Today marks the 16th anniversary of the unanimous adoption of the United Nations Security Council resolution 1325, the first UNSC resolution regarding the theme of women, peace and security. The process of addressing gender issues on an international scale has been a long and arduous process initiated from the UN Charter in 1945 lasting until 31 October 2000. The Beijing Platform for Action served as an impetus of change recognising that gender equality was necessary for sustainable peace and conflict resolution. Years of advocacy and network building led to the adoption of UNSCR 1325. UNSCR 1325 as the benchmark relied on non-political language calling for monitoring and evaluation of women’s rights in conflict zones, demanding that women be included in the peace process negotiations. This call to action was instrumental in pushing women’s rights to the forefront of conflict resolution recognising that women experience conflict differently than men. UNSCR 1325 is built on the three pillars of participation, protection and gender mainstreaming.
Whilst the resolution and eight subsequent resolutions regarding this theme (1860,1888, 1889, 1960, 2106, 2122, 2242, 2272), have been lauded, there has also been a large amount of critique for the lack of progress in improving women’s insecurities in times of conflict and post-conflict. There is no doubt that the adoption of this resolution was monumental in recognising gender rights and women’s insecurities during and after times of conflict as well as recognising the need to include women in peacebuilding and peacekeeping operations; however, there are numerous shortcomings of this resolution.
Many feminist academics and activists agree that the adoption of UNSCR 1325 has been crucial in addressing gender issues on an international organisational scale but where the disagreement emerges is in the efficacy of the on-the-ground implementation and end to impunity. While the UNSCR 1325 was crucial in addressing the importance of gender mainstreaming, protection and participation, no practical measures were set up to deliver on the desired results and the concept of gender mainstreaming for gender equality is never truly achieved. For example, simply because the UNSCRs regarding Women, Peace and Security mention the need to include women in peacekeeping operations or peacebuilding talks, UNSCR 1325 does not speak of the importance in involving women. Furthermore, it does not address the structural inequalities that exist in these regions pre and post conflict and simply builds on top of them rather than addressing them.
The concerns that I have regarding UNSCR 1325 are similar to other scholars within the field of Women, Peace and Security. Foremost, UNSCR 1325 does not address gender power relations nor hegemonic masculinities that exist in societies pre, during, or post conflict. By building international mandates on top of these existing structural inequalities, real, positive change will never occur as those factors that held women back from participating in society and peace conversations are still in existence and act as a barrier to full gender inclusion. Furthermore, UNSCR 1325 does not do enough in regards to recognising that inequalities and tragedies exist outside of the context of conflict. For example, sexual violence is not only limited to times of conflict, but rather, it exists in an everyday context and by only criminalising sexual violence during conflict, it implies that sexual violence that occurs prior or post conflict is not as great of an offence. Further on this point, UNSCR 1325 can be worrisome to the concept of gender mainstreaming as it only recognises the need to ‘use’ women for peacebuilding or for peacekeeping exercises regarding conflict resolution rather than the need to include women in post-conflict society in positions of power. Even though gender mainstreaming is one of the three pillars of UNSCR 1325, gender mainstreaming is never spoken of outside of the context of administrative activities during conflict which is worrisome. Gender mainstreaming has the greatest potential to achieve gender equality and by simply addressing women’s inequality during conflict, this resolution denies the everyday inequalities and mistreatment through legal systems that women experience prior and post conflict.
Overall, UNSCR 1325 has been instrumental in addressing and recognising women’s needs and insecurities but it still has much room for improvement. In order to create a more equal world post-conflict, gender power relations must be addressed to create true societal change and to assist in the prevention of future conflict. Furthermore, gender hierarchies must be recognised in society to create an equal world post-conflict because without gender equality, true and sustainable peace will never be achieved.
Lindsay Sparrow is the Associate Director of the Centre for Gender Rights at LCILP Global. She holds a Masters of Science in Political Economy of Emerging Markets from King’s College London and a Bachelors of Science in Policy, International Trade, and Development from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her recent work focuses on gender and social policies, in particular gender-based violence as well as gender and economic policies.