Blog Post | Missed opportunities for the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Africa
The United Nations (UN) made history in October 2000 when Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) was unanimously adopted.
At the center of the resolution is the belief that men and women have different experiences of conflict as such it is important to ensure that women are part of post-conflict reconstruction. The resolution called on member states to ensure that women are involved in the prevention and resolution of conflicts.
Before the passing of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 women and CSO advocacy had resulted in four UN World Conferences on women which focused on the nexus between gender, peace, and development. This included the 1975 conference in Mexico, 1980 Copenhagen, 1985 Nairobi, and 1995 Beijing. In addition, Namibia also hosted a seminar in May 2000 which resulted in the ‘Windhoek Declaration’.
Since the adoption of the, UNSCR 1325, some states within Africa and a key regional organization the African Union (AU) have taken the lead in developing frameworks to facilitate and support member states in the implementation of the resolution. These frameworks include: the 2003 Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (The Maputo Protocol); 2004 Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa; 2009 African Union Gender Policy; 2014 UN - AU Framework of Cooperation Concerning Prevention and Response to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Africa; AU Strategy for Gender Equality & Women’s Empowerment 2018-2028; and 2018-2028 Continental Result Framework: Monitoring and Reporting on the Implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Africa.
To further demonstrate its commitment to the WPS Agenda, the AU appointed Madam Bineta Diop as its Special Envoy on Women, Peace, and Security in 2014. Her mandate was to amplify the voices of women in conflict prevention and resolution. The work of her office is complemented by other agencies within the AU like the Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation (FemWise-Africa). Through FemWise-Africa, women across the continent have been mobilized and trained in different conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms especially conflict mediation. In addition, the AU devoted 2010–2020 to African women, terming it the ‘African Women’s Decade’.
So far 29 member states in the AU have developed National Action Plans (NAPs) for the implementation of UNSCR 1325 at national levels. In addition, there exist l four Regional Action Plans (RAPs) placing the continent at the forefront of the the practical implementation of 1325.
Despite this progress there have been limited gains in addressing the challenges affecting women. In 2016, the AU conducted its first regional review of the implementation of the WPS agenda in Africa. The report “canvasses the legislative and administrative mechanisms and machineries put in place at all levels to support the advancement of the Women, Peace, and Security agenda in Africa, as well as progress made on performance where data and information exists”. Its main finding was that member states and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) need to recommit to the implementation of the women, peace, and security agenda on the continent.
This lack of commitment is reflected in the fact that sexual violence and violence against women remains widespread and in some states like the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic is used as a weapon of war. Even in countries where NAPs have been developed, women and girls still lack sufficient services and continue to suffer from violence. As both the AU, RECs, and states focus on increasing the number of women in decision-making processes without first trying to transform gender norms and powers that have prevented women to participate in these institutions, the effective participation and contribution of women to peace and nation-building on the continent remains minimal. As a result, women are included in these spaces as a means to legitimize them rather than make a positive change.
Moreover, the development of different WPS frameworks (RAPs, NAPs) are often considered as ends in themselves rather than as means to an end. In the 2016 AU Regional Review, it was noted that “UNSCR 1325 has not only been domesticated on the continent but elaborated and further developed”. According to the AU domesticated implies developing NAPs. But this is not the reality, having a NAP does not mean that the policy has been domesticated.
Furthermore, the bureaucracy and the state-centric approach used in the process of developing NAPs have meant very few women at the grassroots participate in this process. It is here where the opportunity is to action 1325 is missed because the voices of local women who are often the most affected by conflict are never included. This has resulted in NAPs that do not reflect the reality of many women as such failed to meet their objectives.
Regrettably, most WPS frameworks have focused on ending Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) thus narrowing the WPS agenda to a single issue. It is worth noting that SGBV is a serious concern for Africa, however, it is just one among many impacts of conflict on women. As such continental, regional, and national WPS frameworks lose so much when ending SGBV is the dominant focus.
As noted above, Africa has made great strides in implementing UNSCR 1325, but much remains to be done to broaden the space for women’s positive participation in decision-making processes, in particular ensuring the localization of the WPS agenda with the active participation of women at the grassroots level. The effective implementation of the WPS agenda is imperative in meeting the aspiration of the AU ‘Agenda 2063: the Africa We Want’ and the AU flagship initiative on ‘Silencing the Guns by 2020’.
This blog is written by Gerald Anji Acho, PhD Candidate, Institute of Security and Global Affairs