OGIP Commentary 12th November 2019
Tuesday 29th October saw the Security Council’s annual Open Debate on Women Peace and Security (WPS). It also saw the passage of a new United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR 2493) on WPS, which pushes for the full implementation of previous resolutions pertaining to WPS and calls on member states to redouble their efforts in delivery, including increasing the number of women peacekeepers and ensuring women’s meaningful participation in peace processes, among other issues.
The tenth resolution on WPS, put forward by the current President of the Security Council, South Africa, was voted through unanimously. The debate that followed, however, raised concerns around the implementation of the WPS agenda, the erosion of sexual and reproductive health rights for women around the world and the lack of youth participation in peacebuilding.
Issues of implementation
19 years and 10 resolutions on from the formation of the WPS agenda, and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres still lamented that the commitment expressed at the Open Debate was “not translating into real change around the world”. The new resolution, UNSCR 2493, stresses the need for the full implementation of UNSCR 1325, the first landmark resolution on WPS, and its subsequent resolutions. This was the one thing that almost all debate participants agreed on. This begs the question, however, is another resolution the best way to improve implementation of the WPS agenda?
The current landscape of written commitments to Women Peace and Security is extensive, and support in the international community appears strong, so why are we failing to effect meaningful change? There are many combined factors that lead to this lack of implementation, or gaps in implementation, of the WPS agenda, and all must be comprehensively addressed before we can see the reality on the ground becoming reflective of the commitments made on paper.
One of the mechanisms of implementation is through the adoption of regional and national action plans, outlining the priority areas for action under UNSCR 1325 in specific contexts. During the Open-Debate, many of the representatives called for more countries to adopt National Action Plans (NAPs) to ensure full implementation of UNSCR 1325, but this is only one part of the story.
Less than a third of current NAPs are accompanied by a dedicated budget for the implementation of the WPS agenda. Without adequate funding behind it, a NAP has no real prospects of fulfilling the commitments it makes. As well as adequate funding, member states must ensure they are collecting, analysing and reporting data in order to show the impact of their NAP is having on the ground and to work for continual improvement of implementation.
Furthermore, whilst it is great to see the international community supportive and committed to moving the WPS agenda forward, the real agents of change are those working at the grass roots. To achieve tangible and effective progress on WPS, there must be more consultation with civil society. There are great examples of this practice, such as the latest report from GAPS which has recommendations based on consultation with over 200 civil society organisations, but this approach is currently the exception, not the norm.
We must ensure that civil society consultations are more than a tick box exercise and are responsive to the full diversity of civil society organisations and the issues they work on. The insights from civil society need to be not only heard, but listened to and their recommendations should form the basis of policy making on WPS. Further to this, UN member states also need to ensure women’s rights organisations are fully funded in order to drive forward the important work they are doing.
Sexual and reproductive health rights
Another major theme of the Open Debate was sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR). In the run up to the adoption of the previous WPS resolution (UNSCR 2467), in April 2019, there was unprecedented media coverage that accused the UN of watering down the resolution to “appease the US’s hardline abortion stance”. Similarly, this time around the US refused to back a resolution that included any mention of SRHR. A dangerous precedent has been set with the rolling back of language that would advocate for women’s access to safe and legal abortions.
This did not, however, go unchallenged by other member states with the UK, France and Belgium, among others, expressing their dismay at the lack of inclusion of SRHR. OGIP believes that women’s equal access to healthcare, their right to choose and their right to autonomy over their own body are all essential if we wish to reach true gender equality in society, and that the protection of these rights are fundamental to achieve the goals of the WPS agenda.
During the Open Debate we heard from the inspiring Alaa Salah, a 22-year old activist and student who just 6 months ago was leading the protests in Sudan fighting for freedom and gender equality. Alaa spoke compellingly about the crucial role that women and young people played in the protests in Sudan, but whose inclusion in formal peace processes is still sidelined.
Alaa is a true force for change and is just one example of many young women who are working to effect change in their countries and push the conversation around WPS forward. However, most of these women are marginalised from elite conversations around peace and security.
As noted in the latest report published by Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), although it has been some progress in the inclusion of women in, both formal and informal, peace processes, there is still a need to ensure that all voices are heard, including young women, indigenous women, women with disabilities, and other marginalised groups.
OGIP’s vision is a future where young people, and particularly young women, are centred in peace and security spaces. OGIP provides a platform for marginalised voices to challenge these exclusive spaces and push the WPS agenda to be more intersectional, inclusive and decolonised. We argue that more space should be made in these ‘high-level’ forums for young voices, and that their participation must go beyond tokenism, to integrating their perspectives into the formation and implementation of peace and security policy and practice.
Meeting WPS’ objectives
We are still a long way from securing the meaningful participation of all women in all stages of peace processes, one of the major goals of UNSCR 1325. This objective is much harder to reach, as it requires women to be able to actively participate in all levels of political and social life. To achieve this, we need the barriers to entry to be dismantled.
There are, however, certain actions that can be taken to reach this goal. It is incumbent on member states, especially those who profess to support the WPS agenda, to advocate for women, women’s rights organisations, and civil society to be at the table at all stages of peace processes. This would also help to secure more comprehensive peace agreements that include language and accountability around the protection of women’s rights.
How to move forward 2019 has seen the UN Security Council pass two resolutions on WPS. However, OGIP believes that we need more action and fewer new resolutions if we really want to see conflict prevention, women’s meaningful participation in peace and the protection of women and girls from human rights violations. OGIP’s recommendations to improve implementation of the WPS agenda.
(1) OGIP recommends that member states create National Action Plans that are fully funded and have dedicated budgets for Women Peace and Security.
(2) OGIP recommends that consultation with diverse civil society forms the basis of all policy making, from local to international, on Women Peace and Security.
(3) OGIP recommends that all member states demand the inclusion of women, women’s rights organisations, and civil society at all stages of peace processes.
(4) OGIP recommends that member states continue to fight back against the weakening of SRHR rights around the world in the run up to the 20th anniversary of WPS.
(5) OGIP recommends that youth and marginalized groups should be integrated into the formation and implementation of peace and security policy and practice.