August 2011 through July 2012 was a time of continuing global political change in some areas, and continued conflict and violence in others. There remained numerous situations in which women were placed in serious risk or remained at risk, often merely for asserting their rights. The so-called “Arab Spring”, sparked in Tunisia in early 2011, evolved across the region from political changes in Libya and Egypt, to more tentative changes in Yemen, and to civil war in Syria. In addition, the period under review in this report saw the arrival of the newest Member State into the United Nations, South Sudan. Ongoing complex situations, such as those in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Afghanistan, continued to present serious security challenges to local populations, and the international community struggled to find ways to constructively support peaceful resolutions and reconciliation.
In all of these situations, and in the many others in which there was often less international attention but continuing insecurity, we see the challenges for women and men that have been identified so often before: prevention work is not undertaken often, early, or consistently enough; small arms and light weapons create instability and violence; peace talks are too often exclusive, not inclusive, of women and their rights; post- conflict rebuilding processes are too often gender-blind, and therefore exclusive of women. This gender dimension of conflict —the fact that women and men tend to experience particular types of conflict, and that women tend to be excluded from the decision-making processes that seek to prevent, end, and rebuild from conflict— is often referred to as “women, peace and security.”
Efforts have been made to make progress on the women, peace and security agenda. Indeed, those who live in areas affected by conflict, particularly women, have long been working without sufficient recognition on these issues. Policy makers at the international level have increasingly recognized the importance of this work, and have begun to embed support for it in international obligations. Frameworks for action, the development of good policy practice, and commitments to end sexual violence in conflict have all been part of national, regional, and global initiatives in recent years.
The United Nations Security Council, with its mandate to maintain international peace and security, recognized the centrality of women, peace and security in 2000 by adopting a resolution on the issue, scr 1325 (2000).1 With this recognition that women's rights are not secondary concerns to the Council's mandate, but rather at its core, the challenge is now to demonstrate true accountability to these obligations, ensuring that they do not remain solely on paper.
It is important to remember that Security Council action and policies have a direct impact on what happens in country situations. The divide between policy makers at United Nations Headquarters and women's rights advocates in Cote d'Ivoire, Afghanistan, or Iraq can seem – and is – vast, but this does not mean the decisions made in New York do not fundamentally affect resources, policies, and access for women in their communities. Though the un Security Council is but one of the actors with women, peace and security obligations, its role is important one on both practical and symbolic levels.
In the situations examined in our report, “Mapping Women, Peace and Security in the UN Security Council: 2011- 2012,” we see that while there are areas of significant normative progress, the necessary and consistent action by the international community remains acutely insufficient. Our report provides an in-depth, qualitative analysis of the women, peace and security work in reports, meetings, presidential statements, and resolutions of the Council over a 12 month period, from 1 August 2011 through 31 July 2012, demonstrating the need for consistent information, analysis and recommendations to flow into the Council, and for the Council to ensure it acts with consistency and with commitment on its women, peace and security obligations.
The Council's addressing of women, peace and security issues was further complicated by broader dynamics in the Council in the period under review. Broader disagreements over the scope of the Council's mandate have meant inaction on immediate issues of concern to women and men in conflict areas. Ongoing tensions over the intervention in Libya, which impacted the Council's internal stalemate and virtual inaction on the situation in Syria, has resulted in, with the most generous perspective, an inconsistent addressing of women, peace and security obligations. However, it is the Council's responsibility to act to truly maintain international peace and security, and this means ensuring that it acts in good faith under its international obligations, including those on women, peace and security. It is this standard to which we hold Council Members.