The Problem

Women are excluded from decision-making. Gender inequalities are ignored, neglected or forgotten in policymaking and solutions to peacemaking. Implementation lags behind words and rhetoric. Too much is spent on arms and military security, and too little on gender equality and women's meaningful participation. Sexual and gender-based violence is endemic and rape in war is perpetrated with impunity. Women may often be victimised, yet, women also have voice and power to be agents of change – to be Peace Women!

The Women, Peace and Security Agenda gives us the tools to change our worlds.

Absence of Women's Voices

Around the world, there is a consistent deficit of gender expertise: Women are not included, and often are excluded, from peace negotiations and decision-making. According to the 2017 UN Secretary-General report on Women, Peace and Security, in 2015, at least one senior woman was present in the delegations of 13 negotiating parties and in 9 out of 11 active processes, compared with 4 out of 14 processes in 2011. In 2015, the United Nations provided gender expertise to eight of nine (89 per cent) relevant mediation processes, an increase from 67 per cent in 2014. Of 10 peace agreements signed in 2015, 7 (70 per cent) contained gender-specific provisions, compared with 50 per cent in 2014. 

While these figures indicate some progress, stronger efforts are still needed to facilitate women’s increased and meaningful inclusion in negotiation party delegations to peace talks. In Syria, despite women’s role as activists in the uprising, as leaders of many grassroots and non-violent civil society movements, and as providers of critical humanitarian support, they are still neglected in any decision-making process. Additionally, as of December 2015, women made up only 4.7 per cent of total military experts in field missions and 3.2 per cent of military troops. Women’s representation among United Nations police has also remained low, at 16.9 per cent of individual police officers and only 7 per cent of formed police units. Subsequently, there were 59.5 million forcibly displaced by the end of 2015, the highest number in the post-World War II era. Women and girls comprise about half of any refugee, internally displaced or stateless population. They are often repeatedly raped, forced into marriage and sold into slavery.

Peace talks and agreements continue to be officially recognised despite failing to ensure either women’s full and equal participation as negotiators, experts, and civil society partners, or without substantially incorporating women’s human rights. The Women, Peace and Security Agenda affirms that women’s participation is fundamental and works to remedy this gender disparity so that women’s rights and gender perspectives are included in all phases of the peacemaking.

Business as Usual Has Failed

War, violence, and conflict are both rooted in and contribute to gender inequality. Yet policies incorrectly assume a fair playing field and ignore gender and women. As a result, business as usual continues inequality and violence. The patterns and violation of human rights and gender inequality exist not only during conflict, but also before and after conflict.

In Bosnia, the failure to address women’s economic empowerment, in the context of transition has precluded effective participation and contributed to the continuance of violence and abuse. The complex transition from conflict to post-conflict to sustainable development and the prevention of renewed armed conflict is a critical opportunity.

In DRC, women are forced to live and work in mining camps that are inhumane and where the human rights violations are extensive. Subsequently, there is not any international legal framework in which corporations and states can operate while being required to legislate in order to ensure that human rights are observed and upheld, both within and outside their borders.

Women have the potential to transform their communities through promoting violence prevention and securing active participation, protection and human rights for themselves and their communities.

Big Words, but not Enough Action

Implementation lags behind words and rhetoric. Policies have still not effectively translated into practice on the ground. There is a gap to transform international normative frameworks into meaningful developments at the local level and to enable local understandings and demands to be fed back into the international system - enhancing and reinforcing norms. Effective implementation requires putting our money where our mouth is. Yet today’s funding priorities are still based on the medieval narrative that brave warriors can save virtuous souls. This ignores how dependence increases risks. It ignores how militarised state security creates obstacles to enhancing human security and building the capacity of all people to save themselves.

No Resources to Address Root Causes & Challenging Militarism

Too much is spent on arms and military security, and too little on gender equality. Dedicated resourcing for Women, Peace and Security, especially for civil society advocates in this area, is very limited. States continue to invest in militarised state security, which exacerbates violence, including sexual and gender based violence, rather than human security based in women’s experiences. In 2015, there was a global military spend of $1.6 trillion (SIPRI). Meanwhile, gender equality and peace remain drastically under-funded: As the 2015 Global Study on UNSCR 1325 (Global Study)found, there is a “consistent, striking disparity between policy commitments to gender equality and women’s empowerment, and the financial allocations to achieve them” (p. 372). The approach to security is built on the belief that military action, or the threat of it, can solve problems and conflicts, and that human security is dependent on weapons. This 'traditional' security approach has been proven to create adverse economic and political consequences that do not reduce conflict but rather increase injustice and inequality. The marginalisation of women’s human rights, the proliferation of arms and pervasive gender inequality are closely interconnected: they are not only a consequence of unrest, but are key sources of conflict. Adding women to military structures is not changing the structures, culture, and impacts of militarisation.

Holistic Agenda for Change to address Violence and Inequality Spiral

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence is part and parcel of gender inequality. On one hand, gender inequality promotes violence. On the other, violence also contributes to gender inequality. Gender inequality also is itself a form of violence that restricts the flourishing and capabilities of both women and marginalised groups.  

Sexual and gender-based violence is prevalent in and is a consequence of inequality, patriarchal values, stereotypes, exclusion, oppression and predicated on social and cultural conditions, which are highly gendered. These complex gendered causes and consequences exist differently in pre-conflict, conflict, and post-conflict settings. 

Women, especially in conflict, continue to be patronisingly stereotyped as inherently “vulnerable victims”. This ignores the agency, equality and participation aspects of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. It ignores how business as usual puts women and feminised groups at particular risk to begin with. It also takes a limited, narrow approach, which ignores the bigger picture. 

Impact of War on Women

The system is broken when it comes to Women, Peace and Security. We live in a world which invests in and glorifies war. Yet the war system does not protect women from violence. Instead, it makes violence worse. Preparing for, engaging in, and cleaning up from war diverts critical resources from gender justice and peace. It glorifies militarism and violence.  It contributes to rape culture and gender discrimination. And it puts the spotlight on men and violence while putting behind a curtain over women and leadership for peace.

Militarism normalises and legitimises gender inequality and military action. However, militarism is about more than just the military industrial complex. Militarism as a way of thought affirms the idea that we live in a dangerous world and that we need just warriors to protect beautiful souls. It relies on gendered and racial understandings to value things associated with the military and devalue things associated with non-violence. Militarism and cultures of militarised masculinities create a climate of political decision-making in which resorting to the use of force becomes a normalised mode of dispute resolution. In doing so, militarism enables the legitimisation and continuation of violence.