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RIGHTS: Post-War Peace Building Still a Boys Club

Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 22 2006 (IPS) - When the 15-member U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted its landmark “Resolution 1325” in October 2000, it conveyed a strong political message to the international community: that there can be no lasting peace in post-war rebuilding without active participation of women.

The resolution, described as the first in which the Security Council addressed the role and experience of women in armed conflicts, called on warring parties to adopt “a gender perspective” on peace negotiations and “gender mainstreaming” in all U.N. peacekeeping missions.

But nearly six years later, there are growing complaints that the political thrust of that historic resolution still remains unimplemented, and that there is now a need for a fulltime U.N. special representative to pursue the resolution into reality.

U.N. Under-Secretary-General Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, who piloted that resolution in his capacity as then Bangladeshi ambassador and president of the Security Council, says that gender perspectives are still not fully integrated into the terms of reference in peace operations – both in new Council resolutions and in U.N. peacekeeping missions.

“We continue to find reports that women are still very often ignored or excluded from formal processes of peace negotiations and elections, and in the drafting of new constitutions or legislature frameworks,” he told IPS.

Addressing an international conference in Britain last month, Chowdhury declared: “I believe it would be purposeful for the United Nations to have a fulltime advocate and monitor for 1325 – a kind of a special representative of the secretary-general for 1325.”

June Zeitlin of the Women’s Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO) said the passage of Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1325 was a milestone because for the first time the Council officially recognised the vital and indispensable role women play in conflict prevention, peacemaking and peacebuilding.

“Unfortunately, only a baby step has been taken in the implementation of SCR 1325 by the Security Council and member states,” she told IPS.

A recent review of Security Council resolutions in 2005 by the U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) shows that less than 10 percent of the resolutions adopted recalled or reaffirmed SCR 1325 (six out of 70).

This is not surprising given the very weak mechanisms for accountability, contrasted with other Security Council thematic issues, such as children in armed conflict, she added.

“The Chowdhury proposal for a full-time U.N. special representative on 1325 is long overdue. It will help to provide the necessary leadership and visibility to spur action at both global and national levels,” Zeitlin added.

“Five years have already passed. Let’s not wait until the 10th anniversary of SCR 1325 to take the necessary steps to achieve women’s full and equal participation in all aspects of peacebuilding,” she added.

Cora Weiss, president of the International Peace Bureau and Hague Appeal for Peace, said there has never been a Security Council resolution with better known numbers.

“The resolution hasn’t been fully implemented because including women (in peace processes) seems to be threatening to men who want to hold the seat of power… we don’t want to take their power away, we want to share it,” Weiss told IPS.

She said that 1325 rocks the boat too much for the status quo. “But life will never change and we will never ‘give peace a chance’ unless we bring women to the table: peace women, human rights women, environmentally sensitive women, gender sensitive women..”

Chowdhury’s proposal is right on time and essential, she said, “before more women are raped, abused, exploited or ignored in decision making and peace processes”.

“If the United Nations can demonstrate a model of decency, of equality and respect for women, it will rub off on the communities it serves,” she declared.

Charlotte Bunch of the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership, said the United Nations has fallen short on implementation of many of its commitments on women, including 1325.

Therefore, the proposal for a full-time U.N. Special Representative on 1325 “would be a good thing as we do need stronger mechanisms for government accountability on 1325”.

“This needs to happen at multiple levels and a special representative has been proposed before and would be a good step toward putting some muscle into the implementation of the resolution,” Bunch told IPS.

She said it would also be useful to have other mechanisms – similar to what exists on children and armed conflict at the country level – specifically with gender focal points.

Bunch also said that it was her understanding that new Assistant Secretary-General Carolyn McAskie has made it clear that the newly-created Peacebuilding Commission is to be mandated to include gender, and that she intends to make this a serious priority.

“The key, of course, will be to get member states on the commission to take it seriously as well,” she added.

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