Last week from September 29-October 1, I was able to attend the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice’s “Precarious Progress: UN Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security” working conference aimed at examining the progress made by recent UN Security Council Resolutions regarding women and armed conflict. The conference was purposefully planned in a momentous year, one that marks both the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the 10th anniversary of UN Security Resolution 1325 – the first such resolution to recognize that women are disproportionately affected by conflict and need to be included in peace processes.  There were 175 delegates in attendance, and the event was a mix of informative panels and thematic working sessions focused on developing recommendations in key issue areas affecting women in conflict and post-conflict situations.

A few highlights:

The conference opened with Monica McWilliams, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, speaking about women’s involvement in peace processes.  She outlined her party’s – the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition – struggle to have a voice in the Multi-Party Peace Negotiations that led to the Belfast Agreement in 1998.  McWilliams was one of two women to sign the Agreement.

McWilliams hit on a surprising and sobering fact: worldwide, only 3% of signatories to peace agreements have been women. In fact, because gender has historically not been tracked in peace processes and resulting agreements, UNIFEM and others have had to look to such records as signatures and photographs of these events to begin determining  statistics around women’s participation in 24 peace processes since 1992. Hopefully this will soon change with the Security Council’s action on specific and standardized indicators for tracking progress of implementation of UN SCR 1325, which will concretely illustrate how the provisions in this resolution are being met and are making change on the ground in terms of women’s participation and the prevention of gender-based violence.

Another highlight was a presentation by Brigid Inder from our partner Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice on a panel focusing on the need to prioritize gender justice. As I mentioned in a previous post, Women’s Initiatives tracks the gender balance of the ICC and its inclusion of gender-based crimes in investigations in their Gender Report Card. Inder detailed the International Criminal Court’s progress on gender justice and implementation of the Rome Statute, and pointed out that now, in part due to their efforts as a ‘gender watchdog’, 11 of 19 ICC judges are women. Also, charges for gender-based crimes have been included in all country situations before the ICC, and in 5 of 9 individual cases. Inder ended with discussing the need for the UN to be accountable for ensuring that women are involved in peace processes and that provisions outlined in peace processes are implemented.

The conference was an excellent forum for dialogue on the practical outcomes of this recent UN attention to women and conflict, and helping this was the fact that the delegates were comprised of policy-makers, advocates, scholars, and on-the-ground activists, offering a multitude of perspectives on the critical issues facing women in conflict situations.  Made absolutely clear was that though these resolutions have made inroads into changing the realities of women in conflict and post-conflict situations, much work remains to be done in implementation and monitoring their intended effects – and that as activists and pressure-makers, our work is far from done.

At the closing of the conference, aspirations were high and Jennifer Freeman from the Women Peacemakers Program ended with: “This movement started in Beijing and for many unsung women, even before. Now more than ever, we need to work together and keep moving forward.”

A full recap of the event is available on the Institute for Peace and Justice’s blog.

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