The month in women, peace and security: June 2017

Women as ‘partners for change

On 9 June, Canada’s International Development Minister, Marie-Claude Bibeau, launched the country’s new Feminist International Assistance Policy, which puts gender equality at the centre of aid programming. It argues that ‘advancing gender equality … is the most effective way to reduce poverty’. A key initiative will be a five-year, C$150 million investment in women’s organisations in developing countries, representing the ‘single largest investment of its kind to date from any country’. Directed funding has proved necessary as previously only a tiny portion of Canada’s gender-based funding to civil society organisations reached women’s groups directly—in 2013, just C$1.7 million out of C$562 million. Grassroots women’s organisations have welcomed the announcement, with one lauding it as progress towards treating women as ‘partners for change’ rather than ‘as beneficiaries of aid’.

This piece from the London School of Economics is also worth a look if you’re interested in reading more on feminist foreign policy.

US Women, Peace and Security Act

After years of bipartisan efforts, on 20 June the US House of Representatives passed the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Act of 2017. First introduced into Congress in May 2016, the legislation mandates the development of a government-wide WPS strategy in which the US takes a leading role globally in promoting women’s participation in conflict resolution and prevention, and implementing the WPS agenda with partner governments. The strategy must also outline implementation and evaluation plans for the State Department, the Department of Defense, USAID and the Department of Homeland Security. If adopted, the bill—which will now move to the Senate—will help institutionalise the US’s second National Action Plan on WPS.

Women’s participation in peace processes

Peace processes have had mixed results throughout June. Early in the month began the Kabul Process, a renewed effort to bring an end to conflict in Afghanistan. However, the ‘Afghan-owned inclusive peace’ included only two Afghan women in a 47-strong delegation. This is despite Afghanistan’s UNSCR 1325 National Action Plan (PDF) recognising that women’s participation in peacebuilding ‘is a prerequisite for peace and reconstruction’.

Meanwhile, in Colombia, FARC rebels declared their insurgency over after handing in a final cache of weapons to the UN on 28 June. But, while women played a significant role in peace negotiations, they now represent just 13.3% (six out of 45) of peace monitors. Complaints from activists prompted the government to announce that more women would be appointed by the end of June. The peace accord calls for women’s increased participation, as well investigations into conflict-related sexual violence and greater access to land for women.

Gendered dimensions of weapons proliferation

This month, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) launched a toolkit titled ‘Weapons, war and women in the MENA region’. WILPF argues that arms transfers to governments and other armed actors in the MENA region disproportionately affect women and can be linked to gender-based violence. Indeed, it’s widely understood that women’s experiences of violence are multifaceted; they are harmed not just by war, but also by family members and traditional patriarchal practices. Acknowledging only one layer means that others are left unaddressed—a fact too often seen in the assistance provided to victims of conflict. The toolkit is unique in that it emphasises the gendered dimensions of arms transfer that regularly go unnoticed. Included in the toolkit is a super-useful infographic that paints a quantitative picture of the effects of imported weapons on sexual and gender-based violence.

Sexual and gender-based violence in the Philippines

It could only have been a matter of time before sexual violence emerged as a feature of the conflict in Marawi. After rescuing several female hostages, the Filipino military has reported that women are being forced into sexual slavery and marriages with IS-linked militants in the besieged city. On the other hand, the Gabriela Women’s Party has filed a House Resolution against Filipino soldiers who’ve apparently threatened to rape women—an allegation that the defence secretary has labelled ‘fake news’.

Gender and jihad

A fascinating piece from The New York Times looks at a number of small-scale rehabilitation programs in Indonesia that seek to empower women, by providing them with small-business loans and access to education, so as to ‘break the jihadi cycle’ and ‘set them up for life outside the extremist fray’. Too often, the topic of gender, as it relates to terrorism, is treated as superfluous. But the reality is, groups like IS ‘exploit gender dynamics in very sophisticated ways’, and counter-terrorism needs to catch up. As such, CT programs that place an emphasis on women can better understand how groups like IS, and others, manipulate gender norms and dynamics.

Getting women into the military

Militaries around the world are transitioning women into ground combat roles. A recent RAND Corporation report, Recruiting policies and practices for women in the military, considers prevailing attitudes among those with boots on the ground (PDF). Drawing from extensive interviews and focus groups with leaders, recruiters and new recruits, RAND suggests strategies for robust recruitment.

As far as image goes, the report argues there’s a broad need for a two-pronged approach: debunk existing stereotypes with clever, specifically targeted advertising; and increase the visibility and number of female recruiters.

It’ll also be important to draw attention to pioneering leaders—like the first female commander of a Special Forces battalion, or, in a more outward-facing role, the first female officer to command the Queen’s Guard.

There’s an app for that

A mobile app from PeaceWoman aims to provide a handy reference for beginners and experts alike. Check out a recent review from Our Secure Future.

What to watch: WPS in the global arena

When it comes to the world stage, the academic community has a duty to hold governments accountable for commitments made in the name of the WPS agenda. That idea is explored in a panel discussion hosted by the London School of Economics—catch it here.