On 5th July 2012, a strong and diverse group of stakeholders working on women's empowerment issues came together to explore ways of promoting Security Council Resolution 1325 that looks at Women, Peace and Security. Participants included representatives from the Ministry of Child Development and Women's Affairs officials, UN agencies, and Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and members of the Network to engage for Peace, Equality, Access, Community and Empowerment (N-Peace).
The one day consultation was facilitated by UNDP and its partner organisation Search for Common Ground as part of the regional N-PEACE initiative. A multi-country network established in 2010 by UNDP's Asia Pacific Regional Centre, the aim of N-PEACE is to support the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325 by providing a platform for engagement between different actors working on issues of women, peace and security. Sri Lanka is one of the six countries in the network, alongside Indonesia, Nepal, East Timor, Philippines and Afghanistan.
The objective of the day was to look at how the partners could collaborate to promote 1325 in Sri Lanka. After learning about experiences from other N-PEACE countries, participants had the chance to discuss the opportunities and challenges linked to promotion of 1325 in Sri Lanka. The discussion was framed around the four pillars of the resolution – Participation, Prevention, Protection and Relief & Recovery – and noted that while challenges exist at all levels, there is also a lot of work already taking place led by Government, NGOs/CBOs and the UN. Indeed, a key challenge is ensuring effective coordination among the many actors.
While a number of countries have decided to develop specific 1325 action plans, the participants felt that such a plan was not necessary in Sri Lanka, given that many of the relevant elements are included within the National Human Rights Action Plan, draft National Action Plan for Women, recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and other policy and planning documents.
Instead, the group recommended several key interventions as priorities to support moving forward: The first was to jointly promote the finalisation and approval of the National Action Plan for Women, a key instrument for carrying forward much of the work on Women, Peace and Security. In partnership with the Ministry of Child Development and Women's Affairs, it was suggested that a series of District consultations could take place to raise awareness about the plan and solicit feedback. An advocacy campaign could also be launched, mobilising support from the grassroots to the national level, including with key opinion and policy leaders in the Parliament and specifically the Women's Caucus.
The second was fostering a greater level of awareness about the issues under 1325 among the general population, and in particular youth, front line government officers and community leaders. Particular interventions that were recommended included strengthening the gender elements within the code of conduct and standard induction and training programmes of government officers, promoting experience sharing and community exchanges through youth groups, and providing training at the community level on key aspects on 1325.
The final recommendation centered around promoting increased women's leadership and political participation with a view towards having more advocates for women's rights within key policy making circles. However, during discussions it was noted that there has already been extensive work in this area with only marginal results. Any new interventions would have to seriously consider the lessons learned from earlier attempts, and look strategically at how to engage with the political parties and key political opinion leaders.
For UNDP and N-PEACE the immediate next steps following the consultation will be finalise a roadmap for N-PEACE engagement in Sri Lanka. The road map will integrate recommendations from the workshop with similar suggestions for national level dialogues and training of front line officers and community representatives that are emerging from current discussions with the Women's Parliamentary Caucus.