03 Nov 2014

National action plans best strategy to ensure UN resolution protects women

Written by  Netsai Mushonga

No. 315: National action plans best strategy to ensure UN resolution protects women / Netsai Mushonga / Cape Times
3 November 2014

October marked the 15th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 of 2000 on women, peace and security. Female peacebuilders perceived Resolution 1325 as a tacit endorsement by the Security Council of the agency of women in post-conflict peace-building and governance processes.

Previously the UN and other peace-building agencies had perceived women only as refugees and victims in conflict and post-conflict situations. Women of Africa needed such endorsement since there are currently nine UN peacekeeping missions on the continent, a testament to the high frequency of violent conflict. But has the rhetoric of Resolution 1325 been transformed into reality for women in the post-conflict UN member states of Africa?

The main pillars of Resolution 1325 are equal participation of women in peace-building, governance and conflict resolution at all levels; protection of women from all forms of violence, especially violence against women, prevention of war and violent conflict; promotion of women's socio-economic well-being; and the mainstreaming of a gender perspective in UN and regional peacekeeping missions.

Under the equal participation pillar, women have been largely ignored in post-conflict processes such as peace negotiations, where decisions are made about post-war reconstruction and reconciliation. Women have been excluded from other critical processes such as truth and reconciliation, disarmament and demobilisation, constitution-making,security sector reform as well as socio-economic reconstruction after conflict.

A 2010 study by UN Women of 31 major peace agreements since 1992 revealed that women formed a paltry 4 percent of the signatories to peace agreements, and formed only 9 percent of the negotiation teams in 17 cases for which such data were available. The inadequate representation of women in peace negotiations results in an unsustainable peace, as women bring to the table an awareness of issues that are often ignored in such negotiations.

Resolution 1325 guarantees accountability for violence against women especially sexual violence, which is extremely prevalent in the majority of post-conflict states in Africa as well as in the so-called "peaceful democracies" like South Africa. A 2013 study by Gender Links revealed that 37 percent of women had experienced intimate-partner violence, 30 percent of men admit to perpetrating sexual violence, and 43 percent of men had perpetrated violence against women at least once in their lifetime.

Reports coming from most post-conflict states in Africa, such as Liberia and Sierra Leone, indicate high levels of violence against women and very low rates or reportage and conviction. Dr Dennis Mukwege, director of Panzi Hospital, which specialises in treating survivors of sexual violence from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, describes the extent of rape in its eastern region as an ongoing "plague" that is "massive, violent and dramatic".

The best strategy to systematically implement Resolution 1325 is through the use of national action plans (NAPs). Africa has developed 12 such NAPs for implementing Resolution 1325, and several other countries on the continent are in the process of developing action plans. The NAPs systematically mainstream Resolution 1325 processes into government planning and execution of mandate, which puts implementation of the main pillars of the resolution within reach.

The process of developing the NAP allows for dialogue between critical stakeholders on women's equal participation, protection, prevention of war and violent conflict, and promotion of women's socio-economic well-being. The NAP also provides a road map to help determine the actors and resources needed for advancing the women, peace and security agenda. However; NAPs are only as strong as the political will of the government authorities backing them, as it is ultimately governments that must provide the human and financial resources for implementation of these plans.

The UN is beginning its engagements for the 2015 high-level review of Resolution 1325 that will determine the rewording of the resolution in line with lessons learnt over the past 15 years. It is critical that women and men working to bring a positive peace to the world actively contribute to this process.

Mushonga is a senior manager at the Centre for Conflict Resolution in Cape Town.

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