Déborah Rouach, co-founder and co-director of the Gender In Geopolitics Institute
Kirthi Jayakumar, policy analyst and researcher, specialized in Women, Peace, Security & Feminist Foreign Policy
The world needs an effective and inclusive WPS Agenda to prevent conflicts
Twenty-three years ago, an epoch-making resolution shaped the course of global action and advocacy around the rights of women against sexual violence in armed conflict. Resolution 1325, adopted in October 2000, was a major milestone in the global women’s movement. It established the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Agenda, and called for the protection of women in armed conflict, the prevention of sexual violence in armed conflict, the increased participation of women in peace processes and conflict resolution programs, and relief and recovery for survivors of sexual violence in armed conflict.
Even as the UN began addressing gender equality through world conferences from 1975, and the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, culminated in the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the Rwandan Genocide and the Bosnian War following the Fall of the former Yugoslavia brought to light an issue that had gone unaddressed: the large-scale prevalence of sexual violence in armed conflict and the exclusion of women from formal peace processes.
Resolution 1325 effectively arrived on the backs of women from the majority world. Women had, for very long, been resisting colonialism, militarism, and patriarchal systems and structures that had written them out. For example, women in Latin America questioned the military about those that had been forcibly disappeared in their lives. Women had been calling for disarmament and brokered peace through track two processes. The resolution was sponsored by Namibia and adopted under the Bangladeshi Presidency of the UN Security Council in 2000.
However, in its implementation, the WPS Agenda has been piecemeal at best. Practice suggests that states implement the agenda through National Action Plans – which are oftentimes outward facing undertakings that tend to define actions and events in other countries. This has led to the tokenization of women, the conflation of “sex” and “gender,” the lack of intersectionality, and the tendency to pinkwash military interventions. This points to the ignorance of gender as a mechanism that produces social hierarchies and the lack of dedicated focus on dismantling militarized masculinities inherent in our understanding of “security.”
The values at the core of power and war: dismantle toxic masculinity
The WPS Agenda is part of a divided world, however one element goes beyond any social, political, geographical or cultural disparity: toxic masculinity. This notion is at the core of power, militarism and international relations, it sets the tone of political norms favoring domination, violence and misogyny. International relations and diplomacy are not gender-neutral territories. On the contrary, they are the result of a male-only perspective. As a result, women’s and minorities rights are constantly under attack.
In the context of conflict, toxic masculinity has concrete negative impacts. This nourishes relationships of domination to establish one superiority over the other, favoring violence and placing a certain category of men as the only possible decision-makers. In short, this fuels conflicts and hinders peace negotiations. Thus, the rise of masculinist, anti-rights and conservative governments, be it in Haiti, Honduras, Italy, Poland, Turkey, Egypt, South Korea, India, Uganda, Kenya, is a direct threat to democracy and world peace.
In these circumstances, what can be undertaken to make our societies fairer, more equalitarian and peaceful?
First, the patriarchal, discriminatory and militaristic model on which our societies are based must be rethought. Establishing gender equality and women’s rights and fighting discriminations should become political and geopolitical priorities. Why is that ? Because it has been proven that to face ongoing and coming global issues, and to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, it is imperative to achieve gender equality.
Conflicts raise the question of the reconstruction of societies following armed struggles. The meaningful participation of women in official negotiating roles or through their actions at the local level contributes to the maintenance and better implementation of sustainable, inclusive international peace and security where humans are placed at the heart of the social project. Including women and their perspectives means acting for structural changes and ensuring that a greater diversity of priorities are taken into account for the construction of a democracy that guarantees human rights and the development of society as a whole.
Without integrating the experiences of marginalized or discriminated people, it is illusory to claim to offer concrete and adapted solutions to rebuild a society and fight against inequalities. To act for the common good, women must be stakeholders in the actions carried out, in the debates, in the solutions, and therefore be at the same time designers, actors and recipients of this vision of the common good. It is an essential element to protect and guarantee democracy. Because there is no democracy without women and LGBTQ+ people.
An effective and inclusive WPS Agenda includes a transformative approach of our societies in order to address the root of systemic discriminations. In this regard intersectionality appears to be a key factor in guaranteeing the post-conflict reconstruction of democratic and egalitarian societies that leave no one behind.