*Ambassador Moushira Khattab (PhD) is the Chair of the Women in Foreign Policy Group (Egyptian Council of Foreign Affairs) & Former Minister of Family and Population of Egypt
On October 13th 2015 the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved resolution 2242 to improve implementation of its landmark women, peace and security agenda. This is the second review process, with the first being in 2010. The Security Council agenda was instigated by the adoption in 2000 of UNSC resolution 1325.
The recent review took place at a time when events in the Middle East and globally have revealed that women are particularly targeted during armed conflict. Three major reviews — of peace operations, the peacebuilding architecture and women, peace and security had prepared the scene and provided the road map for Security Council resolution 2242. A high-level open debate on the topic followed, where officials from member states spoke about their determination to accelerate national action. The UN Secretary General and other UN heads of agencies spared no effort to signal equal zeal. Progress is evident but emerging challenges dwarfed the achievements.
Rape and sexual harassment are often used to deter women from exercising their right to political participation. Women in some conflict areas have lost a good deal if not all of their achieved rights. While some women have stood up and made their voices heard, the same cannot be said for others. The horrors women suffer at the hands of Daesh or Boko Haram is shameful.
This worrying situation warrants stronger measures to ensure, inter alia, effective participation of women in the decision-making process of conflict resolution and peace building in the post conflict situation. Voices of women can help create better institutions, stronger instruments, and accelerate a revamped cultural, social and legal infrastructure that guarantees peace and security for every citizen without any discrimination.
Article 1 of the UN charter determines the purpose of the organization “in maintaining international peace and security and promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.” UN Security Council resolution 1325 represents a paradigm shift in the legal framework guaranteeing the human rights of women and girls. Violation of women’s human rights has become a threat to international peace and security and warrants the attention of the Security Council; the sole UN organ that is mandated with adopting binding resolutions and to enforce their implementation by states parties according to chapters six and seven of the Charter of the UN. The Council can also invoke chapter seven in the case of rape.
Resolution 1325 does not only deal with the protection of women during armed conflict but also recognizes and advocates:
- The participation of women and gender parity at all levels of decision-making;
- Engendering peace keeping, peace building and post conflict operations;
- The protection and respect of human rights of girls and women;
Four resolutions were adopted to strengthen UNSC resolution 1325 forming a comprehensive strategy covering uncharted territory.
- SC Resolution 1820 (2008):
This resolution heralded a very important legal development. It is the first SC resolution on conflicts related to sexual violence as a tool of war. It considers rape and other forms of sexual violence as war crimes, crimes against humanity or acts conducive to genocide. It stresses the need for the exclusion of sexual violence crimes from amnesty provisions in the context of conflict resolution processes, and calls upon Member States to comply with their obligations for prosecuting persons responsible for such acts, to ensure that all victims of sexual violence, particularly women and girls, have equal protection under the law and equal access to justice, and stresses the importance of ending impunity for such acts as part of a comprehensive approach to seeking sustainable peace, justice, truth, and national reconciliation
The resolution calls upon member states and the SC to take specific and decisive measures.
- SC resolution 1888 (2009):
This resolution, on combatting sexual violence in armed conflict, stipulates for specific measures to be taken by States including naming perpetrators to prevent sexual violence during armed conflicts and ending impunity. It also called for the appointment of a special representative and proposed the establishment of a monitoring mechanism, improving the capacity of the judiciary and reporting mechanisms.
- SC resolution 1889 (2009)
In 2009, and in commemoration of 10 years since 1325, Resolution 1889 was adopted amid widespread dissatisfaction for lack of adequate progress. It calls upon Member States to increase women’s representation in decision-making positions to manage and solve disputes. It also calls upon the SG to present a report on Women and peace building. I see this as an important development because based on this report the SC can escalate measures against perpetrators of violence. This step is capable of putting them before the International Criminal Court, in view of resolution 1820 which considered sexual violence a war crime and a crime against humanity.
Resolution 1889 is important as its definition of conflict went beyond armed conflict to intolerance and cultural norms that hamper the participation of women. Both are considered a threat to human security according to article 13 of the Statute of the ICC and Chapter 7 of the UN.
- Security Council Resolution 2242 (2015)
Once again, the Council decided to integrate women, peace and security concerns across all country-specific situations on its agenda. It expressed its intention to dedicate consultations to the topic of women, peace and security implementation, convene meetings of relevant Council experts as part of an informal experts group on women, peace and security, and invite civil society to brief during its country-specific considerations.
Once again, the Council urged the Secretary-General and United Nations bodies to better integrate gender perspectives into their work so as to address accountability deficits, including through the addition of gender targets as an indicator of individual performance in all compacts with senior managers at Headquarters and in the field.
In the area of peacekeeping, the Council urged the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Political Affairs to ensure that gender analysis and technical gender expertise were included throughout all stages of mission planning, mandate development, implementation, review and mission drawdown. It called on the Secretary-General to initiate a revised strategy, within existing resources, to double the numbers of women in peacekeeping operations over the next five years.
To address continued charges of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeepers, the Council urged police – and troop-contributing countries to provide “robust” pre-deployment training, conduct “swift and thorough” investigations of uniformed personnel, and if appropriate, to prosecute.
On terrorism, the Council urged States and the United Nations to ensure the participation and leadership of women’s organizations in devising strategies to counter terrorism and violent extremism. It encouraged the forthcoming Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism to integrate women’s participation, leadership and empowerment as core to United Nations strategy and responses, calling for adequate funding in that regard. It requested the Counter-Terrorism Committee and its Executive Directorate to integrate gender as a cross-cutting issue within their respective mandates.
As for Governments, the Council urged States to assess strategies and resourcing around the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda, calling on donor countries to provide financial and technical assistance to women involved in peace processes. It urged States to strengthen access to justice for women, including through the prompt investigation, prosecution and punishment of perpetrators of sexual and gender based violence, and reparations.
How can we improve the implementation of 1325 and subsequent resolutions, particularly in countries that are afflicted by conflict or currently undergoing peace processes?
At the national level:
- Prioritize strong implementation of CEDAW as a comprehensive strategy for the protection of women.
- Formulate a national plan of action which targets the implementation of 1325 & the relevant UN resolutions.
- Review national legislation and harmonize it with international human rights conventions.
- More importantly, promote a culture of peace and tolerance.
- Build the capacities of all professionals involved in the implementation of the resolutions.
- Enhance monitoring and reporting mechanisms
- Allocate adequate human and financial resources.
- Establish genuine & transparent partnership with civil society.
- Raise awareness of Security Council resolutions and that gender based violence is not a soft issue.
- Strengthening the perception of women as peace makers and agents for change not only as victims.
At the regional level:
- Strengthen regional human rights instruments and mechanisms. Cultural specificity should not be used as an excuse to strip women of their rights.
At the UN level:
- Ensure better coordination within UN entities, treaty bodies, special procedures and the Human Rights Council.
- Encourage donors to invest in the implementation of 1325.
The way forward:
Effective implementation of the Security Council agenda for peace and security must be based on the fulfillment of women’s human rights in its entirety. Providing women with the same opportunity should be the starting point. This should ideally be done with an eye to thwarting the threats facing legitimate nation states based on the rule of law and that all citizens are entitled to equal rights regardless of gender or religion. The UN and the global community must work in tandem supporting nation states in their endeavor to honor their commitments under international conventions they ratified.
Women remain the unsung heroes whose activism and courage continues to exceed all expectations; yet they still struggle to hold on to what little rights they have gained. Horror stories are told about sexual exploitation of women under different pretexts like the holy Jihad. Young girls are lured into joining Daesh and end up being sex slaves who serve as a reward for cold-blooded terrorists. Religion continues to be used as a pretext to relegate women into second or third class citizens. The UN system of human rights is under threat now and will soon be history if the global community fails to unite in facing this wave of unprecedented terrorism. We must act and act now.