What's In Blue

Women, Peace and Security: Open Debate

Tomorrow (25 October), the Security Council will hold its annual open debate on Women, Peace and Security entitled “Promoting the Implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda and Sustaining Peace through Women’s Political and Economic Empowerment”.

Secretary-General António Guterres, who did not speak during last year’s open debate, will make a statement. Briefings will then be given by the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and Randa Siniora Atallah, Director of the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling. No outcome is expected.

Bolivia, as president of the Council in October, has circulated a concept note, encouraging participants in the open debate to give specific examples, commitments and recommendations connected to actions they are taking to promote gender equality and women’s political empowerment. The objective of this open debate, as detailed in the concept note, is to have member states share experiences related to women’s meaningful participation in peace processes, as well as in post-conflict economic recovery. The Colombia peace process and the UN’s involvement therein are cited as positive examples. It appears that Bolivia, cognisant of the normative framework developed by the Council since the adoption of resolution 1325 in 2000, wants to encourage participants to give concise statements focused on a few aspects of the women, peace and security agenda, rather than broad and general commentary on the entirety of the file.

Guterres may refer to his UN system-wide gender parity strategy. According to his latest annual report on women, peace and security (S/2018/900), gender parity has been achieved in the UN’s Senior Management Group and among UN Resident Coordinators. In peace operations, however, women’s representation is lowest. A stagnation in the number of women at all levels, and the risk that these numbers may fall, has led Guterres to request the formation of a working group to come up with emergency measures.

Mlambo-Ngcuka may go into further details of the Secretary-General’s report, outlining progress, stagnation or regression in areas such as the Council’s work on women, peace and security and the financing of this agenda. The report contains a new dedicated section on “Women’s leadership and meaningful participation in conflict resolution”, which explores how meaningful participation, understood as the opportunity to influence outcomes rather than playing merely symbolic roles in peace processes, can be achieved by the UN, member states, regional organizations and civil society.

Siniora will be the first briefer from Palestine presenting a civil society perspective to the Council. She is expected to speak about the work she is doing on the ground, focusing on political and economic empowerment of women. She may also raise challenges facing the implementation of Palestine’s first National Action Plan (NAP) for the implementation of resolution 1325. (NAPs detail a state’s commitments to advance the women, peace and security agenda on a national level).

During the debate, members may present their views on the Council’s implementation of the women, peace and security agenda. In addition to sharing their national perspectives, they may discuss good practices regarding women’s empowerment during peace processes. Some members, such as Peru and Sweden in their position as the co-chairs of the Informal Expert Group (IEG) on Women, Peace and Security, are likely to argue for the strengthening of Council activity on this agenda item. Examples of this could include mainstreaming provisions on women, peace and security in mandate renewals and making sure that gender issues are addressed during Council visiting missions. Other examples could include working to have sanctions regimes consistently include conflict-related sexual violence and gender-based violence as a listing criterion, where appropriate, and increasing the number of female civil society representatives briefing the Council. Other members such as China, Ethiopia and Russia, who have a more restrictive approach towards this agenda, may voice concern that the Secretary-General’s report continues to broaden the file unnecessarily and that the division of work within the UN system and the sovereignty of UN member states should be respected in this regard.

The five incoming Council members (Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia and South Africa) may speak during the open debate and discuss how they plan to address women, peace and security issues during their term. Germany is expected to announce that it will take over the co-chairmanship of the IEG from Sweden, which leaves the Council at the end of the year.

Generally, member states could present progress and challenges in implementing their NAPs. Countries affected by past or current conflict may share their efforts to work towards meaningful participation of women in all stages of peace processes. Donor countries may refer to their bilateral development cooperation supporting women’s political and economic empowerment on the ground.

The latest resolution on women, peace and security was resolution 2242, adopted in 2015. It appears that Bolivia had expressed an interest in a Council product. However, it seems that other members were wary of doing so, given concerns over difficult negotiations around this topic and the expectation that there will be more political will to work on a product for the 20th anniversary of resolution 1325 in 2020.

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