Rachel Kean
(Former Chatham House Expert)

Later this month, the United Nations Security Council will hold an open debate to mark the 13th anniversary of the adoption of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Thirteen years on, there have been significant advances on the resolution's agenda in both policy and practice. However, implementation lags behind the ambitious conceptual framework. The annual assessment offers an opportunity to chart a way forward for the agenda and identify concrete measures that member states can take to operationalize their women, peace and security obligations. Above all, it is an opportunity to remind the world that sustainable international peace and security is simply not achievable when half of the population remains excluded.

At the international level, there has been a multitude of efforts to advance implementation of the SCR 1325 agenda. This includes the development and initial reporting on a set of global indicators for monitoring the resolution, the adoption of the UN Strategic Results framework on Women, Peace and Security, advancement of the seven-point action plan on gender responsive peacebuilding, and strengthened efforts to establish monitoring, analysis and reporting arrangements on conflict related sexual violence. 

However, obstacles to implement the agenda persist. Since 1992, fewer than 10% of peace negotiators have been women, and there has been little advancement in this area since the adoption of SCR 1325. Of the 14 UN co-led peace negotiations in 2011, only four women participated on negotiation teams in Cyprus, Georgia, Guyana and Yemen. Of the nine peace agreements signed in 2011, only two had specific provisions to improve the security and status of women and girls. In Afghanistan, Iraq, Liberia, Somalia, Sudan and Timor-Leste, only 2.9% of post-conflict needs assessment budgets have been explicitly allocated to women's needs and gender equality. It is clear that accountability and implementation of the women, peace and security agenda remains seriously lacking.

What next?

Responsibility for implementing SCR 1325 lies with member states and the UN. In this thirteenth year, attention should be on encouraging stronger and more coordinated efforts by national governments to include women in their peace and security policies and practice. It is encouraging that 43 countries have launched National Action Plans (NAPs), the most recent being Nigeria in August 2013, to articulate their priorities on women, peace and security in their own specific national context. However, the capacity to implement, monitor and finance these NAPs varies significantly. Some do not have clearly established targets or delineation of responsibilities and, in the most recent Secretary-General's report, only seven NAPS had published dedicated budgets. 

Comprehensive, accountable NAPs, evaluated against credible indicators, have the potential to challenge the lack of ownership and political will around SCR 1325 by mobilizing various government departments to act on their women, peace and security responsibilities. With a third of NAPs due for review and renewal this year and next (including the UK's), there is an opportunity to encourage and support states to put in place the monitoring, reporting and reviewing mechanisms that effective implementation of plans is contingent on. National government’s must not underestimate or underutilize civil society organizations in this endeavour, and its role to inform, lead and hold accountable. 

At the institutional level, NATO has demonstrated how a regularly reviewed plan with working mechanisms can support concerted action to implement SCR 1325. The relatively recent appointment of a Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security at NATO's headquarters reinforced the institution's recognition of the centrality of women in enhancing security and building peace. 

In the upcoming debate to mark the anniversary of SCR 1325's adoption, the UN Security Council and member states will lay out the steps they will take to drive implementation of the agenda forward. International organizations, states and civil society must use this opportunity to work together and encourage nations to take ownership of this agenda. States and the Security Council itself must detail specific commitments to ensure the resources, coordination, leadership and accountability mechanisms for advancing work on women, peace and security are in place at all levels. 

The poor representation and frequent exclusion of women in conflict prevention, peacebuilding and recovery contravenes women's rights, prevents engagement with community security, and weakens the prospects for sustainable peace for men, women and children equally. Achieving greater empowerment of women as active agents and full and equal participants in international peace and security efforts is not just of benefit to women themselves. It is a critical component of a comprehensive and inclusive approach to modern security challenges. International peace and security will not be sustainable until we stop excluding half of the population - the debate must be a global reminder of this.

To comment on this article, please contact Chatham House Feedback