On 31 October 2002, the UN Security Council adopted unanimously Resolution 1325 (2000) urging “Member States to ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts.” Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security was the first time that the UN Security Council acknowledged that women play a key role in promoting sustainable peace and stressed the participation of women in peace processes from the prevention of conflict, to negotiations, to post-war reconstruction and reconciliation.
Work for such a resolution in the Security Council had begun at least five years earlier at the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women with its Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and especially at the non-governmental forum which had been held just outside Beijing, where peacemaking was an important theme. It was thought that a resolution by the UN Security Council would have the most impact since the Security Council rarely discussed social issues. There had been numerous resolutions of the UN Economic and Social Council or the UN Commission on Human Rights dealing with the equality and importance of women. However such resolutions had had limited impact on national governments’ policy or UN agencies. A UN Security Council resolution would get more attention and indicate a link between the security of States — the chief mandate of the Security Council — and what was increasingly called ‘human security’ — that is, the security of people.
It was important to find the balance between calling attention to the special needs of women and children in times of conflict and yet not to reinforce the stereotype of women as victims only. Thus, there was a need to stress the important positive role that women play as peace-builders and their potential role in peace processes and negotiations.
Resolution 1325 is an important building tool for the role of women in peacemaking. The resolution, by itself, has not changed things radically. There are still few women at the table when serious peace negotiations or re-construction planning is undertaken. In fact there are relatively few formal peace negotiations to help resolve armed conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya. The United Nations has provided mediators, but the armed groups are not speaking to each other at least not in public. For the moment, the best that can be done is to help create an atmosphere in which negotiations would be possible. Here women already play an active role, but more needs to be done. Resolution 1325 sets out the guidelines, and now NGOs, governments, and UN agencies can work to transform these guidelines and norms into practice.
Dr. René Wadlow is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. He is President of the Association of World Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation and problem-solving in economic and social issues, and editor of Transnational Perspectives.