“Sustainable Development and the Women Peace and Security Agenda:
Synergies for Action”
15 July 2019 Meeting of the Group of Friends of UNSCR 1325
On 15 July 2019 the Group of Friends of UNSCR 1325, in collaboration with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), hosted a meeting with over 50 people in attendance on “Sustainable Development and the Women Peace and Security Agenda: Synergies for Action”. Held in the margins of the 2019 High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development, the discussion explored opportunities for strengthening action on sustainable development that accelerates the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda.
The meeting was facilitated by First Secretary for Political Affairs Simon Collard-Wexler from the Mission of Canada, which chairs the Group of Friends of UNSCR 1325. Speakers included WILPF WPS Programme Director and Women’s Major Group Global Organizing Partner Abigail Ruane; Equidad de Género Director of Gender Policies and Budgets and Women’s Major Group Global Organizing Partner Emilia Reyes; WILPF Cameroon President Sylvie Ndongmo; WILPF United Kingdom International Liaison; and UN Women Policy Adviser, Sylvia Hordosch.
Since October 2000, the Security Council has adopted nine WPS Resolutions, which aim to strengthen women’s participation, protection, and rights in conflict prevention through post-conflict reconstruction processes (UNSCR 1325 (2000); 1820 (2009); 1888 (2009); 1889 (2010); 1960 (2011); 2106 (2013); 2122 (2013), 2242 (2015) and 2467 (2019)). In September 2015, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly also adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 2030 Agenda, including stand-alone goals on gender equality (SDG5) and peaceful and inclusive societies (SDG16).
The 2030 Agenda is a universal agenda for all states which requires policy coherence across the goals (SDG17.4). SDG 16 on peaceful and inclusive societies includes targets on ensuring responsive, inclusive, participatory decision making (SDG 16.7), reducing all forms of violence everywhere (SDG 16.1), ensuring non-discriminatory laws and policies (SDG16.B), protecting fundamental freedoms (SDG 16.10), ensuring non-ensuring equal access to justice (SDG 16.3), and addressing illicit financial and arms flows (SDG16.4), among others. SDG 5 on acheiving gender equality also includes targets on participation (SDG 5.5), eliminating violence against women (SDG 5.2), non-discrimination (SDG 5.1), gender equality (SDG 5.C), and social protection (SDG 5.4).
This year’s High Level Political Forum reviewed SDG16 on peaceful and inclusive societies for the first time. Consequently, this meeting created an opportunity for member states of the Group of Friends of UNSCR 1325 to discuss how stakeholders can strengthen the interlinkages and leverage the 2030 Agenda to accelerate commitments on Women, Peace and Security. Participants discussed the importance of policy coherence across the goals of the 2030 Agenda and the need for implementation of the SDGS in a way that contributes to peace that works for women and girls.
After a welcoming of panelists, member states, United Nation representatives, and civil society by the Canadian Mission, the conversation started by setting the stage on the linkages between the SDGs and WPS Agenda. Abigail Ruane (WILPF) affirmed that the SDGs are important for action on the WPS Agenda for three main reasons: The 2030 Agenda has a feminist vision of peace and development for people and planet; it is universal for all countries; and it commits to policy coherence across the goals. These mean that member states must take action both within and across borders to make peace and sustainable development work for women and girls in conflict. “As women human rights defenders and peacebuilders have said many times, peace is not a project,” stated Ruane. “The WPS Agenda already has a bold vision of peace that works for diverse women by strengthening women’s participation, protection, and rights across the conflict spectrum. Consequently, it is critical that the SDGs -- especially goals on gender equality (SDG5) and peaceful and inclusive societies (SDG16) accelerate action on the WPS Agenda.”
Participants then explored what is happening this year on the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals and what opportunities this creates for synergies with the WPS Agenda. Emilia Reyes (Equidad Genero) noted that while it has become popular to discuss the interconnectedness of the SDGs, current action does not effectively address the three dimensions of sustainable development -- environmental protection, social development, and economic development. “Everything you do should have gender, peace and environmental components,” stated Reyes. Post-conflict reconstruction provides a critical point of entry for reshaping the world. “What is the sustainable development and peace that we envision?” she asked. The aim should be to redistribute wealth and access for gender equality and human rights.
Women peacebuilders from fragile and non-conflict affected countries then shared their experience about what women are doing and what is needed to strengthen local women’s work on sustaining development and feminist peace. Sylvie Ndongmo (WILPF-Cameroon) recounted that until a few years ago, Cameroon was a peaceful country. “How did Cameroon go from peace to conflict?” she asked. Many countries in Africa are not major arms exporters, yet they still suffer from armed violence. “We must address the hidden interests in fragility.” The WILPF United Kingdom International Liaison shared about United Kingdom progress but also failures in policy coherence. She noted that on the one hand, National Action Plans (NAPs) have dedicated budgets on women and girls; yet on the other hand, austerity policies have heavily impacted women, particularly women of color. In addition, Yusuf argued that while the UK is a party to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and pushed for inclusion of gender in the treaty, it has also made continuous sales to Saudi Arabia. This has led to a court ruling that such sales were unlawful, because there was a failure to look into reports of human rights abuses. Activists called for action that ensures holistic accountability on the WPS Agenda for both fragile and non-conflict affected states. They also called on arms exporting countries to strengthen action on Women, Peace and Security and disarmament as priorities for the 2030 Agenda, including by not transferring weapons if there is a risk that the weapons will be used to facilitate gender based violence in line with the Arms Trade Treaty.
UN Women then briefed participants on the 27-28 February 2019 Expert Group Meeting in Vienna on SDGs on inclusion (SDG10), climate (SDG13) and peaceful and inclusive societies (SDG16), “Tackling global challenges to equality and inclusion through the gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” Sylvia Hordosch (UN Women) noted that “there are important linkages between sustaining peace, WPS, and the SDG agenda [which are] are people centred and organized on the principle of leave no one behind.” Hordosch noted that many stakeholders are not comfortable to the linkages between people, planet, peace, prosperity and human rights mechanisms because it is easier to remain comfortable and “on our own turf”. More people need to be doing the work of uplifting the connections, and enacting policies that connect gender responsive budgeting and planning. This includes addressing austerity, tax, private sector accountability, wealth inequality, social versus military spending, and gender audits.
During the Q&A portion of the event, participants highlighted discussions at the Rome conference on SDG16 and affirmed the convergence between WPS and the SDGs. Some highlighted the importance of addressing gender and arms control as a priority. Others raised concerns about how to strengthen the meaningful participation of women led civil society in the context of rising attacks on human rights defenders and peacebuilders, and noted that quotas for women at the peace table can be a tool for strengthening women’s political participation. Still others asked how to ensure women are recognised as leaders not just recipients of action. Discrimination and injustice, silos and coherence, and finance also were all issues raised. On the funding issue, Reyes affirmed, “There is enough money. It just needs to be spent for public goods for human rights.”
In closing comments, Ndongmo spoke of the need for early warning mechanisms, which makes women realise their role as peacebuilders in their communities. Yusef called for a total consciousness shift which can only come about through a collective human rights approach to social, political, and economic realities. Ruane called on member states to commit to accelerating WPS as part of “SDG Acceleration Actions” in advance of the 24-25 September SDG Summit, and for the Friends of 1325 to hold a meeting with the Friends of SDG16+ within the next year on action taken to strengthen synergies between the WPS and 2030 Agenda.
Read the WILPF Brief for the 15 July 2019 Friends of UNSCR 1325 Meeting, “Sustainable Development and the Women Peace and Security Agenda: Synergies for Action: HERE