Women, Peace and Security
Expected Council Action
On 8 March, the Security Council will hold a ministerial-level open debate on enabling public-private partnerships to contribute to women’s economic empowerment in conflict-affected and fragile settings. One of the signature events of the presidency of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the meeting will be chaired by the UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri. UN Women Executive Director Sima Sami Bahous, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Kristalina Georgieva, and a civil society representative are the anticipated briefers.
No outcome is expected.
Background and Key Recent Developments
It appears that the UAE intends to use the open debate to promote a discussion of how women’s economic inclusion in crisis and conflict-affected contexts can entail their full, equal and meaningful participation and strengthen their decision-making and leadership. As announced by Ambassador Lana Zaki Nusseibeh (UAE) during the January open debate on protecting women’s participation, a key focus of the March open debate will be on how partnerships with the private sector “can support women’s participation and inclusion in peace and security, which is an area of the [women, peace and security (WPS)] agenda that remains underdeveloped”. While touching upon different aspects of WPS, it seems that the open debate is intended to strengthen the Council’s engagement with the “relief and recovery” pillar of the agenda and to mobilise tangible support for its implementation. (Adopted in 2000, resolution 1325—which established the WPS agenda—envisaged four pillars: “participation”, “protection”, “prevention”, and “relief and recovery”.)
The UAE’s signature event is consistent with the 1 December 2021 statement of shared commitments on WPS, which the UAE has undertaken with Albania, Norway and former Council member Niger. In the statement, the four countries pledged to make WPS a “top priority” during their respective presidencies. Among other issues, the statement includes a commitment to making issues related to WPS “an explicit focus of at least one mandated geographic meeting of the Council or specifically host a WPS signature event in each Presidency”. (The statement builds on the “presidency trio” initiative on WPS undertaken by Ireland, Kenya and Mexico during their consecutive Council presidencies in September, October and November 2021.)
The 2021 Secretary-General’s annual report on WPS recognised that “[g]ender equality is a question of power” and that persistent gaps remain in women’s access to economic resources, as well as participation in peace and security, political leadership, and access to decision-making. The World Bank’s 2021 Women, Business and the Law report noted that “discriminatory laws across the world continue to threaten not only women’s fundamental human rights, but also their economic security”. According to the report, women have on average only three-quarters of the rights guaranteed to men worldwide.
The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected women through such factors as income loss and increased family care work. The 2021 Secretary-General’s annual report noted that the global response to the pandemic has often overlooked women’s economic security—against a backdrop in which military spending outpaced pandemic-related health spending in most of the world in 2020. According to the report, amongst the gender-sensitive policy measures deployed to respond to the pandemic, far less than two-thirds were “aimed at strengthening women’s economic security or supporting unpaid care work”. The report also noted that “women have been the hardest hit by the economic fallout of the pandemic” in conflict-affected countries. In September 2021, UN Women published a report entitled Beyond COVID-19: A feminist plan for sustainability and social justice. Among other issues, the report called for prioritising women’s access to decent jobs, social protection and food security, public investment in the care economy and tackling climate change.
Through resolution 1889, adopted in 2009, the Security Council expressed concern “that women’s capacity to engage in public decision making and economic recovery often does not receive adequate recognition or financing in post-conflict situations” and called for measures to improve women’s participation in peace processes, “including by enhancing their engagement in political and economic decision-making at early stages of recovery processes”.
Adopted in 2013, resolution 2122 requested the Secretary-General’s Special Envoys and Special Representatives to consult regularly with women’s organisations and women leaders, “including socially and/or economically excluded groups of women”. It also welcomed a 2013 Peacebuilding Commission declaration which recognised that women’s economic empowerment “greatly contributes to the effectiveness of post-conflict economic activities and economic growth” and affirmed the need for UN-supported post-conflict initiatives “to promote the economic empowerment of women and their equal engagement alongside men in post-conflict economic recovery”.
At the same time, business-related abuses and their effects on women, including in conflict and post-conflict situations, remain a source of concern. Celia Umenza Velasco, legal coordinator for the Indigenous Reservation of Tacueyó and a member of the Association of Indigenous Cabildos of the North of Cauca (Colombia), highlighted the harmful interconnections among negative business practices, environmental damage and gender and rights abuses during the Council’s October 2021 WPS annual open debate. She said, “Indigenous communities oppose logging, mining, agribusiness and other large-scale extractive and infrastructure projects because they threaten the environment and deplete our natural resources.” She added that indigenous people have been killed “for protecting our waterways, forests, flowers and fauna, when their courage and dedication should be held up as a model in the non-violent struggle for territorial rights”.
The 8 March open debate’s objective to promote discussion of how public-private partnerships can mobilise economic support for the WPS agenda is expected to draw on initiatives like the multi-stakeholder Compact on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action (WPS-HA). With its secretariat in UN Women, the WPS-HA Compact was launched on 2 July 2021 at the Generation Equality Forum in Paris. It brings together UN member states, UN entities, regional organisations, civil society groups and the private sector to achieve substantive change on WPS and humanitarian processes by mobilising action under five thematic areas within which the Compact signatories are requested to self-select actions for implementation over a five-year period. The five areas are:
- financing the WPS agenda and gender equality in humanitarian programming;
- women’s meaningful participation in peace processes;
- women’s economic security, access to resources, and other essential services;
- women’s leadership and agency across peace, security and humanitarian sectors; and
- protection of women in conflict and crisis contexts, including women human rights defenders.
Human Rights-Related Developments
In June 2011, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) unanimously endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and established the Working Group on Business and Human Rights. The Guiding Principles are a set of guidelines defining the key duties and responsibilities of states and business enterprises. In its 2020 report on business-related human rights abuses in conflict and post-conflict contexts, the working group said that “more decisive action” is needed “to integrate business and human rights into peace and security frameworks” and called on businesses to strengthen their human rights due diligence through a gender-responsive approach. (Human rights due diligence is the ongoing process through which companies identify and address their human rights impact.)
Noting that most states and businesses do not pay sufficient attention to gender equality and women’s experiences in their implementation of the Guiding Principles, the working group’s 2019 report to the HRC provided gender guidance on the Guiding Principles and called on states and businesses to “work together with women’s organizations and all other relevant actors to ensure systematic changes to discriminatory power structures, social norms and hostile environments that are barriers to women’s equal enjoyment of human rights in all spheres”.
Key Issues and Options
The main issue for the Security Council remains the substantive implementation of its WPS resolutions, including through enhanced integration of WPS considerations into its country-specific decisions.
The UAE, as the Council president for March, could prepare a chair’s summary of the meeting to capture salient themes of the discussion. (When the Security Council held a meeting in 2004 on “the role of business in conflict prevention, peacekeeping and postconflict peace-building”, Germany, as the Council president, issued a chair’s summary highlighting the key themes of the discussion.) Another option would be to convene a follow-up meeting in one year’s time.
While China and Russia have often sought to highlight the importance of development and economic empowerment for the WPS agenda, other members, including European countries, have expressed concern that a preponderant focus on economic issues could overshadow the human rights aspects of the agenda. These divisions were particularly evident in 2020 during the negotiations on a draft resolution commemorating the 20th anniversary of resolution 1325. Proposed by Russia, the draft failed to garner nine affirmative votes (there were abstentions by Belgium, Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Niger, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, the UK, and the US). One reason some Council members abstained was the perception that the proposed text was not adequately balanced between the socioeconomic and rights-based aspects of the agenda. China’s explanation of vote stressed the attainment of sustainable development and women’s economic empowerment as key factors towards conflict prevention and peace, and the strengthening of both protection and participation. For its part, the UK said that the draft resolution failed “to reflect core components of the framework, such as the essential rights-based approach and the structural barriers to gender equality”.
The UK is the penholder on WPS, and the US is the penholder on conflict-related sexual violence. Ireland and Mexico are the co-chairs of the Informal Experts Group on WPS.
UN DOCUMENTS ON WOMEN, PEACE AND SECURITY
|Security Council Resolution|
|31 October 2000S/RES/1325||This was the first Security Council resolution on women, peace and security. Reaffirming women’s key role in conflict resolution and peacebuilding, this text calls for the adoption of a gender perspective in peace agreements and for the protection of women and girls from gender-based violence.|