The month in women, peace and security: April 2019

US resists UN Security Council resolution on sexual violence in conflict

The US has successfully used the threat of its veto power to demand significant changes to UN Security Council resolution 2467 on conflict-related sexual violence, which was adopted on 23 April. It’s the ninth resolution adopted under the women, peace and security agenda. It was proposed by Germany, the current president of the Security Council, to provide the UN with the ability to encourage fact-finding missions and impose targeted sanctions to address rape, sexual crimes and human rights violations in war zones. The open debate followed the release of the UN secretary-general’s annual report on conflict-related sexual violence.

While there was pushback to the resolution from Russia and China (both of which abstained from voting on it), the US was adamant in its opposition to proposed language on emergency contraception, safe termination of pregnancy and HIV prevention and treatment, and later on previously agreed language relating to sexual and reproductive health that had been proposed as a compromise.

The US’s stance on resolution 2467 appears to be consistent with President Donald Trump’s executive order reinstating the ‘global gag rule’, which bans funding for groups that offer abortions or engage in abortion advocacy. Each year, 70,000 women die from unsafe abortions worldwide.

Louise Allen and Laura Shepherd analyse the US posture on resolution 2467 and this piece in What’s In Blue provides an overview of the negotiating dynamics.

Women play vital role in Sudanese uprising

Women have played a leading role in Sudan’s pro-democracy movement and are calling for an equal share of seats in any future transitional government. This Washington Post article argues that women bore the brunt of the economic hardships resulting from President Omar al-Bashir’s oppressive policies and brutal implementation of Sharia law.

An image of Alaa Salah, nicknamed the ‘women in white’, became a symbol of the protests. Women wore similar outfits during demonstrations in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s against previous military dictators. Sudanese women protesters are being called Kandakat, or ‘strongwomen’, referring to the queens of the ancient Sudanese Nubian Kingdoms.

However, this piece in the Guardian argues that the woman in white ‘obscures vital truths’. It also highlights that while Salah was being hailed as the icon of the revolution, other women were being sexually harassed and shamed, and Salah herself has now become the victim of a misogynist harassment campaign.

Small win for women in Afghan peace talks

Planned talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Qatar were cancelled at the last minute after the Taliban objected to the size of the 250-member Kabul delegation, calling it an ‘Afghan wedding party’. Although the breakdown in negotiations was a major disappointment, activists, including women, still flew to Doha to engage informally with the Taliban.

About 20 Afghan emigres from Europe and the US met with Taliban members for six hours. Three women were present, including Afghan American activist Masuda Sultan, a board member of Women for Afghan Women; and Khatol Momand, an Afghan teacher living in Norway. It’s a significant development for women in Afghanistan, as the Taliban have long sought to exclude them from the peace process.

It’s also a small step, however, and it’s still unclear what will become of women’s rights if a peace deal is reached between the US and the Taliban. During the informal discussions, the Taliban were still vague about women’s rights, reiterating their view that they would be ‘respected within Islam’.

There are also concerns for the welfare of Afghan refugee women. Those who have been able to leave the country continue to be victims of harassment and violence.

Rehabilitating female jihadis in the Balkans

The territorial defeat of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq is bringing global attention to the importance of a gendered approach to countering violent extremism, particularly in the context of repatriating foreign fighters. In the Balkans, Kosovo has repatriated 110 of its citizens, among them 32 women and 74 children. Other countries are expected to follow suit. Bosnia and Herzegovina is verifying the identities of its citizens located in the Middle East. Albanians and North Macedonians are also awaiting possible repatriation.

How these states choose to address IS female recruitment has been a cause for concern for several years. Returnees have been arrested and imprisoned and it’s unclear how radicalised women will be rehabilitated, as efforts to counter violent extremism lack a gendered perspective.

Peacekeeping in the Asia–Pacific

The UN Security Council hosted an open debate on women in peacekeeping in April. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres highlighted that increasing women’s participation in peacekeeping isn’t just about statistics but about being able to better achieve mandates.

In the Asia–Pacific, boosting the role of women in peacekeeping has been at the forefront of the WPS agenda. Members of Pacific military forces gathered in Fiji’s capital, Suva, for the first Pacific Military Women’s Advisory Network seminar, organised by the New Zealand Defence Force. The seminar was based on some of the requirements of UN Security Council resolution 1325 and aimed to help the military operate more effectively by addressing gender-based violence and encouraging women’s participation. The network was set up to connect serving female members, provide a forum for information exchange, and support and mentor military women in the Pacific.

Indonesia also organised a regional training program on WPS in Jakarta. The training was attended by 60 female diplomats from ASEAN member states, East Timor and Papua New Guinea. In a piece for the Jakarta Post, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi reiterated the need for ASEAN leaders to move forward with implementing the WPS agenda in Southeast Asia, emphasising the importance of including more women in UN peacekeeping operations.

National action plans translated for research

The LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security has launched a new project examining how the WPS agenda has been incorporated into national and local contexts. As a first step, the project has translated national action plans into English so that they can be used for research.

The Strategist’s WPS 2019 series
ASPI’s The Strategist has been running a series of posts on WPS in recognition of International Women’s Day 2019 and the approaching 20th anniversary of the UN WPS agenda.