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Weathering the Storm – Enhancing Women’s Agency for Security

Weathering the Storm – Enhancing Women’s Agency for Peace and Security

By Sharon Bhagwan Rolls | New York
28 October 2012

The 2012 theme of the UN Security Council Open Debate on “1325” is certainly an additional draw-card for bringing together the network of gender focal points from the African continent, Asia, Pacific and Europe to the 3rd annual “1325 Week” of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict.

This year the theme “The Role of Women’s Civil Society Organisations in Contributing to Prevention and Resolution of Armed Conflict and Peacebuilding” provides us with an important platform to collectively assert further the need to not just address the status quo or the barriers but to also ensure the UN system as whole enhances the participation of women’s civil society participation in areas of peacebuilding. And so while we track “Hurricane Sandy” and with the possibility that the UN will be closed tomorrow (Monday 29 October) as the NY transportation system (buses, trains and subway) shuts down from 7pm today the “1325” week preparatory meeting of GPPAC got underway with the 9 gender focal points from the African, Asian, Europe and Pacific regions along with global secretariat staff and Gender Coordinator as well as the GPPAC NY liaison and GPPAC International Steering Group gender liaison – after all our week is also about an open panel event on Tuesday as well as meetings with UN agencies and media engagements.

Across the 15 regions of GPPAC, the gender programme is now coordinated through a Gender Coordinator and since the adoption of a gender liaison for the International Steering Group in 2009 there has certainly been more traction and strategic direction of the gender policy. Since 2010 the gender policy was officially adopted by the GPPAC which also focuses on ensuring gender balance in leadership positions. The gender policy addresses internal and external strategies, that is both at global secretariat as well as regional strategies, such as through the appointment of a cadre of dedicated gender focal points who bring their own expertise into the implementation process and also building on capacity development for both the gender focal points, as well as the membership of the Regional Steering Groups.

Gender mainstreaming is also applied to the working groups of GPPAC including Dialogue and Mediation, Human Security Peace Education and Preventive Action such as within the development of the early warning action toolkit with gender indicators.

The “1325”week of the gender focal points focuses on specific advocacy on UNSC Resolution 1325 with a specific approach to the prevention and participation pillars of “1325”. The prevention element of the resolution relates to women’s roles in conflict prevention, in the text, but too often implementation is focused to only prevention of SGBV during conflicts and not in enhancing women’s agency as peacebuilders and this is why the focus on this year’s annual debate focuses well on local and regional perspectives on our collective approaches – we need to enhance the articulation of conflict prevention element of the resolution.

Building on the theme of the debate the gender focal points network have reflected on the issues they are dealing with from Durban to Seoul, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, Georgia and the West Balkans as well as the Pacific and Canada to amplify the call to enhance the visibility and connections to the network of peacebuilders which GPPAC brings to the global peace and security architecture on issues.

Working on issues from the development and production of media initiatives and community media activism in Georgia, Fiji, the Balkans and Canada as well as initiating and undertaking dialogue in South Korea, women’s peace activism is demonstrating how the work goes on sometimes under the official radar and with limited resources.

There is also a need to ensure women’s peace activists can offer their expertise to building and enhancing institutional frameworks and mechanisms to support the implementation of “1325” at national and regional level through implementation and monitoring plans and policies, as well as ensuring women, peace and security is not just limited to sexual and gender based violence but further integrated into the development and human security agendas.

This means connecting and building women’s rights interventions on security sector governance programmes at national level and ensuring “1325” is essential in the civil society oversight such as for police and military personnel training particularly for fragile states. This is in addition to the required pre and post deployment training and would build on how women’s activists have engaged in Security Sector Reform such as in South Africa and the Western Balkans.

But transforming cultural practices and overcoming violence against women are also the keys to ensuring that the upcoming Commission on the Status of Women ensures peacebuilding and conflict prevention approach to not just the discussions but also ensuring “1325” is integrated in the Agreed Conclusions of CSW and connecting to upcoming General Assembly debates and resolutions.

The GPPAC gender focal points network also enhances global south-north collaboration amongst women’s peace activists and is a valuable opportunity to share practices as well as build a political constituency for change and the shift from reaction to prevention.

Another challenge for women’s activists working within the broader civil society movement is that quite often they are sidelined from the “mainstream of the women’s movement” and agencies addressing gender equality and women’s rights and connected with tangible conflict prevention strategies including dialogue and mediation, human security, preventive action and peace education.

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Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls is the Executive Director of FemLINKPacific. www.femlinkpacific.org.fj

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