The women, peace and security update

Implementing gender-based responses to Covid-19

The United Nations Development Programme has released a guidance note for national parliaments outlining their responsibility to address the gendered impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. The document explains the problem areas and lays out recommendations for immediate and long-term responses. Immediate measures include consulting and engaging with civil society to help ensure that government responses consider and address the gendered impacts of the pandemic, that different groups of women are included in response planning, and that measures to counter violence against women are key to response policies.

The guidance emphasises the importance of international cooperation—particularly in forging a global ceasefire, addressing the economic effects of the pandemic, and reversing negative trends in development spending. It also stresses that increasing the representation of women in decision-making positions is crucial to addressing exclusion, discrimination and violence against women.

Biden’s pledge for gender parity in national security

In the lead-up to the 2020 US election, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris pledged that if they won the White House at least half of their national security appointees would be women. A short list of 850 women, of whom 37% are women of colour and 5% identify as LGBTQ+, has been passed to the Biden–Harris transition team by the Leadership Council for Women in National Security. Bringing these diverse perspectives into the national security sphere will have far-reaching impacts for the WPS agenda, particularly considering the potential for greater representation and intersectionality in this field.

The Biden administration has also developed a comprehensive ‘Agenda for women’ to guide its gender policy, which marks a fundamental departure from the approach of the Trump administration. Initiatives could include renewing efforts to further implement the Obama administration’s national action plan on WPS.

Still, some women activists in the US are wary of the assumption that having more women in the US national security establishment is a sign of progress, given that it continues to lean towards hawkish policies of military intervention. These anti-war feminist organisations seek to promote feminist analysis in discussions of American militarism and favour a ‘feminist foreign policy’ that aims to end militarism abroad and ‘at home in the hands of police and prisons’.

Mexican women stand against gender-based violence

Women have been organising countrywide protests in Mexico against femicide and gender-based violence, with increased participation in the lead-up to International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November. The country is facing a femicide crisis and currently leads global rankings for gender-based violence. Maria de la Luz Estrada, president of the National Citizens’ Observatory on Femicide, noted that there have been at least 8,000 murders of Mexican women in the past two years, while the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that around 10 women are killed every day in Mexico.

Women are mobilising this ongoing protest movement as a key platform to build support networks, hold workshops, and share messages on social media, highlighting the failures of the government in protecting their livelihoods. UN human rights experts have called on Mexican authorities to uphold the freedom of peaceful assembly, emphasising the crucial role of women protesters and women human rights defenders in ‘promoting women’s right to a life free from violence.’

Gender and conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region

Enduring tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan have various implications for both countries; however, an understudied aspect of this conflict is its gendered dimension. For three decades, in both states, women have been systemically sidelined and excluded from peacebuilding initiatives due to strongly masculine and nationalistic societal structures and male-dominated narratives. For these reasons, women, as well as LGBTQ+ and other minority communities, have been increasingly marginalised. The failure to ensure women’s protection and meaningful involvement in peace processes undermines attempts to create peace and security in the region.

Women’s rights organisation Kvinna Till Kvinna reported several instances when women’s needs in Nagorno-Karabakh were neglected and women’s rights groups were attacked and undermined. Kvinna Till Kvinna argues that any attempts at bringing peace to the region ‘will fail if the voices of women aren’t heard, with narratives only revolving around territorial claims instead of the human dimension of war’.

Australian women’s economic security

As part of the Australian economic recovery plan, the government has announced $231 million to boost women’s employment opportunities over four years. Michele O’Neil, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, argues that Commonwealth budgets and policies have hurt women and that the ‘reintroduction of free childcare would be the most significant boost to women’s workforce participation’. Research by the Australia Institute found that increased public funding of childcare is nearly ‘20 times more effective at creating jobs’ than tax cuts.