- Donald Steinberg, Deputy President for Policy of International Crisis Group, is a board member of the Women’s Refugee Commission and served on the UNIFEM executive director’s advisory council. The opinions expressed are his own. -
Preparations are now starting for the 10th anniversary of the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. This groundbreaking resolution was passed unanimously in October 2000 to address abuses against women during armed conflict, including sexual violence and displacement, and to bring women more fully into conflict prevention and peacemaking.
Resolution 1325 was properly hailed as a road map to promote, among other steps, women’s full engagement in peace negotiations, gender balance in post-conflict governments, properly trained peacekeepers and local security forces, protection for displaced women and accountability for sexual violence. It urged the Secretary-General to bring a gender perspective to all peacekeeping operations and other UN programs, and called for greater funding for measures to protect women during armed conflict and rebuild institutions that matter to women.
The key problem with the celebration plans is that there really is not that much to celebrate. The promise of Resolution 1325 is so far largely a dream deferred. Women continue to be raped and trafficked in conflict situations with impunity, both by rebel forces and by government militaries charged with protecting them. Women peace builders still face severe legal and cultural discrimination; coupled with sexual violence and threats against them, this imposes a victimization and danger that makes even the most courageous women think twice before stepping forward.
In recent peace negotiations in Indonesia, Nepal, Somalia, Cote d’Ivoire, the Philippines and Central African Republic, not a single woman served as a negotiator, mediator, signatory or witness. Men leading peace conferences still exclude women or shunt them off to ante-rooms while “real” negotiations take place, thus producing agreements that are disconnected from ground-truth and less likely to be successful and enjoy popular support.