After 15 years of UNSCR 1325 it’s high time for action

Abigail Hunt | Dec 01, 2015

This month governments and women’s rights organisations are marking the 15th anniversary of the landmark UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the first UN Resolution to recognise the particular impact of conflict on women, and their central role in building peace.

With a High-Level Review of progress at the UN Security Council and the launch of a Global Study on the Implementation of UNSCR 1325, UN Member States must use this opportunity to turn the promise of the Women, Peace and Security framework into reality for the millions of women affected by violent conflict across the world.

UNSCR 1325: A groundbreaking agreement

As we have seen so clearly in places like Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, existing levels of violence against women in peacetime are greatly increased during and after war. Recognition and support for the long term effects experienced by survivors of violence is crucial. UN Security Council Resolution 1325 was groundbreaking as the first ever Resolution to recognise the particular impact of violent conflict on women and girls and the role of governments in supporting survivors to recover.

Research by Womankind Worldwide, Action Aid, and the Institute of Development Studies has also shown that women are highly active in grassroots level peacebuilding during and after conflict. Plus there is evidence that formal peace agreements inclusive of women are more likely to last. Again, UNSCR 1325 recognises this, building on women’s existing right to full political participation by calling on the UN institutions and Member States to ensure women’s are meaningfully involved in all parts of the peace process – conflict prevention, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction.

Unfulfilled promises?

Since the adoption of the Resolution there have been many convincing words and some glimmers of progress. For example, parts of the UN have stepped up their efforts to ensure gender issues are a key part of their work, through, for example,  appointing gender advisors to missions. As of June 2015, forty-nine countries had created a National Action Plan to implement UNSCR 1325, with a few Regional Action Plans also produced.

However, overall progress has been pretty depressing. A recent study has shown that out of 585 peace agreements from 1990 to 2010, only 92 contained any references to women. The new Global Study on 1325 implementation demonstrates that over a similar time period, only 9% of negotiators at peace tables were women.

Whilst increasing international attention has been brought to the Women, Peace and Security – including by Hollywood A-listers – this has not yet translated into the level of concrete action one would expect. Last year the then-Foreign Secretary William Hague and actor Angelina Jolie hosted the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, to much fanfare. Yet the event has since been dubbed a ‘costly failure’, with tangible positive impacts on the lives of women having experienced conflict still few and far between.

Enough talk, more action

So, when the UN Security Council meets to debate progress on UNSCR 1325 on the 13th October, it needs to move beyond the words and secure commitments that will actually make a difference. As its official lead country on Women, Peace and Security, the UK Government must step up to the plate and lead the way.

Women’s rights organisations are often key to change in conflict-affected countries. As our recent report shows, they push for inclusive peace processes, and are essential in holding parties accountable for their implementation once agreed. They are often in the frontline providing vital support and services to women survivors of sexual violence. They are also key players in ensuring that the post-conflict ‘window of opportunity’ to increase gender equality is not missed, for example by working to secure strong women’s rights provisions in new constitutions wider legal frameworks.

Yet, these organisations are consistently underestimated and ignored, and their efforts, though absolutely essential to the implementation of UNSCR 1325, are severely underfunded. OECD data shows that in 2012-13 women’s equality organisations and institutions in fragile states received only 1% of gender equality focused aid to fragile states and economies.

Ground-breaking strategies to address the funding shortfall are being developed. For example, the new Global Acceleration Instrument is an unprecedented collaboration between Member States, UN entities and civil society – including Womankind Worldwide. It provides a unique opportunity for coordinated, dedicated and scaled-up financing, which crucially will support grassroots women’s rights organisations in conflict-affected countries.

What we need now is far less rhetoric and much more action. Womankind has been working hard over the last few months, alongside Gender Action for Peace and Security, to ensure the UK Government delivers. It must clarify once and for all how it will follow up on commitments to ending sexual violence in conflict. It needs to commit, in words and in practice, to zero tolerance when it comes to women not being involved in peace processes and negotiations. And it has to better support those who drive peace and gender equality: women’s rights organisations.

We will be monitoring commitments at the High-Level Review debate at the UN Security Council and in the weeks to come, keen to see if governments worldwide will finally put their money where their mouth is to make the promise of UNSCR 1325 a reality.


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