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AROUND THE WORLD
Five Questions for Anne-Marie Goetz
UNIFEM’s Anne-Marie Goetz stresses that UN Security Council Resolution 1325 has begun to advance women’s role at peace tables and ushered in new protections against sexual violence in conflicts. But urgent action is required to speed up progress. (Photo: UN/Sophie Paris)
Anne-Marie Goetz is UNIFEM’s Chief Advisor on Governance, Peace and Security. In a recent interview, she underlined the importance of mobilizing around the upcoming 10th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. If fully implemented, the resolution could dramatically speed up efforts to stop sexual violence against women in conflict and make women central to brokering peace.
Why should people care about Resolution 1325, a set of words on paper?
Because it can promote world peace by engaging women in all aspects of conflict resolution and building peace. Women are often completely excluded from peace talks. The types of violence they experience during war are not treated like other war crimes. And less than three percent of post-conflict financing addresses women’s needs.
Resolution 1325 highlights a very serious justice problem, the problem of exclusion. But it also offers a practical solution to the difficulty of making peace stick in many conflicts. Engaging a broader set of actors in peace talks can make them more legitimate and sustainable. Women are an incredibly important set of peacemakers and central to rebuilding society.
It is true that Resolution 1325 is just a piece of paper. And it will never be anything but that until political and military leaders recognize that women have a lot to offer in resolving conflict. We and our leaders must translate it from paper into practice.
It is often said that modern conflicts are worse for women. How?
Everyone loses from conflict. But since conflict exacerbates gender-based inequalities, women’s survival and recovery prospects are much weaker.
In many cases, the majority of fatalities are men. That’s true in Iraq or Afghanistan. In many internal conflicts, however, instead of targeting soldiers, belligerent parties target civilians because they can sow terror and despair more swiftly and effectively. And they target women and children. Sexual violence, in particular, is a very powerful tactic to destroy communities and traumatize societies beyond recovery.
After conflict, most internally displaced people and refugees are women and children, which puts them in a phenomenally vulnerable position. Women face enormous difficulties in recovering property, for example, especially in societies where men traditionally hold land rights. The phenomenon of female-headed households increases during and after conflict, with much greater poverty among them than among other households.
If peacebuilding and recovery included women, women would be able to set priorities, obtain resources and rebuild their lives. But the fact that women are so profoundly excluded from peace talks and post-conflict decision-making means there are few resources for their needs. Instead, disarmament and reintegration focus on male combatants, and male employment is strongly prioritized.
What difference has Resolution 1325 made?
There has been considerable progress in recognizing the importance of protecting women during and after armed conflict. Unfortunately, protection measures still fall short of what is needed. The appalling rapes in the Democratic Republic of Congo in early August show how far we have to go.
On the positive side, many UN agencies are supporting security sector reforms from a gender perspective, so in countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia, Uganda and elsewhere there are now special police units to tackle gender-based violence. War crimes tribunals have prosecuted and convicted major commanders for sexual violence, although again there is a long way to go. Only about four-dozen individuals are in jail as a result of international war crimes prosecutions for sexual violence crimes in war, compared to hundreds of thousands of rapes.
Some of the biggest successes in implementing Resolution 1325 have involved the adoption of quotas for post-conflict elections. In Nepal, for example, a 33 percent quota revolutionized the National Assembly — women are now 33 percent of the representatives, up from 2 percent earlier. Overall, participation in peace talks has not improved markedly, but there have been more serious efforts to engage women from civil society, such as in Darfur in 2006 and Uganda in 2008.
One of most significant achievements of the last 10 years has been the recognition of sexual violence as a tactic of war, deliberately deployed for terror and even used in genocidal campaigns. Two additional Security Council resolutions have been passed on this. That means sexual violence in war now demands a security-military and political responses. It must be addressed in troop deployments and peacekeeping tactics, peace processes and war crimes tribunals.
Sexual violence has been one of the most neglected areas of international law and almost completely invisible in peace agreements, when it needs to be in all peace and security discussions. The fact that that’s starting to happen is a huge change.
What’s required to deepen 1325’s impacts on women’s lives?
We need four things: Political will; evidence, including on the horrifying abuses women experience and the concrete contributions they can make; resources; and an accountability system.
The accountability measures around 1325 are weaker than for other Security Council resolutions, such as those on children and armed conflict, a subject of considerable Security Council attention. A major objective for this 10th anniversary year is to encourage the Security Council to improve accountability, such as by monitoring women’s situation in armed conflicts. This is a critical part of taking effective actions to protect women and engage them in conflict resolution. A priority for UNIFEM has been to develop indicators that can more quickly identify situations that require an immediate response.
What’s one key action that activists should take?
If your country is in conflict, building the strength of women’s peace activism is the most powerful way of advancing the women, peace and security agenda. Women’s voices have to beam out more loudly from civil society to prove women have something to offer. In non-conflict countries, the most powerful action is to tell your government that women matter for building peace. Governments can support women’s peace activism, send women troops for peacebuilding, and support women’s post-conflict livelihoods, among other things.
The 1325 anniversary has exposed serious implementation deficits. It is time to highlight how much more needs to be done. UNIFEM is highlighting this through its 1325 petition, which calls for stopping rape in war and engaging women in building peace. Anyone can sign the petition to show the Security Council and the UN Secretary-General that many people care about these issues. We want to see the UN do more to protect women and promote their roles in building national and global peace.
- Make women count for peace! Sign the 1325 petition before 21 October 2010.