The women, peace and security update

Gender, conflict and climate change

A new UN report explores the latest research on the compounding effects of crises caused by conflicts, climate change and pandemics, and how they affect people differently based on gender and socioeconomic inequalities. It points out that governments around the world haven’t done enough to shape crisis responses based on these dynamics and that conflict and climate change should be approached from a gender perspective to better inform policy.

An article for the London School of Economics has highlighted that while women and girls are likely to be more significantly impacted by climate change and conflict, they can also be ‘agents of change’ in working on these issues. Improving national action plans to incorporate the equal and meaningful participation of women and girls from diverse backgrounds will be key to improving responses. Author Elizabeth Smith argues it’s also important in efforts to address security risks to focus on women and girls as active participants, not passive victims.

Trump’s gender failings may hamper re-election chances

In an article for the London School of Economics, Bela Kapur looks at the dangers of the White House’s reluctance to apply a gender lens to its policy or promote feminist leadership. Amid a global pandemic and nationwide tensions over injustice and police brutality, Kapur argues that feminist thinking is needed now more than ever to solve the problems afflicting the US. Lawrence Arnold of the Washington Post, meanwhile, writes that the administration’s gender failings may harm President Donald Trump’s chances in this year’s election. Arnold notes that more women have shown up to vote in US presidential elections than men since 1964 and that they tend to favour Democrats.

US Defense Department releases WPS strategy

The US Department of Defense has published its strategic framework and plan on WPS. It aims to include the perspectives and contributions of women across the defence and security sectors to better advance US security. Stephanie Hammond, the acting assistant secretary of defence for stability and humanitarian affairs, said the plan will also strengthen partnerships with allies through initiatives to ‘reinforce women’s empowerment, meaningful participation and decision-making, protection from violence and access to resources’. The strategy centres on organisational diversity, working with international partners, and protecting the human rights and safety of women and children.

Change needed for uniformed women in UN peacekeeping

A new publication by the International Peace Institute re-examines efforts to increase the participation of uniformed women in UN peace operations. The authors argue that, while UN Peacekeeping has certainly advanced gender-equality efforts, several barriers remain that prevent women from being fully integrated into security forces, among which are gendered assumptions, stigma and systemic issues such as sexual violence. The report concludes that the UN and its members must conduct more research, apply transformative changes to peacekeeping missions, implement gendered approaches across the board, and ensure that the WPS agenda is at the fore-front of all operations.

Covid-19 pandemic reveals underlying weaknesses of Japan’s ‘womenomics’

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has long touted a policy known as ‘womenomics’ that, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, resulted in a female labour force participation rate of more than 70%. But Japan’s global gender parity ranking fell to 121 out of 153 in 2020, and it has postponed its target of 30% of women in leadership roles to 2030. The pandemic has exposed disparities in the Japanese economy, where women are far more likely than men to hold insecure positions. This, along with delayed pandemic support measures and the fact that the work of women is largely seen as a supplement to male bread-winners, has seen women in Japan (and all over the world) bear the brunt of the economic fallout of Covid-19. Japan’s experience underlines the importance of women’s economic empowerment and of removing gender gaps in labour force participation to increase economic growth and stability.

Examining UN Security Council commitments to WPS

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom published a new guide to assist organisations in using the findings and insights of its recent report, which was co-authored with the London School of Economics’ Centre for Women, Peace and Security. The report examines whether the UN Security Council is fulfilling its commitments to 10 WPS resolutions and assists advocates in understanding the UN Security Council system and its relationship with international law.

Analysts have praised the adoption of a WPS agenda by the UN Security Council but found that its implementation has been impeded. While advocacy in UN forums is essential for advancing women’s rights, ASPI’s Genevieve Feely writes for The Strategist’s WPS series that regional forums could serve as complementary paths for countries and civil society to advance the WPS agenda globally.

Calls for more women in Afghan peace process

UN Women recently launched a virtual panel focusing on the inclusion of women in Afghanistan’s peace efforts. Panellists included the head of the UN in Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons; Afghanistan’s minister of women’s affairs, Hasina Safi; and the executive director of the Afghan Women’s Network, Mary Akrami. The panel called for greater participation of women in the country’s peace process at both the local and national levels. Lyons said having more women peace advocates, advisers and negotiators in the decision-making process is necessary in order to develop more comprehensive human security. Belquis Ahmadi from the United States Institute of Peace argued that this can be achieved through ‘an attitudinal shift at the grass-roots level’.