Lessons from 20 years of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda - Stockholm Forum

Last week we held a high-level panel on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda in cooperation with the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation at the Stockholm Forum. The panel was co-hosted by SIPRI and the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

As we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the groundbreaking UN Security Council Resolution 1325, many meetings are being held to assess the achievements made on the WPS agenda, as well as the challenges it faces.

This session is to bring the focus on to women peacebuilders working on the ground and create a dialogue with representatives from civil society, government and the UN on how we can better support women peacebuilders.

– Charlotta Sparre in her opening remarks

Watch the panel here or scroll down for highlights

How do women living in conflict-affected countries experience the Women, Peace and Security Agenda?

Kvinna till Kvinna and International Alert have both led recent research with women in conflict affected countries to find out their experience of the WPS agenda. Their insights provided lessons on the challenges faced by women peacebuilders and recommendations on how the agenda could be fully implemented.

Petra Tötterman Andorff, Secretary General of Kvinna till Kvinna shared the experiences of women working in their communities to build peace from their new report A Right, Not a Gift.

Women need to know participation is a right and a duty toward her country and it’s not a gift given by men.

– Petra Tötterman Andorff quoting a participant of their research from Syria.

Many participants in both studies shared that the Women, Peace and Security Agenda had been highly valuable in providing a framework for advancing women’s rights in their countries. But they also faced many challenges in implementing the agenda.

How could women peacebuilders be better supported?

Kvinna till Kvinna found two clear areas that need to be integrated into the WPS Agenda to support women peacebuilders:

  • Analysis of women’s economic opportunities and discrimination when it comes to participation.
  • Looking at the insecurity faced by women due to violent extremism and shrinking civic space.

Their recommendations:

International Alert’s Head of Gender, Ndeye Sow shared two of the persistent obstacles to a full implementation of the agenda and our recommendations on how these could be challenged. These come from our soon to be published research on how the agenda has been experienced and implemented on the ground by peacebuilders and practitioners.

Respondents shared that patriarchal and restrictive gender norms act as significant barriers to progress on the effective implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.

International Alert’s recommendation:

Interviewees also reported there is a lack of political will and sufficient resourcing of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda with one interviewee stating that ‘National Action Plans can often just be a tick-box exercise to boost countries reputations’.

International Alert’s recommendation:

Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee said we must invest in women’s organisations if we want to deliver National Action Plans. She shared the challenges for women’s organisations in Liberia, who are often competing against one another for limited funding, when there could be pathways for women’s organisations to collaborate for funding.

She called for the concept of Women, Peace and Security to be reframed, moving away from militarism to human security. Governments need to invest in people, in the economy, so women don’t need to request permission from a town chief or a clan chief to be able to survive.

Per Olsson Fridh, State Secretary to the Minister for International Development Cooperation at the Swedish Ministry of Affairs represented the first government to adopt a feminist foreign policy. He called for governments, donors and the international community to hold themselves accountable to implement the agenda. He sais that we have National Action Plans, but now we have to live up to these words, moving from a normative agenda to an implementing agenda.

And Åsa Regnér, Deputy Executive Director, UN Women also spoke of the gap between words and reality in delivering National Action Plans.

Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, agreed that it is vital that men are engaged in the WPS agenda and realise the importance of women’s participation.

Leymah Gbowee called on the international community to support the WPS agenda by building political will.

The Women, Peace and Security Agenda has opened up spaces for women’s participation in peacebuilding, but the challenges to delivering on National Action Plans and the agenda were clear. And in the uncertain times of COVID-19, it is more important than ever to address the shrinking space and lack of resources for women peacebuilders and the importance of ensuring they have a space in peace processes and decision-making.

As we look back on lessons from twenty years of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, we must use what we’ve learned to ensure the implementation of UNSCR1325 in the next decade.

Policy paper

Drawing on a stock-taking exercise of International Alert’s 20-year history working with women peacebuilders on the ground, we produced a policy paper called ‘Twenty years of implementing UNSCR 1325 and the women, peace and security agenda: Lessons from the field.’ This policy paper offers donors, national governments and peace practitioners practically orientated insights into some of the challenges to, and opportunities for, ensuring the effective implementation of the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda.