By guest contributor Aisling Swaine
As we approach the 15th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, there remain challenges to ensuring that women’s rights, needs and interests are fully addressed in all matters relating to international peace and security. On the one hand is a need for the more substantive gender equality provisions of the women, peace and security agenda to be fully engaged with and addressed, and on the other, a need for strengthened accountability on implementation of the range of normative provisions that we do have in place.
Two recent developments within the UN system offer great potential in this regard. I have recently published a brief piece as part of the American Society for International Law, Insights series about these developments.
As the international “bill of women’s rights,” the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) matters greatly in advancing substantive gains in equality and rights for women worldwide. What has also mattered is that, despite its applicability to conflict-affected contexts, the provisions set out by CEDAW have not been systematically implemented in relation to contexts of conflict and their aftermath.
In October 2013, the CEDAW Committee adopted General Recommendation No. 30 on women in conflict prevention, conflict and post-conflict situations. The General Recommendation outlines how CEDAW, and its principles of non-discrimination, may be explicitly applied and implemented relative to conflict and post-conflict contexts.
At the same time, additional steps were taken by the UN Security Council to advance its commitments to addressing gender equality relative to conflict-affected contexts. Also in October 2013, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2122 which employs strong and substantive language on women’s leadership and participation, doing much to address concerns that the Council was taking too strong a focus on women’s victimization in concentrating on sexualized violence.
These recent developments potentially take us forward in advancing more substantive approaches to holding states to account for implementation of gender equality concerns in conflict-affected contexts. Brought together, the CEDAW General Recommendation and the series of by now, seven women, peace and security resolutions adopted by the Security Council, represent a strong legal and normative framework to ensure that gender equality concerns are addressed relative to conflict.
Importantly, the CEDAW General Recommendation sets out provisions and ways for states parties to the Convention to report on and be accountable for their implementation of the women, peace and security resolutions in their reporting to the CEDAW Committee. It will be interesting to see how states parties to CEDAW begin to report under this General Recommendation and what difference the link with human rights law makes for overall progress on implementing the women, peace and security agenda.
Aisling Swaine is Associate Professor of Practice of International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs, GW. Aisling has spent over 14 years working on issues of violence against women, women, peace and security and transitional justice at programming and policy levels internationally. She teaches on gender and conflict and on global gender policy.