Human security–both male and female–is at risk in all pockets of the globe, and the future of promised gender equality is becoming increasingly uncertain. From the recent abortion bans in 12 states in the U.S., to the rise in sexual violence and assault in conflict zones, and unequal pay and gender gaps in political participation and employment in the West and its counterparts beg the question as to whether or not the existing multilateral frameworks in place are working.

This past year alone has generated widespread movements in countries combating corruption such as Algeria, Armenia, Venezuela and even in Austria, to name a few. Why is it then that tools based on gender discrimination such as sexual violence are being used to put down protests in Sudan, or how women are not being heard in Argentina and the U.S. over anti-abortion issues?

The world has an answer. It has been 20 years since the agreement of a landmark international decision for the empowerment of women and girls in all pockets of the globe. Implemented in 2000, the  U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325), titled Women, Peace, & Security, calls for the increased participation of women in conflict prevention, peacekeeping, peace-building and conflict resolution.

As such, it seeks to promote gender equality in today’s increasingly tumultuous world for a brighter future for all. Passed by all 15 Security Council Members at the time, it is based on four pillars: (1) participation, (2) protection, (3) prevention, and (4) relief and recovery on the local, national, regional and international levels. By 2020, however, some of the world’s leading players are providing reasonable doubt for countries to reach these goals.

Behind the 1325 Agenda are key concepts such as empowerment, global security, international law and the inclusion of men. Since 2000, the U.N. Security Council passed seven additional resolutions–1820, 1888, 1889, 1960, 20196, 2122 and 2242–to guide the U.N. and its interlocutors in meeting the Agenda’s goals.

The main goal of 1325 and its additional resolutions is that women should (as they already do) play a crucial role in ending violent conflict and wars and that their participation in society should be equal to men. The subsequent resolutions note that women and girls are treated differently, usually in the form of sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict settings and most recently, the differential impact of extremism and terrorism on human rights of women and girls. They all underscore that men and women must be equal and treated as such.

On a national level, governments are encouraged to pass National Action Plans (NAPS) on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) in efforts to uphold their commitment to UNSCR 1325 and moreover, to close gender gaps. At present, 82 countries have adopted NAPs on WPS.

The most recent country to adopt a NAP in accordance with UNSCR 1325 was Armenia on March 19th of this year, and there is reason to believe that other countries will follow suit.

According to the Australian Strategy Policy Institute, the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in its annual meeting in March 2019 paid close attention to social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable  infrastructure for gender equality and female empowerment.

Issue-areas that NAPs aim to address include gendering terrorism after the Christchurch attack, intersectionality lessons from Nepal and increasing female voices in conflict areas as seen in the Afghanistan peace process. Some countries adopt multiple NAPS, indicating their progress (or lack thereof) in meeting the criteria set forth by UNSCR 1325.

For example, Canada’s second NAP launched in November 2017 draws upon the feminist approach to peace and stability, which resulted in the G7 WPS Partnerships Initiative in 2018 with the UK and Bangladesh, mobilizing $3.8 billion towards educational opportunities for women and girls. It also launched the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations to raise the number of female peacekeepers globally and make their work environment safer, more inclusive, and ultimately more effective.

However, the road to 2020 indicates that UNSCR 1325 has not come to full fruition. The key implementers – the U.N. Security Council, U.N. Member States, the U.N. General Assembly, the U.N. Secretariat and civil society – acknowledge how difficult it is to implement UNSCR 1325, despite having UNSCR 1325 as the initial framework for guiding principles and goals on how to improve development, end sexual violence and bolster female participation in the workforce.

As stated by former U.S. Ambassador- at-Large Melanne Verveer, “Too often, women’s roles are marginalised because they are not seen in terms of their leadership. We must see women as leaders, not victims. We must also view their participation not as a favour to women, but as essential to peace and security.”

Perhaps this holistic approach is the solution to bringing UNSCR 1325 to life.

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