What's In Blue

Posted Mon 6 Mar 2023

Women, Peace and Security: Ministerial-level Open Debate*

Tomorrow (7 March), the Security Council will hold a ministerial-level open debate on women, peace and security (WPS) titled “Women and peace and security: towards the twenty-fifth anniversary of resolution 1325 (2000)”. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Republic of Mozambique, Verónica Nataniel Macamo Dlhovo, will chair the meeting, which is one of the signature events of Mozambique’s March Council presidency. The expected briefers are UN Women Executive Director Sima Sami Bahous, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, and Special Envoy of the Chairperson of the AU Commission on WPS Bineta Diop. Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah R. Gbowee is also expected to brief.*

According to a concept note prepared by Mozambique ahead of the open debate, the meeting will provide an opportunity for member states to reaffirm the importance of resolution 1325—which, in 2000, established the WPS agenda at the Council—take stock of implementation since the agenda’s 20th anniversary in 2020, and set goals in preparation for its 25th year, in 2025. The concept note argues that, although on the agenda’s 20th anniversary the international community recommitted to implementing the Security Council’s WPS resolutions and accelerating the pace of progress, “[s]ince then, on some key indicators, we are sliding backwards”. It further says that Mozambique is convening tomorrow’s open debate at the midpoint between the 20th and the 25th anniversaries, “to raise these issues once again and encourage Member States to step up their efforts”.

At tomorrow’s open debate, Council members are likely to refer to developments affecting women and girls in specific country situations. Afghanistan is among the situations expected to feature in many members’ remarks. Participants are likely to express concern at the Taliban’s policies violating the rights of women and girls—including the bans preventing women from working for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and attending universities and high schools—and call on the Taliban to reverse those policies. Council members may also refer to the situation of women in other country settings, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Haiti, Mali, Myanmar, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen.

Members are likely to stress the importance of women’s full, equal, and meaningful participation in all stages of peace processes and in peacekeeping. Some members may also condemn attacks against women human rights defenders and peacebuilders and underscore the importance of preventing and responding to reprisals against them. Members are also likely to highlight gaps in the protection of women and girls in conflict scenarios and condemn all forms of conflict-related sexual violence.

In line with the theme of tomorrow’s open debate, members are expected to recall the importance of resolution 1325 and the nine further resolutions adopted under the WPS agenda item. Council members and member states are likely to call for the agenda’s full implementation and may highlight initiatives contributing to this objective, such as national policies and action plans on WPS. Some members may also stress the importance of adequately funding and expanding partnerships for the agenda’s full implementation.

The Secretary-General’s most recent annual report on WPS (S/2022/740), dated 5 October 2022, said that the world is “experiencing a reversal of generational gains in women’s rights while violent conflicts, military expenditures, military coups, displacements and hunger continue to increase”. Tomorrow, Bahous may echo this assessment and focus on the effects on women and girls of some of the main crises which have erupted or escalated since the agenda’s 20th anniversary. In this context, she may highlight several situations, such as Afghanistan, Ukraine, Ethiopia, and Myanmar, condemn all violations targeting women and call for accountability. Bahous may also stress that women’s leadership is fundamental for establishing lasting peace and urge all those supporting peace processes to insist on women’s participation.

Spoljaric, who is the first woman to serve as the president of the ICRC, is likely to stress the importance of complying with international humanitarian law (IHL) during situations of armed conflict, including its prohibitions against targeting civilians, as well as rape and other forms of sexual violence. In a recent speech at Columbia University in New York, Spoljaric noted that respect for IHL can “improve the situation of all people, of all genders, affected by armed conflict” and “help to rebuild stability and reconcile societies” after the conflict ends. She said that respect for IHL “means respect for the dignity of women and men equally” and that “[t]he protection of those faced with the greatest discrimination and dehumanization–very often, women and girls–lies at the heart of respect for the law as a pathway to peace”. Tomorrow, Spoljaric may reiterate these messages.

In her briefing at the October 2022 annual open debate on WPS, Diop called for, among other issues, predictable and flexible funding for women’s organisations, measures to increase women’s participation and inclusion in peace negotiations, and protection from social stigmatisation for demobilised female combatants. Tomorrow, members may be interested in an update from Diop since her October 2022 briefing, including on such issues as the role of regional organisations in implementing the WPS agenda and ways to enhance cooperation between the UN and the AU towards this objective.

The concept note poses several questions to help guide the discussion at tomorrow’s open debate, including:

  • What goals have you set for the implementation of the WPS agenda by the 25th anniversary, and what flagship initiatives have you planned for the lead-up to it?
  • How do you assess the current impact of armed conflict on women and girls and of women’s participation and involvement in decision-making processes on conflict prevention and resolution and the promotion of peace and security (including participation in peacekeeping missions)?
  • What role should the Security Council play in strengthening measures to protect women and girls, as well as in promoting more effective participation of women in decision-making on the prevention and resolution of armed conflicts?

According to the concept note, Mozambique will prepare a chair’s summary of the open debate and share it with the participants. It seems that Mozambique initially considered the possibility of proposing a negotiated outcome in connection with tomorrow’s open debate but eventually decided not to pursue this.


**Post-script (7 March): An earlier version of this story noted that Paulina Chiziane, a writer and activist from Mozambique, was expected to brief the Council. The story was amended to reflect that the Council was instead briefed by Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah R. Gbowee.

Sign up for What's In Blue emails

Subscribe to receive SCR publications