On 13 October 2015, the United Nations Security Council hosted a historical anniversary session. Fifteen years ago, as a result of the tireless efforts of women’s rights activists and broader civil society, the UN Security Council had adopted the landmark resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325).
It was the first resolution to recognise that women’s participation and perspectives were essential to peacebuilding, and to highlight women’s and girls’ needs and vulnerabilities in conflict-affected situations.
Alert has been one of the leading organisations pushing for the adoption of 1325 from the very beginning. Based on community-level work building networks of women peacebuilders in Burundi and Rwanda in the 1990s, Alert was a member of the Women Building Peace campaign, one of the main driving forces behind UNSCR 1325.
In the second half of the 2000s, Alert implemented a series of projects advocating for the local and national-level implementation of UNSCR 1325 in West Africa and the Great Lakes on women’s political participation and economic empowerment, as well as in Nepal. Since then, Alert has been advocating on 1325, not least through playing an active role in the Gender Action for Peace and Security (UK) network, and has been continuing its work to influence policy and to implement 1325 in different contexts, be it with local communities, partner organisations or national governments.
Fifteen years after the establishment of the Women, Peace and Security agenda, the UNSC convened a High Level Review in New York to assess the implementation progress at national, regional and global levels. International Alert welcomes this process and submitted recommendations to a global study commissioned by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon together with peacebuilding organisations Saferworld and Conciliation Resources.
Alert also joined 89 civil society organisations in providing recommendations to permanent representatives to the UN ahead of the High Level Review.
Among these various contexts, Alert has for example been working on the Women, Peace and Security agenda in Nepal since 2002, carrying out research, advocacy, training and dialogues on UNSCR 1325. Alert Nepal contributed to the National Action Plan (NAP) Working Group for the implementation of 1325. The process for developing the NAP was widely acknowledged as very consultative, and was subsequently developed for the period 2011–2016. Implementation of 1325 is now being pushed forward by civil society groups and is part of the national agenda with UN and bilateral donors heavily engaged to implement the current NAP and the subsequent Localisation Guidelines. In February 2015, Alert Nepal contributed to the regional consultation feeding into the Global Study on the ‘Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000)’.
In eastern DRC, Alert’s current work on UNSCR 1325 focuses on increasing women’s participation in decision making through Tushiriki Wote. For instance, Alert is working with male and female university students through youth dialogue groups and leadership training, as well as supporting local advocacy actions to increase women’s access to local decision-making positions, such as market or water committees. At the national level, we are supporting an alliance of more than 50 local organisations running an advocacy campaign entitled ‘Rien Sans les Femmes’ (‘nothing without women’), which aims to change the electoral law to include more women in decision making. Moreover, Alert will present the outcomes of a gender audit of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for DRC and the region in New York on 20 October, as part of the 1325 anniversary events (read the report here).
In Somalia, Alert is working to improve the response to and prevention of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) through a number of actions, including dialogue and awareness sessions. Community dialogue on social norms underpinning SGBV with community leaders, youth groups, service providers, religious leaders, and school pupils are held to discuss men and women’s vulnerabilities but also about their roles in reinforcing gender inequalities and gender-based violence. Alert is also lobbying and advocating at both national and international levels for the adoption of a 1325 NAP and other key instruments for the promotion of women’s rights and gender equality such as The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
A broader outlook for the future
Our focus is on advocating for and implementing more holistic approaches in the gender, peace and security agenda. Increasingly there is a consensus among civil society and peacebuilding practitioners as well as donors that efforts towards achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment require engaging with men and boys as well, and understanding gender categories in more complex ways.
Alert’s Re-thinking gender in peacebuilding report advocates for a ‘gender-relational’ approach that considers the diverse needs of women, men, boys, girls and sexual and gender minorities. This involves a broader understanding of gender by expanding it to incorporate women, men and sexual and gender minorities, but also a deeper one, by looking at how gender relates to other factors, such as age, social class, disability, ethnic or religious background, marital status or geographical location.
Alert’s current work, such as the above-mentioned reports on Somalia and DRC, clearly underline the importance of a gender-relational approach. In Somalia for instance, research into the construction of masculinities and femininities, and how it affects men and women as both perpetrators and victims of SGBV, is highlighting up until now sparsely researched dynamics, including increasing evidence of sexual violence perpetrated against marginalised men and boys. In DRC, a narrow understanding of gender has led to not only issues around men and masculinities not being on the agenda, but also to a marginalisation of women’s agency in peacebuilding.
Over the coming years, Alert will continue advancing the gender, peace and security agenda in a gender-relational approach, working towards more gender equitable societies, increasing women’s political, social and economic empowerment as well towards more inclusive peace.
Photo: Jenny Matthews/International Alert (Kamanyola in DRC)