Two decades of women in peacebuilding

Women hug during a rally supporting the peace process in Colombia, November 2016. After 52 years of conflict, the government of Colombia and the insurgent People’s Army (FARC-EP) reached a peace agreement that was hailed as a model of women’s participation in peacemaking. A third of delegates in the peace talks were women, and 130 provisions on gender issues were agreed. (AP Photo / Ivan Valencia)

More women now take part in conflict resolution, but there’s still a long way to go.

It’s been 20 years since the UN security council adopted resolution 1325 - the first UN resolution to recognise women’s unique experience of conflict and the need for them to participate in conflict resolution and peacebuilding. The landmark resolution of the women, peace and security agenda addresses how women and girls are targeted in war and their inclusion in decision making in the aftermath.

In the past two decades, progress has been made towards ensuring what UN Women calls “gender-sensitive conflict resolution”. All-female peacekeeping units have been deployed in Liberia; women-led negotiations have brought an end to insurgencies in the Philippines and Colombia; and accountability towards victims of rape and sexual violence in conflict has improved.

The Global Study on the Implementation of Resolution 1325 by UN Women found that women’s involvement in peace processes has helped move them forward when talks have faltered, and that women’s involvement increases the probability that an agreement will last.

Yet women still do not play a significant role in most formal peace processes. As of 2019, women on average accounted for only 13 per cent of negotiators, six per cent of mediators, and six per cent of signatories in major peace processes between 1992 and 2019, and peace agreements with gender equality provisions have increased from 14 to just 22 per cent since 1995.

A new report presented to the UN Security Council on 29 October to commemorate the 20th anniversary of resolution 1325 outlines five new goals to reach inclusive and sustainable peace in the next decade. These range from women's full inclusion in all peace efforts and “unconditional defence” of women's rights to reversing the historic rise in global military spending, which is at a historic high.

“As we recover from the pandemic, we face a choice,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, addressing the UN Security Council annual open debate on Women, Peace and Security on October 31. “To continue down the path of increasing militarisation, conflict and inter-generational losses. Or to work towards greater inclusion, equality, and prevention of conflicts and crises of all kinds. ”

Women are often on the frontline of Covid-19 responses, and they are facing increasing pressures as the social and economic situation in many countries continues to deteriorate.

“The needs laid bare by the pandemic should be driving decision-making on national investment in peacebuilding, education, health and other vital public programs with women fully included in all aspects of those considerations,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women at the debate. “When we change the face of politics, realise the lessons of decades of women's activism, alter perspective on budgets for social services rather than weapons, we will be positioned to sustain peace, overcome the climate crisis, recover from this pandemic, or prevent the next one. ”