Women, peace and security agenda at the UN Security Council and Vietnam’s participation
The role of women in peacekeeping has been recognized by the United Nations since its establishment with the adoption of the Commission on the Status of Women in 1946. In all efforts to ensure gender equality, the UN adopted the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1979, the Declaration on the Participation of Women in Promoting International Peace and Cooperation in 1982, as well as held a number of international conferences on women in Beijing, China in 1995. In particular, in 2000 the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), which has become one of main thematic pillars of the Security Council’s work, and has been later on promoted by other UN’s bodies (1). The Resolution has been seen as a landmark document, showing for the first time the UN’s concerns of the impact of armed conflicts on women and girls, recognizing women's contributions to peacekeeping, conflict resolving, and peace building. The Resolution also emphasizes the importance of women’s equal participation and their full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.
To date, WPS has been stated in 10 Security Council’s resolutions (2). The agenda has become an annual topic for discussion in the Security Council every October in an open debate, after which a resolution or a presidential statement will be launched by the Security Council (3). Other WPS-related issues have also been discussed in Arria-formula meetings (4). WPS consists of four main pillars: 1- Participation; 2- Conflict Prevention; 3- Protection; 4- Relief and recovery (5).
Progress report on Implementing Women, Peace, and Security agenda
Since the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 in 2000, the women, peace and security agenda has been discussed on the following issues: 1- Promoting the role of women in conflict prevention and resolution, and in peace-building. 2- Acknowledging that rape and other forms of sexual violence against women can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, which is highlighted in UNSCRs 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1960 (2010), 2106 (2013), and 2467 (2019); stressing member states’ role and responsibility in addressing violence against women and girls; reaffirming the role of the Security Council in monitoring the implementation of the UN’s resolutions of parties to armed conflict. 3- Taking measures to access and track the implementation of WPS agenda. 4. Training and increasing the capacity of security and justice institutions in preventing and addressing conflict-related sexual violence; putting forward to establish expert groups for sexual violence areas; increasing training for gender budget analysis. 5- Reaffirming women’s role in peacekeeping and preventing conflict-related sexual violence. 6- Stressing the role of regional and sub-regional institutions in strengthening policy, enhancing women and girls’ participation in protecting the rights of women and girls affected by conflict-related sexual violence. 7- Affirming the role of socio-civil organizations (CSO) in promoting women's participation in conflict and sexual violence addressing, and in peace building, etc.
Most recently, in April 2019 the UN Security Council adopted the Resolution 2467 on Sexual Violence in Conflict. The resolution highlights that member states bear primary responsibility in addressing root causes of sexual violence against women and girls on a survivor-centered approach, which prioritizes women’s rights and needs. The resolution also emphasizes the role of the Security Council in monitoring the implementation of parties to a conflict, and points out challenges in preventing conflict-related sexual violence; calling upon the Specialized Committees to impose deliberate sanctions against perpetrators who commit conflict-related sexual violence (6). On the 20th anniversary of the landmark UN Security Council resolution 1325 was adopted in 2000, member states stressed the importance of gender equality and women’s meaningful participation in peace processes and emphasized their priorities in preventing conflicts and tackling emerging challenges. Member states also commit to promoting the implementation of WPS agenda within 18 months, from April 2019 to October 2020.
Apart from the Security Council, some other United Nations Bodies have incorporated the WPS agenda into their policies and annual activities. Specifically, UN Women - the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, has assisted UN Secretary-General in coordinating and consulting with member states to develop important reports on the WPS agenda. UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations has contributed to promoting women’s participation in peacekeeping operations. UN Department of Political Affairs (DDPA) established a stand-alone Gender, Peace and Security Unit (GPS), which specializes in developing policy, and building the capacity of DPPA staff involved in the implementation of Security Council resolutions on WPS and Conflict-Related Sexual Violence. Additionally, a number of informal groups are formed to promote WPS, including the Group of Friends of 1325 (7), Women, Peace and Security Focal Points Network (8), and Women, Peace, and Security Index (9).
Outcomes and Challenges in Implementing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda
At global level
Firstly, the number of women leaders in UN agencies for women, peace and security has been increasing since the implementation of the agenda. As of December 2018, women in chief positions accounted for 35% and 48% of women worked in deputy positions in UN Peacekeeping Missions and UN Special Political Missions, compared to 26% and 35% in 2017, respectively. For the first time, a female commander-in-chief of the United Nations Peace Mission and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations on Conflict-related Sexual Violence was appointed. What is more, an Informal Experts Group (IEG) on Women, Peace and Security and the Specialist Group on Law and Conflict-related Sexual Violence were established (11).
Secondly, a set of indicators on Women, Peace and Security (known as the Global Indicators) was developed to track the implementation of WPS agenda. The Global Indicators are a list of twenty-six quantitative and qualitative indicators, serving as the basis for member states to report in whole or in part their implementation of WSP agenda (a minimum of 9 indicators are required). The promulgation of the indicators has substantially contributed to facilitating research, putting forward proposals and adjusting policies in the implementation of future tasks, bringing benefits and peace to the world’s regions, as well as demonstrating the responsibility of member states in implementing WSP.
Thirdly, “Preventing Conflict, Transforming Justice, Securing the Peace: A Global Study on the Implementation of Security Council resolution 1325”, a major report commissioned by UN Secretary-General, was launched on the 15th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security. The report can be seen as a reference for member states to evaluate their implementation of WSP agenda, as well as to formulate further implementation plans after 2015.
Fourthly, “UN Strategic Results Framework on Women, Peace and Security: 2011-2020” was set to guide the UN in the implementation of UNSCR 1325 and other UNSCRs on women, peace, and security.
Fifthly, UN Secretary-General have issued annual reports on women, peace, and security since 2011, reports on conflict-related sexual violence since 2012, and UN’s strategy for preventing and responding to sexual exploitation and abuse since 2018.
Sixthly, Women's Peace and Humanitarian Fund was established to promote women's participation in decision-making, conflict prevention, post-conflict economic recovery, leadership positions, as well as women and girls’ rights protection.
At local level
As of August 2019, 81 countries or territories had national action plans on women, peace and security (12). The global average proportion of women ministers is 20.7% compared to 18.3% in conflict and post-conflict countries. 24.3% of parliamentary seats globally are held by women. For conflict and post-conflict countries, this ratio is lower, at just 19% (13).
Despite some positive outcomes, the WSP implementation has experienced the following challenges. 1- The Security Council lacks an overall mechanism for monitoring, reviewing and assessing the implementation of WSP agenda. 2- The number of member states developing national action plans on women, peace and security is still relatively small. Even in countries where national action plans have been launched, most of the plans are short-term, small-scale, budget-constrained, and lack of performance assessment tools. 3- Women's participation in peace processes, peace building, security, post-conflict reconstruction is limited. 4- The gap between political commitments and real budget allocation for the implementation of WSP agenda remains large. 5- Data collecting is greatly affected due to conflicts, limited capacity and resources, causing considerable difficulties in implementing and evaluating the effectiveness of WSP agenda.
Women, peace, and security agenda in the work of member states
Upon implementing the WSP agenda, developed states have mainly focused on the following aspects: preventing conflict-related sexual violence, imposing sanctions on some African armed forces (Sudanese, Congolese, Malian) for allegations of sexual violence against women in conflict areas, promoting the role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in investigating and prosecuting sexual violence crimes, as well as recognizing UN Security Council’s authority in raising issues of sexual violence to ICC. A number of Western states, including U.S.A, Denmark, Norway, U.K, Austria, Switzerland, and Canada, have adopted national action plans on women, peace, and security.
Meanwhile, developing states have primarily focused on promoting women’s participation in peace processes, politics, economy, culture and society; stressing the role of women in promoting gender equality; preventing discrimination and violence against women and girls; supporting measures of raising the awareness of public, particularly women. Realizing that there is no common solution for all, developing states stressed their primary responsibility in preventing and ending conflicts through peaceful means, respecting national sovereignty; and solutions taken by governments should be consistent with the country’s real situation.
Nevertheless, due to resource constraints, the contributions of developing states to the WSP agenda are still limited. On 23 April 2019, during a high level event preparing for the 20th anniversary of Resolution 1325, which took place at the UN headquarters (New York), some countries, namely Malaysia, Jamaica, and Peru, pledged to promote women’s participation in their peacekeeping forces. Kazakhstan, Lebanon, and Manta also committed themselves to an early completion of a report on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), as well as an early ratification of the CEDAW Protocol. South Africa, Lebanon prioritized women's economic empowerment, and promotion of women's participation in decision-making processes. Serbia, Argentina, and Ukraine pledged to pass and implement laws and national action plans on gender equality, anti-discrimination, domestic violence, and gender-responsive budgeting. Sri Lanka, South Africa, and Egypt were committed to developing their first national action plan on women, peace and security.
In Southeast Asia, ASEAN is working to mainstream gender perspectives across all the three ASEAN Community pillars: Political-Security, Economy, and Culture-Society. Specifically, ASEAN adopted three important documents, namely ASEAN Joint Statement on Promoting Women, Peace and Security, Declaration on ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the 2030 Agenda on gender perspectives, and Action agenda on mainstreaming women’s economic empowerment (WEE) in ASEAN.
Suggestions for Vietnam’s future implementation of WSP agenda
In 2009, the Security Council, under the Presidency of Viet Nam, held an Open Debate on women, peace and security, after which Resolution 1889 on Women, Peace, and Security was adopted. This was the first resolution responding to the needs of women and girls in post-conflict periods. This was also the first time that Vietnam drafted a UN resolution, chaired the debates, and facilitated the Security Council’s adoption of Resolution1889 on women, peace and security.
Additionally, Vietnam has actively participated in the United Nations and Security Council’s debates on women, peace and security, specifically: enhancing women’s role in peace processes and peacekeeping operations, increasing the effectiveness of solutions to gender issues, promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls, motivating local women and girls to participate more actively in UN peacekeeping operations, making contributions to solving sexual abuse and exploitation in UN Peacekeeping operations. Vietnam also shares experience in promoting Vietnamese women’s participation in the national reconstruction process after its reunification, including dealing with the multi-facetted consequences of war, clearing unexploded bombs and ordnance, contributing remarkably to local people’s safety and livelihoods.
Vietnam Party and State have been finalizing documents on gender equality, mainstreaming gender in laws, policies and particular programs such as Resolution No. 11-NQ/TW dated 27 April 2007 of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Vietnam on Women-related activities in the period of accelerated national industrialization and modernization, National Strategy on Gender Equality for the 2011-2020 period (24 December 2010), Law on Election of Deputies to the National Assembly and People’s Councils (May 2015); Directive No. 21-CT/TW dated 20 January 2018 of the Secretariat on continuing to promote women's work in the new situation.
Furthermore, in the field of Peace and Security, Vietnam has been promoting women’s participation in UN peacekeeping operations. In 2017, Vietnam sent the first female staff officer to the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan. Then, in 2018, Vietnam deployed the first Level-2 Field Hospital to South Sudan with 10 female personnel, making up over 15% of the mission. Additionally, Vietnamese women's organizations have played an active role in dealing with the consequences of war, for a safe, peaceful and stable society.
Currently, Vietnam is taking on the role as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for 2020-2021. This period can be seen as favorable when Vietnam has plenty of fiscal space to continue the promotion of the WPS agenda, which was already implemented in the 2008-2009 term. As a UNSC non-permanent member, Vietnam has also proposed priorities and initiatives on WPS to the Security Council. Specifically: 1- Continuing to update selectively the contents of Resolution 1889 (adopted in 2008 under Vietnam’s presidency) by focusing on a more specific issue, such as “protection and assistance of women affected by armed conflicts” (14), promoting women and girls’ participation and increasing women leadership in conflict prevention; 2- Putting forward solutions to remove barriers to women's participation in peace operations; 3- Promoting the relations between ASEAN and the United Nations, ASEAN and the Security Council by sharing ASEAN's experience in implementing initiatives on WPS, conflict prevention, and preventive diplomacy; 4- Promoting initiatives on enhancing women’s role in conflict and post-conflict areas affected by climate change; 5- Taking advantage of projects and resources from the United Nations and the private sector to support Vietnam's implementation of women and children programs.
To sum up, women, peace and security is an important agenda, which has been discussed in depth for nearly 20 years by the United Nations Security Council and other UN Bodies, drawing attention of all member states. The implementation of the WSP agenda can be seen as an opportunity for Vietnam to improve its position, demonstrating Vietnam’s obligation as an E10 member and a member state of the United Nations, as well as contributing to the implementation of the foreign policy of The 12th National Congress, Resolution 11-NQ/TW dated 27 April 2007 of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Vietnam on the Work for Women in the Period of Accelerating Industrialization and Modernization, Resolution No. 22-NQ/TW dated April 10 2013 of the Politburo of the Communist Party of Vietnam on international integration, Directive No. 21-CT/TW dated 20 January 2018 of the Secretariat on further promoting women's work in the new situation, and Directive No. 25-CT/TW dated 8 August 2018 of the Secretariat on promoting and elevating the Vietnamese multilateral diplomacy until 2030./.
(1) Resolution 1325: http://unscr.com/en/resolutions/doc/1325. After the 23rd United Nations General Assembly Special Session on “Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-first Century", Member States issued a Statement on promoting full participation of women at all levels in peace building and peace processes. Also in 2000, the Security Council adopted a Presidential Statement to celebrate International Women's Day (March 8), recognizing the relations between peace and women's rights; in the same year, the Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations (the Brahimi report) recognized the importance of improving gender balance in peacekeeping operations, especially in decision-making positions.
(2) The Security Council has adopted 10 resolutions on Women, Peace and Security (WPS): Security Council Resolutions 1325 (2000), 1820 (2008), 1888 (2008), 1889 (2009), 1960 (2010), 2106 (2013), 2122 (2013), 2242 (2015), 2467 (2019), and 2493 (2019).
(3) Open Debate is an open and extended meeting of the UN member states with the participation of states’ ministers.
(4) An "Arria formula" meeting is an informal meeting of members of the United Nations Security Council, which was initiated and institutionalized by Venezuela in 1992 to discuss the situations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
(5) Security Council Resolution 1325: https://www.peacewomen.org/SCR-1325
(6) https://www.un.org/sexualviolenceinconflict/press-release/landmark-un-security-council-resolution-2467-2019-strengthens-justice-and-accountability-and-calls-for-a-survivor-centered-approach-in-the-prevention-and-response-to-conflict-related-sexual-violence/, https://undocs.org/S/RES/2467(2019)
(7) The Friends of 1325 is founded by Canada, this group consults with relevant NGOs.
(8) Women, Peace and Security Focal Points Network was launched by Spain, Canada, Chile, Japan, Namibia and the United Arab Emirates in 2016. Up to now, there have been more than 80 nations and regions in the network.
(9) Women, Peace, and Security Index (WSPI) was developed by Namibia, Columbia, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security, and Peace Research Institute Oslo (Norway).
(10) UN Security Council: Report of the Secretary-General on women peace and security (S/2019/800), p. 83.
(11) The Experts Group discussed WSP in Afghanistan, Central Africa, Iraq, and Malaysia in 2016; Yemen, Malaysia, Iraq and Lake Chad (Chad) in 2017; Lake Chad, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Congo, Central Africa in 2018; and Israel in 2019.
(12), (13) Facts and figures: Peace and security: https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/peace-and-security/facts-and-figures
(14) On 21 December 2010, The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Resolution (A/RES/65/189) which observes 23 June as International Widows Day.
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