Women, Peace and What Security

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Women, Peace and What Security


    APSA Conference paper, 24-26 September, 2007, Monash University, Melbourne.

    Women, Peace and What Security? Assessing Resolution 1325

    Elisabeth Porter, School of International Studies, University of South Australia,

    One of today‟s greatest development challenges is turning policy into practice.

    This is especially the case in the realm of women‟s rights and gender equality,

    where the commitments made at the international and national levels remain far

    from the day-to-day realities of women‟s lives.

    (Valasek 2006: i)

    The United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 1325 (SCR 1325) on „Women, Peace and Security‟ (2000) is significant in calling for representation of women at all

    levels of decision-making to prevent, manage and resolve conflict. Its efficacy as a global advocacy tool is practical. It is worth assessing its merits seven years on. In this paper, I do four things. First, I provide some background on why consideration of women‟s

    security is needed. Second, I outline briefly some of the global momentum that led to the SCR 1325. Third, I outline some remaining challenges, showing how women remain disturbingly absent or marginalized from official peace processes, negotiating tables, political decision-making opportunities and senior policy or judicial positions, despite their active agency in grassroots peacebuilding. Fourth, I offer some positive examples of how SCR 1325 is making a difference in increasing the representation of women in transitional democracies emerging from conflict. My general argument is that gender equality, gender justice and women‟s rights are central to the reconstruction of countries emerging from conflict and insecurity.

Why be concerned with women’s security?

    „Half the world‟s countries have serious weaknesses that call for international scrutiny

    1and engagement‟ (Marshall and Gurr 2005: 2). While men, women and children are all

    affected by war trauma, violence and radical insecurity, there are gender-specific


    experiences of conflict such as war-rape, exclusion from participation in peace-negotiations and differing interpretations of what is necessary to further security. The focus in this article is on women who live in areas prone to war or in transitional societies that are moving from a state of violence to democratic structures. Women experiencing the affects of war and conflict appear to have little in common, given their differences in history, culture, tradition, governance and causes of conflict. Investigate deeper, and similarities surface around the nature of victimhood and strategies taken by local women peace activists, negotiators and community-workers in overcoming obstacles like limited access to political decision-making and in building coalitions across antagonistic barriers.

     I clarify from the start, women are not natural peacemakers; some women are aggressive combatants, particularly in Algeria, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Liberia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Zimbabwe (Alison 2006). „Girls have been part of fighting forces in 55 countries and involved in armed conflict in 38 of these countries, all of them internal conflicts‟ (Bouta 2005: 5), particularly in Angola, Columbia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Uganda (Fox 2004). Women have fought as „freedom fighters‟ in Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Sudan and Viet Nam.

    Sometimes, women are abducted to join irregular armies and young girls are forced into „jungle marriages‟, „bush marriages‟ or „AK-47 marriages‟ (Rehn and Johnson-Sirleaf

    2002: 116). Some women work as spies, couriers or providers of refuge for combatants in hiding. Wherever there are intense ethnic or religious divisions, women and men foster notions of the enemy as the hated „other‟. However, because women are the primary

    nurturers in families and communities, they play critical roles in peacebuilding. Men‟s

    contribution to peace is important. Women‟s contributions usually are not part of formal

    peace processes. They are active in Track two diplomacy with unofficial actors working informally as „citizen diplomacy‟ and in Track three diplomacy with unofficial interventions at the grassroots. I now explain some changing views on security and peace.

What constitutes in/security?

    What is meant by „insecurity‟ and „security‟ and how do feminist notions alter traditional views? I adopt an open-ended definition of insecurity which „has to do with danger,

    threat, harm, and the peril involved with change (2005: 65). All forms of discrimination

    or oppression that impede the freedom necessary to exercise social, political, cultural and


    economic choices undermine security. Security refers to safety, well-being and being able to live in meaningful freedom. I am adopting a holistic framework of human security which integrates equality, justice, human rights and development with peace and security. Much that threatens security includes „gender-specific violations long considered to be

    normal, private or inevitable outcomes of war‟ (El Jack 2003: 22). While there are

    feminist accounts of security (Blanchard 2003; Enloe 1993, 1990, 1988; Pettman 1996; Schirch and Sewak 2005; Tickner 2001, 1992) a feminist peace and security agenda is also developing and this is where I am situating my arguments. The agenda is broad and derstands human security to include equality, justice, rights, co-existence, tolerance, un

    participatory democracy and non-violent dialogue.

    The underlying principle to human security is an understanding that to reduce potential threats, the root causes of insecurity must be tackled, including the violation of human rights, gender-based violence, all forms of inequality and injustice, poverty, disease, organized crime, sexual trafficking, political corruption, environmental degradation and terrorism. A further underlying principle is that communities know what is needed locally to ensure security; hence empowerment is fundamental to the realization of human security. Charlotte Bunch (2004) and Linda Basch (2004) make the important point that the concept of human security emphasizes both protection of victims and empowerment of agents. „Rethinking security means recognizing the common humanity

    and worth of all human beings‟ (Steans 1998: 105). Such recognition is important in

    contexts where the political priorities typically are placed on autonomy, independence, non-interference and self-determination. This „has resulted in the creation of a global

    “culture of neglect” through a systematic devaluing of notions of interdependence,

    relatedness, and positive involvement in the lives of distant others‟ (Robinson 1999: 7).

    Robinson‟s emphasis on „a critical politicized ethics of care‟ (1999: 47) enables us to have both an empathetic imaginative response to suffering as well as a critical scrutiny of structural power differentials, disrupting traditional notions of national security akin to a „politics of compassion‟ (Porter 2006). Human security initiatives make „human beings and their communities, rather than states‟ their point of reference and focus on protection

    of the most vulnerable (Hunt and Posa 2001: 1).

     Jan Jindy Pettman explains a feminist revisioning of security this way: „taking women‟s own experiences of violence and security seriously means focusing on everyday life, on bodily and psychic pain, on anger and silences within regrouping war surviving


    families and relationships, on coping with and loving “enemy” children‟ (1996: 105). Feminists challenge state-centred structural analyses and „question realist boundaries

    between anarchy and danger on the outside and order and security on the inside‟ in order to concentrate on „the interrelation of insecurity across levels of analysis‟ (Tickner 1997: 625). Accordingly, feminist understandings of in/security emerge from the centrality of social relationships rather than state sovereignty, global anarchy or superpower aspirations. Vulnerable groups cannot assume the state provides security, indeed the military and local state agents often threaten security, not acting as a protector, and even peacekeepers sometimes violate women‟s sexual dignity.

     Human security incorporates all dimensions of what is needed to feel safe. The cessation of explicit violence does not guarantee security because „the violence of a regime begets a general culture of violence‟ (Turshen 1998: 8). In such contexts,

    gendered violence is „legitimized by structural violence‟ (Caprioli 2004: 413). You

    cannot feel secure in a context of violence, poverty, injustice, inequality, suppression of rights and exclusion. It is unsurprising that women who face insecurity and injustice have expansive notions of peace linked to security and justice. For women in conflict zones, peace and security has to be grounded in the immediacy of fulfilling ordinary daily needs which is why conditions that free people from poverty, exclusion, injustice and oppression enhance security. These conditions broaden the parameters of peacebuilding to include all concrete, local and practical processes needed to build peace with justice. „Security is not only about the recognition of threats but also about building capacities to create secure spaces‟ (Hoogensen and Stuvøy 2006: 222). Security is enhanced when there is fair access to resources and decision-making processes in a context of social justice and respect for human dignity.

    In the UN, peacebuilding typically refers to formal post-conflict reconstruction. The notion of „post-conflict‟ reconstruction is problematic. It „generally refers to a period

    when predominantly male combatants have ceased to engage in “official” war‟

    (Handrahan 2004: 429) but insecurity continues. While the guns are silent cultural, domestic and structural violence remain (Vlachová and Biason 2005). It is important to keep a distinction between the immediate demands of peacebuilding after violence has ceased and peace settlements are signed, and longer-term peacebuilding undertaken by local NGOs across civil society in political, economic, humanitarian, legal and social spheres. In terms of long-term processes, grassroots women‟s groups „emphasize the


    centrality of addressing psychosocial and human needs in the peacebuilding work far

    more than do governmental organizations, NGOs, or the UN‟ (Mazurana and McKay

    1999: 8). Despite different strategies, women‟s peacebuilding activities revolve around

    similar processes that contribute to the healing of relationships and meeting everyday needs.

UN Security Council Resolution 1325

    Background leading to Resolution 1325 is significant. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPA) that emerged after the Fourth Women‟s World Conference in Beijing (1995) identified twelve „critical areas of concern‟ that remain as obstacles to women‟s advancement, including armed conflict and power and decision-making, two

    factors that influence peace and security. The BPA identified strategic objectives to be

    2taken by member states to remove the obstacles to women‟s progress. The UN

    Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) submitted an „Outcomes Document‟ (2000) reviewing the agreements and outlining further initiatives needed given the relative

    3absence of women from decision-making positions.

    In May 1999, International Alert launched a global campaign, called, „Women Building Peace: from the Village Council to the Negotiating Table‟. The Security

    Council circulated a background paper (UN Security Council 2000a). An NGO Working

    4Group (NGOWG) on Women and International Peace and Security, comprising

    International Alert, the Women‟s International League for Peace and Freedom, Amnesty

    International, International Women‟s Tribune Centre, the Women‟s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, Women‟s Caucus for Gender Justice and the Hague Appeal for Peace, in collaboration with the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), played a primary role in prompting Security Council members and advising informal bilateral discussions. NGOWG reiterated the absence of women‟s voices at

    peace deals and high-level negotiations, despite the fact that women typically head households after war and know practically what is needed to restore security. At an open debate of the Council, Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of UNIFEM asked, „How can

    we, in good conscience, bring warlords to the peace table and not women?‟ (2000: 2). The resolution was adopted on 31 October 2000 under the Namibian Presidency.


     UN Security Council Resolution 1325 is historical in being the first Security Council resolution to address the special needs of women in relation to peace and security

    5(S/RES/1325 2000). SCR 1325 builds on earlier resolutions and Conventions. It is

    unprecedented in acknowledging the importance of involving women in all peacebuilding measures. The 18-point resolution calls upon the Council, the UN Secretary-General, member states and all parties to take action in four interconnected areas: increasing the participation of women in decision-making and peace processes; including gender perspectives and training in peacekeeping; encouraging the protection of women; and integrating gender mainstreaming in UN reporting systems and programmatic implementation mechanisms. SCR 1325 expresses „concern that civilians, particularly

    women and children, account for the vast majority of those adversely affected by armed

    6conflict‟. The resolution calls for increased representation of women at all levels of decision-making. It calls for increased numbers of women to become Special Representatives of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and realizes the need to expand the contribution of women in UN field-based operations.

    There is an urgency to realise the goals in measurable ways. Despite considerable effort from UNIFEM, feminist researchers, NGOs, grassroots movements, peace activists and supportive church groups to encourage women‟s participation in conflict prevention, management and resolution, women remain seriously under-represented in formal peace negotiations and security enhancement. SCR 1325 has been criticized for its conceptual gaps, for the lack of guidelines in practical application and for the failure in implementation. However, its efficacy as a global advocacy tool is without doubt. Stories of women from Afghanistan, Kosovo and East Timor who testified to the Security Council in 2001, honouring the first year of the resolution provide evidence of its significance. While progress has occurred in peacekeeping and humanitarian arenas in terms of new policies, gender expertise and training initiatives, „in no area of peace and security work are gender perspectives systematically incorporated in planning, implementation, monitoring and reporting‟ (OSAGI 2004: 2).

Challenges: women’s absence from official peace processes


    „While women will often have been at the forefront of peace initiatives throughout the conflict, peace agreements are usually negotiated predominately, if not exclusively, by men‟ (Bell, Campbell and Ní Aoláin 2004: 320). There were no Bosnian women in the Dayton talks in 1995 but one woman signatory; the rights of women were overlooked in the 1996 Sierra Leone peace accord; there were two women in Northern Ireland elected

    7to multi-party peace negotiations in 1996; in Tajikistan there was one woman on the 26

    person National Reconciliation Commission in 1997; at the first Arusha peace talks on Burundi in 1998, two of the 126 delegates were women and six had observer status in the next round; in 1999 there was one Kosova woman at the Rambouillet negotiations; in Columbia in 1999, in the pre-ceasefire agreements, there were four women from forty delegates at the National Peace Council; in Guatemala, from 1991-96, there was one woman member at the peace negotiations in the delegation of Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity; in 1999, the Consultative Council of Timorese Resistance had two women representatives from 15; in 2001, there were three Afghani women out of 36 delegates to the Bonn negotiations; eight women from the Liberia Chapter of the Mano River Women‟s Peace Network participated as observers in the Liberia peace talks of

    2003. Few women participated in the 2003 meeting in Iraq where delegates discussed an interim government, but three women were nominated to the interim Iraqi Governing Council and Aqila al-Hashimi was murdered. Women were not included in Committees working on constitutional reform. In June 2004, 6 Iraqi women were part of the 30 member Transitional Cabinet and in the 2005 elections, women made up 31 percent of the new National Assembly, drafting the constitution. Typically, women are overwhelmingly absent in formal peace processes.

     It matters if women are not included in all stages of peace processes for three reasons (Porter 2003; 2005; 2007). First, women are affected by conflict and thus by the consequences of a peace agreement. The peace settlement is not merely about ending war, but also about establishing revised terms for a new polity. Violence against women rarely ends when peace accords are signed. The violence of a regime begets a general culture

    of violence‟ (Turshen 1998: 8). Entire communities suffer after violent conflict, but

    women and girls are affected differently because of their subordinate status. Women continue to care for dependents including traumatized children. Many are left as heads of households with destroyed huts and inadequate food supplies. Failing to include women in all stages of peace processes not only exacerbates gendered subordination but it


    overlooks women‟s capacities to „broker agreements in their own neighbourhoods‟ and „predict the acceptance of peace initiatives‟ (Hunt and Posa 2001: 2). Exclusion supports

    insecurity. Second, women‟s inclusion is necessary to realize social justice. In coming to

    the negotiating table there is a symbolic input of having a voice in establishing the foundations of a reconstructed society based on equality, rights and justice and suggesting what this means for different groups. Peace that „is supported and

    consolidated at the grassroots level‟ is more likely to be sustained than one negotiated among elites (Karam 2001: 12).

    Third, where they are present, women bring „an understanding of the root causes of conflict‟ and they focus on „practical issues related to quality of life and human security‟ (Anderlini and Stanski 2004: 25). Women tend to prioritize education, health, nutrition, childcare, human welfare and security needs. For example, in Guatemala, Luz Méndezs participation at the negotiating table resulted in specific commitments to women on housing, credit and land, attempts to locate children and orphans, penalizing sexual harassment and the creation of the National Women‟s Forum. In South Africa, women across all parties agreed that each party should have one-third female representation in each negotiating team for the constitutional process. The South African Constitution includes a comprehensive Bill of Rights with pertinent gains for women on reproduction, property rights, healthcare, education and culture. Women‟s involvement

    should not be tokenistic, but integrated throughout the negotiations. There have been some innovative examples of inclusion. When Somalian women were excluded from the 2000 Somali National Peace Conference because of clan-based allegiances, they combined to create a Sixth Clan Coalition as a „vision of gender equality‟ (in Rehn and

    Johnson-Sirleaf 2002: 78). UNIFEM supported an All-Party Burundi Women‟s Peace

    Conference in Arusha, Tanzania, 2000 to ensure input into their future. The support has been replicated by UNIFEM in other parts of the Great Lakes region. Obstacles to inclusion are formidable. In many cultures it is taboo for women to sit amongst the elders or traditional or religious leaders because men „find it embarrassing to have women

    represent them at peace talks‟ (Zeitlin 2005: 31). One of the most difficult impediments to the inclusion of women in peace processes are traditional beliefs and cultural practices dictating what is appropriate for women to do.


    Is SCR 1325 making a difference?

    At the first anniversary of SCR 1325, the Security Council heard from women affected by conflicts in Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan and East Timor. Women peace leaders talked about abuse committed against women. Elisabeth Rehn, the UNIFEM supported Independent Expert on Women and Armed Conflict addressed the Council on the need for Gender Units to be included within all peacekeeping missions; for UN peacekeepers to be trained on the gender implications of their work with regard to sexual violence, forced prostitution and trafficking; on the horror of HIV/AIDS being used as a weapon of war; on the difficulties of disarmament, demobilization, reintegration (DDR) of female ex-combatants; and of the persistent cry of women who want to participate in rebuilding their countries. Achievements were noted such as the gender-awareness guidelines and training manuals for peacekeepers developed by the UK Department for International Development and the Canadian Department of Foreign

    8Affairs and Trade. Also noted were the results of the Gender Affairs Unit in East Timor that fostered unprecedented levels of women‟s participation in public life.

    9Elisabeth Rehn and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf were appointed as Independent Experts

    and travelled widely during 2001 and 2002. They focused their study on understanding the impact of armed conflict on women and girls and highlighting women‟s roles in

    peacebuilding. They visited Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, East Timor, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including Kosovo, Guinea, Israel, Liberia, occupied Palestinian territories, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Somalia. They write:

    We realize how little prepared we were for the enormity of it all: the staggering

    numbers of women in war who survived the brutality of rape, sexual exploitation,

    mutilation, torture and displacement. The unconscionable acts of depravity. And

    the wholesale exclusion of women from peace processes.

     (Rehn and Johnson-Sirleaf 2002: vii)

    While the horrors they found were vivid, they tell also of women courageously surviving trauma and rebuilding communities. They were reminded of the need to implement, monitor and evaluate policies. „Time and again women described the wonderful


    documents that had been created and signed and the failure to implement most of what

    have been promised‟ (Rehn and Johnson-Sirleaf 2002: 84). For example the National

    Charter of Somalia is „one of the best in the Muslim world‟ in terms of women‟s rights, yet Somalia is one of the most dangerous places on earth, ruled by warring factions that have no commitment to honouring the Charter (in Rehn and Johnson-Sirleaf 2002: 84). The Independent Experts call for 22 substantial requirements needed to implement SCR 1325.

    In assessing SCR 1325 after two years, there was a follow-up report to the Security Council by the Secretary-General (2004) giving examples of progress and identifying gaps. NGOWG (2004) released an alternative report which documents civil society activities and NGO initiatives. This group drew attention to the weakness of the language of the resolution, the lack of political will among member states and that most people do not know it exists. They suggest its strength lies in its potential to be used as a global advocacy tool. Clearly, there is a need for specific targets and benchmarks to monitor and evaluate its implementation. Reports note that common challenges to the implementation include the lack of funding, political will, capacity, coordination, monitoring and evaluation (INSTRAW 2006). Five years on, NGOWG recommended the need to establish a Security Council working group to integrate the resolution into the daily work of the Council (Lynes and Torry 2005: 2). Few women know about this resolution, or how to use it to leverage change. Progress in some places is evident in Track two, civil society diplomacy and Track three, grassroots activities. As demonstrated in the International Alert and Women Waging Peace toolkit (2004) and in the stories of 1000 Peace Women (2005), peacebuilding often begins in civil society

    groups where political skills are learnt. I look now at changes to equality, justice and

    10rights as a realistic measure of impact of SCR 1325.

Gender equality, justice and rights as integral to security

    First, the equality agenda is crucial in ensuring security. Feminist theorists ask the question, „is it thinkable that the postwar moment be used as an opportunity to turn a

    society towards gender equality‟ (Zarkov and Cockburn 2002: 11) as part of the lasting peace process? Women in many different cultures understand their peacebuilding activities as being „intertwined with issues of gender justice, demilitarization, the

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