This year marks the 15th anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on women, peace and security (WPS), which provides an opportunity to reflect on its progress. The realisation of the WPS agenda at the international level remains vital today, given the ‘increased violence, mass displacement and humanitarian catastrophes’ that have occurred recently, including the abduction of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria by Boko Haram; the continued trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and girls by Islamic State; the trafficking of women and girls for manual labour; and sexual exploitation in the wake of the Nepalese Earthquake in April.
Recognising that conflict affects women differently to men, UNSCR 1325 urges international actors to factor the gendered differences inherent in conflict when developing peacebuilding solutions and to increase women’s participation in the peacebuilding process. A global review of its implementation is being conducted this year and—most importantly—of where UNSCR 1325 can take us in the future.
There’s been considerable global progress on the WPS agenda since the adoption of UNSCR 1325 in 2000. Since 2013, more than half of all peace agreements signed included references to women, peace and security. The continuing commitment of the UN is demonstrated by the passing of resolutions 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960, 2106, and 2122 which focus on women and violence and the spirit of 1325. Most recently, the UN General Assembly approved by consensus a new resolution to commemorate 19 June as the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.
However, progress lags in other areas, particularly in increasing women’s participation during the negotiation of peace processes. There’s also concern in the international community that UNSCR 1325 is used as a tool to manage conflict, rather than as an impetus to prevent it. The implementation of UNSCR 1325 can be strengthened by shifting the focus from conflict management to conflict prevention. Additionally, increasing women’s participation in negotiating peace processes will increase the compatibility of solutions with the needs of women, as well as delivering agreements that are more effective in the long term. Strategies to advance the WPS Agenda must continue to focus on the provision of gender-sensitive protection and humanitarian assistance to allow for the differential manner in which conflict affects women.
UN Women have been promoting the WPS agenda by supporting women’s peace coalitions with the aim of increasing women’s participation in peace processes; working with peacekeepers to detect, report and hold accountable conflict-related sexual violence; and by ensuring that justice and security institutions are available for women and girls suffering from violence and discrimination. For example, UN Women’s engagement in Afghanistan has assisted in the development of a National Action Plan for 1325 (released in July 2015) and led to changes in the legal framework to promote gender equality and combat violence against women and girls. In the Asia–Pacific region, UN Women’s engagement in Timor-Leste has led to the introduction of quotas for political representation, constitutional recognition of women’s rights, and new legislation to target the reduction of domestic violence.
On International Women’s Day in 2012, the Australian Government committed to the domestic implementation of UNSCR 1325 by launching a six-year National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (NAP). Policies and practices related to UNSCR 1325 are documented in biennial Progress Reports, the first of which was released last year. Further, the introduction of Civil Society Report Cards reviewing progress on the NAP increases government accountability and encourages ongoing discussion and dialogue between government agencies, NGOs and civil society organisations. The UN Secretary-General recognised Australia’s Report Card system as an example of how to implement WPS policies while encouraging ongoing discussion and community engagement. Internationally, Australia has promoted the WPS Agenda during its term on the UN Security Council and at the Global Summit on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict.
The Australian National Committee for UN Women plays an active role in the development of the Civil Society Report Card, which aims to increase government accountability for the implementation of 1325 goals. In her opening address to the 2014 Annual Civil Society Dialogue on Women, Peace and Security, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women Senator Michaelia Cash emphasised the importance of a strong relationship between government and the civil society sector in advancing the WPS agenda. In October 2015, the National Committee will continue to collaborate with ACFID, WILPF and the ANU Gender Institute to facilitate the Dialogue for a third time.
The 15th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 provides an opportunity for review and reflection. At the domestic level, continuing to foster the participatory relationship between Australian government agencies, NGOs and civil society organisations is key to creating an open environment where discussion, engagement, consultation and accountability contribute towards furthering the WPS agenda. Existing programs—such as education and training in the gender space, the Annual Civil Society Dialogue, and the Civil Society Report Card—will all continue to contribute towards making progress on Australia’s NAP. We look forward with hope that the continued international action on UNSCR 1325 will see great gains made in ensuring the security of the world’s women and that the role of women as peacemakers will continue to be recognised.