UN Security Council Resolution 1325
Women in Armed Conflict: background
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (2015), 59.5 million people were forcibly displaced by wars and persecution at the end of 2014 – the highest number since World War II. This situation followed the rise of a violent extremism that placed the subordination of women at the centre of the ideology and war tactics (UN Women, 2015).
War affects men and women differently. Many wars in recent years involved sexual violence on a mass scale: around half a million women were raped during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and 60,000 during the war in Croatia and Bosnia (UN Chronicle, 2010). More recently, the terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) organised the sequestration and systematic rape of thousands of women and girls from the Yezidi minority (HRW, 2015).
The consequences of conflicts on the lives of women and girls are far-reaching. More than half maternal deaths worldwide occur in countries affected by war or in fragile States. In war-torn areas, the enrolment rate for girls in primary school is 17 points lower than the average enrolment rate. The risks of early marriage and HIV infection also increase substantially (UN Women, 2015b).
Yet women are not just victims of wars. They also play a pivotal role in the prevention and resolution of conflicts. A recent study showed that women’s participation in peace negotiations increased the chances of success of the agreement by 35% over a period of 15 years. Furthermore, there is a positive correlation between the level of gender equality in a country and the use of force in its foreign relations (UN Women, 2015).
Resolution 1325: an overview
Adopted in 2000 by the UN Security Council, Resolution 1325 acknowledged for the first time the differentiated impact of wars on women and girls and their central role in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, as well as in peace consolidation. UN Resolution 1325 thus focused on the integration of a gender perspective into conflict resolution efforts, while also calling for the equal participation of women in “all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security” (UNSC, 2000).
Resolution 1325 furthermore defined means to reach those objectives, such as strengthening financial, technical and logistical support as well as training peacekeeping staff on gender issues.
Resolution 1325 is articulated around four pillars of implementation:
- Prevention. Prevention of relapse into conflict and all forms of structural and physical violence against women and girls, including sexual and gender-based violence.
- Participation. Inclusion of women and girls’ interests in decision-making processes related to the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts.
- Protection. Women and girls’ safety, physical and mental health and economic security are assured and their human rights respected.
- Relief and recovery. Women and girls’ specific needs are met in conflict and post-conflict situations (UN Women, 2012).
Progress in implementing resolution 1325
Resolution 1325 fostered unprecedented international mobilisation around women, peace and security. It was complemented by six other UN Security Council resolutions, contributing to the elaboration of a thorough policy and legal framework for its implementation.
Some countries recovering from conflict have made important progress towards gender equality. Rwanda, for instance, is the country with the largest share of women in parliament in the world, at 64%, after the constitution that came out of the peace process required quotas for women. In Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became in 2006 the first female president of the country, just after the end of its civil war. (Oxfam, 2015).
At the end of 2015, 54 States had published one or several national action plans for the implementation of UN Resolution 1325 (UN Women, 2015a).
Since the adoption of resolution 1325, 27% of peace agreements have referred to women compared to 11% in the 1990s. Out of six agreements negotiated within a UN framework, 67% included relevant references on women, peace and security. (UN Women, 2015a).
There has been an increase in the number of women at senior level within the United Nations, from special envoys of the Secretary-General, to the first female commander of a peacekeeping mission appointed in 2014 (UN Women, 2015a).
There was progress in terms of funding as well. Gender-focused bilateral aid to fragile states has quadrupled over the last decade (UN Women, 2015a).
Persisting challenges in the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325
“And yet there remains a crippling gap between the ambition of our commitments and actual political and financial support,” the Executive Director of UN Women said in a 2015 report assessing the implementation of UN Resolution 1325.
The report pointed out a number of obstacles:
- Criminal lawsuits against the perpetrators of gender-based violence during conflicts remain uncommon, in particular at the national level.
- According to a study based on 31 peace processes conducted between 1992 and 2011, only 9% of negotiators were women. Within UN peacekeeping operations, women make up only 3% of military staff, and most of them are in support functions.
- The numbers of States that have adopted a national action plan remain limited. And the plans in questions are rarely matched by appropriate implementation or financing mechanisms.
- While it has increased in recent years, gender-focused aid to fragile States represents only 6% of total aid and only 2% of this amount is earmarked for peace and security (UN Women, 2015a).
Recommendations for an effective implementation of UN Resolution 1325
Drawing on an analysis of progress and obstacles to the implementation of UN Resolution 1325, the UN Women report made a number of recommendations to bridge the gap:
- Prioritise conflict prevention over the use of force: the report recommended short-term measures such as early warning systems, as well as policies addressing the structural causes of conflicts (social exclusion, discriminations, etc).
- Address the obstacles to effective women’s participation in peace processes and reconstruction. Women’s role is often only temporary or purely symbolic. Their influence can also be limited by deeply rooted social norms and negative attitudes towards female leadership.
- Strengthen the human-rights based approach: UN Human rights bodies, within the UN system and at regional level, can play an important role in monitoring State obligations regarding women’s human rights in conflict.
- Fight impunity for the perpetrators of gender-based violence, both through criminal courts and “truth and reconciliation” commissions.
- Promote tailor-made approaches adapted to local circumstances: Action plans for conflict prevention, resolution and recovery cannot just copy-paste the so-called “good practices”. They must be based on a deep understanding of local circumstances and comprehensive consultations with stakeholders, notably women.
- Support “female peace builders” facing the rise of extremism, respect their autonomy and provide them with financial support.
- Allocate at least 15% of all funding earmarked for peace and security to programmes focused on women and girls.
- Strengthen the institutional machinery for gender equality within the UN. Among other suggestions, the report recommended to explore the feasibility of a Tribunal dedicated to exploitation and sexual abuse perpetrated by UN peacekeepers during military operations (UN Women, 2015a).
- United Nations Security Council Resolution 1820
- United Nations Security Council Resolution 1888
- United Nations Security Council Resolution 1889
- Gender and Peacebuilding Initiative
UN Security Council (2000), Resolution 1325 (2000) adopted by the UN Security Council at its 4213th session on 31 October 2000, S/RES/1325, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N00/720/18/PDF/N0072018.pdf?OpenElement
UNHCR (2015), Worldwide displacement hits all-time high as war and persecution increase, http://www.unhcr.org/558193896.html
HRW (2015), Iraq: ISIS Escapees Describe Systematic Rape, 14 April 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/04/14/iraq-isis-escapees-describe-systematic-rape
UN Women (2015a), Preventing Conflict. Transforming Justice. Securing the Peace. A Global Study on the Implementation of UN Resolution 1325, http://wps.unwomen.org/~/media/files/un%20women/wps/highlights/unw-global-study-1325-2015.pdf
UN Women (2015b), Press Release: Amidst rising extremism, women’s role in peace and recovery remains hampered and underutilized, http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2015/10/press-release-womens-role-in-peace-and-recovery#sthash.UcbOMOSL.dpuf
UN Women (2012), Tracking Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000),http://www.unwomen.org/~/media/Headquarters/Media/Publications/en/02ATrackingImplementationofSecurityCouncilRe.pdf
Oxfam (2015), Women, Peace and Security: Keeping the promise, https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/women-peace-and-security-keeping-promise
UN Chronicle (2010), Armed Conflict and Women – 10 Years of Security Council Resolution 1325, http://unchronicle.un.org/article/armed-conflict-and-women-10-years-security-council-resolution-1325/
Barrow, A. (2010), “UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820: constructing gender in armed conflict and international humanitarian law,” in International Review of the Red Cross, Volume 92 Number 877 March 2010, https://www.icrc.org/eng/assets/files/other/irrc-877-barrow.pdf
UN Women (n.d), High-level Review on Women, Peace and Security: 15 years of Security Council resolution 1325, web page consulted on 16 February 2016, http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/women-peace-security#sthash.nQFLI3T7.dpuf