No women – no peace

10 Years of UN Resolution 1325 on «Women, Peace, and Security». An Analysis by Ute Scheub*

Ramadan in Darfur. Albert Gonzalez Farran/UN Photo

Resolution 1325, unanimously passed on  31 october 2000 in the UN Security Council, is the result of a long, tough lobbying by numerous women’s organizations and a few committed men. The roots of the effort extend back to the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, where the Platform for Action was adopted.

On the occasion of the five-year anniversary of the conference in Beijing («Beijing + 5») in 2000 five human rights organizations (Amnesty International, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), International Alert, The Hague Appeal for Peace and the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children) met with one another in New York. They grounded the «NGO Working Group on Women, Peace, and Security», which now has 12 members and demanded a clear position from the UN Security Council on the topics of peace, women and security. In order to increase the chances of such a resolution, the working group got into contact with the diplomats from countries, who were elected members of the Security Council. Together with diplomats from Bangladesh, Jamaica, Namibia, Canada and later Great Britain they formed an alliance.

Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, the Bangladesh ambassador to the UN at the time, rocked the boat on March 8th 2000 with a declaration to the Security Council on women’s security in conflicts, which caused a political breakthrough. At the same time, it was a thematic breakthrough towards human security, which breaks away from the traditional conception of untouchable sovereignty of UN states. The redefinition of security was, and still is today, uncomfortable for several states. This helps to explain the ongoing opposition of several states to the implementation of the resolution.

Subsequently, in May 2000 the government of Namibia invited to an international seminar, during which the Declaration of Windhuk was adopted. Together with the declaration of the Security Council, they formed a basis for a thorough resolution, whose formulation was attacked by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and allied diplomats in the following months.

On October 31st, 2000, under the presidency of Namibia, the members of the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1325. Ambassador Chowdhury formulated in a speech the three new assignments of the Security Council: to investigate ht effect of armed conflicts on women and girls, to increase the share of women in the UN organs and peacekeeping missions, and to include more women in peace processes and reconstruction. Today he makes it clear that he is very disappointed that the top UN staff members have rarely applied the Resolution. On International Women’ Day 2001, UN Secretary General dedicated «no more then with just one sentence» to the Resolution, in 2009 and 2008 he didn’t mention it at all. During countless meetings with head of states he has never mentioned the resolution.

For the first time, the gentlemen’s club of the Security Council recognized that the rolls of women and men have a deceive influence on peaceful or violent conditions in the world. Right in Paragraph 1 the Resolution states that there must be «increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict».

The Resolution can be summarized with three «Ps»:

  • Prevention of new conflicts,
  • Participation of women,
  • Protection sexual violence and violence in general,
  • Relief and Recovery.

Critique of the Discourse

Since there have been wars, warriors have been justifying their existence by arguing that their role is «to protect women and children». «Womenandchildren», as Cynthia Cockburn ironically writes, since centuries have to pay for the fact that men hold armed fights for their position in the hierarchy of the hegemonial maleness. It is not a coincidence that in German and other languages there is only one word for «victim» and «sacrifice». «Holy» victims are a constitutive element for the worldwide cult around war heroes and the subordination of women. From victims a cycle of violence develops from victims: war heroes are authors, who make others to victims, and holy victim martyrs become again new violent heroes.

Male supremacy works with highly charged dichotomous symbols, of which female actors are only partly conscious. Hegemoniale maleness assigns itself strength, authority, rationality, and also violence, while women and children are defined as weak, passive and in need of protection. In this way, men’s propensity towards violence becomes legitimized, while women are suggested as being peaceful.

While the UN was founded as a peace organization, it has been weakened through political and maneuvering, and now is viewed in the perception of many militaries, politicians and «security» experts from the school of real politics as «weak» and «feminine» – «sissy stuff». However, these dichotomous patterns are apparent in a similar way even in the UN discourse. UN staff use them likewise – whenever possible, in order to evade the perception that the UN is «sissy stuff».

In countless UN documents on finds the characters of the «vulnerable» women and girls, and the masculine peacekeeper that had to «protect» them. Of course the females are vulnerable – but men and boys are too. Only the later may not be thematized. Men may not be seen as victims, much less from sexual violence, since that would equate them with subordinate women (see more about this below). An invisible, but central moment in which the patriarchalischen rule would be in danger.

It cannot be excluded that male delegates were likewise motivated by the idea that with the adoption of UNSCR 1325 that war is a men’s thing and that «decent» militaries would be protecting «helpless» women and children. In such a version, the paternalistic tinted victim protection is the crucial aspect of the Resolution.

Military alliances like NATO on the other hand stress that UNSCR 1325 requires the recruitment of more female soldiers, and some governments argue similarly in their National Action Plans (NAPs). An ideological misuse of the Resolution can therefore not inherently be excluded (see below).

However, for many PeaceWomen and grassroots women activists the most important aspect of UNSCR 1325 is that the Resolution recognizes for the first time in binding international law their right to participation in peace processes. Therefore, women are actors of change and must be included as participants, authorized and supported – even when, they are victims more sexual violence or other kinds of violence.

Therefore, the most important criterion for the implementation of the Resolution is whether women are included in peace processes from the beginning on. This is because prevention and protection can only become effective when there is participation.

How much has been done for the Implementation of Resolution 1325?

When the largest implementation obstacle in the last ten years proved to be missing political will of actors at all levels, the divided responsibility of UN agencies, the lacking budget, as well as the fact that the resolution does not contain any quotas, deadlines and a clear monitoring system. Even Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon saw it this way, which is clear in his annual report of 2009 on the conversion of UNSCR the 1325: «Given the novelty and comprehensiveness of resolution 1325 (2000), the absence of a reporting and monitoring mechanism, akin to that established to monitor the implementation of resolution 1612 (2005) on children in armed conflict, has become a major handicap. Continuous feedback on progress in implementing the resolution is lacking and no systematic sharing of best practices and approaches exists.»


«If women are present, the nature of the dialogue changes», wrote the ex-defense minister of Finland, Elisabeth Rehn and the current Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the UNIFEM study Women, War, and Peace. Because women are more likely to insist on peaceful conflict resolutions, they enter in the negotiations more conciliatory and skillfully, and they bring new topics and points of view into the negotiations, for example, questions of health, nutrition and education. Women can make a difference and prevent the outbreak of new wars – however only, if they can play an important role from the outset.

Conversely, if women are not represented in such processes, their failure is nearly ensured. A similar argument is made in a report by the European Union parliament from 2000: «The systematic exclusion of women from official peace processes has harmful effects on the sustainability of peace agreements». If none or hardly any women are represented in the new committees of a country which is being rebuilt – e.g. in the parliament, government, judiciary, security apparatus and elsewhere –, then the interests and needs of half of the population will be further ignored. In this case «private» and «public» dynamics of violence will most likely remain preserved, and the danger of new wars increases.

As we have learned in the meantime from the destruction of Jews by the Nazis and many other violent conflicts, the social dynamic of guilt and victim traumata that have not been worked through, can poison families and societies well on into the third and fourth generations, or even still beyond that. The experience of sexual violence is particularly destructive; because there is practically nowhere that it can be spoken about and worked through.

«Private» Dynamics of Violence: Traumatized male participants in war frequently express the experienced violence as «private» domestic violence on women and children, which lead to the next generation being burdened by the violent traumata. «I am so stressed by the war. It is unavoidable that I beat woman», said a Macedonian ex-soldier to the authoresses of «Women, War, and Peace». Young men from such families are more likely to be violent as adults, allegedly in order to cope with the suffered violence. Girls often do not succeed at freeing themselves from this victim role and become again as women victims of violence. If this happens on a huge scale, then the spiral of violence with keep on turning, and the «private» violence will at some point strike over into «public».

«Public» Dynamics of Violence: Many peace agreements concluded by powerful male leaders are badly negotiated and let violent causes and outcomes go untouched. This is because the allocation of distribution of power is located in the center and not the pacification and reorganization of the society. War criminals have often received amnesty or are even rewarded with new posts as governors, police or military bosses. Funds are not prioritized to be spent on victims or on law processes and truth commissions, but so that armed men will receive new perspectives. Or in the words of Don Steinberg: During peace talks «men with guns forgive other men with guns for crimes against women.» The privileges for militarized men and the subordination of the women are thereby confirmed. This impunity promotes new crimes, and together with the dammed up hate, the unresolved problems erupt into new spirals of violence.

The slogan Peace Needs Women is therefore valid in a dual sense. One the one hand, it stresses that only women can arrange a peace process in such a way that the female half of the society also profits from it. On the other hand, it points out that peace which has been made with the participation of women is also advantageous for the men and boys, and thus for the whole society, because it guarantees sustainability.

The feministic assumption that the strengthening of men promotes disputes and violent hierarchies, while the strengthening of women is useful to all members of society, has recently found support in multiple studies. The statistic country analyses by Caprioli, Menander and Bussmann (Mary Caprioli, 1/2000, 2/2000 und 2005; Erik Menander, 2005; Margit Bussmann, 2010) point clearly to the correlations between gender equality and peacefulness of a country. The more women are present in parliaments and job markets, the less these states are likely to be inclined towards internal or external force. Vice versa the same is true: Patriarchal conditions promote the internal and external aggressiveness of countries.

Peace Negotiations

A study from UNIFEM from 2009 shows that in total of 21 analyzed peace negotiations since 1992 only 2.4 of the signatories were women. The percentage of female signatories has in fact decreased since the adoption of UNSCR 1325: Before 2000 the percentage was 4.1%, afterwards it was only 1.7%.

The UNIFEM study includes agreements in El Salvador 1992 (12% of the signatories were women), Guatemala 1996 (11%), Northern Ireland 1998 (2%), Indonesia 1999 (0%), Sierra Leone 1999 (0%), Burundi 2000 (0%), Papua New Guinea 2001 (7%), Afghanistan 2001 (9%), Somalia 2002 (0%), the Ivory Coast 2003 (0%), the Democratic Republic of Congo 2003, 2008 and again in 2008 (5%, 5%, 0%), Liberia 2003 (0%), Sudan 2005 (0%), Darfur 2006 (0%), Nepal 2006 (0%), the Philippines 2007 (0%), Uganda 2008 (0%), Kenya 2008 (0%), and the Central African Republic 2008 (0%).

* No women have been appointed the role of leading negotiator or facilitator in UN led peace negotiations. Graca Machel, who worked as an AU facilitator in Kenya in 2008, has proven that female mediators can play a very effective role in negotiations.

* The proportion of women in those 10 negotiating delegations, for which the exact numbers for were determined, amounted to on average 5.9%; and by the percentage of witnesses it was 5.5%. The presence of witnesses without a vote still had a certain effect and meant that human rights and women’s rights, and the participation of women in peace agreements were at least mentioned. Difficult topics, such as the rehabilitation of victims of sexual violence, were however barely discussed.

* The peace negotiations in Indonesia, Nepal, Somalia, the Ivory Coast, the Philippines and the Central African Republic were purely meetings of men.

Prevention and Protection

In the meantime there are an outrageous number of early warning systems and prevention mechanisms, however the integration of questions of gender is generally difficult to configure. Early warning systems, for example those in Eastern and Western Africa, which are used for the prevention of tribal conflicts, normally only have very few female informers and barely included women in the local and regional peace committees.

A UNIFEM review of 300 peace agreements in 45 conflicts between 1989 and 2008 came to the conclusion that only 18 cases and 10 conflicts even mentioned sexual or gender specific violence. The 10 conflicts include Burundi, Indonesia (Aceh), the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan (South), Sudan (Darfur), Nepal, the Philippines, Uganda, Guatemala and Mexico (Chiapas). Not a single case mentions that measures for rehabilitation of victims were arranged. Therefore, we conclude that the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325 has not been implemented at all in this area.

National Action Plans (NAPs)

Despite the appeals from the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, for the issuing of National Action Plans (NAPs) for the implementation of Resolution 1325, until now only 21 of the 192 UN member states have followed this request. These countries are: Belgium, Bosnia, Chile, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Great Britain, Iceland, Liberia, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, the Philippines, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Sierra Leone and Spain. A few other countries are currently in the process of preparing NAPs.

UN Level

In over 60 years of existence the UN has never had a female Secretary General at its head. Until today, only about 8 special representatives and deputy special representatives have been women. Until February 2010 only 4 peacekeeping missions had been led by women, namely in Liberia, Nepal, Georgia, and the Central African Republic.

Additionally, in the UN department of peacekeeping women are seldom present. In 2010 women made up only 2,7% of the UN peacekeeping force, 7 % of the UN police force and 30% of the civil personnel. The promise to equip all peacekeeping missions with a gender consultant, has as of yet not been implemented, in 2008 there were only 12 such fulltime jobs in peacekeeping missions.

Male blue helmets attract the attention again and again of their wards for sexual abuse. UN peacekeepers «can be a part of the problem instead of the solution», reads one sentence in «Women, War, and Peace». In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the Balkans, in Cambodia and elsewhere a sex industry has developed with the presence of the blue helmets – and the rate of HIV infections has taken a dramatic upswing. Even in UN refugee camps women cannot feel safe, because there are hardly any female personnel. In Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and elsewhere girls between the ages of 13 and 18 saw no other option then to sell their body in order to come to meals, medicine and training courses – goods, which were actually entitled to them free of charge. Between 2007 and 2009, 450 cases by sexual abuse by blue helmet become known of – the tip of the iceberg – of which only 29 were punished in any way.

The Connection with the Subsequent Resolutions 1820, 1888, 1889

The subsequent resolution, UNSCR 1820 was adopted on the 19th of June 2008. Therein the Security Council – and this was also a break through – recognized for the first time in the history of the UN on that «rape and other forms of sexual violence can represent a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a constitutive act with respect to genocide.» However, it was missing the reference that mass rapes and sexual violence can be war tactics and a war weapon, and that they need to be fought with more responses from politics and security.

With reference to the action platform of Beijing and Resolution 1325, the Security Council demanded the immediate and complete end of all sexual violence against civilians, «particularly against women and children» – unfortunately, men were not explicitly mentioned. The resolution required besides new efforts towards the implementation of «zero-tolerance politics” in relation to sexual encroachments of UN personnel, better training before peace employments, an end of the impunity for perpetrators, as well as lasting assistance for victims, and threats of sanctions to non-cooperative states.

The former Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to the Ivory Coast, Pierre Schori, explained the connection between the two resolutions as follows: «SCR 1325 is about prevention and power; SCR 1820 is about protection and punishment. Both are important. But there will be no sustainable implementation of 1820 unless you are also implementing 1325. »

The implementation of the Resolution is «weak», criticized the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security one year after the adoption of UNSCR 1820. Sexual violence continues in many countries, among others in Burundi, Sierra Leone, the Ivory Coast, Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Liberia, Burma, Somalia, Nepal and East Timor. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic it has even increased. So far only three men have been tried, in the DR Congo: their fortune was frozen and they are not allowed to travel. The working group also issued the Security Council a bad grade: it could do much more than it had done so far. It is missing data, monitoring mechanisms and special representatives, which address the topic within the UN system. In addition it is missing coherent strategies, in order to prevent sexual violence and to organize protection for civilians during peace missions, peace negotiations and rebuilding processes. However, above all the Security Council is missing the political will to make sexual crimes a main topic, by threatening the politically responsible persons that they will be brought before the International Criminal Court. So far only about three dozen have been brought before the ICC for such crimes.

On September 30th 2009 the Security Council adopted UNSCR 1888. This Resolution refers mainly to Resolution 1820, whereby the council appeared to be “deeply concerned“ over the lack of progress with its implementation. The new Resolution goes beyond UNSCR 1820 in particular in three aspects:

  • It demands the appointment by the Secretary General of special agents against sexual violence – this has happened in the meantime with Margot Wallstrom.
  • It seriously requests that questions of sexual violence are discussed at the beginning of peace processes and peace negotiations.
  • It calls for the rapid education of expert teams, which support national authorities with the strengthening of the rule of law.

Only few days later on the 5.Oktober 2009, Resolution 1889 was adopted. This Resolution focuses mainly on Resolution 1325 and the lack of its implementation.

* The most important new aspect of this new Resolution is the request to submit to the Security Council within six months a catalog of indicators, with which the implementation can be examined by UNSCR 1325. This happened in the meantime with the report of the Secretary General from April 2010, which suggests a whole catalog of specific, measurable and time dependent indicators.

Examples of Worst Practices (Non-Implementation of UNSCR 1325)

* Bosnia: The Dayton Agreement divided Bosnia-Herzegovina into two ethnic entities and therefore rewarded the strategy of the «ethnic cleanings» of the war leaders. In the entities bands of male veterans have further maintained their war identities, in order to avoid having to ask painful questions about the sense of their war employment, and the physical and psychological wounds that resulted from it. The fate of the numerous raped women was not mentioned in the agreement; they had a long fight for their dignity, their recognition as victims and their compensation.

* Afghanistan: The Petersberger Agreement at the turn of the year 2001/2002 celebrated, upon the initiative of the USA, the warlords of the Northern Alliance as «heroes of the Jihad» and left them in power of the state, instead of supporting women and democrats. Later some of the war criminals, who were also jointly responsible for sexual violence, voted themselves into the parliament and granted themselves with the amnesty law of March 2007 exemption from punishment – a direct offence against UNSCR 1325 and 1820 and international law. When the delegate Malalai Joya protested against it, she was threatened with rape, later she was thrown out of the parliament for «offense».


* One of the main risks during the implementation of the Resolution lies, as is already mentioned above, in the overemphasis of the female victim role. If women are seen further only as victims, then they are victimized a second time, and their male paternalistic «protectors» are going to be strengthened even more.

* A second danger lies in the overemphasis of the military and the recruitment of female soldiers – like it does in some of the NAPs, for example the NAP from Norway – and in its call for activities with NATO. Such a form of «embedded feminism» was not the intention of the mothers and fathers of the resolution.

* A third risk is the implicit assumption that female peacekeepers will stop or prevent sexual abuse of the local population by their male colleagues and be able to protect local women. This is however clearly an excessive demand. Women may not and cannot be the crunch zones for conflicts between internationals and locals. The entire hierarchy of the UN is therefore called to end such abuses and to finally dry out the “sex industry” within the proximity of UN locations.

* A fourth danger lies justified in the fact that neither Resolution 1325 nor 1820 address the “taboo in the taboo”: sexual violence against men and boys. Although the victims are silent and there are no quantitative statements about the extent, more and more report and studies point to the fact that this form of violence is not that much less common as against women and girls. Male victims have however likewise a claim to receive rehabilitation and compensation like female victims. Besides males more in danger than female victims that if they do not receive care for their physical and mental wounds, that they themselves will become violent and pass the suffered violence on to the society and the own children.


The former UN special envoy Stephen Lewis calculated that if the promotion of woman in the UN continues at the present speed, then the goal women making up of 50% of the employees will not be reached in the UN in Geneva until 2072 and in the New Yorker department of peace missions until 2100. He sees a structural failure of the UN on all levels: «The United Nations continuously let down the women of the world both internally and externally.» The discrimination of women continues to go so as before, even with Resolution 1325: «Women were not sitting at any of the peace tables. It is, as if the resolution would not exist at all.» Something similar also threatened the adopted resolution 1820 in June 2008: «If something is brought to paper, then nobody feels obligation anymore to implement it.» One must ask oneself: «Would such a thing happen, if it concerned men? The answer is no. One can only allow such a procedure, because it concerns women. »

The Relevance of Resolution 1325 – What do we expect?

Hundreds of thousands of PeaceWomen all over the world expect that the relevant Resolutions will not be implemented 5%, but that they will be implemented 100%.

* We expect that it will become self-evident, that fifty percent of all participating in peace tables around the world will be women.

* We expect the same thing for all the parliaments, governments, judiciary systems, police forces and other bodies in post-conflict countries.

* We expect that the national, regional and international institutions for conflict prevention, early warning and conflict transformation likewise will be made up 50% by women.

* We expect an end to society destroying impunity – war criminals need to be punished consequently convicted and the victims need help to be rehabilitated and compensated.

* We expect that the next Secretary General will be a woman, that 50% of the leaders of the UN will be women and that half of all services are delivered to women and girls.

* We expect that 50% of the delegates in the UN climate negotiations and all other institutions fighting climate change and seeking to prevent conflicts over resources will be women.

* We expect and we fight for the end of all wars and worldwide disarmament!

* Ute Scheub is a journalist and author in Germany and the coordinator of the 1000 Peaceewomen Across the Globe for Western Europe

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