, Volume 92, Number 2

Paul Kirby and Laura J. Shepherd

This special issue of International Affairs, launched on International Women’s Day 2016, explores the potential and limits of the Women, Peace and Security agenda, a global policy architecture supporting gender equality and today a significant reference point in the management and resolution of, as well as recovery from, violent conflict.

The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda has developed at the United Nations over the course of the past 15 years, and there have been critical engagements with it for nearly as long. In this article, we first take stock of the operationalization of the WPS agenda, reviewing its implementation across a number of sectors. In the second section, we expose the tensions that have marked the WPS agenda from the start. With others, we argue that there has been a narrowing of the agenda’s original scope, reducing it to the traditional politics of security rather than reimagining what security means. We highlight this reduction primarily through an analysis of the tension between the ‘participation’ and ‘protection’ pillars of the agenda. Further, we argue that the WPS agenda faces a current challenge in terms of the actors entrusted with it. Although in some ways involving civil society, the consolidations and implementation of WPS principles at the national and international levels have become increasingly state-centric. Third, we imagine some possible futures of the agenda, from a trajectory characterized by increasing marginalization or even irrelevance, to new avenues like the emergent, albeit tentative, ‘Men, Peace and Security’ agenda. We close with an argument for a revival of the WPS agenda beyond a fixation on states, beyond a narrow heteronormative or essentialist focus on the ‘Women’ of the WPS resolutions, and moving towards the radical reimagining of security as peace that inspired the original architects of these important resolutions.

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The futures past of the Women, Peace and Security agenda
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