PeaceWomen Themes

PeaceWomen has developed 13 main themes as a framework to organise our Women, Peace and Security resources for ease of reference and understanding. The themes should not be seen as fixed as they are interlinked and overlap but provide a useful analysis framework.

  • General Women, Peace and Security

    The General Women, Peace and Security theme focuses on information related to UN Security Council Resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960, 2106, and 2122, which make up the Women Peace and Security Agenda.

    The Women, Peace and Security Agenda historically recognizes that women and gender are relevant to international peace and security. The Agenda is based on four pillars: 1) participation, 2) protection, 3) conflict prevention, and 4) relief and recovery.

    The Women, Peace and Security Agenda demands action to strengthen women’s participation, protection and rights in conflict prevention through post-conflict reconstruction processes. It is binding on all UN Member States.

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  • Conflict Prevention

    The Conflict Prevention theme focuses on the incorporation of a gender perspective and the participation of women in preventing the emergence, spread, and re-emergence of violent conflict. Women’s active role in conflict prevention is crucial to international peace and security.

    Recognizing women as constructive participants in conflict prevention, the Security Council calls for the full and equal participation of women at all levels of decision-making (SCR 1325; SCR 1820). Member States are called upon to increase the representation of women in national, regional and international institutions, in mechanisms for conflict prevention (1325, OP1) and in conflict prevention dialogues (1820, OP12).

    The most effective way to fulfill the Women, Peace and Security Agenda is to prevent conflict from occurring. The prevention pillar of the Agenda has strong support from civil society yet effective focus on prevention remains lacking. There are gaps at all levels in challenging the root causes of violence, including militarization and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Women must actively participate in designing and implementing disarmament strategies.

    The systematic collection of information and data about women in conflict by all actors is vital to the conflict prevention work of the UN, including the Security Council. At the national and local level, early warning systems can be used as communication channels to prevent violence. These systems must be linked to early action systems, including utilizing existing UN mechanisms and structures. To be effective, they must incorporate a gender- sensitive approach in both design and implementation.

    While there is impunity for violations of international law and sexual violence, efforts to prevent conflict are incomplete. It is women who continue to serve as critical agents in developing long-term strategies for conflict prevention, advancement of human security, and the promotion of peace. Women’s active role in conflict prevention, in addition to gender mainstreaming, is crucial to the achievement of international peace and security.

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  • Disarmament

    The Disarmament theme focuses on the issue of arms as a root cause of conflict which impacts women and girls unequally. Disarmament is defined as comprehensive action, undertaken by actors at the international, regional, national and/or local level, with the goal of reducing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well as small arms and light weapons (SALW), land mines and the global arms trade

    Women are disproportionately affected by the use and damage from SALW as they are often used as intimidation in the perpetration of sexual violence. Women are also affected negatively by the post-conflict damage to education and health systems, and displacement of themselves and their families due to gunfire and warfare. In addition, if resources continue to be spent on weapons the inevitable result is that governments are not spending money on other programs such as education or ending violence against women. It is essential that the women, peace and security agenda be linked with disarmament if building sustainable peace is to be achieved.

    The Security Council must attend to the gendered impact of the prevalence of illicit small arms in post-conflict situations and support the participation of women in the activities associated with all phases of disarmament. States should also sign, ratify and implement the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty, with particular action being taken to enforce its gender criterion.

    The adoption and implementation of SCR 1325 has allowed for women to become more involved in disarmament talks and negotiations and establish peacebuilding programs. While SCR 1325 does not directly discuss the effects of SALW, it does address disarmament of weapons in various contexts and has been used by women’s groups as a resource and tool for advocating against SALW and educating people on the effects of SALW on women and children in conflict and post-conflict situations.

    Continued conversation on disarmament and its direct relationship with the Women, Peace and Security Agenda at the national and local level are critical to bringing about change and revealing the negative impacts of arms on gender inequality and violence on society.

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  • Participation

    The Participation theme focuses on women’s representation and participation in peace processes, electoral process – as both the candidate and voter – UN decision-making positions, and in the broader social-political sphere.

    Despite this recognition that women need to be included in all levels of decision-making, progress has been slow. Although women’s political participation in parliaments has improved since 2011, women still only make up 20 per cent of parliamentarians globally. Furthermore, while there has been improvement in women's’ participation in mediation processes, in 2013 still only just over half of the peace agreements signed included references to women, peace and security. Gender blindness, a lack of capacity to address women’s human rights and inclusion more broadly remain significant challenges.

    The Security Council acknowledges the need for strategies to increase women’s participation in all UN missions and appointments to high-level positions in SCR 1325(OP3) and 1889(OP4). However, recent analysis shows that women comprise less than 31 per cent of senior positions in the UN field missions.

    The Security Council further emphasizes the need for women’s participation in peacebuilding processes (1889) and calls for the mobilization of resources for advancing gender equality and empowering women (OP14), reporting on the progress of women’s participation in UN missions (OP18), equal access to education for women and girls in post-conflict societies (OP11), and the increase of women’s participation in political and economic decision-making (OP15). Until this language translates into action, the potential for women’s full and equal contribution to international peace and security will remain unrealized.

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  • Peace Processes

    The Peace Processes theme concentrates on increasing the representation of women in formal and informal peace processes, and incorporating a gender perspective into peace agreements.

    The Security Council calls for an increase in quality and quantity of peace agreements with specific gender-responsive provisions to improve the security and status of women (1325, OP8, OP16). The inclusion of issues and provisions relevant to women’s interests in peace agreements is critical to enabling post-conflict processes, institutions, and mechanisms to respond to women’s needs. Since 2011, when 4% of chief mediators, 3.7% of witnesses, and 9% of negotiating teams were women, there has been considerable progress in building up the normative framework for inclusive peacemaking. However, in 2013, still only just over half the peace agreements signed included references to women, peace and security. Gender blindness, a lack of capacity to address women's human rights and inclusion more broadly remain significant challenges.

    Women’s participation in formal peace negotiations (as mediators, negotiators, technical experts, and official observers) has a direct relationship to the content of the accords in terms of the inclusion of issues related to the rights and concerns of women. Acknowledging this, the Council calls for women’s participation and representation at all levels of decision-making in peace processes in SCR 1325(OP2), 1820(OP12), 1888(OP16), and 1889(OP1). While women have been known to participate in informal peace processes through parallel processes and within civil society organizations, they are rarely included in formal processes at the table.

    Peace processes and agreements represent an important opportunity and catalyst for change. Women’s early and full engagement in these processes will increase awareness of, and responsiveness to, women’s rights and needs. Their presence translates into the inclusion of gender-responsive provisions in peace agreements, which are crucial to facilitating gender equality in post-conflict political, economic, legal, and security structures.

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  • Protection

    The Protection theme focuses on securing the rights and safety of women and girls during and after conflict. The protection of women must not be separated from women’s agency and participation.

    The normative framework and mechanisms of the “Protection of Civilians” agenda overlap and reinforce the protection elements of Women, Peace and Security. The number of civilian casualties now surpasses the number of combatant casualties in armed conflict, and women continue to be disproportionately affected in gender-specific ways, such as sexual violence, trafficking, and exploitation. Hence, it is imperative that the Security Council encourages protection strategies, policies, and actions to incorporate a gender perspective at all levels and stages of implementation.

    Acknowledging the importance of protecting women and women’s human rights in conflict (1325,OP8), the Security Council calls for all parties to armed conflict to respect and uphold international law (OP9) and take special measures to protect women’s rights from gender based violence (OP10).

    To strengthen women’s participation as a cross-cutting theme, women must be consulted and engaged in designing and implementing the protection programmes intended to secure their rights and safety (1960, OP10). The Security Council specifically calls for the consultation of women and women’s organisations in the development of protection mechanisms for displaced women (1820,OP10).

    The Security Council requests the Secretary-General to provide guidelines and training materials on the protection of women for Member States to incorporate into national training programmes (1325,OP6). The Security Council further requests specific guidelines and strategies for peacekeeping operations, with the purpose of enhancing the protection of women and girls from sexual violence (1820,OP8-9), and calls upon Member States to afford victims of sexual violence equal legal protection (1820,OP4; 1888,OP6).

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  • Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

    The Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) theme focuses on the incidence and prevalence of violence against women in conflict and post-conflict settings. Polarization of gender roles, proliferation of weapons, militarization, and the breakdown of law affect SGBV.

    The risk of SGBV is heightened during conflict by aggravating factors, including the polarization of gender roles, the proliferation of arms, the militarization of society, and the breakdown of law and order. The subsequent long-term and complex impacts of SGBV continue to affect individuals and communities after conflict ends.

    SGBV is addressed in all five resolutions on Women, Peace and Security. In SCR 1888, the Security Council expresses its intention to ensure peacekeeping mandate resolutions contain provisions on the prevention of, and response to, sexual violence, with corresponding reporting requirements to the Council (OP11). The resolutions deal with protecting women from violence (1820,OP3, 8-10; 1888,OP3,12); strengthening local and national institutions to assist victims of sexual violence (1820,OP13; 1888,OP13); and including strategies to address sexual violence in post-conflict peacebuilding processes (1820,OP11). SCR 1820 also calls for the participation of women in the development of mechanisms intended to protect women from violence (OP10).

    Lastly, SCR 1960 creates institutional tools and teeth to combat impunity and outlines specific steps needed for both the prevention of and protection from conflict-related sexual violence. The new “naming and shaming,” listing mechanism mandated in the Resolution is a step forward in bringing justice for victims and a recognition that sexual violence is a serious violation of human rights and international law.

    Addressing SGBV is an integral aspect of the overall Women, Peace and Security agenda. SGBV affects the health and safety of women, and also has significant impact on economic and social stability. The Security Council recognises that sexual violence can threaten international peace and security, and that it is frequently used as a tactic of war to dominate, humiliate, terrorize, and displace.

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  • Peacekeeping

    The Peacekeeping theme focuses on a gendered approach to multi-dimensional peacekeeping missions, predominantly through gender mainstreaming of peace support operations and the increase of female recruitment in peacekeeping, military, and police.

    The Security Council calls for an increase in the number of women in peacekeeping operations (1325,OP6). To address the gender imbalance that currently exists, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has set a goal to increase the proportion to 20% by 2014. Yet, today, women constitute only 3% of military personnel and 10% of police personnel in UN Peacekeeping missions. Further, the Secretary-General has implored Member States to contribute more female personnel to the UN.

    However, it is important to note that the issues of gender and peacekeeping should never be reduced to the number of women recruited as peacekeepers. Promoting security is about providing real human security for the population, not about the militarization of women. The point is not to achieve gender parity for its own sake, but rather to draw on the unique and powerful contribution women can make to peacekeeping.

    The Security Council commits to include a gender component in UN field operations (1325,OP5), and requests that the Secretary-General’s reports to include information on the progress of gender mainstreaming within each operation (1325,OP17). Without a gender perspective, it is almost impossible to adequately create an inclusive security, which forms the basis of promoting sustainable and durable peace. Gender training, pre-deployment, on the ground, and post-deployment is effective for ensuring peacekeeping personnel have sufficient knowledge and skills.

    Peacekeeping missions are increasingly being mandated to address sexual violence (1960,OP10), and training can increase the prevention, recognition, and response to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and sexual exploitation and abuse (1820,OP6). The implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda varies greatly among Peacekeeping Operations. This variation is a result of the peacekeeping mission’s mandates and also structure, leadership, funding, whether there is a designation of a separate unit to address gender, and the number of gender advisors. These key gaps were highlighted in DPKO’s Ten-Year Impact Study on Implementation of Resolution 1325 in Peacekeeping.
    These measures can trigger positive changes for women within conflict and post-conflict situations, such as increased physical security, employment-related benefits, capacity building for local women’s organizations, and increased awareness of women’s rights. Additionally, positive role models and examples of women’s leadership have a positive effect on the environment and contribute to the success of peacekeeping missions.

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  • Displacement and Humanitarian Response

    The Displacement and Humanitarian Assistance theme focuses on the rights, concerns, and needs of women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations, including those affected by conflict-related displacement.

    Effective humanitarian assistance and distribution of aid requires an appreciation of the different impact conflict can have on women, men, girls and boys, to ensure that the most appropriate response is provided by humanitarian actors.

    Furthermore, the Security Council recognizes that refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in particular are adversely affected by conflict, and displaced women face specific challenges and concerns. These concerns include increased risk of human rights abuses, SGBV, harassment and discrimination, as well as being especially affected by restricted access to resources, education, and decision-making processes.

    All parties to conflicts must uphold international law as it relates to refugee populations and those in need in humanitarian assistance (1325,OP9, OP12). When designing refugee camps and settlements, the particular needs and concerns of women and girls must be incorporated in both planning and implementation (1325,OP12). The Secretary-General, in consultation with women and women-led organizations, must develop effective mechanisms to protect women and girls in, and around, UN refugee and IDP camps – particularly from SGBV (1820,OP10).

    The Security Council must consider the humanitarian needs of women when selecting and enacting measures to restore international peace and security. SCR 1325 acknowledges the need for women’s participation in humanitarian operations and urges the Secretary-General to increase the role of women as humanitarian personnel (OP4). In addition, SCR 1889 calls upon all parties to armed conflicts to respect the civilian and humanitarian character of refugee camps and calls for equal and unimpeded humanitarian assistance for women and girls in refugee and IDP camps (OP12).

    In SCRs 1820 and 1888, the Security Council addresses the role of humanitarian assistance programmes, the training of humanitarian personnel to combat sexual violence (1820,OP6), and requires the incorporation of issues of sexual violence in humanitarian access agreements within peace processes (1888,OP17). The Security Council further calls for the development and support of national institutions to provide sustainable assistance to victims of sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict periods (1820, OP13).
    It is imperative that women are involved in both short- and long-term relief and recovery efforts. This includes participation in emergency response implementation and monitoring, and the promotion of women’s equal access to aid and services through gender-sensitive distribution mechanisms.

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  • Human Rights

    The Human Rights theme focuses on mechanisms to respect, protect, and promote women’s rights before, during, and post conflict.

    Respect, protection and promotion of human rights is an important part of the women, peace and security agenda. The need for all actors in armed conflict to respect international law and uphold standards of human rights, in relation to women and girls, is reaffirmed in SCR 1325(OP9), 1888(OP3), and 1889(OP2). The Security Council calls for increasing women’s participation from field operations as human rights personnel (1325, OP4) to women protection advisors in human rights protection units of peacekeeping missions (1888, OP7).

    Women’s human rights - both civil-political and socio-economic - are particularly at risk in times of conflict and in post-conflict situations.In addition other forms of discrimination are often suffered by women or are part of fueling conflict. As states seek to create sustainable peace it is essential that attention be paid to these various human rights issues –in terms of ending impunity for violations and in terms of establishing laws, policies, institutions and mechanisms to respect, protect and promote human rights.

    Socio-economic rights are a vital aspect of the human rights agenda for women. Without access to, for example, education, health, housing or water, other civil and political rights have limited meaning. Conflict and post-conflict situations create a significant challenge to women’s ability to make gains in their economic stability. However, working to guarantee women their socio-economic rights in such contexts can be an avenue towards reconstruction and peacebuilding.Women in post-conflict situation often experience discrimination and/or lack of access to education, health services and other inalienable rights that results in limiting their opportunities for economic survival. The guarantee of women’s socio-economic rights is closely tied to women’s empowerment, the capacity to participate in peacemaking and peacebuilding and the ability to freely exercise civil and political rights. The denial or lack of access to economic and social rights can impede the effective reconstruction of post-conflict societies.

    Racial and ethnic discrimination can affect women and men in different ways. It is vital to understand the gender dimensions of racial and ethnic discrimination in order to adequately design responses that will be effective for combating racial and ethnic discrimination against women as well as men. It is often the case that women are targeted victims of racial discrimination solely based on their gender by way of “sexual violence committed against women members of particular racial or ethnic groups in detention or during armed conflict; the coerced sterilization of indigenous women; abuse of women workers in the informal sector or domestic workers employed abroad by their employers.”

    There are many international and regional human rights instruments and many different mechanisms established to protect and promote human rights. Many of these are relevant to conflict and post-conflict environments and to the women, peace and security agenda. Furthermore, countries that have emerged from conflict often seek to ensure that violations of human rights committed during conflict are addressed. In addition there is a pressure on new post-conflict governments to commit to international and regional human rights standards and to set up mechanisms and institutions at the national level to ensure that human rights are respected in the future.

    To tackle impunity and realise rights, normative legal frameworks must be supported by a systematic documentation of abuses as well as initiatives addressing the barriers women face in reporting and prosecuting violations.

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  • Justice, Rule of Law and Security Sector Reform

    The Justice, Rule of Law, and Security Sector Reform theme focuses on the application of a gender perspective into the post-conflict process of reforming security and justice institutions, with the aim of ensuring transparent, accountable, and effective services.

    Huge gaps remain in area of security sector and justice reform although the United Nations and the Women, Peace and Security resolutions have stressed that Justice and SSR must be gender sensitive throughout planning, design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation phases.

    The Women, Peace, and Security resolutions stress the particular need for improved security sector responses to address and prevent SGBV. Member States are urged to undertake comprehensive legal and judicial reform to better protect women from violence (1888, OP6). Reiterating the call for prosecutions to end impunity (1325,OP11), Member States are called upon to investigate and bring perpetrators of sexual violence to justice (1820,OP4; 1888,OP6).

    To help strengthen national judicial systems, and identify gaps in national responses to sexual violence, the Security Council requests that a UN team of experts work with national officials to enhance criminal responsibility for crimes of sexual violence (1888,OP8). Vetting armed forces to ensure the exclusion of those associated with past actions of rape and other forms of sexual violence is an essential component of Justice and SSR (1820, OP3; 1888, OP3). Finally, it is critical that access to justice, protection, and redress for survivors of sexual violence is ensured (1820, OP4; 1888,OP6-7).

    The resolutions set out specific obligations, in addition to broader guidelines, for transitional justice and justice reform within SSR. Women’s rights must be ensured in the reform and rebuilding of the police and judiciary (1325,OP8), and within peace agreements. To facilitate this, SCR 1820 calls for the inclusion of women and women’s organizations in all UN-assisted reform efforts (OP10). Justice and SSR are crucial components of peacebuilding, and have a direct impact on a country’s ability to achieve sustainable peace. Both gender mainstreaming in policy making, and the participation of women, are integral to successful reform.

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  • Reconstruction and Peacebuilding

    The Reconstruction and Peacebuilding theme focuses on the application of a gender perspective to peacebuilding. The response of local, national, and international systems to women’s priorities in post-conflict situations can significantly impact stability and development.

    The realisation of women’s right to full participation in preventing, resolving and recovering from conflict, is critical to building sustainable peace and the fulfilment of human security. Furthermore, the response of local, national and international systems to women’s priorities in post-conflict situations, can significantly impacts the stability and development of communities.

    The engagement of women in early stages of peacemaking can increase gender analysis in post-conflict planning, lead to improved outcomes for women, and enhance their capacity to participate in longer-term peacebuilding. However, women’s rights and concerns should not be dependent on the presence of women in peace processes. Systems must be in place to ensure their inclusion is standard operating procedure.

    In SCR 1325, the Security Council recognizes that addressing the unique needs of women and girls during post-conflict reconstruction requires integrating a gender perspective at all stages (1325,OP8). The Security Council acknowledges the need to counter negative societal attitudes regarding women’s equal capacity for involvement, and calls for the promotion of women’s leadership and support for women’s organizations (1889,OP1). In addition, the Security Council requests training on the protection, rights and needs of women in all peacebuilding measures (1325,OP6).

    To achieve this, the Security Council tasks the Secretary-General to report on challenges and make recommendations relevant to the participation of women and gender mainstreaming in peacebuilding and recovery efforts (1888,OP19). In response, the Secretary-General issued a report on women’s participation in peacebuilding in 2010. The report details the challenges obstacles women must confront in participating in recovery and peacebuilding efforts, and advocates for a Seven-Point Action Plan to respond to these challenges.
    First, the plan calls to increase women’s engagement in peace processes and to address gender issues in the context of peace agreements. Secondly, the plan urges for the inclusion of gender expertise at senior levels in the UN’s mediation support activities. Thirdly, the plan notes that, while the international community cannot control the gender composition of the negotiating parties, it must investigate strategies for the inclusion of more women. Fourthly, the plan calls for the establishment of mechanisms to ensure that negotiating parties engage with women’s civil society organizations. The Action Plan’s fifth commitment involves increasing the proportion of women decision makers in post-conflict governance institutions. The sixth point addresses rule of law, emphasizing the importance of issues such as women’s access to justice and a gender perspective to legal reform. The Action Plan’s seventh commitment is concerned with women’s economic empowerment. The Action Plan’s implementation remains the challenge.

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  • Implementation

    The Implementation theme focuses on the way UN system, Member States and other parties at all levels work to uphold their commitments to implementing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.

    Within the UN, there are a variety of implementation mechanisms. For one, the Security Council has requested that the Secretary-General release an annual report on Women, Peace and Security and the achievements, gaps, and challenges of the implementation process. The establishment of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as UN Women, now also provides an integrated institutional framework to assist Member States with implementing equality standards and the UN will be held accountable for its own commitments on gender equality.

    Among Member States, National Action Plans (NAPs), are a key mechanism through which governments identify their inclusion and equality priorities and commit to action. Local and Regional Action Plans provide additional and complementary implementation mechanisms.

    It is critical for the engagement of women and gender equality to be integrated in all aspects of development, diplomacy, peacekeeping and protection throughout local, national, and international systems.

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