“Too often the great decisions are originated and given form in bodies made up wholly of men, or so completely dominated by them that whatever of special value women have to offer is shunted aside without expression”
- Eleanor Roosevelt
As Eleanor Roosevelt has correctly observed, international politics and, of course, the field of peacekeeping is generally a man’s world(J. Ann Tickner, 1992). Statesmen, diplomats, wars are seemingly practices that do not include women and that simply ignore their participation or issues that are related to them. Women in international security policy-making process remain rare, while a lot of scholarly texts can be found without any kind of reference to women(Sjoberg L. 2010).
It is evident that women are usually seen as the victims of war instead of contributors to peace and their roles in conflict are usually consciously or unconsciously disregarded. This is something that has started to change during the past years, especially within the international community and right after the voting of the landmark resolution of the United Nations Security Council 1325, where we saw on a legal document for the first time the need for gender mainstreaming and highlighting the interdependence of gender equality, peacebuilding and security. In NATO, there have been a number of integration of women stages, while the European Union has also realized the importance of the issue and since 2005 has been trying to take action.
Women have often played the role of peace mediators, or even take the roles that the society usually attributes to men, as providers, carers, political administrators, which are roles that are sometimes recognized and sometimes not. They play an important part in family structures in all societies. When the family's men leave for combat or are arrested, disappear, die, are hidden, displaced or exiled, women take on many additional responsibilities. Not only do they have to take on much greater responsibility for caring for their own children and less-mobile relatives who are elderly or ill, they also become more involved in food production and other economic activities – which are roles that are usually taken over by men. The indirect effects of warfare on women are very well known. Conflict shatters their means of survival, including by the razing of crops and destruction of their livelihoods and homes, at the hands of one or other of the parties to conflict.
UNSCR 1325: landmark to the international arena
On the 31st of October 2000, for the first time in history, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1325(S/RES/1325).In this resolution, which has been described over the years as a landmark in terms of international security, the role of women as well as their participation in conflict resolution, peace building, and humanitarian response in post-conflict areas is finally acknowledged. With this resolution, a lot of topics that cover women have been addressed: their protection during warfare from sexual violence, as well as their representation in peace keeping operations and their leadership role in the decision making process. In other words, it presents us with the fact that if women are under threat and are treated with inequality when it comes to political processes and leadership, then the risk of having unstable communities and in the long term unstable states is eminent. The resolution 1325, followed by six complementary oneswhich formulate the Women Peace and Security (WPS) approach, set the basis for the planning and the processing of policies that are related to the advancing education, advocacy, and women’s rights all together with relation to peace operations.
Lessons learned from the Commission on the Status of Women 59th Meeting, March 2015
The participation of women in peacekeeping is reiterated within the most recentCommission on the Status of Women 59th Session, during which the inequalities as mentioned above were described as the “Achilles heel” for driving forward the current development framework. By the looks of it, just like theMillennium Development Goals (MDGs)the progress towards gender mainstreaming remains uneven and unacceptably slow as the Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon pointed out however significant efforts have been put forward so as to bridge the inequality gap. The Post-2015 Development Agenda will not have the same role to play without practices towards dealing with these gaps and the empowerment of women is necessary as the Commission concluded so that the agenda will move forward.
Gender equality is the ultimate goal, but there are so many different interpretations of what can equality mean that this problematic is reflected upon peace processes and later on upon development practices. The international community, as mentioned above, the United Nations and a great number of institutions are undoubtedly showing their commitment towards this cause. There seems to be confusion though between what is written on paper and what should be done in practice, as each and every state interprets the above terms in a different manner. And in the end, to talk with numbers, all the resolutions that concern gender equality and equal participation remain largely unimplemented: out of the total number of military and police personnel, women are holding 2% and 8% respectively, whereas in the total number for civilian staff they make a 30%. In a world of powerful men, it is still way easier to be a powerful man who wishes to be even more powerful, than to simply be a woman.
All the resolutions that concern women, peace and security collectively form the WPS agenda