Women have a key role in peace and security. Yet most nations neglect them in foreign policy

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Gender has an important role in peace and security, but it is hardly given the importance it deserves in political conversations. Conversations about gender are often seen as a diversion from fundamental issues of international security and great power competition. But there should not be any contradiction between the two. There are good reasons to advocate for a more gender sensitive foreign policy.

One indicator of how well a society is doing on gender equality is the number of women in leadership positions, especially in areas that have typically had a poor track record of equitable gender representation, as in security departments or even in the academic study of security, the representation of women is quite slim even in developed societies. On the other hand, many have suggested that greater representation and empowerment of women could produce alternative approaches to dealing with international security issues. Many also argue that gender-balanced peace proposals could be more effective in resolving conflicts. Indeed, gender imbalance could in itself be a source of conflict. In addition to the moral issues of ignoring women when discussing issues that directly affect them, there is also the rational issue of the underutilization of half the population.

Resolution UNSCR 1325

While the situation has improved considerably over the decades, there is still a long way to go. The UN Security Council adopted a resolution (UNSCR 1325) in October 2000 highlighting the obvious links between gender equality and peace and security. UNSCR 1325 is an important measure that has the potential to strengthen the role of women in peace and security. Resolution encompasses all aspects of conflict resolution, including conflict prevention and resolution, peace negotiations, peacebuilding, peacekeeping and addressing gender-based violence, especially rape. and other types of sexual abuse during the conflict. The resolution underlines “the importance of their [women’s] equal participation and full involvement in all efforts to maintain and promote peace and security.

Additional efforts, including several UN resolutions focusing on the role of women in peace and security, have been adopted, each of them pushing states and multilateral institutions to foster greater gender sensitivity and define approaches and policies that would strengthen the role of women. in matters of peace and security. But more than 20 years later, many countries, including India, have yet to develop a national action plan. In countries like India, women have made a distinct contribution to India’s United Nations peacekeeping program, which is one of the concrete programs contained in UNSCR 1325, but New Delhi still has no national action plan.

So, despite all the resolutions and anniversary celebrations of UNSCR 1325, it was a laborious and slow journey. Nonetheless, there are some positive signs. There are a handful of states, particularly Mexico, which have become a model for many countries of the South in pursuing a feminist foreign policy agenda. In January 2020, Mexico became the first country in the South to adopt a feminist foreign policy, which is a remarkable achievement.

In countries like India, women have made a distinct contribution to India’s United Nations peacekeeping program, which is one of the concrete programs contained in UNSCR 1325, but New Delhi still has no national action plan.

According to the official press release, the new approach will place gender at the center of Mexico’s international engagement. This approach, in line with Mexican government policy, will seek to “reduce and eliminate structural differences, gender gaps and inequalities”. This further translates into Mexico pursuing five key principles, “a foreign policy with a gender perspective and a feminist agenda abroad; a Ministry of Foreign Affairs with gender parity; a foreign ministry free of violence and safe for all; visible equality of women in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and feminism in all areas of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These clear political articulations can be expected to be more sensitive while addressing a number of issues, including the peace and security agenda.

But the problem is, we’re still talking about a handful of countries. Sweden was the first country to come up with a feminist foreign policy approach, which it says will be built around three Rs: rights, representation and resources. Explaining the three Rs, Margot Wallström, former Swedish foreign minister, stressed the importance for women “to have the same legal and human rights in every country”. Equally important is to check what kind of representation women have “where the important decisions are made”. Finally on the question of resources, the former minister asked if the country has “a gender budgeting” and if the “needs of girls and women” are met.

Sweden has been one of the few voices to seek greater representation of women in every multilateral platform. It is important to stress the inclusion of women’s issues in discussions at national and international levels and to ensure that women are duly represented in all decision-making bodies. Sweden has also advocated, on several occasions, to include sexual violence as a major problem. As Sweden has argued, mainstreaming women’s issues into the multilateral agenda will not happen alone, but must be constantly encouraged. These have not yet become normal practice and therefore having women in these multilateral and national platforms and seeking discussions on issues that affect half of the population are still very important in shaping an inclusive agenda for the future.

The other two countries that have adopted a feminist foreign policy approach are Canada and France. Canada presented its New Policy Approach in 2017. Outlining the New Approach, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada’s approach “is aimed at gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. … [thus] position Canada at the forefront of this global effort. It is a matter of fundamental justice and also of basic economics. In a bid to pursue feminist diplomacy, France announced in 2019 that gender equality will remain a priority for France.

This still means that there are less than ten countries that have demonstrated their commitment to a gender approach, a framework that would help see greater participation of women in governance issues such as economic and development policies. , health policies, as well as safety decisions. manufacturing.

Although there are only a handful of states developing a feminist approach to peace and security, their efforts are important because they could influence other states to pursue the same. It is also important to see how these states are able to translate their lofty goals into an achievable agenda both on national and international platforms. It is still unclear how a feminist agenda affects multilateral diplomacy and international security. But that there are even a handful of women at the helm of such political issues is significant. And no matter how well women bring peace and stability, it is far more important for them to make their voices heard and to consider their perspectives.

The pandemic and women

These issues have become increasingly important as the world is feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has revealed serious gaps in our existing institutions and mechanisms. What emerges is that once again, as in times of conflict and war, gender inequalities have worsened, with women bearing a disproportionate share of the burden. It is important that we address gender issues because if societies plan fundamental reforms to avoid repeating mistakes in tackling the pandemic, inequalities and gaps in gender representation must be addressed.

A feminist foreign policy approach could be useful in addressing issues that are critical for women and improving the position of women in global and national platforms. This could put more pressure on States to perform better, not only in making commitments, but also in their implementation. Such pressure is important because states would like to be seen as champions of the cause of women. International normative pressure could thus play an important role in urging States to pursue such a program more seriously. Thus, the demonstration effect of these questions debated at the international level is important.

Thus, a more gender-sensitive foreign policy approach could create a viable space for women in decision-making spaces, which could help better representation and give voice to those who have been on the margins. On the ground, this would mean creating an enabling environment that can facilitate broader and holistic approaches, innovative thinking, foster diversity and balance, and embrace inclusion. This approach must evolve and develop certain standards at the global level which could make States more responsible for their commitments. It’s not easy, and you can just look at the compliance requirements for UNSCR 1325. We still have a long way to go.

This article first appeared on ORF.

Warning:Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan is the Director of the Center for Security, Strategy and Technology (CSST) at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. The opinions expressed are personal.

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