by Tilda Nilsson Gige
The year 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, but also the grimness of its inconsistency. Resolution 1325 recognizes the importance of including women in peacemaking and conflict resolution processes, as well as post-conflict rehabilitation, and was signed unanimously. The consensus among world leaders to realize the Women, Peace, and Security agenda is impressive, but superficial, as the purported commitment is proving to be faulty. Plain indifference to women’s perspectives, a lack of effective policies, and a continuous impunity for rape nauseate shows that violence against women wrongly exists within the common understanding of peace. When celebrating UNSCR 1325, one must acknowledge that we need a more comprehensive effort to assure women’s rights, through their warranted participation in conflict resolution.
Women are particularly affected by war, conflict, and post-conflict states. A recent example originates from 2019 Iran, where security forces employed sexual assault as a tactic to deter protesters. In the aftermath of two civil wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo, abuse endures as a measure to contain women, sometimes occurring after the unmerciful beheadings of their spouses; with eastern Congo often described as the most dangerous place to live as a woman. Yet, the perpetual use of rape, sexual slavery, and sexual harassment in confrontations between warring forces is not limited to one particular actor. The UN Peacekeeping Forces’ assaults on the very women that they are employed to protect illustrate the omnipresence of the phenomenon.
Every cloud has a silver lining, and here we can find a solution in the often-overlooked measure of including women in peacemaking processes, which affects the prospects of resolving a conflict. This hidden opportunity should be pertinent to everyone, as peace-agreements with female signatories have proven to be more successful. One simple explanation for this is that, because they bear a distinct experience of war, women can contribute otherwise omitted information that serves the process. In brief, women’s participation is fundamental when it comes to repairing and maintaining peaceful societies – logically, an all-encompassing agreement is the fruit of diverse representation.
UNSCR 1325’s major shortcoming is that it is not reliably effective for ordination and enforcement of policies since resolutions are not legally binding. This is why the signatories must follow Resolution 1325 up with National Action Plans, to condemn and eliminate wartime sexual violence. Feminist foreign policy, support to civil society organizations, and regular military inspections are all initiatives that have been implemented in such NAP’s, which is something to celebrate. Moving forward, the international community owes women the right to live and act freely, in all circumstances, everywhere. And this begins by listening to their voices.
In post-conflict spheres, we regularly define the rape, murder, oppression, exclusion, and dismissal of women as peace. When celebrating its 20 years in action, we should think back to the initial purpose of UNSCR 1325. Let us start with a positive delineation of peace: a situation without a war, but also with protected rights and freedoms in life and politics – for women alike. When we take the first steps to reach that paramount goal, the recipe is simple: put women at the table.