UN Women, Building a Road Towards Peace

The UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (also known as UN Women) is a United Nations group that is focused on helping women and building peace in places full of conflict. This special entity was created in July 2010 and merged several existing groups together, such as UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women), DAW (Division for the Advancement of Women), INSTRAW (International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women), and OSAGI (Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women) (www.unwomen.org). Within UN women, there are different focus groups, which include: violence against women, peace and security, leadership and participation, economic empowerment, national budgeting and planning, and millennium development goals. For the purpose of this blog, I’m mainly going to be focusing on peace and security, as this pertains to global peace and conflict the most.

The peace and security focus on the site stems from several of the UN security council’s resolutions.

  • The first set of these resolutions are: resolution 1325 and 1889 which “calls for strengthening women’s agency as peacemakers and peacebuilders, including their participation in conflict prevention and peace processes, early recovery, governance and in peace operations.” So basically this first resolution is a declaration and a call for women to make a stand towards the peace process globally and make sure that they demand to be part of it. This resolution can be seen as particularly important in the context of women and globalization because it recognizes that women are important to the global peace process and that to make true progress, women must be part of it. As the site recalls, “Resolution 1889 (2009) complements 1325 by calling for the establishment of global indicators to measure progress on its implementation.” So while the first resolution does not mention globalization per se, this second resolution makes it clear that to truly see if women are involved in the process, there will be global indicators and that women’s involvement can be measured by these indicators.
  • The next set of resolutions is resolution 1820 and 1888, which “calls for an end to widespread conflict-related sexual violence and for accountability in order to end impunity. Resolution 1888 (2009) focuses on strengthening leadership, expertise and other institutional capacities within the United Nations and in member states to help put an end to conflict-related sexual violence.” This next set focuses mainly on the widespread violence aimed towards women throughout the world and the call to end it. The UN sees this as a large enough injustice to call for an end to it, and recognizes that sexual violence within areas of conflict are prevalent enough to call it out as a force that needs to be stopped.
  • The last resolution is resolution 1960, which “mandates the Secretary-General to list those parties credibly suspected of committing or being responsible for patterns of sexual violence in situations on the Council’s agenda.” This last resolution makes people and countries who perpetrate and allow sexual violence to prevail in their communities accountable under the UN Secretary-General.

So what does UN Women do with all these resolutions? After all, having resolutions and saying that we need an end to violence against women globally is excellent but what really needs to be focused on is what action do we take against this violence and where do women come into the peace-making process? The UN Women entity focuses on four areas, Peace-building, Security  and Justice, Sexual and Gender Based Violence, and Post-Conflict and Humanitarian Planning.

  • Within the area of Peace-building, UN Women have been actively involved in supporting the role women have played in peace negotiations in Uganda, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as “supporting initiatives aimed at strengthening the presence and capacity of female officers in peace operations, such as in Afghanistan”. So as these examples point out, they have been actively involved in getting women to be a major player in the peace process globally.
  • UN Women have also made significant waves within their Security and Justice focus, such as “providing gender expertise and technical assistance to the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in Liberia and Sierra Leone and the Commission of Inquiry for Guinea”, as well as “supporting local Afghan initiatives to strengthen the participation of women and the inclusion of gender perspectives in transitional justice mechanisms”. So we can see that UN Women helped to provide their advanced knowledge of gender and gender issues in order to receive justice for large groups of women in different areas of the world.
  • They have also done a lot with their Sexual and Gender based violence, such as “co-hosting a Colloquium on Sexual Violence & Peace Negotiations, which brought together eminent mediators, thematic experts, peace activists and leaders of women’s organizations from conflict-affected countries to help overcome the absence of provisions on sexual violence in most mediation processes”. I think this is a very great thing for UN Women to have done, as it helped to establish an area where women who need help can receive it from people who want to help. Sometimes a little guidance goes a long way with activists.
  • Within Post-Conflict and Humanitarian Planning, UN Women “has supported the integration of gender into post-conflict needs assessments and conducted research on whether policies and programmes on gender translate effectively into budget allocations.” This is incredibly important, as many programs that go into effect in a post-conflict area may seem to be generally useful to the area, but may harm women in unintentional ways, and so to integrate policies to make sure women are not harmed in the post-conflict time period is a great step forward.

UN Women has done a lot to ensure that women are an active participant in the peace-making process as well as speaking out against the global atrocity of sexual violence that occurs against women. They have been actively involved in many different countries and have made important changes benefitting women. While all this is said and done and has definitely been a good step in the right direction, it is only a  small step in a long road that needs so much more work to be done.

-Amanda Kothen


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