This policy brief outlines the findings from the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security’s monitoring and analysis of the United Nations Security Council’s daily work over the course of 2019.
The overall aim of this policy brief is to assess the implementation of the women, peace and security (WPS) policy framework in the work of the United Nations (UN) Security Council. The analysis and recommendations build on our well-established policy guidance project, the Monthly Action Points (MAP) on Women, Peace and Security, as well as broader advocacy throughout 2019. This policy brief also highlights key trends that are addressed by the recommendations presented in the NGO Working Group’s 2020 Civil Society Roadmap on Women, Peace and Security.
The WPS agenda reaffirms numerous international instruments that articulate standards of gender equality, justice, equitable political participation and civilian protection that have normative authority as a matter of international human rights and humanitarian law. Taken holistically, this agenda recognizes that a gender-blind understanding of conflict significantly undermines international peace and security efforts. The WPS agenda is, therefore, not only a set of principles but a call to action to the Security Council, Member States and the UN system.
Over the last 20 years, the ten resolutions on WPS adopted by the Security Council have formed a strong foundation for the operationalization of the WPS agenda by the UN system and Member States. Some notable developments during this period include:
- The development of a robust normative framework of the WPS agenda that includes 10 resolutions, which span a broader range of issues than any other thematic area on the Security Council agenda. WPS resolutions cover gender-responsive peacebuilding, survivor-centered approaches to gender-based violence, women’s meaningful participation in peace processes, and supporting women peacebuilders and civil society leaders as critical actors in the resolution and prevention of conflict. In 2019 alone two resolutions, Resolutions 2467 (2019) and 2493 (2019), were adopted.
- Resolution 2467 (2019) included the most explicit articulation of a survivor-centered approach by the Security Council to date; however, it omitted specific mention of sexual and reproductive health and rights, a critical component of such an approach. Resolution 2467 (2019) also strengthened previously defined linkages between women’s meaningful participation and leadership in peace processes, peacebuilding and humanitarian action, and the prevention and occurrence of sexual violence.
- Resolution 2493 (2019) served to standardize the phrasing women’s “full, equal and meaningful” participation, underlining the need for structured and formal inclusion of women so that they are in decision-making positions and have influence over the outcomes of the processes they are participating in. Additionally, the inclusion of language recognizing the importance of ensuring women civil society leaders, peacebuilders, politicians and human rights defenders are able to carry out their work safely and without interference was a considerable advancement.
- Adoption of mandates that mainstream gender as a cross-cutting issue for 14 peace operations between 2010 and 2020, which include provisions related to partnerships and collaboration with women’s civil society and the promotion of women’s meaningful participation and leadership.
- Briefings by women civil society representatives at country-specific meetings in increasing numbers, growing from two women in 2016 to 26 women in 2019. However, this upward trajectory was disrupted by the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 and the Security Council’s subsequent move to virtual meetings — we have reported a concerning 38.9% drop in total women civil society briefers between January–June 2020.
- Development of a deeper understanding of the gender-dimensions of country-specific situations through meetings of the Security Council Informal Expert Group (IEG) on WPS, resulting in a positive, albeit incomplete, improvement in outcomes and discussions within the Security Council as a whole.
Despite these positive developments, repeated commitments by the UN system and Member States, and a wealth of evidence on the importance of ensuring gender equality and women’s participation in peace and security efforts, our analysis shows that the Security Council’s approach to WPS remains superficial, ad-hoc, inconsistent and subject to the individual efforts of Security Council members who have a commitment to the agenda as part of their foreign policy. Although the establishment of institutional structures within the UN system and at the national level have aided progress so far, challenges remain on the issues that were most difficult when Resolution 1325 (2000) was adopted, such as conflict prevention, protection of women’s human rights and advancing women’s meaningful participation and leadership in peace processes. In addition, it is clear that without pressure from civil society, support from allies on the Security Council and the institutionalization of WPS within the UN system, WPS issues would remain overlooked and unaddressed. The failure of the Security Council to systematically integrate WPS into its actions reflects both a lack of accountability and a lack of willingness to tackle the harder and more complex issues under the WPS agenda.
The following policy brief will address several key trends in the Security Council’s discussion of WPS in 2019:
- Our analysis shows that WPS tends to be reflected most strongly in Security Council outcomes and discussions when it receives robust gender-sensitive analysis, including via briefings, reports and missions by Council members, subsidiary bodies and senior UN officials.
- Women’s meaningful participation is still marginalized in discussions related to peace and political processes and is often framed as a way to increase the effectiveness of a peace process rather than the realization of women’s rights.
- Despite repeatedly emphasizing its support for women’s civil society, the Security Council failed to take forward concrete recommendations related to strengthening meaningful engagement and consultations with women’s civil society.
- Women are continuously viewed as a homogenous group by the Security Council, resulting in the marginalization of the views and experiences of women and girls with disabilities, young women, displaced women and girls and Indigenous women and girls.
While this policy brief focuses on trends in 2019, it is important to note the considerable impact of COVID-19 in 2020 for women and girls living in countries mired in conflict, many of which are on the Security Council’s agenda. As we highlighted in a recent blog post in April 2020, women’s rights and gender must be central to any effective response to COVID-19, as well as to the Security Council’s own response to the pandemic. We already know that humanitarian crises in conflict countries disproportionately affect women and girls; COVID-19 is likely to place them at even greater risk. During this 20th anniversary year of Resolution 1325 (2000), for the Security Council to fulfil its responsibility as the primary body responsible for the maintenance of peace and security, to defeat COVID-19 and to rebuild a better, more equitable world, dedicated attention to the rights and needs of women and girls and advancement of the WPS agenda has never been more important.
To view the full report, please download the PDF.
 See 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) – ratified by 185 States; 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action; 1993 GA Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women; 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPFA); 1997 ECOSOC Agreed Conclusions on Gender Mainstreaming.
 For more on Resolution 2493 (2019), please see our blog post: https://www.womenpeacesecurity.org/blog-analysis-of-the-2019-women-peace-and-security-open-debate/
UNFPA, ‘As pandemic rages, women and girls face intensified risks’, 19 March 2020, https://www.unfpa.org/news/pandemic-rages-women-and-girls-face-intensified-risks.