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UNSCR 1325 Has Fallen Short of its “Transformative Potential”


Eighteen years later, the “gender perspective” required by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 has fallen short of its transformative potential. Peace practitioners must turn their gender lenses inward to examine their own cultures and practices as potentially part of the dual problems of gender inequality and insecurity.

In the News:

Resolution 1325, passed in 2000, requires the security council to engage women in conflict resolution…In the first nine months of 2018, more than a dozen representatives from women’s organisations spoke to the 15 council members…Hajer Sharief from Libya gave a briefing in January, facilitated by the NGO working group on women, peace and security. Afterwards, a diplomat told us her account had persuaded some council members to follow up with the head of the country’s UN mission to ensure that her policy recommendations were taken up. A growing number of UN member states have publicly stated that they welcome such statements by representatives of women’s organisations. But the UN – an organisation that defends national sovereignty – has long been reluctant to accept civil society testimony, particularly when it challenges government narratives. Expecting civil society to fit within such narrow parameters undermines the inclusion of women’s testimony and analysis. A diplomat once relayed a request from their ambassador to identify a civil society speaker who had either been raped or was born of rape, lived through the stigma of their ordeal and had then had risen to become a leader in their community. The aim was to have someone who could ‘move’ the security council with her story”.

“This type of request reduces civil society participation to entertainment – a potentially exploitative or voyeuristic kind – not a partnership. Civil society’s role is not to ‘move’ the council. The council and civil society alike must take great care when working with survivors of sexual violence, in order not to sensationalise an individual’s experiences or cause further harm by re-traumatising them…On several occasions, member states have asked for recommendations of women civil society representatives who are compelling speakers, who speak English well, but are not ‘too political’, contentious or divisive”.

“The various powerful statements made by women civil society advocates over the past year have required real political courage, both from the women themselves and from the member states that invited them. Sultana opened her statement in April by stating that the security council had failed the Rohingya people. She outlined essential recommendations related to the humanitarian situation in Bangladesh, accountability for the Burmese military and legal reforms required for an inclusive and equal Myanmar. Afterwards, council members mentioned their surprise at her strongly-worded statement, but recognised that it had been vital for her to denounce inaction. Such opportunities should be protected and promoted to further institutionalise women’s participation in this formal setting. Attempts to craft their statements into politically palatable messages contradict the very reason these briefings are so essential – and question whether the role of civil society is genuinely appreciated and understood.”

Insight from Peace Science:

  • Eighteen years after its passage, UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which requires the incorporation of a “gender perspective” and the full participation of women in all peace and security activities, has fallen short of its transformative potential, even if its existence and the presence of gender advisors have been crucial to getting these issues on the table at all.

There is still the tendency among well-meaning practitioners in the peace and security fields to displace gender concerns onto others and/or to see gender as an unrelated “afterthought” to more crucial matters of security. Therefore, all peace practitioners—even, or especially, if they don’t see themselves as “gender specialists”—should see it as their responsibility to read, understand, and enact the gender mainstreaming policies of their organizations. In other words, we all need to ask not only how are women and men differently affected by this conflict or by the peacekeeping or peacebuilding policies we’re putting into place, and do women and men have equal access to decision-making processes, but also how are masculinities and femininities functioning to enable violence in this context in the first place? Are masculine norms working to perpetuate the violent conflict and make solutions seem unattainable? Are certain options not even being considered around the peace table because they’re marked as too “feminine”? If so, what is the most effective and responsible way to go about challenging these norms and/or revaluing so-called “feminine” ways of thinking and acting? Or, are there some gender norms that currently exist in the community that could be leveraged for greater security and/or conflict transformation? In all of these considerations, care must be taken to ensure that practitioners are not simply importing and imposing western norms upon others; rather, it is important to work with local activists, community leaders, and peacebuilders to find out who is already engaged in challenging existing gender norms and relations and partnering with them in the way they would find most helpful.

At the same time, peace practitioners must also turn their gender lenses inward to examine their own cultures and practices as potentially part of the dual problems of gender inequality and insecurity. How are “our” practices as an institution potentially sidelining options that could enhance security and well-being due to the way we may over-value “masculinity” and under-value “femininity”? Are we reinforcing potentially damaging gender norms in our projects in other countries? But also: are women valued professionally to the same extent that men are in our organization? Do we have generous family leave policies in place that enable women and men to take on and sustain both professional and family responsibilities? Do we take allegations of sexual harassment and assault seriously and also notice the subtler ways in which gender power dynamics operate in our organization? Reminding ourselves that we are all culturally embedded and always already participating in and positioned by gender norms and discourses helps ward off the tendency to displace gender concerns onto others—and helps us instead engage in the long, hard, steady work of transforming our own patriarchalcultures away from the privileging of men and masculinity over women and femininity and therefore towards greater security for all. 


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