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UNOWAS and its partners promote the participation of women in peace processes


Demonstrations by anti-slavery activists in Nouakchott, Mauritania.
Caption: Demonstrations by anti-slavery activists in Nouakchott, Mauritania.
Photo: Reuters

Twenty years ago, the international community, through the UN Security Council, took a strong decision by adopting a Resolution which calls for the respect of the women fundamental rights, their protection against violence, and their participation in peace processes. It is the birth of the Resolution 1325.

Worried about the ownership by States of the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325), the latter urges States to ensure that women are more represented at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for prevention, management and resolution of disputes. It also calls for the integration of, among other things, the gender dimension in all programs, including disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. The UNSCR 1325 also emphasizes the responsibility of all states to end impunity and to prosecute those accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, including all forms of gender-based and other violence against women and girls.

Over the years, Resolution 1325 has been supplemented by the following eight Resolutions related to women, peace and security; namely: 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1889 (2009), 1960 (2010), 2106 (2013), 2122 (2013), 2242 (2015), 2467 (2019); as well as resolutions 2250 (2015) and 2419 (2018) on youth, peace and security.

A sustained advocacy

For 20 years, calls for greater participation of women in the ceasefire and peace processes have multiplied. Most recently, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects, the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) and UN Women published on 3 August 2020 a briefing note entitled "COVID-19 and Conflict: Advancing women’s meaningful participation in ceasefires and peace processes”. This note recognizes that the full participation of women is essential for an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in the advancement of peace processes.

Through this document, the two UN Entities recall that “women have a fundamental right to and interest in participating in decision-making that affects them and the future of their countries. Beyond this, women’s engagement in peace processes brings substantive advantages. Their direct participation in a critical mass can contribute to shifting dynamics and broadening the issues under discussion, which increases the likelihood of addressing the root causes of the conflict as well as building community buy-in to the process and outcome”.

The note also provides a preliminary analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on women’s participation in ceasefires and peace processes and offers a series of recommendations.

Priority to the inclusion and protection of women

In West Africa and the Sahel, armed conflicts have increased. In addition to violent extremism leading to terrorism  in several countries, election-related crises like in Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire, climate change, piracy and transnational organized crime, are all threats to the security and stability in the sub-region which require a coordinated action from States, and which involves the participation of young people and women.

This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has added to the many challenges facing the sub-region. It has put political and economic actors to the test. It has also accentuated gender inequalities and threatens to undermine human rights.

UNOWAS works daily to ensure the implementation of the various Resolutions, but also to further encourage the governments of the sub-region to facilitate the involvement of women in political decision-making processes.

Through a close partnership with regional organizations, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Mano River Union, the G5 Sahel, and United Nations agencies such as UN Women, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and other stakeholders for the implementation of Security Council Resolutions, UNOWAS promotes the systematic inclusion of women in conflict prevention and resolution, mediation, negotiation and post-conflict reconstruction, as well as gender mainstreaming in security sector reform. It encourages the integration of gender in peace programs and processes, as well as the adoption and implementation of policies, laws and measures in favor of the empowerment of women and gender equality, in accordance with existing international and regional legal instruments.

During his participation, on 8 October 2020, in the ECOWAS Ministerial Meeting on Sexual Gender-Based Violence and the Rights of Women and Girls in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, reiterated the continued commitment of the United Nations, in partnership with ECOWAS, to prioritize the protection and promotion of the rights and freedoms of women and girls in the sub-region.

Still a long way to go

“Since its adoption, we have made significant progress in understanding and addressing the challenges women face in achieving full and equal participation in conflict prevention, conflict resolution, peacebuilding and sustaining peace,” said Ms. Rosemary A. DiCarlo, the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, in her speech on 2 October 2020 to the Peacebuilding Commission . "Women’s contributions to peace and security are still often outside the mainstream of formal efforts, and too frequently undervalued," she added.

Echoing the statement made by Ms. DiCarlo, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, recalled during his speech at the ECOWAS ministerial meeting on gender-based sexual violence and the rights of women and girls «that together, we must work to invest in gender equality and the empowerment of women, not only as an end in itself, but as an essential means of achieving our overarching goal of preventing conflict and building peace and prosperity in the region.»

Despite a sustained international effort to implement UNSCR 1325, women are still largely excluded from peace negotiations and the level of violence against women is still high. The participation of women in negotiation and peacebuilding processes, as well as in transitional justice, reconstruction and development processes, remains too low.

Indeed, the new Gender Social Norms Index released on 5 March 2020 by UNDP reveals that despite decades of progress closing the equality gap between men and women, close to 90 per cent of men and women hold some sort of bias against women. The same study also points out that less than 24 per cent of parliamentary seats in the world are occupied by women and there are only 10 women heads of government out of 193, while men and women vote in the same proportions.

On the eve of the twentieth anniversary of Resolution 1325, efforts are still needed to facilitate the full participation of women in peace processes, and the building of a better world.

Produced by UNOWAS. Original article was published to the UNOWAS website on 28 October 2020.

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