INTERNATIONAL: UN Passes New Resolution on Women's Role in Peace Processes

Monday, October 21, 2013
The Guardian
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
General Women, Peace and Security
Peace Processes

A new UN resolution to reiterate the importance of women's involvement in conflict prevention, resolution and peace-building has been passed by the security council.

Resolution 2122, unanimously adopted on Friday, puts in place a roadmap for "a more systematic approach to the implementation of commitments on women, peace and security". It highlights the critical importance of gender equality and women's empowerment to international peace and security.

The resolution includes concrete measures on the development and deployment of technical expertise for peacekeeping missions and UN mediation teams supporting peace talks; improved access to information and analysis on the impact of conflict on women and women's participation in conflict resolution in reports and briefings to the security council; and strengthens commitments to consult, as well as include, women in peace talks.

It also calls on member states to fund the work of women's leadership, and of local civil society groups involved in conflict prevention and resolution.

In a move that surprised some, the resolution also highlighted the need for humanitarian aid to include a full range of health services for women who become pregnant as a result of rape in conflict, which would include access to abortion – a highly contested issue.

It is understood the adoption of the resolution followed tough behind-the-scenes negotiations to ensure it was not watered down at the last minute.

The agreement was the highlight of the annual day of open debate to reflect on women's role in conflict and peace processes. The security council was briefed by the executive director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Navi Pillay, the high commissioner for human rights, and Brigitte Balipou, a member of the Femmes Africa Solidarité board and founder of the Association of Women Jurists of the Central African Republic, who spoke on behalf of the NGO working group on women, peace and security. The findings of the secretary-general's 2013 report on women, peace and security were also presented to the council.

The report said while there is "more awareness than ever" of the impact of sexual and gender-based violence in war and the need to prevent it, there were still significant gaps in women's involvement in peace processes. It called for greater efforts to fill the holes and said the importance of women's role in the peace process needed to be pressed in discussions now under way on what should replace the millennium development goals when they expire in 2015.

Resolution 2122 was the second resolution related to women's role in conflict and security that has been passed this year. Resolution 2106 was passed in June to strengthen the monitoring and prevention of sexual violence in conflict. The focus on peace processes in the new resolution is seen by some as a way of rebalancing the emphasis on violence in conflict to the important role women can play in conflict resolution.

"Resolution 2122 demonstrates the security council's intention to put women's leadership at the centre of all efforts to resolve conflict and promote peace. It answers the chorus of voices from the global women's movement to focus on women's roles as peace leaders. And it recognises, loud and clear, that gender equality and the empowerment of women are critical to international peace and security," said Mlambo-Ngcuka.

"It broadens the reach of our women, peace and security agenda, addressing the full breadth of forms of violence and human rights violations against women and girls in armed conflict, and embracing the full scope of measures to redress them, including reparations. And it sets out concrete specifications for improved working methods in the council, in peacekeeping missions, or by mediators to peace talks."

Sarah Taylor, from the NGO working group on women, peace and security, said: "For years, we have been asking the council to be more consistent in its commitment and obligations to women in conflict situations. Today's resolution provides an important step towards this. It should be implemented to help ensure women's voices and women's rights are fundamental, not incidental, to the council's daily work."

Maria Butler, of the PeaceWomen programme at Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, added: "Investment in women's human rights, equality, and women-led civil society is critical, including for the prevention of conflict and war. Our words and our resolutions mean nothing if they are not backed by our actions."

Recognition by the UN of the disproportionate impact of conflict on women and their role in resolution and peace-building was made in 2000, when the security council passed the landmark resolution 1325. Since then there has been progress in getting women more active in conflict and resolution processes. UN Women points to the fact that in 1993 women made up just 1% of uniformed peacekeepers, while by 2012, of the 125,000 peacekeepers, women comprised 3% of military personnel and 10% of police personnel in UN peacekeeping missions.

But glaring gaps remain. Women are still woefully under-represented in peace negotiating teams, for example. A major review of progress on resolution 1325 will be held to mark its 15th anniversary in 2015.

Since 2000, subsequent resolutions have been passed to strengthen women's role in peace processes (1889), to acknowledge sexual violence against women in conflict as a war crime, and to better protect women from violence (1820), and to explicitly charge peacekeeping missions with the job of protecting women and children from sexual violence in conflict (1888).