How to Include Women in the Peace and Security Agenda

Inclusive Security has released a guide to implementing U.N. Resolution 1325 through national action plans. Miki Jacevic and Olivia Holt-Ivry explain what they learned through the process.

Written by Olivia Holt-Ivry, Miki Jacevic Published on Read time Approx. 4 minutes
A Bosnian woman chops firewood for the winter in the Jezevac camp for displaced people, near Tuzla, north-eastern Bosnia. Approximately 80 families of Bosnian Muslims forced to leave their homes in the area of eastern Bosnian town of Bratunac during the Bosnian war still inhabit the Jezevac camp. Elvis Barukcic/AFIP via Getty Images

It has been 15 years since the United Nations began urging countries to adopt plans of action to apply Security Council Resolution 1325.

Adopted in 2000, the resolution was a landmark agreement that recognized that warfare has fundamentally changed. It was borne from a groundswell of activism from conflict-affected countries – particularly women emerging from the horrific wars in Bosnia and Rwanda.

Resolution 1325 notes that war is no longer waged on some distant battlefield, but within our cities, villages and homes. Civilians, particularly women and girls, are disproportionately affected.

So security has become everyone’s business. Creating it, says resolution 1325, requires the perspectives and talents of more than just 50 percent of the population. It calls on U.N. member states to fully include women in preventing violence, stopping war and rebuilding societies after conflict.

Over the past few years, we’ve worked with more than 40 governments and countless NGO activists to develop what we call “high-impact national action plans for 1325” – policies that can actually create meaningful change on the ground for women seeking peace. Our experience is captured in a report, intended to help countries implement inclusive security measures.

The reality is that many government officials have had little training in designing, implementing, and monitoring effective, cross-government public policy. They’ve had even less experience doing so in partnership with civil society, especially on a topic so traditionally inaccessible to the public as national security.

So, what have we learned?

Three Steps to Successful Policy

First, government agencies must talk to civil society groups. The guide offers several models for cross-government coordination and several for engaging civil society.

We’ve seen these work in countries like Afghanistan where representatives of more than 20 government institutions collaborated for several years to create their strategy. The Afghan Women’s Network, the leading umbrella organization of more 100 women’s NGOs, has had a lot to do with shaping the development of the Afghan plan. Two of its representatives were members of the plan’s steering committee from the very first meeting.

Second, instead of providing a “wish list” of unrealistic goals or unclear targets, high-impact plans focus on concrete actions that bring gender into the mainstream of national peace and security. Like any good strategy, a good plan starts with the results a country wants to achieve and works backwards, designating responsibilities for every action and establishing reporting measures for accountability.

Using this results-based design, the number of women participating in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s international peace missions tripled. Women now lead their deployment units.

Third, high-impact policies should be accompanied by plans to monitor and evaluate their progress. Yes, technical terms and often onerous reporting requirements can send most sane government and civil society activists fleeing, but monitoring and evaluation is the only way to know whether a policy is achieving its intended goal. Without it, we can’t know whether it’s worth our time and effort to create similar policies, or how to improve them.

This is of critical importance to the field of gender, which captures less than 2 percent of all funding dedicated to peace and security globally. Monitoring and evaluation provides evidence to justify greater funding, and by narrowing the focus of data collection to the big-picture differences these policies make – rather than minutiae that tell us little but take valuable time to report – these systems can be streamlined.

Process Over Policy?

From the whole report, our most important takeaway is this – process sometimes matters more than policy.

Over two years in Jordan, government and civil society representatives jointly conducted a series of national dialogues around the country, including in several camps for displaced people. These were designed to collect public input for Jordan’s action plan, but also served as a trust-building exercise for government representatives and civil society, creating space for them to interact beyond the occasional lunch they may share at a conference.

This type of constructive engagement – particularly on the often-sensitive topic of peace and security – helps manage government’s and civil society’s mutual suspicions. Government representatives naturally gain a new appreciation for the knowledge and technical expertise of NGOs, while civil society, which plays an important government watchdog function, sees firsthand the many limitations that government bureaucracies present to even the most eager civil servants. They may then decide if they want to offer a more emphatic hand in translating commitments from paper to action.

Since the U.N. Security Council first called for national action plans, roughly 70 have been adopted worldwide – and about a dozen more are on their way. By our calculations, more than 60 percent of these countries have grown more peaceful since adopting them, as measured by the Uppsala Conflict Database, and nearly 90 percent of countries with action plans have seen their gender gap shrink, as measured by the World Economic Forum annual Gender Gap Report.

Why? It’s a simple answer: Inclusive policymaking works.

The views expressed in this article belong to its authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Women & Girls.

This piece has been updated to reflect that Security Council Resolution 1325 was adopted in 2000, and to correct the name of Inclusive Security.

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