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The Prospects and Pitfalls of 1325

Kanya D'Almeida

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 21 2010 (IPS) - Ten years after the Security Council issued its landmark resolution 1325, designed to address the “disproportionate and unique impact of war on women”, U.N. officials and international human rights advocates say it is high time the principles it espouses move from paper to reality.

Their press conference at U.N. headquarters Thursday was also the culmination of Global Open Day – a U.N. initiative to synthesise proposals and conversations held in 27 conflict-affected countries from June to September this year.

“The objective was to put in mind that it’s been a good decade now that we’ve been pushing for this,” said Anne Marie Goetz, chief advisor of Governance, Peace and Security at UNIFEM, “and it shouldn’t have to take a formal occasion to encourage women’s voices to be heard, at all times, in all decision-making. [We] must get straight to a new start in the new decade. Women count for peace.”

Resolution 1325 is ambitious, comprehensive and far- reaching. It is the first resolution to formally address the particular atrocities that women endure in wartime, and to acknowledge women’s indispensible role in conflict resolution and post-war peace building.

It also recognises the need for participation of women in justice and security sector reforms, as well as provisions for safeguarding the land rights, employment and economic security of women.

Yet on the 10th anniversary of 1325, women’s participation in international and local peace building efforts remains disgracefully low.

According to reports from the ‘Say No – UNiTE’ campaign, less than eight percent of peace negotiators are women; less than three percent of post-conflict spending is dedicated to women; and only 14 women in the world currently hold positions as heads of state.

“When you look at the global trend,” Nepali human rights adovocate Mandira Sharma told IPS, “there has been only a minimum improvement in women’s leadership positions – in that regard there is no reason to celebrate.”

Sharma is executive director of the Advocacy Forum, an organisation that has played a leading role in defending the rights of civilians caught between the brutalities of the Nepali government and the Maoist insurgents.

Harassment, threats and pressure notwithstanding, Sharma and her team of 50 human rights lawyers continue to fight for victims of torture, sexual abuse and enforced disappearance.

Sharma is a woman on the front lines of struggle, yet despite her forthright admission of the resolution’s limitations thus far, she remains hopeful of its potential.

“I think 1325 is a very important tool for activists like us on the ground to push for the agenda of women in peace negotiations,” Sharma told IPS. “It opens up the discourse in a whole new way and this is really wonderful.”

“One of the major problems with implementation is member states. You cannot throw the ball into their court. The U.N .is accountable – it is a Security Council resolution, after all,” she noted.

“The fate of most South Asian countries is that our governments do not take seriously the recommendations of the U.N. So we need the U.N. to be more vocal, to take more concrete measures and to force the member states to implement the commitments they make at a national level,” Sharma said.

Unfortunately, the U.N. in turn is severely hampered by a lack of funding and inadequate local institutional support. Addressing a press conference Wednesday on the latest “State of World Population” report, Barbara Crossette highlighted several blocks to implementation at the local level.

“It’s easy to sit in New York and say okay, we have 1325, we have post-conflict plans, we have action plans, we have everything. But I always think of the line that was handed back to me by an African woman. I said, ‘Your country has resolution 1325’ and she said: ‘Show me.'”

For many observers, the horrific conditions in which women around the world continue to languish cannot wait years to be resolved. Others, like Safaa Elagib Adam, secretary general of the Community Development Association in Khartoum, are more patient, placing faith in the slow but steady turning of the tide.

“Resolutions like this are very important at the grassroots level,” Adam told IPS, stressing that 1325 is a mechanism, rather than a solution, in the process of achieving equal participation of women at the national and international level of peace building.

“Even without a national platform to ensure its implementation, 1325 is affecting the Sudanese government and women are using it as a tool to approach the negotiations table,” she said.

Adam was one of the founding members of the Community Development Association, an organisation that works for sustainable peace in Darfur at both the grassroots and national levels. The group also works with IDPs, women and youth on improving their livelihood and achieving economic stability through vocational trainings and workshops.

As a woman activist living in the thick of a conflict zone, her testimony goes a long way in assessing the condition of 1325.

“Unfortunately, I have to confess that the dissemination and awareness of 1325 is very low,” she told IPS. “During the Abuja Peace Talks, I had a chance to meet with members of various factions. They do not believe in 1325. They believe that peace talks are a political issue only for men. That is their mentality.”

“But little by little, as there is more recognition of 1325, men are reluctantly agreeing to recognise women as part of the negotiating process.”

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