Home News Ladies, Peace and… Continued Militarism? Revisiting UNSCR 1325 and Its African Roots

Ladies, Peace and… Continued Militarism? Revisiting UNSCR 1325 and Its African Roots


Ladies’s mobilisation for peace rests on a protracted and fascinating historical past – nevertheless, it’s a historical past most frequently informed by way of the instance of the creation of the Ladies’s Worldwide League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) throughout a gathering on the Hague in 1915. Misplaced in such representations are the wide-ranging women-led struggles for peace emanating from the African continent, the place gender activists have lengthy emphasised the amplified results of battle and battle on ladies and youngsters, and demanded the development of ladies as integral to the promotion of peace and safety (Badri and Tripp 2017; Hendricks 2017). Such feminist civil society mobilisation paved the best way for the United Nations Safety Council Decision (UNSCR) 1325 on Ladies, Peace and Safety (WPS) (Hendricks 2017; Olonisakin, Hendricks and Okech 2015), for the primary time recognising the connections between ladies’s rights, gender inequality and the promotion of sustainable peace and safety throughout the headquarters of worldwide policymaking.

After first outlining Decision 1325 and the WPS agenda, I then discover these normative coverage frameworks in relation to the insights gained by feminist peace advocates and important commentators from Africa and past. What’s being mentioned in regards to the agenda twenty years after its conception? Has it introduced the worldwide wrestle for peace nearer to the very ladies it was meant to serve – or, paradoxically, alienated them even additional?

After virtually twenty years of implementation it stands clear that the WPS agenda, in multiple occasion, faces the chance of being harnessed for the promotion of its reverse aims, giving ladies a task inside militarist processes as an alternative of difficult their origins. As the next rumination will present, such examples include invaluable classes for the continued implementation of Decision 1325 and the struggles to make Ladies, Peace and Safety a mandate to be reckoned with in apply.

Ladies, Peace and Safety as a normative framework

Decision 1325 depends upon two elementary propositions: that social justice and girls’s rights are “unobtainable in a militaristic world” (Vellacott 1993, 23), and that peace “is inextricably linked with the development of ladies” (Kirby and Shepherd 2016b, 251). The latter assertion comes from the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Motion in 1995, outlining the themes that will later be developed within the WPS agenda. Highlighting the necessity for mainstreaming a gender perspective in all worldwide work associated to peace and safety, the doc moreover attracts closely on the agendas raised within the Namibia Plan of Motion and the Windhoek Declaration. Rising earlier the identical yr by way of a workshop led by the Classes Realized Unit of the United Nations Division of Peacekeeping Operations and accommodated by the Namibian authorities, these platforms for motion centered on the inclusion of ladies and gender-responsive frameworks in peacekeeping operations, a difficulty of specific significance for African societies (Hudson 2017, 4).

Because the reinvention of peacekeeping operations and humanitarian intervention on the shut of the Chilly-Battle, an awesome majority of peace operations – and conflicts – have taken place on the African continent. Present missions embrace the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Darfur, South Sudan and Mali. Moreover, they’ve largely been constituted by African troops (Campbell 2018). Along side the structural legacies of colonial rule, expedited financial improvement and turbulent nation-state constructing initiatives, numerous individuals throughout the continent proceed to face on a regular basis types of insecurity, violence and volatility pertaining to financial hardship, the stirring of political violence, and missing state establishments and accountability; this, along with conditions of lively, and sometimes protracted, armed battle. Using sexual violence as a weapon in battle in locations just like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, and South Sudan, is one other extensively reported situation, which supplied impetus for the creation of a UN Decision particularly addressing the gendered character of battle and violence. Because the WPS was, and nonetheless is, strongly rooted in African experiences, it’s no shock that its design and implementation has distinctive implications for the continent. Additional consultant of this are the variety of Nationwide Motion Plans (NAPs) – constituting the primary technique for WPS realisation and execution – developed amongst African states, amounting to 41% of the whole variety of NAPs from the World South (Hudson 2017, 2).

Adopted by the Council in October 2000, Decision 1325 places ahead 4 key pillars round which the broader WPS agenda is organised: ladies’s participation in decision-making, peace processes, battle administration and determination; defending ladies from sexual and gender-based violence and defending ladies’s rights throughout and out of doors of battle; together with a gender perspective in all battle prevention work; and particular reduction and restoration for ladies, with an emphasis on survivors of sexual violence, throughout and after battle (Hudson 2017, 4). A set of normative assumptions underline these pillars, to which quite a few feminist critics have responded (see Ní Aoláin 2016; Kirby and Shepherd 2016a).

Two points specifically have acquired probably the most consideration. Firstly, operating all through the agenda is a bent to embrace an essentializing view of gender. With out additional explication, gender is used interchangeably with ladies, conflating what would in any other case consult with a posh association of gendered relations with the fastened subject-position of girl (Otto 2006, 141), and, by extension, the compounded class of “womenandchildren” (Hudson 2017, 4). In flip, ladies are taken as a “homogenous group whose pursuits are basically peaceable and socially helpful” (Shepherd 2008, 162), and who possess innate “capacities for consensual problem-solving” (Kirby and Shepherd 2016a, 375). In distinction, males – relatively than the dynamics and constructions of masculinist beliefs – are intrinsically militaristic, undiplomatic and conflict-prone.

Inside this cyclical logic, merely rising the variety of ladies in peace negotiations, peacekeeping and decision-making positions is predicted to result in sustainable peace. However, as has been repeatedly famous, “focusing solely on participation targets with out addressing the concrete dynamics of gendered energy” (Kirby and Shepherd 2016a, 376) may even have adversarial results. The 2015 report on the achievements and challenges of Decision 1325 and the WPS agenda, ready by former UN Below-Secretary Normal Radhika Coomaraswamy and colleagues, confirms this narrowness within the scope of the decision’s implementation this far. Coomarawsamy (et al. 2015, 40) concludes that “current programmes put ahead by the worldwide neighborhood are likely to … [stop at bringing] a feminine physique to the desk.” Equally, when interrogating the method of effecting NAPs in Nigeria, Liberia, Uganda and Kenya, in relation to ladies’s inclusion within the army and as peacekeeping personnel, Hudson (2017, 18) notes how the identical “liberal-feminist” tropes of equal inclusion are once more recycled with out additional elaboration. As such, “participation turns into elevated to an finish in itself” (Hudson 2017, 19). Ensuing from this, Hendricks (2015, 367) tells us, is “the severing of the discourse and implementation of UNSCR 1325 from the broader feminist scholarship and activism on gender, peace and safety that birthed it.”

Challenges from African contexts

The proliferation of peace operations in Africa over the previous 30 years makes a essential engagement with the normative assumptions underlining the WPS essential. Earlier than exploring the implications of those assumptions for African peace processes nevertheless, we are going to linger a bit on the key insights feminist conceptions of peace and safety have contributed to worldwide frameworks corresponding to UNSCR 1325. Undergirding for example the Beijing Platform for Motion, is the core understanding that any work for peace and safety, from the native to the worldwide, has to deal with root causes behind battle. Patriarchy is one such elementary root supply of insecurity, together with its variation of expressions, from “militarist masculinities” (see Langa and Eagle 2008; Ratele 2012) to an acceptance and normalisation of the usage of army and armed power as battle prevention mechanisms, alongside the distinctly gendered dynamics of endemic/structural poverty. For feminist peace activists, the last word reply to the best way to method the problem of sustainable peace is thus to permit such a give attention to construction to permeate all types of peace promotion. Understanding the perpetuation of armed battle and different types of violence and insecurity that contributes to the destabilisation and obstacle of peace as the results of a mix of structural and systematic elements, expands the frames inside which peace and battle, prevention, administration and reconstruction, is considered.

Coomaraswamy (2015, 194) reaches the conclusion that after fifteen years of tried implementation of the WPS agenda, worldwide sources are nonetheless being unequally distributed to prioritise the standard of “peace operations throughout and after armed battle.” This illuminates a transparent lack of important feminist insights on the best way to allow sustainable peace. What’s misplaced is the acknowledgement that “Ladies, peace and safety is about stopping battle, not about making battle safer for ladies” (Coomaraswamy et. al. 2015, 191). When such an emphasis on prevention is more and more marginalised inside worldwide policymaking circles, the place useful resource allocation is set and operations structured, the which means of peace and safety and their safeguarding, is additional regulated by the speedy pursuits of market dynamics and militarist approaches. Briefly, by patriarchal considerations. “Through the years, worldwide actors have more and more shifted their consideration and sources towards militarized approaches to safety, decision of disputes, and the hurried and advert hoc safety of civilians in battle” Coomaraswamy (2015, 194) notes, remarking that “this isn’t the ‘prevention’ envisioned 15 years in the past” within the preliminary drafting of the WPS.

The need of addressing root causes, and the structural situations enabling the continuation of battle and insecurity, is especially evident throughout the African continent, partly as a result of unfold of precarity, armed battle and lively peace missions. This turns into particularly necessary in gentle of African conflicts nonetheless going through worldwide discourses that dismiss them as a consequence of endogenous traits. As Nduwimana (2008, 22) notes, “there have been broadly disseminated, barely-veiled stereotypes of Africans as a individuals whose id destines them to self-destruction.” As a substitute of recognising insecurity within the area as the results of societal conflicts, official discourse (with clear linkages to former colonial mentalities), represents violence on the continent when it comes to “clichés corresponding to ‘tribal warfare’, ‘ethnic battle’, ‘spiritual wars’.” Such labels serve to fragment any full understanding of both the causes behind, or dynamics of, battle, whereas “[contributing] to a notion whereby political cleavages are remodeled into innate, visceral and atavistic hatreds.” Finally, this entails that “battle evaluation regarding Africa has due to this fact been lowered to the results and manifestations of conflicts, relatively than their causes” (Nduwimana 2008, 22) – in full contradistinction to the measures known as for by the feminist activist voices informing the preliminary WPS rhetoric.

In mentioned discursive local weather, the last word goal behind the WPS agenda to stop battle by way of an intensive understanding of the structural and different circumstances inflicting it, is misplaced once more. The continued lack of incentive to problem reductionist representations of an African innate propensity for violence and so search out root sources behind battle, coincide with the parallel tendency inside worldwide methods for the implementation and upkeep of peace, to deprioritise insurance policies of prevention. All this serves to reaffirm the necessity for returning to the feminist crucial to position prevention, alongside administration and retroactive reconstruction, entrance and centre within the implementation of Decision 1325 on the continent.

As a caveat to this nevertheless, you will need to notice that whereas some, like Coomaraswamy et. al. (2015), argue this emphasis on attacking underlying constructions was as soon as seen within the coverage language of the decision, different critics warning that “the gendered nature of norms, tradition and safety practices are seldom underneath scrutiny: UNSCR 1325 was by no means meant to interact that debate” (Olonisakin, Hendricks, and Okech 2015, 386). If the latter concern holds true there is likely to be cause to start with a rethinking of the WPS discourse writ massive, earlier than interrogating its successes and failures within the discipline.

Ladies, peace, safety and counterterrorism

Although few situations of battle and precarity are totally separated in at this time’s world – the place a protracted historical past of world interconnections have solid structural ‘marketised and militarist’, and by extension patriarchal, relations throughout the globe – visions of peace, conceptions of safety, and notions of emancipation take critically completely different varieties relying on time and context. This supposition requires a grounding of the normative frameworks of the WPS agenda in context-specific circumstances. An instance of such a circumstance, central to many conditions from the African continent, is the strain arising between the utilisation of Nationwide Motion Plans as the primary medium by way of which decision 1325 is meant to be realised, and the truth that in lots of African societies the state relatively than providing safety, constitutes a central supply of hysteria and insecurity in and of itself (Hendricks 2011). Highlighting the state-centrism of the WPS agenda, a spread of commentators have famous how the emphasis on NAPs has resulted in a marginalisation of civil society and grassroots involvement within the work to implement the WPS agenda, centralising an excessive amount of duty with state establishments and so distancing the efforts from the non-state actors who initially made the decision attainable (see Kirby and Shepherd 2016b). Realising the methods wherein experiences of safety and citizen-relations to the state differ from society to society, these working with the agenda’s implementation and monitoring ought to take care to include non-governmental avenues for WPS motion. Doing so would permit for the agenda’s aims to satisfy the wants of communities on the grassroots degree, relatively than power communities to satisfy the wants of the agenda.

The world wherein the decision was first adopted seems very completely different from at this time. As identified within the UN Ladies (2015, 13) examine, finding gaps and challenges after 15 years of 1325 implementation, “the content material of what we imply by ‘peace’ and ‘safety’ is evolving.” This provides cause to constantly replace the conceptual relevancy of the decision based on up to date experiences. Feminist students and activists from throughout the African continent are central in taking inventory of those circumstances. One key instance of such modifications might be discovered within the up to date challenges offered by rising violent extremism and terrorism, predicaments of a distinctly gendered nature and with particular gendered penalties. The difficulty was addressed in the newest WPS Decision 2242 (2015), which pulls on the suggestions by Coomaraswamy and colleagues within the 2015 report, concerning the choice to anchor the WPS in bigger agendas for combatting terrorism and violent extremism.

Though the opinions gathered when writing the 2015 report emphasised the necessity for the UN to recognise and act upon the best way wherein the globalisation of counterterrorist measures within the title of the Battle on Terror has equally contributed to rising states of insecurity (due partially to additional normalising processes of militarization), as doubtlessly having made the world safer, this warning was neglected of the next Decision (2242). Consequently, although terrorism and violent extremism represent essential sources of insecurity and hurt for men and women throughout the African continent, and the inclusion of such conditions throughout the WPS agenda is warranted, this growth of the agenda’s scope concurrently expose a spread of obstacles. As demonstrated by Ní Aoláin beneath, relatively than enhancing the 2015 calls from ladies worldwide to utilise the WPS as a way to combatting rising world militarism, Decision 2242 might need the other impact.

Participating with the normative assumptions of the WPS, the place gender is essentialized – noting how “the language of 2242 [essentialize] ladies as both depraved purveyors of extremist violence or virtuous saviours of sons, husbands and communities” (Ní Aoláin 2016, 282) – and an excessive amount of weight is placed on the mere numerical enhance in ladies’s participation and illustration, Ní Aoláin highlights the potential risks with increasing the already considerably indefinite conditions to which the agenda applies. Simply because the inclusion of ladies in peace negotiations doesn’t assure their participation in, or alternative to reframe, overarching masculinist constructions that make societies extra conflict-prone within the first place, “the growth of WPS to incorporate ladies within the counterterrorism area doesn’t imply that girls shall be included in defining what constitutes terrorism and what counterterrorism methods are compliant with human rights and equality” (Ní Aoláin 2016, 276). If the linking of WPS with combatting extremism has allowed ladies entry to male-dominated safety establishments, however with out guaranteeing sufficient house for his or her deconstruction of the masculinist and militarist mentalities and methods informing most counterterrorist frameworks within the post-9/11 period, the agenda will once more fall brief on its transformative potential. For a state to partake on the earth of counterterrorism at this time means to be granted the sovereign proper to the usage of power and the declaration of states of emergency which legitimise a various vary of securitising and militarising measures.

In lots of circumstances these processes serve to lower relatively than improve the overall safety of its populations, as seen in Uganda (Department 2007; Fisher and Anderson 2015; OHCHR 2007) or Nigeria (Elden 2014; Oyewole 2013). Injecting the WPS agenda inside this wider construction thus dangers “the potential detrimental impact on the WPS agenda of its turning into harnessed to the pursuit of broader army and ideological objectives” (Ní Aoláin 2016, 278). What’s once more made obvious with the instance of Decision 2242 and Ní Aoláin’s warning, is the necessity for resituating the tokens of essential feminist approaches to peace and safety on the fore of any WPS associated work: structural change and all-encompassing battle prevention. Whereas varied UN mandates central to worldwide counter-terrorism efforts do recognise the necessity for gender-responsive measures, Ní Aoláin (2016, 291) reminds us that “the invocation of ladies shouldn’t be a hit in its personal proper.”

Feminist critiques and the African Union  

Confirming the lack of deeper transformative potential in varied areas of WPS implementation on the African continent, Hendricks (2017) finds that the African Union’s (AU) work with the agenda has enormously suffered from the restrictions of the liberal-feminist emphasis “on the inclusion of ladies into peace and safety establishments and processes, with no deeper reflection of what their participation might imply.” There are a selection of insights to be gained right here, drawing for example on African ladies’s distinct experiences with militarised masculinity as one in every of society’s “backbones” and the resultant lack of any clear break from the insecurity of battle conditions and the “submit”-conflict (Langa and Eagle 2008; Ratele 2012). As famous by Sheila Meintjies, Anu Pillay, and Meredeth Turshen (2002) when modifying a quantity on ladies’s work with gender justice and neighborhood cohesion throughout and after battle, from circumstances corresponding to Eritrea, Namibia, and Nigeria: there is no such thing as a “aftermath” in direct contradistinction to circumstances of battle and battle, to talk of for ladies. This can be a elementary perception to which WPS methods should reply.

With out incorporating such feminist evaluation of the meanings of safety and peace, battle and post-conflict, inside regional frameworks the place Decision 1325 is invoked, there is no such thing as a assure that for example ladies’s inclusion in safety sector positions, or on the negotiation desk, will routinely countervail “post-conflict patriarchal and militarized orders” (Hendricks 2017, 73). This dilemma underscores Olonisakin, Hendricks, and Okech (2015) argument that, with a view to ever make UNSCR 1325 workable as an instrument of long-term societal change in relation to gender equality and peace, there must be a convergence between three key pillars of affect:  feminist safety evaluation, civil society activism and coverage decision-making.      

This discrepancy between professed intentions and precise outcomes, the place an absence of convergence between mentioned pillars are notably seen, might be discovered within the African Union’s makes an attempt to implement the WPS agenda. That is particularly related on the subject of dominant approaches to peace negotiations and peace operations. Hendricks (2017; 2015) finds that though coverage frameworks are in place which advocate for the inclusion of ladies in peace processes, dominating methods of approaching peace, corresponding to on the negotiation tables, stay insensitive to regularly up to date feminist insights into the character of up to date conflicts and the continuities between battle dynamics and on a regular basis norms. Missing is a honest eye to sustainable peace efforts, using techniques that attain past prevailing “cowboy” approaches to mediation, which give attention to stern males who result in cease-fire agreements (Hendricks 2015, 370). As such, the rise in ladies’s participation, stemming from the invocation of UNSCR 1325 in AU peace and safety coverage paperwork, merely serve to legitimise the perpetuation of deeply flawed variations of peace. This alerts a continued unwillingness to lift feminist contributions to long-term peace and safety in addition to civil society knowledges, inside policy-making, additional impeding concrete societal change.

A current initiative to keep watch over nevertheless, is FemWise-Africa endorsed by the AU Peace and Safety Council in 2017. The community goals to boost ladies’s roles in battle prevention and mediation throughout the continent, partially by way of working to make peace processes conducive for ladies’s participation and management whereas offering a platform for strategic advocacy and capability constructing to mobilise ladies mediators and peace activists at regional, nationwide and neighborhood ranges. Will probably be attention-grabbing to see whether or not FemWise has succeeded in breaking new floor within the convergence of Olonisakin, Hendricks, and Okech’s (2015) three pillars of affect.


Feminist peace advocacy emanating from the African continent provide essential substance to Coomaraswamy et al’s (2015) emphasis on the 1325 pillar of prevention, the place remodeling underlying socio-cultural and political-economic constructions and dynamics is recognised as essential pathways within the realisation of sustainable types of peace and safety. Underscored all through, is the feminist crucial that with a view to promote precise peace the main focus has to lie on upending systematic gendered norms by way of which the on a regular basis subjugation of ladies and the normalisation of armed violence equally by state and non-state actors, are legitimised. The mere rising of ladies’s participation in peace processes or the inclusion of a deceptive gender lens in battle decision, which verify relatively than problem dominant male/feminine stereotypes, shouldn’t be sufficient. With out bridging Olonisakin, Hendricks, and Okech’s (2015) three pillars of affect – feminist safety evaluation, civil society activism and coverage decision-making – the liberal-feminist promotion of non-problematised types of illustration, participation, and universalisation, may have little impression on long-term experiences of insecurity.

Ní Aoláin (2016) confirms this by way of displaying how makes an attempt to reply to the altering nature of peace and safety within the 21st century by anchoring the WPS in world counter-terrorism efforts, has this far resulted in additional entrenching the agenda’s complicity with militarism. Highlighting the shortage of essential feminist rethinking of the very areas whereby peace processes on the continent happen, Hendricks (2017; 2015) reveals the unfold of this failure throughout AU peace and safety coverage initiatives. Feminist interrogations of the sources and nature of battle and “submit”-conflict on the continent, sign the necessity for rooting each the language and apply of the WPS agenda in lived experiences of want and insecurity, the place an uncritical recycling of liberal-feminist tropes fall wanting the total transformative aims the decision got down to obtain.

With out an uncompromising eye to the target of uprooting the relational and materials patterns enabling the normalisation of militarism and hegemonic masculinities throughout the on a regular basis social material of many African societies (Hendricks 2011, 17; Mama 1998, Lewis 2006), the WPS agenda is sure to without end chase its personal story. The query of the best way to keep away from the truth that the agenda has turn into a bystander to, relatively than challenger of, patriarchy, is thus extra related than ever.

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Written at: SOAS College of London
Written for: Dr Awino Okech
Date written: April 2020

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