On Monday 16 November 2020, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security (APPG-WPS), together with UNDP hosted an event titled ‘Women, Peace and Human Security: Parliamentary Engagement during and post COVID-19’.
This event reflected on two monumental events of 2020, the 20th anniversary of UNSCR1325 and the COVID-19 pandemic, and how these two are linked. The event heard from Charles Chauvel, UNDP’s Global Lead on Inclusive Institutions and Processes in the Bangkok Regional Hub, Hon. Veronica Kadie-Sesay, Parliament of Sierra Leone, Marita Sorheim-Rensvik, Norwegian Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security and Hannah Bond, Director of GAPS.
In this event, we reflected on how Parliamentarians can engage with the Women, Peace and Security agenda in their work, specifically in post-COVID-19 responses. In October 2020, UNDP released the Women Peace and Human Security: A Guidance Note on Parliamentary Engagement During and Post-COVID-19 which looks at how Parliaments can promote a Women, Peace and Security aligned pandemic response and recovery and, in the long term, exercise stewardship over a collective vision for inclusive human security. Similarly, in April 2020, GAPS set out their paper Call to Action: Now and the Future, COVID-19 and Gender Equality, Global Peace and Security, this paper addresses the deeply gendered impact of COVID-19 and outlines how the Women, Peace and Security agenda can provide an essential framework for analysis and response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Charles Chauvel began by reflecting on progress made during the 20 years since the adoption UNSCR 1325, he noted that while there are National Action Plans (NAPs) on Women, Peace and Security being adopted, they are often not supported with adequate budgets and suffer from an absence of coordination between Governments, state agencies and civil society, with little accountability for implementation. Charles continued by sharing efforts by UNDP in engaging with Parliamentarians on Women, Peace and Security, such as supporting Parliaments in 7 countries (Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, Myanmar, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka) to help them assume a greater role in advancing their countries Women, Peace and Security commitments by entrenching them in law and with budgets; securing political buy-in; holding the government and state agencies to account for implementation; and ensuring recognition and protection of women peacebuilders.
Next, we heard from Hon. Veronica Kadie-Sesay who shared her work in the Parliamentary Female Caucus of Sierra Leone. She touched on the multitude of conflicts and natural disasters that have affected women and girls in Sierra Leone, such as mud slides, the Ebola epidemic, a brutal 10-year war, and now COVID-19. Hon. Veronica discussed how these pandemics and conflicts have exacerbated gender inequality and has had drastic impacts on women and girls’ livelihoods. She also shared actions by her Parliament such as developing two NAPs last year and adopting their own resolution on Women, Peace and Security, much of this was championed by the Female Caucus which she chairs.
We also heard from Marita Sorheim-Rensvik who stressed the importance of elected officials and members of Parliaments engaging in the Women, Peace and Security agenda. Marita shared Norway’s commitments to Women, Peace and Security, such as partnering with UNDP in their efforts to mobilise Parliamentarians which includes supporting political leaders in Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, Myanmar, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka to move the agenda forward in their country.
Lastly, we heard from Hannah Bond who shared how GAPS works with the UK Government and Parliamentarians in a variety of ways, such as hosting the Annual Report on Women, Peace and Security to Parliament through the APPG-WPS where the UK Government presents their progress on the current UK NAP. Hannah also discussed GAPS’ work on integrating the Women, Peace and Security agenda as part of the COVID-19 response and recovery, which includes working on a current multi-country project that GAPS has developed with GAPS Members and National Partner organisations globally to assess the impact of COVID-19 on gender equality, peace and security.
There were a number of interesting questions from attendees in the Q&A section, in which the speakers discussed the importance of funding women’s rights organisations and in tackling harmful gender stereotypes. All speakers ultimately stressed the need to engage with Parliamentarians and elected officials to ensure that the Women, Peace and Security agenda is implemented in full and that women and girls’ rights are protected during and post-COVID-19.