The UN's Security Council held open debates recently on the issue of Women, Peace and Security, inviting members and member states, as well as special representatives to address current issues, challenges and continued gaps. Above all, it highlighted the continued hypocrisy of nations, committing to equality and peace while trafficking in capitalism and an arms trade that is destroying lives and driving migration at unprecedented levels. Despite overwhelming data on the value added of women and gender equality to the social development, economic prosperity and sustainability of peace within and between nations, women continue to be excluded from even the most basic levels of decision-making power. Can there be a change? Can we use another global catastrophe to motivate it?
The situation remains dire. The groundbreaking resolution in 2000 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), Resolution 1325, was followed by a litany of additional resolutions known colloquially under the helm of 'the WPS umbrella.' These Resolutions seek to rectify the understanding that conflict differently and disproportionately affects women and that global statutes and norms on conflict resolutions continued to exclude women's particular needs or representation in centers of decision-making power.
The Resolutions equally recognized the perverse and rampant use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and provided that international alliances, both military and political, must put in place measures of prevention, protection and response against sexual violence and that peace processes must include measures of access to justice and end impunity for perpetrators. The Resolutions have known global recognition and support, and spawned the creation of accountability mechanisms in the shape of National Action Plans for implementation into government processes and actions, special representatives that collect, analyze and report on data and progress, and countless forums and high-level working groups that work closely with governments, military and civil society to bring the Resolutions to life in all cycles of conflict prevention, resolution and peace building.
"We know, so we now need to act."
-Representative from The Netherlands
It remains an enormous and daunting task. Women are not the ones who are starting conflicts - in Libya, in Syria, in Yemen, Sudan, Columbia - and yet they bear the brunt of violence on their bodies, their families and livelihoods, they bear the burden of displacement, the loss of resources and opportunities, and are continuously excluded from peace processes. All this despite the widespread evidence that including women in peace processes results in a 35% increased chance of peace lasting at least 15 years. As was made clear from the contributions from Sweden, the Netherlands and the Head of UNWomen, enough with the justifications. Women must move beyond justifying their presence in traditionally male dominated domains, especially when men continue to fail at peace negotiations and sustainable nation-building. Women belong at the peace negotiations because it is their right.
"No one needs to be given a voice, we all have a voice, what we need is more listening."
-Margot Wallstrom, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden
The data on women's inclusion in peace processes is especially dismal in an era of unprecedented conflict and number of internally displaced persons and refugees. Of the more than 1500 peace agreements that have come to pass since the year 2000, only 25% specifically recognize women's participation and contributions. Women make up only approximately 2% of mediators and 8% of negotiators and continue to be relegated to observer status or advisory bodies within peace processes, with no representation or influence over actual decision-making.
Gender inequality and dis-empowerment of women continues to be both a cause and effect of conflict, even as research shows that countries with the highest indexes of gender equality also have the most cohesive and peaceful societies. Donor funding remains low, with only 5% of global funds going specifically to women's participation within peace processes. Women constitute only about 4% of peacekeepers and 10% of police units in conflict or post-crisis areas where gender justice is crucial to tackle prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence. National investment in mainstreaming gender in own military and security forces would mean countries could contribute more gender equal forces to peacekeeping operations Meanwhile, despite the minuscule numbers hiding behind the great big public commitments governments make on women, peace and security, the era of a new arms race is well underway. At 1.57 trillion dollars for military spending, the spread and easy access to arms and military equipment continues to fuel never-ending conflict that destroys communities, shatters societies and spreads like wildfire across borders. The era of hypocrisy continues, unabated.