Women Peace and Security: Strategies to End Violence Against Women in Armed Conflict and Women Leading Humanitarian Disarmament Efforts
Presented March 12th 2013, by Sharna de Lacy
I am speaking today as a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – WILPF- and one of the co-founders of the Young WILPF section in Australia. In this capacity, I have been involved a program of work centred on the women peace and security agenda- including the development, and ongoing implementation oversight of the Australian National Action Plan.
Today, I will speak around some core principles that WILPF sees as essential to effective national action planning. With this short time today, I will focus on a few key aspects and try to offer some good practice examples, as well as share learning’s from my experience with the Australian National Action Plan.
If there is one key message I hope that everyone is able to take away from this today – it is that 1325 (and its sister resolutions) are just tools. However, a national action plan, which is inclusively developed and effectively implemented, can drive transformative change across the spectrum of government activity.
And this is the term I would more like to emphasise today – transformative. 1325 was developed by civil society, with the support of some progressive member states, and intended as a means to radically transform what security is, who it concerns and how it is achieved.
As I have heard many others say over the last week of CSW, “1325 is not about making war safe for women”. It is not just about putting more women in uniform- nor is it about the tokenistic inclusion of women. Principally, 1325 is a tool for the prevention of the outbreak and resurgence of conflict.
An effective National Action Plan must, reflect the holistic intention of SCR 1325 and the women peace and security agenda – inclusive of the Participation, Protection and Conflict Prevention dimensions.
As I have said, 1325 is a principally a tool for conflict prevention – and this must be the driving agenda of a national action plan.
Yet what we do know, from research undertaken by PeaceWomen and by the NGO Working Group on Women Peace and Security, is that at the international and national levels, we are failing on this front.
This is the most present and pressing challenge we face in realizing 1325 – and perhaps we should be none too surprised, as we are seeking to influence change through the very institutions that view militarized solutions as legitimate; and are often strongly resistant to women’s- and civil society’s participation in matters of security.
So how can we ensure Prevention remains at the centre of national implementation? I would like to offer four suggestions today.
The first is simple: Prevention language must the starting point for national action planning. From the get go, we must be asking the question – “how can 1325 be operationalized in our national context to prevent conflict.” As civil society actors, our advocacy and lobbying work must be to continue asking this question, and put it to our governments who are ultimately responsible for the implementation of the National Action Plan.
The second suggestion I would offer is that the National Action Plan must link to other national agendas, such as development and gender equality – but also hard security areas such as defence policy and security spending.
For instance, the mandate to engage with local women’s peace movements elaborated in 1325, must be part of national security policy, not just sit isolated within the National Action Plan document.
There is no point to a National Action Plan, if the first response to an escalation in conflict is sending in more uniforms, and increasing spending on arms, while local peace organizers – local experts – are still marginalized – and urgent development needs remain unaddressed.
Thirdly, 1325 needs to be domestically interpreted, whether this be a non-conflict effected country like Australia, a country with isolated conflict such as India, or a country defined as being conflict or post-conflict.
As we have heard so often in the last week, women everywhere live in a state of conflict. Marginalization and violence, form part of the daily lived experience of women all over the world, regardless of their geographic location.
In this regard, we can see two distinctly different types of National Action Plan’s have emerged. Conflict and post-conflict nations have a significant focus on domestic interpretation; whereas non-conflict affected states such as Australia and the US, see 1325 as something that primarily concerns women “out there”.
This is despite the very strong feedback obtained through national consultation processes. As we have seen so sadly illustrated in the recent experience of India, domestic security, and the systemic institutional problems of local police forces, can be as much of a threat to women’s security, as a peacekeeper deployed to a conflict zone.
And in Australia, the “Northern Territory Intervention”, in 2007 sent in the Australian Defence Forces to deal with what was a problem requiring a social and economic response.
Prostitution, potential trafficking situations, rape and sexual abuse, are growing problems in and around the small communities of Australia where army bases are present, along side large populations of “fly-in-fly-out” mining workers.
Yet, these issues are not addressed within the Australian National Action Plan, and there were no concerted efforts to engage women directly effected by these issues in National Action Plan development process.
In fact, converse to the intentions of 1325, we going to be hosting two and a half thousand US troops in these small communities – without community consultation- without a gender impact statement- and with an extremely poor status of forces agreement in place, which undermines accountability and Australian law.
In other words we are not doing at home, what we say we are going to do abroad.
A National Action Plan is essentially an overarching policy document, designed to drive and coordinate change across the spectrum of government activities. Without domestic interpretation, it is ineffective in addressing these inherently contradictory agendas.
Finally, and perhaps most pertinent of all, is that the Preventative focus must also extend to the regulation of the arms trade and disarmament.
The transformative intention of 1325 cannot be realised, if we do not also directly challenge the level of spending on defence and arms, as compared to social spending – or use a national action plan to demilitarize political, economic and social institutions
This is perhaps the most difficult challenge we face, not only in the implementation of 1325, but across the international system today. It can be achieved however.
The Philippine National Action Plan for example, is one of the few with strong language and actions relating to disarmament. It commits to enacting and enforcing laws regulating possession of small arms – as well as supporting and ratifying the Arms Trade Treaty.
We are about to go into a new round of Arms Trade Treaty negotiations, and will likely face the very same obstructive actors, as here at CSW -who are resistant to women’s rights, and the inclusion of strong language on gender. And again, I will reiterate that 1325, cannot sit in isolation to these processes. Conflict, and violence against women is intimately connected to the proliferation of arms and militarization.
We need to see this in the agreed conclusions of CSW, we need to see it in national action plans, and we need to see it in the Arms Trade Treaty.