Publication: From Transition to Transformation
Making peace processes more gender-sensitive
With Resolution 1325 on "Women, Peace and Security", the UN Security Council passed a milestone in feminist peace and security policy. The instrument is central to our work with our project partners, our cooperation partners and with the activists and women's organisations in our worldwide network.
The UN Security Council recognised the key role of women in conflict prevention and resolution and in peacebuilding when it unanimously adopted this landmark resolution in 2000. It was the result of the commitment of transnational feminist networks and peace activists who for years demanded formal recognition of the gendered impact of war and armed conflict.
They also demanded that women's perspectives and experiences be included in international peace and security policy and peace processes.
Resolution 1325 and its nine follow-up resolutions together form the "Women, Peace and Security" (WPS) agenda. More than 20 years after the adoption of the resolution, women's participation in peace processes remains abysmal, as various studies and statistics show.
The WPS agenda consists of four pillars: prevention, protection, participation and relief and rehabilitation. Not only does it recognise the different gender-specific experiences of armed conflict, it
calls for the participation of women in conflict prevention, conflict resolution, peace processes and reconstruction after wars and armed conflicts, and
demands the protection of women in armed conflicts, including from sexualised and gender-based violence. Many women's rights organisations and peace activists base their demands on the WPS agenda.
However, the agenda and its implementation are also subject to criticism from feminist academics and practitioners. Criticisms include: an essentialist understanding of gender through the focus on women; the understanding of women as "passive victims" and as inherently peaceful and therefore better suited to participate in peace processes; and the lack of enforceability of the agenda.
Further criticism is that the practical application of the WPS agenda often focuses on quotas, e.g. on the proportion of women participating in peace negotiations, rather than on the meaningful contribution of women to the negotiations. Another criticism is that WPS practice does not change patriarchal structures and discriminatory systems.
So far 105 countries have developed National Action Plans (NAPs) for the implementation of the agenda, including Switzerland (as of February 2023; source: WILPF). The orientation that countries give to the agenda is usually related to their geopolitical situation. While countries of the so-called Global South implement the WPS agenda domestically, countries of the so-called Global North focus their NAPs almost exclusively on their foreign policy. This is also one of the points of criticism that we, together with our cooperation partners, repeatedly raise in the civil society monitoring of the Swiss NAP.
Nevertheless, the agenda still has the potential to be used as an instrument for transformative change, both in Switzerland and in countries and regions affected by war and conflict.
Switzerland's 4th National Action Plan (NAP) for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 recognises the need for and value of women's effective participation in peace and political processes for conflict prevention. It also recognises that certain socio-economic conditions must be in place to enable this participation.
On the occasion of the extension of the current Swiss NAP 1325 until the end of 2024, we initiated the project "Alliance for Women, Peace and Security: Channelling Civil Society Voices into the WPS Agenda" in summer 2022 in an alliance with KOFF - swisspeace and the feminist peace organisation cfd. An important goal: to increase the relevance and visibility of the WPS agenda and the Swiss NAP 1325 in the Swiss administration, civil society and the interested public in Switzerland.
Defining and carrying priorities into the NAP
The project builds on the findings of the previous project "Civil Society Contribution to the Implementation of the Swiss National Action Plan 1325" (2018-2022). It also uses the co-chairship of Switzerland and South Africa in the WPS Focal Point Network (WPS FPN) in 2022 and Switzerland's non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council as learning opportunities in the preparation of the 5th Swiss NAP 1325.
The project also aims to promote dialogue within civil society and with relevant actors in the Swiss administration so that civil society concerns are included in the 5th Swiss NAP. To this end, the Alliance, in cooperation with South African civil society, is planning online events on thematic priorities relevant to the WPS FPN discussions, as well as a participatory consultation process between Swiss civil society and academic experts to identify civil society priorities and carry them into the drafting of the 5th Swiss NAP 1325. An exchange with the Swiss administration is also being held.