Late this Monday Swedish time a new resolution was adopted on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) by the UN Security Council. UNSCR 2106 is the sixth resolution on the WPS agenda which was established by the adoption of Resolution 1325 in 2000. While it is positive that the Security Council maintains the momentum of the WPS agenda, it can be questioned whether a new resolution is the solution when the already existing ones on WPS remain to a large degree unimplemented, Operation 1325’s Valter Vilkko and Emmicki Roos write.
In recent years the G8, and especially the UK, have been instrumental in lifting up sexual violence on the agenda of the international community. This is viewed by many women’s organizations and activists as a double-edged sword. On one hand the political will and allocation of resources by influential states in the G8 is much welcomed and viewed as instrumental if the WPS agenda is to be implemented. On the other hand there is a fear that the focus on sexual violence in conflict manifested in Resolution 2106 will play into the hands of states in the international community who wish to remove women’s participation from the Security Council. Separating participation and sexual violence from one another would impair the whole WPS agenda and undo the holistic approach set forth in UNSCR 1325.
Nevertheless, a positive aspect of the new UNSCR 2106 is that it stresses women’s participation as essential to any prevention and protection response. A common fear has been that the new resolution would put too much focus on the protection of women, while ignoring the role of women as actors.
Nordic countries delivered a common note
The Swedish Minister of Defence, Karin Enström, spoke in the Security Council when the new resolution was adopted. She emphasized that ”the focus on sexual violence is important, but should not come at the expense of the broader Women, Peace and Security agenda”, which is a positive sign. A noteworthy fact was also that she spoke on behalf of all the Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The Nordic countries are progressive in pushing the WPS agenda and should team up more often to gain a stronger voice.
When looking at the development within WPS a general worry is that the current strong focus on sexual violence might overshadow the issues that are key to sustainable peacebuilding and the long-term strengthening of women’s human rights. Strengthening women’s participation in peace processes and politics in general requires patient commitment over long periods of time. But it is also a necessary path to walk if we wish to give societies the capacity to combat sexual crimes themselves in the long run.
ICC REMAINS A CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE
Another complicating aspect is the references to the Rome Statue and International Criminal Court (ICC) in the new resolution. The ICC has been heavily criticized especially by African countries for having a geographical bias. Most of the prosecuted persons have so far been African, while a number of key countries, among them the US, Russia and China, have either not signed or ratified the constituting Rome Statue. The strong connection to the ICC in UNSCR 2106 therefore risks alienating a number of countries critical to the court. Meanwhile, the ICC is one of the few available options when looking to sanction perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
The lack of implementation of the WPS agenda in the UN system itself is also problematic and it is questionable whether the member states pushing for the WPS agenda are capable of addressing it efficiently. UNSCR 2106 requests the Secretary-General to continue to strengthen efforts to implement the policy of zero tolerance on sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel and urges member states to ensure full accountability. Nevertheless, no structures are in place to ensure accountability and there is a lack of enforcement mechanisms.
A NEW UNSCR – THE BEST WAY FORWARD?
The perhaps biggest question mark is still whether a new resolution from the Security Council was needed at all. The previous resolutions on WPS, among them resolution 1325, remain unimplemented in many aspects and in many parts of the world. And it is hard to defend a stance that the international community is doing all in its might to implement the existing resolutions. Therefore, adopting a new resolution risks becoming not much more than a symbolic act.
Communications Officer, Operation 1325
Project Manager, Operation 1325