“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 ‘landmark resolution’ UNSCR 1325 adopted in October 2000, gives us the Women, Peace and Security agenda that is an essential framework to peacebuilding, conflict prevention and conflict resolution. It is founded in women civil society movements from 1915 at the International congress of Women, where women and girls’ who were affected by conflict advocated to the international community for complete disarmament and to commit to women and girls’ rights. The Women, Peace and Security agenda recognises that women, girls, men and boys have different experiences of conflict and those very experiences should be reflected in peacebuilding. The impact of conflict is not only different for women and girls, but women and girls also have the right, ability and experiences to build peace at all levels.
The momentous impact of conflict on women and girls is increasingly recognised through global commitments from CEDAW to the Women, Peace and Security agenda. However, there is a lack of implementation of these commitments. Notably, there is less recognition of women and girl’s right to participate in local, regional, national peace and security processes. Women and girls continue to be severely under-represented in peace negotiations, and post-conflict security, justice and recovery processes. Governments, multilateral institutions, INGOs and civil society should all be systematically implementing the Women, Peace and Security agenda.
Women, Peace and Security intersects with peacebuilding, development and humanitarian issues. While not an exhaustive list, this includes displacement, climate and the environment, funding for women’s rights organisations, disarmament, women human rights defenders, socio-economic and political participation and representation, conflict prevention, and violence against women and girls.
Women in Peacebuilding
Despite the severity of the underrepresentation of women and girls in peacebuilding processes, progress has continued to remain slow. Data from the Council on Foreign Affairs shows that between 1992 and 2019, women constituted on average only 13% of negotiators, 6% of mediators, and 6% of signatories in major peace processes worldwide. Additionally, roughly seven out of every ten peace processes did not include women mediators or women signatories (Council on Foreign Affairs 2019).
As women and girls make up half of the population, the involvement of women in peacebuilding is key to ending conflict and to creating long-term, sustainable peace and to the fulfilment of women and girls’ rights. The full participation of women and girls 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 ten 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, these are:
Participation: The equal and meaningful participation of women and girls at all levels of peace, 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 violence particularly violence against women and girls.
Prevention: The prevention of conflict and the prevention of violence against women and girls 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 four 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 agenda through National Action Plans (NAPs). They are one way for States to implement the Women, Peace and Security agenda. NAPs set out their detailed Women, Peace and Security activities that should be coordinated across Government (including domestic and international facing departments), comprehensively addressing all pillars and commitments that have been made, how they will be monitored, evaluated, funded and developed in consultation with civil society.
GAPS has worked globally with a number of States and civil society organisations on their NAPs, providing consultation and shared learning. GAPS plays a key role within the UK, working with the UK Government to review and monitor the UK NAP through consultations since 2006. The UK NAP is cross-departmental and includes the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Ministry of Defence (MOD). At the start of each year, the UK Government publishes an Annual Report on their progress of the current NAP, this is orally presented at the Report to Parliament which the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security (APPG-WPS) host. . At the Report to Parliament, Parliamentarians and civil society monitor the UK’s work on Women, Peace and Security and its plans going forward. This annual event is also when GAPS, the secretariat for the APPG-WPS, provides the GAPS Shadow Report, a reflection and response to the progress contained in the Annual Report on Women, Peace and Security.
However, NAPs are not the only way in which Governments, multilateral agencies and INGOs should meet their Women, Peace and Security obligations. Governments, multilateral agencies and INGOs should also ensure they integrate gender into broader conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding policies and programmes across.
Role of GAPS and civil society
GAPS works to monitor, promote and support the development of policy on Women, Peace and Security. GAPS works alongside our Members, partners in Fragile and Conflict-Affected contexts, UK Parliamentarians, academics, multilateral agencies and governments to promote the full implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda. GAPS works on thematic Women, Peace and Security issues including displacement, climate and the environment, funding for women’s rights organisations, disarmament, women human rights defenders, socio-economic and political participation and representation, conflict prevention, violence against women and girls, and humanitarian response.
GAPS undertakes its work through research, advocacy, global and national events and workshops and partnerships. GAPS also provides the secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security.