotiations, and post-conflict security, justice and recovery processes also remain the preserve of men, particularly at the local level.
Women in Peacebuilding
Although this problem is endemic, in recent years there has been a small improvement in the number of peace provisions addressing Women, Peace and Security issues, correlated with a slightly higher representation of women (UN 2014). In terms of women’s representation in parliament, post-conflict countries tend to lag behind the global average, although post-conflict periods can provide unique opportunities to redress this imbalance (UN 2014).
As women make up half of the population, the involvement of women in peacebuilding is key to ending conflict and to creating long-term, sustainable peace. The full participation of women in conflict prevention, peacebuilding and post-conflict recovery processes and recognition of their gendered experiences leads to a more stable and sustainable peace, where their experiences of conflict and the aftermath of conflict can be heard, and needs can be prioritised and funded.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325
Women, Peace and Security is addressed in the Beijing Platform for Action, CEDAW General Recommendation 30, and seven UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs). UNSCR 1325 was adopted in 2000. It marked a landmark that women had been campaigning for for decades. It firmly situated Women, Peace and Security in the peace and security narrative and recognised that conflict is gendered. The resolution has four main pillars – the Women, Peace and Security Pillars
Participation: The equal and meaningful participation of women at all levels of peace and security governance, including conflict prevention and resolution, peacebuilding and recovery
Protection: The protection of women and girls in conflict and post-conflict settings, (including emergency and humanitarian contexts) from harms including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV)
Prevention: The prevention of conflict and the prevention of violence against women through the promotion of gender equality, accountability, and justice
Relief and Recovery: The incorporation of a gendered lens to all Relief and Recovery efforts.
The Women, Peace and Security pillars are mutually reinforcing and overlapping, but tend to be treated in isolation from each other, and the connections between women, peace and security and broader conflict, peace and security policy are often lost. Progress on implementing the agenda is therefore slow and uneven.
The UK National Action Plan
In 2002, and again in 2004 the UN secretary general called for UN Member States to implement the Women, Peace and Security UNSCRS through National Action Plans (NAPs). NAPs are government plans published every three to four years to outline what governments will do to meet their global commitments on Women, Peace and Security. NAPs should be detailed plans that are coordinated across government, comprehensively address all pillars and commitments made, be monitored, evaluated, funded and developed in consultation with civil society, particularly women from Fragile and Conflict-Affected states.
GAPS has worked with the UK Government to review and develop its NAPs since 2006. For example, during the 2011 review of the UK’s NAP and development of the 2014 – 2017 NAP, GAPS and some of our members ran workshops in Afghanistan, Myanmar and Somaliland. The UK NAP is cross-departmental and includes the Department for International Development (DFID), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Ministry of Defence (MOD).
However, NAPs are not the only way in which governments should meet their Women, Peace and Security obligations. NAPs should include all policies, systems and processes that address Women, Peace and Security. Governments should also ensure they integrate gender into broader conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding policies and programmes across.
Role of GAPS and civil society
So where does the role of GAPS come in? GAPS works to monitor, promote and support the development of government policy on Women, Peace and Security. GAPS works alongside our members, partners in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States, parliamentarians, and government to promote Women, Peace and Security.
Recent publications, including our 2015 report Turning Promises Into Progress, submissions to the NAP review (questionnaire and recommendations), and response to the NAP, outline GAPS’ position on how the UK can better meet its obligations in this area.