Nearly two decades later - Just ‘add women and stir’?

Nearly 20 years ago, the UN Security Council adopted the groundbreaking UN Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS).

By Anne Kristine Raunkiær-Jensen, RIKO and Benedicte Storm, Oxfam IBIS

Turning rhetoric into sustained action on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda

Nearly 20 years ago, the UN Security Council adopted the groundbreaking UN Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). This was the first thematic resolution to reframe, recognize and reaffirm the crucial role women already do and should play across all stages of the conflict cycle - including prevention and sustaining peace and protection, relief and recovery. The adoption of the resolution thereby marked a significant normative shift within the global community in the approach to working on conflict and peace.

Since then, the WPS agenda has become a key rhetorical device across a wide breadth of policy commitments and programmatic portfolios – ranging from the fields of peacebuilding, humanitarian, development and security/stabilization. Yet, what remains to resurface nearly two decades after is the question of how this normative agenda has actually transpired into transformative action and coherent support on the ground.

Today, as we celebrate Women’s International Day, it is opportune to reflect upon the key advances on the WPS-agenda and take stock of the key challenges that continue to linger on the implementation of the resolution. This moment of reflection is particularly timely as Denmark is about to revise its current 3rd National Action Plan (NAP) into shaping of its 4th due in 2020. The NAP specifies Denmark’s commitments towards turning the 1325 policy agenda into a reality covering the period 2020-2025. As the first country to have ratified the 1325 resolution and develop a NAP, and as a renowned ‘gender champion’, Denmark has a key opportunity to again lead by example.

Women and youth at the forefront of the ‘sustaining peace’ agenda

The UN Security Council resolution 1325 was the first of its kind to recognize the important role and agency of women at all levels of decision-making processes, as well as the protection needs of women. It affirms that peace and security efforts are more sustainable when women are equal partners in the prevention of violent conflict, the delivery of relief and recovery efforts and in forging lasting peace. It has been followed by 7 complementary resolutions on Women, Peace and Security, the 2250 resolution on Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) (2015), two progress studies on the two resolutions and several policy documents and reports, forwarding the importance of women and youth (1).

In addition to a growing policy agenda, the WPS-agenda has catalyzed the development of a rich evidence base. This has contributed to deepening the understanding of the positive link between the meaningful participation of women at all levels and the effectiveness, success and sustainability of peacebuilding efforts. In concrete terms, studies have shown that women’s meaningful participation in peace processes increases the likelihood that a peace agreement will last longer than 15 years by as much as 35 per cent (2).

The strong emphasis on women and youth is symptomatic of a broader policy development in the global landscape towards ‘sustaining peace’ and ‘inclusive peace’ – that is, the notion, that inclusion of all parts of society is key to developing peace that is sustainable. Yet, while the policy and evidence base has contributed to build justification around advancing women’s role in decision making, and developed important ‘hooks’ for synergies between WPS and YPS, key challenges remain – particularly as it relates to translating these normative agendas and the rich evidence base into coherent and sustained action on the ground.

20 years later - ‘add women and stir’?

Despite important gains resulting from the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security key challenges continue to halt its full realization (3).

Overall, estimates from the Global Progress Study on the Women, Peace and Security agenda (2015) (4) shows that bilateral aid allocated to support gender issues in so-called ‘fragile states’ has been quadrupled. Yet, compared to the total aid package, this only comprises six per cent and two per cent of the total amount of funding earmarked for peace and security activities, respectively. Thus, despite the centrality afforded to supporting women, peace and security, funding for programmes and processes remains relatively low across all areas of the agenda. According to the study this “persistent failure” to adequately finance the WPS agenda, constitute “perhaps the most serious and unrelenting obstacle to implementation of women, peace and security commitments”.

Yet, funding is not the only factor. The quality of the aid and the way it is delivered also needs reexamination. While 54 member states have formulated NAPs, these often lack sufficient mechanisms for accountability and allocated budgets needed for substantive, coherent and long-term implementation. In addition, while women and gender related issues are progressively becoming mainstreamed across programmatic frameworks, including NAPs, activities are often narrowly defined and measured based on numbers and quotas - often with an emphasis on getting women into the room, rather than a seat and a voice at the table as part of a broader and systematic long-term process - from design, to implementation and monitoring. As the Global Study notes, “an improvement simply in numbers does not necessarily mean that women are able to effectively influence negotiations and shape their implementation”. While such measures may be important, programmes predominantly focused on an ‘add and stir approach’ do not sufficiently take into account the bigger picture. Without attention to the ‘politics’ of gender power dynamics, such efforts, although well intended may risk reinforcing status quo and mask the limited, tokenistic role women may be confined to - rather than sparking transformative and long-term changes.

On this backdrop, the Global Study recommends an increase in earmarked funding to the WPS-agenda’s principle goals and activities for safeguarding continued support. Moreover, it underscores the importance of ensuring predictable, accessible and flexible funding for actors working on gender and women at all levels and all stages of the conflict cycle, so that women, including young women and girls, in different contexts and in both formal and informal roles are better positioned to shape and carve out their own space for influence and leadership.

Denmark and the NAP

In 2005, Denmark took a lead as the first country to develop a National Action Plan (NAP). This year, it is expected to revise and develop its 4th NAP (2020-2025). According to a DIIS evaluation report (5), the second NAP was characterized by “expressions of political will and determination, but lacks in concrete plans for implementation with clearly measurable results”. The current and third NAP in turn, is considered more comprehensive than previous ones and is described as “an improvement upon previous ones”. While some room for improvement remain, the development of the 4th NAP offers Denmark a key opportunity to lead by example and build on its existing efforts as both a youth and gender champion to drive the agenda forward.

Importantly, in keeping with the Inter-Ministerial group’s interest for opening the door for civil society in the NAP review, civil society actors are now invited to become substantially engaged in the revision of the current NAP and the development of the forthcoming one. This presents significant opportunities for civil society to contribute to constructively shape Denmark’s efforts on the WPS agenda.

Danish Civil Society consultation as a stepping stone for the new NAP

A number of civil society actors are working closely together to engage with the Government on the National Action Plan for 1325, including Oxfam IBIS, RIKO, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), Danish Refugee Council (DRC), Sex & Samfund, Conducive Space for Peace (CSP), Center for Resolution of International Conflicts at Copenhagen University (CRIC) and Kvinfo. This engagement involves both feeding into the evaluation of the current NAP, while also shaping the development of the next NAP set to be launched in 2020 to coincide with the 20th Anniversary of 1325.

The breadth of engagement across the Danish civil society and their local partners, who operate at various levels, stages of the conflict cycle, including formal and informal processes and across a broad field - from humanitarian protection to peacebuilding, shows that there are already a lot of energy and expertise out there to be distilled and feed into the shaping of the NAP.

Building on and tapping into the diverse Danish community of practice can serve as a stepping stone for the NAP to become more geared and attuned to deliver on its commitments on the 1325 - turning rhetoric into action. We are therefore happy to extend an invitation to interested organizations, institutions and experts, who are keen to become engaged in this process.

For further information, please contact Benedicte Storm bs@oxfamibis.dk.

Anne Kristine Raunkiær-Jensen is Chair of RIKO and Benedicte Storm is engaged as a peacebuilding analyst on Women, Peace and Security at Oxfam IBIS.



(1) See overview of the UN resolutions on the Women, Peace and Security Agenda through the following link: http://www.peacewomen.org/why-WPS/solutions/resolutions

(2) O’Reilly, Ó Súilleabháin, and Paffenholz, (2015) “Reimagining Peacemaking: Women’s Roles in Peace Processes”. Link: https://www.ipinst.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/IPI-E-pub-Reimagining-Peacemaking.pdf

(3) International Peace Institute (2018), ‘Why Women, Peace, and Security? Why Now?’ Link: https://reliefweb.int/report/world/why-women-peace-and-security-why-now

(4) UN Global Study o the Implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 (2015) ‘Preventing Conflict, Securing Justice And Securing The Peace’. Link: https://www.peacewomen.org/sites/default/files/UNW-GLOBAL-STUDY-1325-2015%20(1).pdf

(5) Rosamond, Annika Bergman (diis) 2014, ‘ Women, Peace and Security - and Denmark’. DIIS report 2014: 32.