Civil society groups, especially women's organizations such as WILPF, played an instrumental and leading role in the adoption of Resolution 1325, in particular, through their advocacy efforts and their participation in drafting the resolution. The adoption of the resolution was built on decades of work by civil society.
Although, the United Nations Charter is founded upon the notions of human rights and human dignity and this commitment has always recognized and included equal rights between men and women, gender parity has unfortunately been a slow development within the United Nations system, particularly in the realms of peace negotiations and peacebuilding. The acknowledgement that armed conflict has a disparate impact on women, and in turn that women are important contributors in peacemaking, has been an on-going and expanding process. It took the UN several decades to create a normative framework and operational policies and procedures that are tailored and responsive to the needs of women and girls in conflict-ridden countries.
Early efforts to address the situation of women in armed conflict include the 1969 Commission on the Status of Women, which questioned whether women and children should be afforded special protection during conflict; and the subsequent 1974 General Assembly’s adoption of the Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict. Using this work as a catalyst, there was the establishment of four UN World Conferences on Women: Mexico (1975); Copenhagen (1980); Nairobi (1985); and Beijing (1995). These conferences drew linkages between women’s issues and that of development, peace, and political concerns. The first conference in Mexico also gave impetus to the drafting and passing of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which is an international treaty often referred to as the women’s bill of rights. Each Convention built upon the notion that women are indispensable participants and active agents of peace, and their interests, voices, and capabilities must be accounted for and harnessed.
A significant policy development was at the Beijing Conference in 1995 which recognized women in armed conflict as one area of critical concern. A Platform for Action was launched which recognized that civilian casualties outnumber military casualties, with women and children comprising a significant number of the victims. It thus proposed a number of strategic objectives and actions that needed to be taken. It asserted that international humanitarian and human rights law needs to be upheld and applied to offenses against women. In 2000, the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled "Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-First Century" reaffirmed the commitments made in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The outcome document called for the full participation of women at all levels of decision-making in peace processes, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. It also addressed the need to increase the protection of girls in armed conflict.
Ultimately, in 2000 the Security Council issued a presidential statement commemorating International Women’s Day (March 8th), recognizing the connection between peace and women’s rights. The Secretary General created a team to review the UN’s peace and security activities, resulting in the Report of the Panel on the United Nations Peace Operations. This report identified the need for equal gender representation in peacekeeping missions, especially in positions of authority. The report led to the adoption of The Windhoek Declaration, which calls for gender mainstreaming in peacekeeping operations, equal access and representation of women in peace processes, and the hiring of women for leadership positions.
Soon after the aforementioned developments, the Security Council passed the landmark Resolution 1325, the first women, peace and security resolution. Resolution 1325 is the culmination of several decades of advocacy, from within the UN system and from civil society organizations. It is the result of the ever-increasing realization that women experience conflict differently than men, and such variation needs narrowly - tailored attention and expertise. It also recognizes that women have a critical role to play in the ending of wars and the sustainability of peace. However, the adoption of the resolution is only a starting point and it has been critical to work toward its full and effective implementation.
War and conflict are detrimental for all peoples, as they cause tremendous suffering, loss of life, displacement and protracted periods of rights violations. To work towards a feasible and sustainable peace, it is vital that the needs and concerns of all individuals and communities are considered. For the women’s peace movement, it is fundamental that women and gender perspectives are included in all phases of the peace process; women's particular interests and rights must be taken into account and the differential impact of conflict on women and men must be addressed. Women have often been systematically targeted in conflict situations, and thereafter are frequently excluded from decision-making opportunities in peace-process negotiations and post-conflict reconstruction. The women, peace and security agenda seeks to address women’s omission from peacebuilding and remedy this gender disparity.
The women, peace and security agenda is predicated on the principle that effective incorporation of gender perspectives and women’s rights can have a meaningful and positive impact on the lives of women, men, girls, and boys on the ground. Its linked and mutually reinforcing aspects (sometimes referred to as Pillars or the “3 Ps”) - protection, prevention and participation -- are crucial in respecting human rights and dignity, and in tackling the root causes of conflict. These three tenets are necessary for the creation and proliferation of sustainable peace.