Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security: October 2017
27 October 2017
Charos Mina-Rojas, member of the human rights team of the Black Communities’ Process, the Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network, the Black Alliance for Peace, and the Special High Level Body for Ethnic Peoples, addresses the Security Council's open debate on Women, Peace and Security (Photo: NGO Working Group on WPS).
On 27 October 2017, the annual Security Council open debate on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) was held under the Presidency of France. The debate was organised on the margins of the 17th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000). The concept note for the event was circulated a day before the debate, requiring Member States to reflect on the WPS implementation in the past 17 years and highlight concrete actions for strengthening the Agenda at all levels, with a special focus on women’s meaningful participation in prevention and resolution of conflicts.
The speakers at the debate agreed that despite growing global awareness of the necessity to include women in peace and security efforts, real progress in women’s meaningful engagement in all phases of peacebuilding and their protection from sexual violence were seriously lagging. Many speakers urged for more gender expertise across all UN activities and called for deepened consultations with civil society organisations. Crucial issues for the WPS Agenda, such as financing and disarmament however did not receive enough attention. Moreover, the underlying reasons for violence against women and women’s marginalisation, which ultimately stem from patriarchy and militarised political economies, were not addressed.
The debate demonstrated that the WPS Agenda has gained significant normative strength since its inception in 2000. It is no longer considered solely a thematic issue, and is now acknowledged for its full capacity — as an essential pillar of global affairs integral to other thematic and country-specific issues under the Security Council’s purview and beyond. Focusing on two major themes: (i) women’s participation in crisis prevention, mediation, peacebuilding and maintenance of international peace and security, and (ii) their protection from Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in conflict, the representatives of governments and intergovernmental organisations reported on their key achievements in the WPS implementation and acknowledged their further commitments.
UN Women Executive Director, Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka focused her opening statement on the need for gender expertise in peace operations. As understood by Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka, the gender-specific provisions included in the Colombian peace accord cannot remain the exception. On this same topic, Ms Charo Mina-Rojas, the civil society speaker who represented NGO Working Group on WPS, urged for the complete disarmament of Colombia and outlined the importance of including ethnically diverse women in this process, as well as ensuring the security for human rights defenders, civil society activists and indigenous and Afro-descendant communities. Ms Jean, the Secretary-General of the International Organisation of la Francophonie, echoed previous statements in calling for increased support to women’s grassroots organisations and other instruments that could increase women’s participation at the negotiating table.
Key achievements in the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda
1. Progressive implementation of the WPS Agenda in a global context
Recognising the need to move beyond ad-hoc and project-based approaches to implementation, the speakers highlighted actions and initiatives that have contributed to the effective implementation of the WPS Agenda at the international level. First, multiple speakers commended the work of the joint UN-African Union (AU) high-level delegation in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on the theme “Revitalising Women's Participation and Leadership in Peace, Security and Development” and called for further use of these delegations to raise awareness on gender equality issues. The speakers also reported on the establishment of WPS Global Focal Point Initiatives as useful forums for Member States to exchange best practices of the WPS implementation. At the regional level, States announced the continued ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, and the launching of the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. The development of OSCE training classes for border guards on gender-specific challenges was also outlined as a good practice, in view of the growing number of incoming refugee on European soil.
2. Progressive implementation of the WPS Agenda at the national level
At the debate, Member States also shared good practices for the WPS implementation on the national level. Several States such as Senegal and Bolivia announced the adoption of national gender laws that effectively advance the WPS Agenda. Secondly, states outlined the development of national awareness-raising campaigns on violence against women as important national frameworks for the WPS Agenda. For example, Kenya launched a country-wide campaign called "Speak Out" to break the silence on gender-based violence in Kenya and created a toll-free gender “help line”. Thirdly, several states pointed that the consistent and targeted support of National Action Plans (NAPs) on WPS had helped their governments effectively implement the WPS Agenda and provided an opportunity to align the WPS Agenda with their national priorities. Examples of that would be the economic empowerment and participation of women in peacebuilding in Ireland, women's education in Chile, or counter-terrorism and demobilisation in Nigeria. The sustainable and predictable financing of national WPS Agendas also allowed Nepal and Slovakia to develop gender-responsive national budgets.
3. Gender-specific and Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) training for peacekeepers
Numerous speakers also reported on their efforts to implement best practices in addressing sexual violence in conflict, in line with the Secretary‑General’s victim‑centred approach on sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA). The United Kingdom has taken the lead on these issues with its Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative. The representative of Egypt said his country has introduced an intensive training module on SGBV for its peacekeepers. He added that Egypt launched a manual on the prevention of SEA entitled “SEA in Peacekeeping Operations Manual for Troop Contributing Countries”, translated to English and French. Other representatives announced that their country had ratified the Voluntary Compact on SEA.
4. Gender-disaggregated data
The speakers also shared better ways to keep track of gender data and better monitor the progress of the implementation of the WPS Agenda. Numerous representatives welcomed the creation of the Global WPS Index developed by PRIO and the Georgetown Institute for WPS, and the development of a gender observatory to analyse women’s situation and to provide advice on policies for improving it in Djibouti. The representative of the DRC also mentioned the adoption of an Action Plan to collect statistical data from provinces on the living conditions of women in the DRC.
At the 2017 Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security, Member States reported on concrete actions their countries have taken and are planning to take in the near future to advance the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda. Out of the 88 Member States present at debate, 71 (80 per cent) followed reported on initiatives developed to implement the WPS Agenda, and 43 (49 per cent) of them formulated new commitments.
1. Gender-expertise and meaningful participation of women in peace operations
At the debate, the representatives of Member States recognised that it is essential to include gender considerations and the meaningful participation of women in early warning, mediation and conflict-resolution efforts. Towards this goal, France committed to creating a “reservoir” of women’s leadership positions in peace operations. Kazakhstan committed to advocating for the greater inclusion of WPS language in Security Council Resolutions. On her end, the representative of Austria committed to gender‑responsive journalism and the protection of female journalists. Lastly, numerous states committed to engaging more consistently and effectively with civil society organisations, including through inviting women civil society leaders to Informal Expert Group’s (IEG’s) meetings and Security Council open debates, and supporting networks of women civil society organisations like the Nordic Women Peace Mediator Network and the Network of African Women Mediators for Peace (FemWise).
2. Sustainable and Predictable Financing of the WPS Agenda
The lack of sustainable and allocated financing for the WPS Agenda is a key obstacle to its implementation. The UN is working to meet the 15 percent target in their funding for gender mainstreaming. However more must be done to increase financing for women’s participation in peace and security and their protection in conflict-affected areas. Promises of further funding for the UN Peacebuilding Fund, which supports civil society-led projects , were made throughout the day. Moreover, countries like Canada and Kazakhstan have taken up the UN example of financing to allocate at least 15 % of their national funds in support of peacebuilding projects that advance gender equality.
A small number of Member States committed to acknowledging the gender-specific effect of arms proliferation on women in their policies, and advocated for women’s participation in disarmament and arms control. Specifically, the representative of Trinidad and Tobago recalled her country’s introduction in 2010 of the first-ever General Assembly Resolution on women, disarmament, non‑proliferation and arms control, which complemented Council Resolution 1325 (2000). She committed to continue working on these issues with fellow Member States.
All 91 speakers referenced the WPS Agenda, with 56 percent of statements focusing on women’s participation - 33 percent of which specifically mentioned “meaningful participation”- and 28 percent focusing on women’s protection. The protection of Women Human Rights Defenders (WHDRs) was however rarely mentioned. In addition, some statements, including the statement of the representative of Russia, explicitly called for limited role of civil society in the peace and security architecture.
The great majority of speakers (56 percent) advocated for the participation of women in governance, peace processes and peacebuilding or reconstruction efforts. Notable exceptions included Russia, the Holy See and Kuwait. In this regard, civil society speaker Charo Mina-Rojas’ statement importantly underlined the crucial importance of supporting the participation of diverse women, including from ethnically and racially diverse backgrounds. Despite evidence of negative risks of militarisation on the lives of women, there was particular emphasis placed on increasing women’s role in military and peacekeeping forces and working with women to combat extremism. However, Bolivia, Sweden, the Netherland, Nepal, Egypt, Ethiopia, Slovenia and Austria called for women’s meaningful participation, which is central to going beyond gender parity and women’s access to the table and entails ability to create impact and transform existing system of power and decision-making. A positive indicator for women’s substantive inclusion was the prevalence of support for civil society organisations throughout the debate, which remains the greatest source of expertise on the ground and the best partner in data collection and disarmament efforts.
Of the 91 statements delivered, 25 (27 percent) advocated for women’s inclusion in conflict prevention efforts. Most of the statements however mentioned women as under tapped resources in the fight against terrorism. For example, the representative of the USA specifically presented women as allies in the detection of radicalisation in local communities. On another note, the European Union reiterated its support for women organisations’ prevention efforts during election cycles in Africa, such as in the case of Uganda, where the EU closely engaged with the Women’s Situation Room, a mechanism fully operated by and for women to contain elections‑related violence and enable women’s political participation.
Out of the 91 speakers at the debate, only 8 (nearly 9 percent) of them mentioned women’s role in disarmament. Very few statements acknowledged the differentiated impact of weapons on women, or recognised the role of women in disarmament efforts. However, the representative of Jamaica welcomed Trinidad and Tobago's work on women's participation in disarmament and arms control. Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti and the representative of South Africa respectively paid tribute to the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and Women’s International Peace for Peace and Freedom’s (WILPF) decades-long campaign to abolish nuclear weapons which this year resulted in a nobel-prize winning international treaty banning nuclear weapons.
4. Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
SGBV was addressed in 33 (36 percent) briefings at the debate. At the end of the debate, Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka reported that the documentation of sexual violence in conflict zones has soared, while actual prevention of such violence and prosecution of perpetrators has largely fallen behind. She urged greater funding for gender expertise and projects in conflict zones. Echoing her statement, the representative of Canada claimed that the under‑resourcing of gender advisors and women protection advisors positions could limit the ability of peace operations to fulfil critical tasks. On his end, the representative of Uruguay urged the appointment of a Ombudsman on SGBV. Other Member State representatives also called for extended training on SGBV for Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) and the strengthening of national legal mechanisms for the effective prosecution of SGBV crimes. Specifically, the representative of Spain said that those responsible for sexual violence in conflict should be the potential subjects of the Security Council’s sanctions.
5. Relief and Recovery
Regarding women’s situation in the post-conflict settings, the speakers underscored the importance of having gender-responsive rehabilitation, relief and recovery services in post-conflict. In this regard, the representative of Kenya reported that his government has set gender-specific guidelines in medical facilities and psychological and forensic management, as well as built recovery centres for women victims of conflict-related violence. In addition, the representative of Switzerland said women’s economic empowerment must receive greater attention in post-conflict recovery and state‑building, and the representative of Liechtenstein underlined that gender‑responsive legal systems are fundamental to building resilient societies.
Regarding the implementation of the WPS Agenda in the Middle East, challenges to progress continue to be women’s marginalisation in peace processes and targeted violence against women. Indeed, after six years of conflict in Syria, women's participation in peace talks is minimal and limited to advisory roles. Moreover, continued attacks against Syrian hospitals led to the removal of support and medical staff, affecting the rights and security of women. In Iraq, Yazidi women continue to be sold as slaves by ISIL/Daesh. In Palestine, women are still living under the yoke of Israeli occupation, especially those in prison. In this regard, the representative of Jordan highlighted the soon-to-be-ratified Jordan NAP as a framework to bring gender-specific support to Syrian and Iraqi women refugees in Jordan, such as the provision of basic services and psychological and medical services .
Women did not wait for the adoption of Resolution 1325 (2000) to turn knowledge into action. 17 years later, women continue to be the main pillars and actors for conflict resolution, development and sustainable peace. The 2017 Security Council open debate on Women, Peace and Security illustrated Member States’ gradual recognition of the critical role of women in maintaining peace and security. However, much more must be done to better integrate women in conflict prevention efforts; the meaningful inclusion of women remains a critically underutilised tool for conflict prevention, disarmament and building peace. Member States need to show their support for the WPS Agenda by taking substantive action toward its implementation rather than just make empty promises to fully uncover the transformational potential of the WPS Agenda. The predictable and sustainable financing of the WPS Agenda, including of women civil society organisations as well as demilitarisation and disarmament are essential steps to achieve this goal.