Thursday, 2 December 2010

10 years later and still no peace and security for women

Karen Barnes, Gender Project Coordinator at the OECD Development Centre, writes on the occasion 10th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

Despite the fanfare in New York and around the world surrounding the 10th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, is there anything worth celebrating? In short, the answer is “Yes, but…”

On 31 October 2010, the international community marked the 10th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. This landmark resolution adopted in October 2000 was the first time that the UN specifically addressed the issue of women in situations of armed conflict.

The most important contribution of the research, advocacy and programming around SCR 1325 to date has been in highlighting the commitment, innovation and energy of women around the world who are building peace in their communities, countries, and through networks that reach across the globe.

Join the conversation

The problem is that too often these activities are invisible and marginalised in the informal sphere. That’s why we want to hear from you:

  • What is the situation in your country with respect to SCR 1325?
  • Do you think that the resolutions have made any difference in the struggle against gender-based violence? If not, what could be done to improve the situation?
  • How can we engage men more effectively in our efforts to implement SCR 1325?
  • Do you think that women and girls in conflict-affected countries are better off than they were 10 years ago?
  • Can you share any examples of where women have been able to make a difference in peace negotiations, peacekeeping missions or post-conflict reconstruction?

Women as agents of change

War affects men and women in different ways, and they also have different needs during the post-conflict phase. Importantly, it is now widely acknowledged that women are not just victims of conflict, but that they can be peacebuilders and key agents for change in their communities, as well as perpetrators or instigators of violence. Recognising this is essential for the sustainability and inclusiveness of peacebuilding processes, and the Security Council resolutions, the many National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security, and the countless other policies and frameworks that have been developed over the past ten years reaffirm this. But is this all empty rhetoric?


Since 2000, there have been some steps forward:

  • The UN has appointed a Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict;
  • A Civil Society Advisory Group on the implementation of SCR 1325 has been established;
  • A set of proposed indicators for monitoring SCR 1325 have been drafted;
  • The number of women appointed to head UN peacekeeping missions is slowly rising;
  • Rwanda, a post-conflict country that experienced sexual violence on an unprecedented scale, now boasts the highest proportion of women in parliament at 56%.


But while these issues are on the table in a way that was unthinkable ten years ago, the full protection and participation of women in peace and security processes is still a long way off:

  • In a sample of 24 major peace processes since 1992, less than 3% of signatories have been women;
  • Women make up only 3% of uniformed peacekeepers and 8% of UN police;
  • In August 2010, more than 300 women and children were raped in Walikale, DRC, only a few kilometers from a UN peacekeeping base;
  • An analysis of Post-Conflict Needs Assessments in six countries found that less than 5% of activities and only 2.9% of budget lines were found to mention women’s needs and issues

Why are these resolutions not being implemented?

In the run-up to October 2010, a number of reports, articles and books were published in an attempt to take stock, highlight progress and identify gaps in the implementation of SCR 1325. According to a report released just before the 10th anniversary surveying women’s opinions in six countries, “bureaucratic inertia, leadership vacuums, empty rhetoric and fundamental misunderstanding about this agenda” are some of the main reasons.

A new book assessing the implementation of SCR 1325 through 8 country and 4 regional case studies finds that the lack of accountability and monitoring mechanisms, the limited financial resources and the failure to build on the community-based initiatives of women’s organisations are three key obstacles to the successful implementation of the resolution. It is this latter point that may hold the key for ensuring more gender-sensitive approaches to peace and security over the next decade.

Therefore, the real question that needs to be answered is whether or not there has been any concrete impact on the ground. Are the needs of women and girls living in conflict-affected regions being addressed? Are they empowered to participate and engage in peacebuilding and recovery processes? In short, is there now more peace and security for women than there was 10 years ago?

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