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Important gender norms are frequently supported by international law and policy in the context of peace and security. Although the disparate effects of armed conflict on men and women are becoming more widely acknowledged, gender equality and gender-specific provisions in international law have proven challenging. Advances in women’s rights and other international agreements, particularly Part E of the Beijing Platform for Action on Women and Armed Conflict, have helped increase access to current legislation. Nevertheless, despite growing awareness of gender-based violence, they still continue to exist.
International political unrest increased with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, and state-on-state civil war eventually developed into a string of ongoing non-conventional battles with unclear borders, a contempt for international law, and the displacement of thousands of people. In light of the horrifying acts of violence against women and girls that occurred in Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo, some of the core elements of the Westphalia system are called into doubt.
The maintenance of international peace and security is one of the purposes of the United Nations Charter. Violence and conflict undermine sustainable development, as such, action to protect and promote human rights is one of the main goals the United Nations tries to achieve. The adoption of Resolution 1325 by the United Nations is as a result of the commitment and vision of both civil society and the member states of the UN to address the policy gap of the role of women in peacebuilding and the long-term impact of conflict on their lives.
1325 is much more than a number or a resolution. In particular, Resolution 1325 represents a historic watershed political framework that shows how women’s perspective are just as relevant as men when negotiating peace agreements, planning refugee camps and peacekeeping operations and reconstructing war-torn societies for sustainable peace. The Resolution establishes a leading step for other resolutions in regard to the topic on women, peace and security. When Resolution 1325 was adopted, hopes were high that there will be an increased number of women participating in peacebuilding processes and decisions. However, after 20 years, women’s presence in peace processes is still remains minimal. Between 1992 and 2019, women constituted, on average, 13 percent of negotiators, 6 percent of mediators, and 6 percent of signatories in major peace processes around the world. Peace efforts in 2020 have similarly struggled to include women. For example, women represented only around 10 percent of negotiators in the Afghan talks, just 20 percent of negotiators in Libya’s political discussions, and 0 percent of negotiators in Libya’s military talks and Yemen’s recent process.
The Adoption of Resolution 1325
On October 31, 2000, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on women, peace, and security, highlighting the feature of all 15 members of the UN Security Council, including the P5, to vote ‘yes’ to the resolution. The members of the UN Security Council at the time of the adoption of Resolution 1325 were: United States of America, China, Russia Federation, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, France, Argentina, Bangladesh, Canada, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mali, Namibia, Netherlands, Russian Federation, Tunisia, and Ukraine.
This was the first time the UN Security Council had committed a resolution for women during peace and conflict. The coalition for women, peace, and security in the world became the driving force behind the creation of the Security Council Resolution 1325 (S/RES/1325). The Resolution also emphasized the need for women’s equal participation and involvement in all efforts to maintain and promote peace and security, including conflict prevention and resolution, peace negotiations, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian response, and post-war reconstruction. It lays out 18 points under four categories.
The foundation of the Resolution 1325 was twofold: a global declaration, serving as its intellectual foundation, and a regional action plan molding the resolution’s operational functioning. The former, the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which had the support of 189 nations and contained a chapter on women and armed conflict, served as the intellectual foundation for Resolution 1325.
The Windhoek Declaration and the Namibia Plan of Action on Mainstreaming a Gender Perspective in Multidimensional Peace Support Operations was adopted at a seminar hosted by the government of Namibia from May 29 to 31, 2000. Its main goal was to ensure women’s equal access to peacekeeping missions and operations, which were inspired by conflicts in the 1990s. The proposal was drafted by Namibia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Martin Angaba, and addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on July 12, 2000 (A/55/138), among other worldwide policy initiatives.
The resolution was proposed by Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, then Namibian minister of women’s affairs, when Namibia took over UN Security Council presidency chair in 1999. At that time, the United Nations Development Fund for Women and countires like Namibia, Jamaica, and Canada, three additional elected Security Council members, all played supportive roles in the adoption of Resolution 1325.
Does it contribute to international law?
Resolution 1325 has contributed vastly to international law by preceding actions on protecting women and girls in conflict while shedding light on the gender imbalances in the decision making of peacebuilding processes. Resolution 1325 calls on all UN member states to increase women’s involvement and gender perspectives in all UN peace and security initiatives. It does this by emphasizing how violent conflict and war disproportionately affect women and girls. It also exhorts all parties to make extraordinary measures to protect women and children from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, in the event of an armed conflict. The resolution includes a number of crucial operational directives that affect UN member states.
The first landmark resolution of the UN Security Council on women’s peace and security, Resolution 1325, also addressed the effects of war on women and the significance of women’s involvement in conflict resolution, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian response, and post-conflict reconstruction. Participation, protection, prevention, alleviation, and recovery are the four essential pillars of the Resolution. The Resolution ALSO calls for the participation of women at all levels in decision-making, conflict prevention, and conflict management; it also calls for the protection of women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence, including in humanitarian situations such as refugee camps; for bettering strategies for preventing violence against women and prosecuting those who commit violations, and calls for the advancement of relief and recovery measures to address international issues.
It is important to keep in mind that Resolution 1325 addressed the specific protection requirements of women and girls in conflict and drew attention to the gender imbalance in UN programming, security, and peacekeeping missions. It also included provisions for greater participation and representation of women at all levels of decision-making. Undoubtedly, the adoption of the Resolution was a turning point in the international campaign for women’s rights and gender equality. Resolution 1325 is the first international document to protect and integrate women at all levels and it paved the way for additional resolutions. It has empowered women to demand what is rightfully theirs and compelled member states to acknowledge that women are human beings with the ability to accomplish the same things as men on a global scale.
According to Katherine Barnes, Resolution 1325 introduced gender concerns into the mainstream and gave the international community a credible framework that could be adopted and utilized. In addition, according to Torunn L. Tryggestad’s analysis, the Security Council’s acceptance of the Resolution dissolved the barrier between women’s issues and international peace and security, paving the way for new standards to emerge. According to Pratt and Richter Devroe’s study, Resolution 1325 managed to strike a balance between women as human beings in need of protection and equals with valuable contributions to make at all levels of peace and conflict resolution processes.
Limitations of Resolution 1325
Despite the contributions made by Resolution 1325, there have been some shortcomings. For instance, the Resolution still lacks enforcement mechanisms, ignoring women’s role in peacebuilding process and violence against women and girls still occurring. Moreover, policymakers at the national and international levels continue to ignore the crucial role that women play in maintaining peace and advancing peace processes. It is not surprising, given that the language used in the Resolution is not meant for enforcement, as there is no operative phrase for enforcement actions – implying that the Resolution does not ‘enforce’ or ‘demand’ member states to carry out any of the Security Council’s actions. Instead, the operative phrases urge, encourage, recognize, and emphasizes action. In other words, there are no hard words that “demand member state to carry out particular actions,” thereby opening opportunities for member state to decide if they want to implement the decisions of the Resolution in their country.
Violence against women and girl still occurs even after a decade Resolution 1325 being adopted. In 2013, The Atlantic published an article entitled “Syria has a Massive Rape Crisis” in which focused on girls tortured, raped, and humiliated by soldiers. They compared this rape crisis to the Bosnian war, where tens of thousands of women were raped and tortured. This is a weak spot for the UN as Resolution 1325 was created before to the Syrian War.
The framework of Resolution 1325 gives no clear indication of how a gender mainstreaming process based on gender-based violence indicators could work in a peace and security environment. In Resolution 1325 Clause 10, relating to gender-specific protective measures, the Security Council “Calls on all parties to armed conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, and all other forms of violence in situations of armed conflict.’‘ This clause emphasizes that recognizing gender-specific harms is an integral part of the gender mainstreaming process since it allows for the development of relevant policy responses. UN Security Council Resolution 1325 reinforces the public sphere bias of international legal instruments by failing to address how structural forms of violence frequently worsen gender inequality.
The Resolution also overlooked the fact that men and boys can be victims of sexual violence, while ignoring the fact that women could commit violations too. Resolution 1325 was not specific enough in describing the roles men and boys could play in contributing to an equal society and human rights for all.
Nevertheless, with the disparities in Resolution 1325, the latter still addresses and recognizes how woman and girls are impacted by violent conflict and recognizes the important role women have played and continue to play in peacebuilding operations. It importantly identifies women as active rather than passive recipients, an important aspect as women’s participation in peacebuilding operations is a right rather than something given to them by the goodwill of men.