By Dilini Fernando
The UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security is a fundamental instrument for women’s empowerment in post-conflict peacekeeping in the 21st century. The resolution defines the key role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, and the necessity of gender perspectives in all UN peacekeeping operations. Included in the mandate is the task of reforming gender norms that allow women to be systematically discriminated against.
Owed to the significant number of female combatants, UNSCR 1325 offers gender perspectives for the disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration (DDR) of women and girls involved in armed conflict. The mandate of UNSCR 1325 can be divided into three pillars: Protection, Prevention, and Participation. The protection and prevention aspect seeks to strengthen the legal protection of women, particularly against gender-based violence and sexual abuse. The mandate endeavours to prevent gender-based discrimination by reforming national legislation and invoking the legal obligations of State parties to guarantee gender equality. For example, State parties to the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) of 1979 condemn discrimination against women in all its forms, and agree to pursue all appropriate means to eliminate such acts. Article 2 of the Convention encompasses the inclusion of women in the national constitution, establishment of legal protection for women against discrimination, and the abolishment of customary laws which constitute gender-based discrimination.
Additionally, UNSCR 1325 requests Member States to be trained to understand the gender-specific needs of females in post-conflict repatriation and reintegration. It is essential that this training devolves into all domestic levels, for example by training police forces to act under a code of ethics that esteem women’s rights, creating sanctions for cases of misconduct, and appointing sections for internal investigations.
Thirdly the participation aspect seeks to establish mechanisms for the political visibility of women in post-conflict societies, by increasing female participation and leadership opportunities at all decision-making levels of development projects and peace agreements.
The strength of UNSCR 1325 is in recognising the necessity to create a gender dimension in peacekeeping operations, where gender is inherently linked to the needs and prospects of female ex-combatants. Reforming the social position of women both locally through civil society and domestic law, and at the Constitutional level empowers women to fight for a quality of life that would otherwise be subject to barriers of gender discrimination. Since its inception in 2000, twenty-four countries have established National Action Plans to enforce legal obligations to protect women’s rights and develop gender reform. It is also the cornerstone of successive resolutions, the most recent of which is UNSCR 1960 to end impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence.
While this indicates positive progress, it cannot mask the prevalence of domestic challenges obstructing the path to the complete elimination of gender discrimination in all post-conflict societies. However instruments such as UNSCR 1325 are critical to enforcing the legal protection of women, and establishing mechanisms for women’s participation in peace building. Ultimately, the endeavour is to create opportunities for women to be active and influential in peacekeeping processes, which must then be complemented with the attention of the international community in pursuance of a commitment to enforcing the mandate.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, opened for signature 18 December 1979, (entry into force 3 September 1981) Art 2
Nduwiman, Françoise. ‘UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security’, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, (New York: 2000)
SC Res 1325, UNSC, 4213th mtg, UN Doc S/RES/1325 (31 October 2000)