Is Resolution 1325 Making a Difference?

Sofi Ospina is a renowned Colombian peace and gender activist. She is currently involved with two women’s groups seeking an end to the armed conflict in Colombia—The National Women’s Network (Red Nacional de Mujeres–Cali) and Women for Peace (Mujeres por la Paz)—and advocates for the inclusion of civil society representatives and women in peace talks. Mrs. Ospina previously coordinated a review of Security Council Resolution 1325’s implementation for the United Nations’ peacekeeping department. 3

Recognizing the enormous effects of armed conflict on women and children and women’s role in building peace, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1325 in 2000. The resolution calls on parties to conflict to protect women’s rights and to involve women throughout the processes of peace- making, peacebuilding, and postconflict reconstruction.

In 2010, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations conducted an assessment of the effects of the implementation of Resolution 1325 by twelve peacekeeping missions. In some cases, the results were substantial, in others modest, and inevitably they varied across countries. But the assessment concluded that the resolution is making a difference for women in conflict-affected countries.

Women’s groups have used Resolution 1325 to argue for their rights to participate in peace processes. They have directly lobbied warlords and political leaders to consider their needs and aspirations. More women have been included in peace talks, but overall their formal participation remains below 10 percent. In Darfur, women were engaged in peace talks in 2007 but were absent from official negotiations in 2010 in Doha, and the peace agreement in Côte d’Ivoire was signed without women’s participation. As women are usually underrepresented in the decision-making structures of insurgency groups, political parties, and governments, their participation in peace negotiations is often informal rather than official. More work is needed to make Resolution 1325 known to all those engaged in peace processes.

Resolution 1325 has positively affected women’s participation in politics, helping to sensitize a range of stakeholders to the benefits of women’s political inclusion. This has resulted in more gender-sensitive electoral laws and more women on electoral boards and civic education teams. In Timor Leste, the national council rejected a 30 percent quota for women in the 2001 constitutional assembly election, but the UN mission encouraged political leaders to include women on party lists, provided incentives to complying parties, and organized training for potential women candidates. Women won 27 percent of the seats, and in the 2007 election, a more empowered women’s movement successfully negotiated a 25 percent quota. Meanwhile, a quota in Afghanistan has resulted in increased representation of women in legislative bodies. Overall, the participation of women as voters has increased in most of the countries reviewed.

Gender-sensitive reforms in security sectors are helping to change traditional ideas on the roles of women. The national police forces in Liberia and Timor Leste have adopted policies to increase the recruitment of women; Liberia has set a formal 20 percent target of female participation. In both countries, where violence against women is widespread, specialized police units have been created to address gender-based violence. However, sexual violence continues to be used as a strategy to demoralize, humiliate, and intimidate local communities. In many places, there is near-total impunity, partly as women remain silent because of shame and fear of retaliation. Far more needs to be done collectively to ensure the security of women and girls. In Darfur and Chad, peacekeeper patrols and escorts have improved protection of female displaced people and refugees in their camps. The disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of women ex-combatants—another facet of the issue of women and security—remain a challenge. More gender sensitization of officials in charge of these programs is needed to ensure women benefit equally as men.

Legal and judicial reforms have led to greater gender awareness in the drafting of constitutions and legislation. Laws violating women’s rights have been amended in line with Resolution 1325 and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Sierra Leone, for instance, adopted four new laws between 2007 and 2009 addressing domestic violence, women’s inheritance and marriage rights, and children’s rights. This legislation is in reaction to Operational Paragraph Number 9 of Resolution 1325, which talks about modifying or enacting laws to fight discrimination against women or traditional or customary laws that violate women’s rights.

Resolution 1325 has undoubtedly contributed to improving women’s rights. It has empowered women’s groups and has been used to sensitize decision makers, and its provisions are highly pertinent in conflict- affected settings. But the resolution is only a tool. More effort is needed to increase the number of women and men skilled in its use to shape change nationally and locally.

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