The women, peace and security update

Australia’s commitment to women, peace and security in review

A report by Louise Allen for ASPI has shown that, while Australia understands the importance of the WPS agenda to global security, the government has yet to incorporate WPS as a central tenet of its foreign affairs, national security and defence policies. The report notes that there’s no evidence of a high-level commitment to gender equality underpinning Australia’s responses to human rights crises in the Philippines or Myanmar.

Ahead of the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325, the report argues that Australia has an opportunity to put its rhetoric into practice by integrating gender perspectives into its security and foreign policy strategies, being responsive to attacks on women activists, and increasing its support of local women’s organisations in Australia and across the Indo-Pacific.

Natasha Stott Despoja on using foreign policy to advocate for gender equality

In the Council on Foreign Relations’ ‘Women and foreign policy’ interview series, Natasha Stott Despoja highlights some of her experiences and insights as a former Australian ambassador for women and girls. The former senator and leader of the Australian Democrats argues that while Australia has ‘now placed gender equality at the heart of its foreign policy’, there are still many people in positions of power who either oppose or focus solely on the economic benefits of gender-inclusive responses to global challenges. She concludes that Australia and other countries must continue to create solutions and share resources to achieve gender equality through foreign policy.

At present, many argue that discussion of the notion of gender equality in foreign policy tends to conflate women with gender and neglects broader feminist considerations. While gender equality can mean different things in different countries, there are still a range of opportunities for governments and the public to work this discourse into foreign policy and international institutions.

Lessons from femicide data standardisation in Latin America

In 2017, the Latin America Open Data Initiative designed a new method to assess data about women killed for gender-related reasons. As Silvana Fumega writes, data on femicide rates can assist countries to better understand the issue and be used to inform evidence-based policymaking.

Femicide in Latin America has become increasingly visible—the region is home to 14 of the 25 countries with the highest femicide rates. Important lessons can be drawn from the initiative’s research, such as the importance of different concepts, interpretations and gender perspectives; the need for clearer mechanisms of data collection and improved institutional systems; and the necessity to allow for revisions and regional comparisons.

AI bias and the cybersecurity diversity problem

Biased artificial intelligence is a key sign that the cybersecurity sector is lacking in diversity. AI and algorithms are built on rules written by humans and therefore they mirror unconscious assumptions, shaping AI logic in a biased way. As Jasmine Henry writes, facial-recognition programs have been found to generate more false-positive facial identifications for women and people of colour than for men with light skin.

Henry argues that more varied and diverse perspectives are needed for cybersecurity AI to be used in a fair and balanced way. This can be achieved by investing in a diverse talent pipeline to address the underrepresentation of women and other minorities in cybersecurity, fostering inclusivity and creating the right conditions for cognitive diversity, and driving conversations across organisations to change their policies and cultures.

Diverse teams with varied ideas and perspectives, as well as broad understandings of risk, can result in the minimisation of bias, fairer algorithms and better security.

Peace deal may see return to draconian rules for Afghan women

The proposed US–Taliban deal will not guarantee protections to preserve women’s rights or civil liberties for Afghan women. Under the Taliban’s rule from 1996 to 2001, women were barred from attending school, holding jobs and leaving their homes without male escorts. After US forces toppled the regime, women re-entered universities and the workplace in unprecedented numbers. Belquis Ahmadi, a human rights expert, said Afghan women have been excluded from the peace agreement so far but there is hope in the outspoken generation of women today.

AU holds talks on gender, women and girls in Africa

The African Union recently held a pre-summit addressing the theme ‘recognising and amplifying women and girls’ agency to silence the guns in Africa’. Key themes of the meeting included strategies for achieving the goal of a conflict-free Africa; the need to increase the involvement of women and girls in conflict prevention, peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction; and the importance of education for women and girls to support their role in driving Africa’s economic growth.

In her address to delegates, the African Union’s political affairs commissioner, Minata Samate Cessouma, stressed that the contributions of women and girls cannot be restricted to mere symbolic roles, and a concerted effort must go into boosting their involvement at the community, national, regional and continental levels.

That sentiment was reflected by UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the launch of She stands for peace during the pre-summit. As part of the African Union’s ‘Silencing the Guns’ project, the book recognises and celebrates women, girls and woman-led organisations that have advanced the WPS agenda in Africa by documenting personal stories and experiences. Guterres said that more action needs to be taken on the WPS agenda and that the international community and world leaders must do more than make speeches about women and actually invest in women as equal stakeholders in mediation, peacebuilding and peacekeeping activities.