On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Women, Peace and Security, the Brussels International Center collaborated with Friends of Europe in a virtual event titled “From conception to inclusion: 20 years into the Women, Peace and Security Agenda”. The online event took place on 17 June and brought together leading figures whose thematic expertise and local knowledge have had impacts on the promotion for more inclusive societies.
Indeed, the central argument discussed throughout the event was that much of the progress toward the implementation of resolution 1325 continues to be measured in “firsts” rather than as standard practice. Speakers argued that obstacles and challenges still persist and prevent the full implementation of the Agenda. Twenty years after, for instance, underrepresentation of women in all stages of a peace process is still a reality; local initiatives in conflict and post-conflict settings are still being undermined and underfunded by the international community; and finally, there is still a lack of coherence and consistency on the conceptualization of the resolution, which hinders any progress for its implementation. Overall, as the debate went on, there is justifiable concern about the localization of the WPS agenda, its terminology, and a potential hierarchy among its four pillars (Participation, Protection, Prevention, and Recovery and Relief) implemented at the local, regional and international levels.
Rosa Emilia Salamanca, who has been at the forefront of discussions on the Colombia peace agreement, highlighted the impacts of Colombia`s COVID-19 response on Indigenous inclusion in peace processes. “Budget constraints and political will are two major roadblocks to implementing WPS initiatives” said Rosa. In addition to that, Rosa Emilia argued that the pandemic has also exacerbated the income and gender inequalities within Colombia. According to her, there are questions of whether to allocate funds towards the COVID crisis or towards peace building measures of the conflict in the most remote areas, especially in former FARC-occupied territories.
Moving on with the discussions, Ilot Muthaka from DRC talked about his experience as a local peacebuilder and gender activist in the conflict-affected country. His major area of expertise has been directed towards initiatives to prevent sexual and gender-based violence. According to Ilot, there is a lack of political will to reinforce and restructure the national army and the national police to be more gender responsive. This has led to huge barriers and grievances between local women peacebuilders and the security sector. “Improving local security will enable greater gender equality, therefore promoting women’s role in conflict resolution” said Ilot during his closing remarks.
Charlotte Isaksson, Senior Gender Advisor at the EEAS and Clare Hutchison, NATO Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security, followed the discussions and addressed the normative issues regarding which women and what agendas are treated as a priority within the realm of the WPS. Charlotte argued that the initiatives and current measures must be continuously re-evaluated. According to her, there needs to be continuous discussions about who has a voice, what their role is, and how effective their participation should be. Clare, in turn, highlighted that there is an urgent need to have a better understanding of how women and men experience security and conflict differently. On the solutions to the way forward she said “we need to make sure there is a good balance between symbolic and direct activities that are affecting the lives women”.
In her closing remarks, Paivi Kannisto, UN Women Chief on Peace and Security, pointed out that the three main issues when it comes to the obstacles preventing the full implementation of the WPS agenda are lack of accountability, leadership and sustainable funding. “There needs to be leadership at all levels (international, national and local) and accountability to hold the WPS initiative as a priority” said Paivi.
Altogether, in one hour, the participants addressed many interlinked issues as well as tensions that are both constitutive of the WPS normative agenda and productive in sustaining it. Participants left with a sense that the conversation most move forward from the rhetorical level and much more support needs to be directed towards the localization of the WPS agenda. Different approaches will be taken and must be taken to fully realize the potential of such a transformative resolution. In this way, the WPS agenda will be dynamic and practical, addressing contemporary and hybrid issues from the ground up as well as in a systematic manner.