The women, peace and security update

Rules, culture and money key for progress in WPS agenda

In her conclusion to ASPI’s annual women, peace and security series, Laura J. Shepherd explores the lessons learnt from the past two decades of research in this area. To address the inevitable obstacles and setbacks for the UN’s WPS agenda, Shepherd highlights the need to foster ‘meaningful participation of diverse women in decision-making processes’ within the institution. She recognises that different cultures and contexts greatly affect peace-building processes and must be carefully considered. Most importantly, she stresses that political commitment as well as significant investment and funding by governments and the UN will underpin the success of current and future WPS initiatives.

Envisioning a feminist peace

Researchers from the London School of Economics’ Centre for Women, Peace and Security have just announced a research project aimed at reimagining international law and notions of security in the context of feminist understandings and visions of peace. International legal institutions have long been focused on state sovereignty and security rather than peace. For women, human security remains narrowly defined as freedom from conflict-driven sexual violence. This fails to encompass the roles of food, water, health and environmental security, which affects women’s ability to live in a state of meaningful peace.

In seeking to rectify current understandings and institutions, the researchers are pursuing a collaborative approach, drawing on multiple ‘global and regional human rights treaties … [and] feminist re-workings of key documents’, to put forward a draft of an ‘inclusive and expansive, intergenerational vision of feminist peace’.

The WPS agenda and Indonesia’s foreign policy

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi outlined some of the initiatives Jakarta has pursued to advance the WPS agenda in a recent Foreign Policy piece. A regional WPS training was held in April 2019 to develop the capabilities of young female diplomats engaged in peace processes. That was followed by a dialogue in November 2019 supporting the role of women in Afghanistan’s peace process, which culminated in the inaugural meeting of the Afghanistan–Indonesia Women’s Solidarity Network in March this year.

Indonesia also co-organised an Arria meeting on 27 July on women and the Afghan peace process to promote the role, participation and perspectives of women in the lead-up to intra-Afghan negotiations. In her article, the minister also proposed instituting cultural change, providing greater access to training, and creating networks of like-minded people to encourage women’s participation in peace and security initiatives.

UK integrated policy review should focus on WPS

As the UK reopens its review of security, defence, development and foreign policy, the Gender Action for Peace and Security policy network has published a briefing paper in a push to put the WPS agenda at the heart of the review. A team of foreign policy and national security experts, from both within and outside the government, is leading the review. The briefing paper argues that the review must engage with gender issues and recommends a list of new policy and funding proposals, such as the establishment of a transparent consultation process to bring more diversity of perspectives to security and defence policymaking. The review, which was paused in April due to Covid-19 concerns, now has a unique opportunity to establish the WPS agenda as a key focus of its investigations.

Ensuring women’s meaningful participation in Covid-19 response

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated violence globally and is disrupting efforts to end conflict. According to UN Women, this development only heightens the urgency of advancing women’s participation in ceasefire negotiations and peace processes. Many frontline emergency responders, health professionals, caregivers and volunteers are women who are at higher risk of infection and loss of livelihood. Women may also face domestic violence and restricted access to essential sexual health services, particularly in conflict-stricken regions. The recommendations in the brief include implementing dedicated measures to promote women’s participation in negotiations, increasing the support provided to women’s civil society organisations and encouraging gender-responsive Covid-19 commitments.

First round of assessment of WPS legislation underway in the US

The US departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security and the US Agency for International Development are assessing how to better implement the Women, Peace and Security Act, which was passed in 2017 to promote women’s participation in peace and security processes. Stephanie Hammond, acting deputy assistant secretary of defence for stability and humanitarian affairs, explains that the law ‘strengthen[s] relationships with US allies and partners through collective efforts to reinforce women’s empowerment, meaningful participation in decision-making, protection from violence and access to resources’.

Gender balance in cybersecurity improves, but still a ways to go

According to new data from cyber non-profit (ISC)2, female representation in cybersecurity is improving, but 20% of women in the sector still face discrimination and women are paid on average 21% less than their male counterparts globally. Previous research has shown that technology companies that embrace gendered perspectives improve their security and generally perform better in terms of profit and productivity. Better hiring practices and pay equity in the cybersecurity field are needed, as well as flexible workplace policies that support women.