Category: Articles

Category: Articles

Youth Leaders Demand Action: Analysis of the Third UN Security Council Resolution on Youth, Peace and Security

Youth Leaders Demand Action: Analysis of the Third UN Security Council Resolution on Youth, Peace and Security

July 17, 2020 by Katrina Leclerc

“Coming from a community where youth continue to experience violence, discrimination, limited political inclusion, and are at the brink of losing trust in the government systems, the adoption of UNSCR 2535 is a breath of hope and life to us. There’s nothing more empowering than being recognized, meaningfully included, supported, and given the agency to help build a present and future where we, the youth, are seen as equals across different decision-making tables.” – Lynrose Jane Genon, Young Woman Leader in the Philippines

On July 14, 2020, the United Nations Security Council adopted its third resolution on Youth, Peace and Security (YPS), co-sponsored by France and the Dominican Republic. Resolution 2535 (2020) aims to accelerate and strengthen the implementation of the YPS resolutions by:

  • institutionalizing the agenda within the UN system and establishing a 2-year reporting mechanism;
  • calling for system-wide protection of youth peacebuilders and activists;
  • emphasizing the urgency of the meaningful participation of youth peacebuilders in decision-making on humanitarian response; and
  • recognizing the synergies between the anniversaries of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (women, peace and security), the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the 5th anniversary of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Some of the key strengths of UNSCR 2535 build on the persistent work and advocacy of civil society groups, including the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP). As we welcome the new resolution, we look forward to their effective implementation!

Intersectionality

A highlight of the resolution is that it emphasizes the intersectionality of the YPS agenda and recognizes that youth are not a uniform group, calling for “protection of all youth, particularly young women, refugees and internally displaced youth in armed conflict and post-conflict and their participation in peace processes.” GNWP has been advocating for, and implementing, intersectional approaches to peace and security for over a decade. We believe that to build sustainable peace, it is necessary to address cumulative barriers that different people and groups face based on their gender, sex, race, (dis)ability, social and economic status, and other factors.

Removing barriers to participation

In practice, intersectionality means recognizing and removing barriers to participation in peacebuilding processes – including conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and post-conflict reconstruction. Such barriers are outlined throughout UNSCR 2535, which calls for comprehensive approaches to peacebuilding and sustaining peace by addressing root causes to conflict.

This is particularly important because structural barriers still limit the participation and capacity of youth, particularly young women. GNWP’s Young Women Leaders (YWL) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) experience first-hand the “insufficient investment in facilitating inclusion.” For example, in the province of North Kivu, young women have created and run micro-businesses for two and a half years providing them with small revenues to sustain their field work and modest personal expenses. Despite the low income of their micro-businesses, and the fact that they invest all profits into initiatives that benefit their communities, local authorities have been imposing seemingly arbitrary ‘taxes’ on the young women – without documentation or justification. This has hindered their capacity for growth and economic development as many have found that these ‘taxes’ were not proportionally adjusted to their small revenue. It has also impeded their ability to reinvest their small profits to support their peacebuilding initiatives.

The recognition by UNSCR 2535 of the complex and multi-layered barriers to youth participation is important to ensure unjust and burdensome practices, imposed to young people and particularly to young women, are eliminated. Supportive systems must be prioritized to ensure the success of local youth initiatives who contribute to the overall progress and good of societies.

Young people and preventing violent extremism

The resolution also recognizes the role of young people in counter-terrorism and preventing violent extremism (PVE). GNWP’s Young Women Leaders for Peace are an example of youth leadership on PVE. In Indonesia, YWL are using education and advocacy to tackle radicalization of young women. In the provinces of Poso and Lamongan, where the YWL operate, they work to prevent and counter violent extremism by addressing the root causes within a human security framework.

Call for WPS and YPS synergies

The resolution calls on Member States to recognize and promote synergies between the Women, Peace and Security (WPS); and Youth, Peace and Security agendas – including the 20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325 (women, peace and security) and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

Civil society, particularly women and youth peacebuilders, have long called for greater synergies between WPS and YPS agendas as many of the barriers and challenges faced by women and youth are part of the same exclusionary cultures. The discrimination, marginalization and violence girls and young women experience often continue to adulthood, unless enabling conditions are created for their empowerment. On the other hand, girls and young women who have strong support from family, school and other social institutions are better equipped to realize their full potentials as adults.

GNWP has taken this call for stronger synergies between WPS and YPS in the processes around the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) through its advocacy for an Action Coalition on WPS and YPS. This advocacy was recognized by the Core Group of the GEF with the development of the Compact Coalition on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action within the Beijing+25 review process. While the name of the Compact does not include YPS, the inclusion of young women in decision-making has been highlighted in the Compact’s concept note.

Role of youth in humanitarian response

The resolution recognizes the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people as well as the role they take in responding to this health crisis. It calls on policy-makers and stakeholders to guarantee meaningful youth engagement in humanitarian planning and response as essential to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance.

Young people have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic response, providing lifesaving support in local communities gravely affected and vulnerable to the health crisis. For example, GNWP’s Young Women Leaders in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, DRC, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines and South Sudan have been providing relief support and information dissemination to promote safe precautionary measures and counter ‘fake news’ within social media. In the Philippines, YWL have distributed ‘dignity kits’ to local communities to ensure the health and safety of vulnerable individuals and families who have been further isolated by the pandemic.

Protection of young activists and support to survivors

Historically, the resolution recognizes the need to protect the civic space of youth peacebuilders and activists – including the important need for explicit protections of human rights defenders. It also calls on Member States to provide “access to quality education, socio-economic support and skills development such as vocational training, to resume social and economic life” to survivors of armed conflict and survivors of sexual violence.

The experience of the Young Women Leaders in DRC has emphasized both the importance of multi-faceted and survivor-centered response to sexual violence, as well as the key roles of youth peacebuilders in addressing impacts of conflict. The young women peacebuilders are supporting survivors of sexual violence by providing psychological and moral support to survivors. Through awareness-raising and collaboration with local partners on the ground they have begun to shift the narrative from victim to survivor, important progress for the stigmatization and agency of young women. However, speaking out about this sensitive issue can put them at risk – therefore, it is essential to ensure adequate protections for young women activists.

Implementation and accountability mechanism

The UNSCR 2535 is also the most action-oriented of the YPS resolutions. It includes specific encouragement to Member States to develop and implement roadmaps on youth, peace and security – with dedicated and sufficient resources. These resources should be intersectional and realistic. This echoes GNWP’s long-standing advocacy for adequate resources to support peacebuilding led by women, including young women. Far too often, roadmaps and action plans are developed without dedicated budgets, which limits the implementation of the agenda and meaningful participation of young people in sustaining peace. Furthermore, the resolution encourages dedicated funding for youth-led and youth-focused organizations, and emphasizes the institutionalization of the YPS agenda within the UN. This will eliminate additional barriers faced by young people as they are often in precarious work and disadvantaged economically. Young people are expected to provide their skills and experiences as volunteers, which further increases the economic divide and forces many to remain or to live in poverty.

Young people have a role to play in sustaining peace and economic well-being of societies. Thus, it is crucial that they be included in all aspects of design, implementation, and monitoring of economic-focused opportunities and initiatives; especially, now within the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic which has created additional disparities and burdens in the state of the world’s economy. The adoption of UNSCR 2535 is an important step towards guaranteeing that. Now – on to the implementation!


GNWP is having ongoing conversations with Young Women Leaders around the world on the relevance of UNSCR 2535 and other YPS resolutions. This is their views:

“UNSCR2535 is relevant both in our communities and globally because it reinforces the importance of youth’s meaningful participation in creating a just and humane society. Given that our country has passed the Anti-Terrorism Law recently, this resolution can also be a protective mechanism for youth activists engaged in different advocacies such as peacebuilding, protecting human rights and ensuring due process.” – Sophia Dianne Garcia, Young Woman Leader in the Philippines

“Coming from a community where youth continue to experience violence, discrimination, limited political inclusion, and are at the brink of losing trust in the government systems, the adoption of UNSCR 2535 is a breath of hope and life to us. There’s nothing more empowering than being recognized, meaningfully included, supported, and given the agency to help build a present and future where we, the youth, are seen as equals across different decision-making tables.” – Lynrose Jane Genon, Young Woman Leader in the Philippines

“As a worker in the local government unit, I think we need to engage the youth throughout this peacebuilding process. Engaging the youth means recognizing us, as one of the political actors that can influence decisions. And those decisions will affect us eventually. We don’t want to be ignored. And at worst, be wasted. Participation, hence is empowerment. And that’s important.” – Cynth Zephanee Nakila Nietes, Young Woman Leader in the Philippines

“As UNSCR 2535 (2020) does not only recognize the specific situation of young people, but also leverages their role and potential for preventing conflicts, building peaceful and inclusive societies and effectively addressing humanitarian needs. That can be attained by strengthening the role of young peacebuilders, especially women, engaging youth in humanitarian response, inviting youth organizations to brief the Council, and considering the specific situation of youth in the organ’s deliberations and actions that all are needed at this age in everyone’s community.” – Shazia Ahmadi, Young Woman Leader in Afghanistan

“In my opinion, this is very relevant. Because as a member of the younger generation, especially in our region, we want to be able to participate with the guarantee of protection. So, with that, we can also be taken into account in efforts to maintain peace itself even in making decisions and other matters relating to peace and humanity.” – Jeba, Young Woman Leader in Indonesia

“Women don’t participate in the peace process – they don’t know how. It’s the journalists’ job to change this!”

July 6, 2020 by Heela Yoon and Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos

“Resolution 1325 is one of the most important international laws we have. It guarantees women’s participation in peace processes and decision-making. But in Georgia, women do not participate in the peace negotiation and important discussions, because they don’t have the information on how to get involved. In conflict areas, television is the main source of information for women, but it does not speak about peace, or about the importance of women’s participation. It’s the journalists’ role to change this!”

This is how Ms.Lela Akiashvili, the Prime Minister’s Advisor on Human Rights and Gender Equality in Georgia, addressed the participants of a four-part online training on Women and Peace and Security (WPS) for Georgian media representatives, organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) and Women’s Information Center (WIC), with support from the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) between May 20th and June 11th, 2020.

The government of Georgia adopted its third National Action Plan (NAP) for the implementation of UN Security Council’s Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on WPS in 2018, for the period 2018-2020. Thanks to the advocacy by civil society organizations – including GNWP’s partners, WIC and IDP Women’s Association “Consent” – the latest NAP includes a stronger focus on human security, participation of vulnerable groups, such as internally displaced women, and conflict prevention, including through using early warning systems. However, grassroots organizations and local populations in Georgia have very little or no knowledge about the NAP and UNSCR 1325. As a result, this transformative policy may not be effectively implemented.

Journalists play a key role in the implementation of policies. They can bring the resolutions to the local communities and provide the people with information to hold governments accountable. They also have the power to change narratives about women’s roles in peace and security, by highlighting their leadership and contributions, instead of portraying them as helpless victims. However, in practice, this role often remains unfulfilled. According to the Global Media Monitoring report, in 2015, only 24% of the people heard or read about in print, radio and television news are female, and most stories about peace (64%) reinforced gender stereotypes. GNWP’s work with media representatives in Armenia, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Georgia, Moldova, Nigeria, the Philippines and Ukraine confirms this. For example, in Ukraine, textual analysis of leading national newspapers conducted by the journalists has shown that women are portrayed as sex objects and incapable of taking decision-making positions. In Nigeria, the journalists found that only between 5 and 10 per cent of stories in major dailies featured women. Therefore, in order to effectively tap into the power of the media to advance the women and peace and security agenda, their own awareness and appreciation of this agenda must also be enhanced. This is the primary reason why GNWP developed its Media and WPS program.

In Georgia, many journalists – especially at the local level – are not aware of the WPS resolutions or women’s roles in building sustainable peace, and often view women as weak and powerless. As part of its effort to support implementation of WPS and meaningful participation of women in peace processes in Georgia, GNWP and WIC organized a series of online media trainings on “Media and Gender Equality in Conflict and Peace Process”. The aim of the training was to increase the awareness of Georgian journalists about their roles in supporting gender equality, women’s meaningful participation, the implementation of Georgia’s NAP on UNSCR 1325, and in promoting gender- and conflict-sensitive responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The training came at a critical time. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused delays and suspension of work for many civil society organizations. Moreover, the wide-reaching socio-economic and peace and security impacts of the pandemic make the role of the media more crucial than ever. To address the “pandemic of disinformation,” GNWP and WIC with the support of ADA have decided to hold the media training virtually.

As a result, the training took place as a series of four interactive online discussions. During the first online workshop, the participants learned and discussed the basic concepts of gender equality and reflected on the different needs of women and girls in time of conflict and crises. The journalists conducted a gender-sensitive analysis of the content of local and national newspapers to better understand how women are portrayed in the media and how these representations are different from the representation of men. During the second workshop, the participants deepened their knowledge of UNSCR 1325 and other resolutions on WPS. They also heard from Lela Akiashvil – the Prime Minister’s Advisor on Human Rights and Gender Equality in Georgia – about the national and local policies and activities implemented in the country to achieve the objectives of the resolutions. During the third workshop, the participants engaged in an interactive discussion about women’s roles in the Georgian peace process. They learned about the structure and modality of the ongoing peace negotiation and listened to experiences of women from areas bordering the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. During the fourth training, the participants analyzed the specific needs of women and girls in the context of COVID-19 pandemic and what is required for a gender-responsive and conflict-sensitive COVID-19 response.  They also examined  how Georgian women – including women peacebuilders – are responding to the COVID-19 crisis. The participants emphasized the importance of implementing the WPS agenda during the pandemic as this can contribute in addressing gender inequalities and prevention of violence.

The workshops equipped the journalists with knowledge and skills necessary to produce gender- and conflict-sensitive reports on COVID-19 and on peace and security. As a result of the intensive training course, the journalists committed to practice more gender-sensitive and conflict-sensitive reporting. As one of the participants Nina stated, “As journalists, we should focus more on the needs of women and girls during the pandemic, share stories of female doctors and healthcare workers, and highlight their achievements and challenges.” Another participant, Nuka, said “Media is not only a source of information. It shapes norms and attitudes.”

During the last training, the National Media and WPS Prize in Georgia was launched. The journalists have a month to submit articles, audio and video materials that cover peace and security or COVID-19 issues from a gender- and conflict-sensitive perspectives. Stay tuned for GNWP’s announcement of the winning journalists and their entries!

Transforming Counter-Terrorism: From Securitization to Women-led Peace

June 30, 2020 by Agnieszka Fal Dutra Santos and Mallika Iyer

While “violent extremism” escapes an agreed-upon definition, acts recognized as violent extremist by both the international community and local populations continue to pose a threat to international peace and security. Violent extremism conducive to terrorism transcends national borders as well as cultural, religious, political, and socio-economic categories, with attacks occurring from New Zealand to Sri Lanka, from Afghanistan to the United States, and from France to Mali. Nearly 16,000 people were killed in violent extremist attacks in 2018, and violent extremism has driven millions to flee their homes.

Gendered impacts of violent extremism

There is growing evidence that the impact of violent extremism conducive to terrorism, as well as tactics and strategies of violent extremist groups, are strongly gendered. Across all regions, advance of violent extremist groups has been coupled with attacks on gender equality and women’s rights. As a result, violent extremism contributes to an increased use of the bodies of women and girls as a form of currency in the political economy of war. From August 2014 onwards, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forced around 6700 Yazidi women and girls into sexual slavery and domestic servitude across eastern Syria and western Iraq. Although a trial is in process between a Yazidi survivor of sexual slavery and a German perpetrator, thousands of women and girls continue to be held in sexual slavery and forced marriages in Mosul. Similarly, in Nigeria, accounts from the 200 girls forcibly abducted by Boko Haram in 2016 provide evidence of sexual slavery and forced marriages to insurgents. It is evident that globally, sexual violence, including sexual slavery, rape, human trafficking, and early, forced, and child marriage, continues to be a tactic of terrorism, integral to recruitment, resourcing, and radicalization strategies. Women and girls are treated as “wages of war”, being gifted as a form of in-kind compensation or payment to fighters, who are then entitled to resell of exploit them as they wish.

However, the gendered nature of violent extremism conducive to terrorism goes beyond the sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated by violent extremist groups. Evidence shows that violent extremist groups have strategically manipulated and exploited gender norms and ideas about masculinity and femininity, to build their support base, justify their actions, and attract new recruits. For example, some groups have used gendered narratives of men’s duty to “save their women” or “revenge their women” as a recruitment tactic. At the same time, violent extremist groups have also used “warped feminism”, emphasizing that they “support and hold dear [their] female force” and creating opportunities for leadership and socio-economic advancement for women.

Gender in preventing violent extremism

Thus, a gender analysis, informed by the perspectives of local women and men, as well as young people, should be at the core of any successful policy or program designed to counter or prevent violent extremism conducive to extremism. However, there have been very limited efforts to meaningfully involve local populations in programs intended to prevent violent extremism. On the other hand, state-sponsored responses to violent extremism have often failed to recognize and adequately address the plurality of roles, experiences, and needs of women and men affected. Securitized, male-dominated, exclusionary counter terrorism measures continue to perpetuate gender stereotypes, which negatively affect women and youth.

The Progress Study on Youth, Peace, and Security highlighted the harmful gendered stereotypes propagated in policy discourse, media, and social norms on violent extremism, which posit young men as radical aggressors, and young women as passive victims without agency. When women’s agency is recognized within the “preventing violent extremism” framework, their roles and contributions are often stereotyped and instrumentalized, and their rights, lives and security put at risk. For example, programs that focus on promoting women’s rights or engaging women solely as a means of preventing or countering violent extremism, run the risk of “agenda hijacking” and distract from the “wider structural realities that produce gender inequality, exclusion and violence.” Moreover, programs that propose to use women’s roles as mothers, wives and sisters to position them as “gate-keepers”, or intelligence gatherers, not only perpetuate traditional gender roles, but may also put women at risk, if not designed in a culture- and conflict-sensitive manner. As a result, the interplay between patriarchal gender norms and violent extremism remains unaddressed. 

There is also a documented tendency for strategies to prevent and/or counter violent extremism conducive to terrorism to be used as political tools. This is clear, for example, in the tendency of some strategies and programs’ to over-emphasize the role of religion and ideology in fueling violent extremism, which “conveniently allows the focus to remain on the behavior and propaganda of the violent extremists, and not on socioeconomic or political conditions in a society where the government might bear some responsibility.” Feminist activists have denounced the negative impact of counter terror policies and hardline security measures which undermine efforts to build sustainable peace and promote gender equality. Counter terrorism has also been used as a justification for crackdowns on civil society and women human rights defenders.

Global policy framework on preventing and countering violent extremism

The United Nations Global Counter Terrorism Strategy adopted in 2006 and the United Nation’s Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism adopted in 2015, call for a shift from securitized, state-led counter terror policies to sustainable, inclusive strategies to prevent and counter violent extremism (PCVE) conducive to terrorism. Such approaches require in-depth gender analysis, and meaningful participation of women and youth. The Women and Peace and Security (WPS)[i] and Youth and Peace and Security (YPS)[ii] agendas provide an important policy framework for the meaningful inclusion of women and youth in conflict prevention, including PCVE. The United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2242 on WPS emphasized the importance of women’s participation in PCVE, and urged Member States and UN entities to empower women, youth, and religious and cultural leaders to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism and violent extremism.  UNSCR 2250 and 2419 on YPS recognized the critical contributions of youth, including young women, in preventing violent extremism, and promoting sustainable peace more broadly. 

Nevertheless, countless women, young women, and girls remain excluded from PCVE, and decision-making on peace and security more broadly. Gender-blind PCVE strategies fail to address the exclusion of women and girls from political decision-making, education and economic opportunities, which increases their vulnerability to discrimination, sexual violence, and radicalization.

Effective and gender-responsive PCVE strategies must view prevention of violent extremism as part of a broader effort to build sustainable peace. They should invest in young women’s empowerment, participation, education, and leadership. Moreover, there is a need for more rigorous monitoring of the effectiveness and impacts (both positive and negative) of PCVE, and to learn from the robust and growing body of evidence on PCVE strategies.

As the UN agencies and Member States prepare for the High-Level Conference on Counter Terrorism on“Building Institutional and Social Resilience to Terrorism”,over the coming weeks, GNWP will publish a series of articles that examine the impact of violent extremism and PCVE efforts on women and young women, and the roles that women and young women play in addressing root causes of violence and violent extremism in their communities. We will share the perspectives of members of GNWP’s Young Women Leaders for Peace (YWL) program in the Philippines, who provide an alternative to the State’s securitized Anti-Terrorism measures, by running a peace education campaign with a specific focus on PCVE, gender equality and sustainable peace. We will highlight the achievements of YWL in Indonesia, who challenge the presumption that religious ideologies are at the root of violent extremism, and instead support local businesses to address the economic roots of violence, and build communities that are more gender-equal, peaceful, and resilient to violent extremism conducive to terrorism. We will spotlight young Afghan women’s viewpoint on violent extremism and PCVE in their country. We will share reflections from young people in Mali on why a gender perspective is necessary in their country’s efforts on PCVE. In light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we will also examine how this humanitarian emergency impacts on violent extremism and PCVE efforts, particularly in local communities.

The voices of young women amplified through this series send a clear message: violent extremism is a complex phenomenon that intersects with other forms of violence and insecurity in local communities. As such, PCVE efforts should be seen in a holistic manner, and should focus on addressing root causes of violence – including exclusion and gender inequality.

Through the series we will demonstrate that women, including young women, can successfully address the negative impact of violent extremism and its root causes, provided that they are recognized and empowered to be leaders and decision-makers in their communities. We also argue that such women-led approaches result in a more comprehensive and holistic approach to PCVE, by focusing on root causes of conflict and violence broadly, rather than singling out ideologically-motivated or extremist violence.   

Recommendations:

Ahead of the 2020 United Nations High-Level Conference of Heads of Counter Terrorism Agencies of Member States, we call on the Member States and other relevant actors to:

  • Carry out rigorous gender-responsive and conflict and crisis analysis when formulating and implementing their PCVE strategies, including through investing in sex-disaggregated data and gender-responsive analysis on the drivers and impact of violent extremism conducive to terrorism, and developing gender-responsive risk assessment tools.
  • Ensure full and meaningful participation of grassroots women, young women, and girls at all levels of the design, implementation and monitoring of PCVE strategies, in a way that recognizes their diverse experiences, gives them power to shape decisions and design of the PCVE strategies, includes them in robust and institutionalized mechanisms to monitor the effectiveness of PCVE measures, and does not commodify or instrumentalize their contributions. 
  • Refrain from securitized approaches to countering violent extremism, and invest in preventative approaches that address root causes of violent extremism, protect human rights, build community resilience, and are led by women, including young women.
  • Review existing counter terrorism, PCVE and “de-radicalization” strategies and measures to ensure that they are gender-responsive and rooted in respect for human rights and gender equality.
  • Recognize and adequately address the gendered nature of violent extremism and its impacts, including sexual violence, sexual slavery, early, forced, and child marriage, human trafficking, kidnapping and murder, and restricted access to education and sexual health and reproductive services.
  • Harmonize National Action Plans (NAPs) on PVE with those on WPS, and meaningfully include women and young people in the development of the NAPs.

Click here for more information on GNWP’s Young Women Leaders for Peace program, and how it contributes to sustainable, locally-led and gender-responsive PCVE.


[i] Women Peace and Security agenda comprises of UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 1325 (2000), 1820 (2008), 1888 (2008), 1889 (2009), 1960 (2010), 2106 (2013), 2122 (2013), 2242 (2015), and 2467 (2019). UNSCR 2242 made an explicit link between WPS and PVE, and called “for the greater integration by Member States and the United Nations of their agendas on women, peace and security, counter-terrorism and countering-violent extremism which can be conducive to terrorism.”

[ii] Youth Peace and Security agenda comprises of UNSCR 2250 and 2419. Both resolutions underscore the roles young people play in preventing violent extremism. UNSCR 2250 urges Member States to “increase inclusive representation of youth in decision-making at all levels (…) including institutions and mechanisms to counter violent extremism.”

Women, peace and a pandemic: Translating gender provisions in peace deals into peaceful and inclusive societies during the COVID-19 outbreak

June 16, 2020 by Jenaina Irani and Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos

“Today, it should be unthinkable for peace talks or negotiations that take place in the world to not incorporate gender as a central aspect, since women not only have a right to meaningful participation, but are also key actors in the construction of peace.” – Nigeria Renteria, principal negotiator in the peace process between the Colombian Government and the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC)

Ms. Renteria’s statement during the online panel discussion on Gender in Peace Deals and COVID-19 responses organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) in collaboration with the New York University Center for Global Affairs (CGA) and UN Women on June 03, 2020, validates the findings of the research conducted by the NYU CGA in partnership with GNWP.

The research has established that more women at the peace table leads to greater inclusion in political and economic life after conflict; and that women’s meaningful participation is a pre-requisite for a just and inclusive peace.

The research was carried out by graduate students Ms. Jillian Abballe, Ms. Emma Grant, Ms. Foteini Papagioti, Ms. Dorie Reisman, and Ms. Nicole Smith as part of a practicum in late 2019. Using quantitative and qualitative analysis, the researchers examined the impacts of women’s participation in peace negotiations on political and economic outcomes five years after the conflict. They also analyzed existing opportunities and barriers for women’s meaningful participation in peace processes and in the implementation of peace agreements.

The findings were discussed, and validated, by  Ms. Ayak Chol Deng Alak, Deputy Coordinator for the South Sudan civil society forum, Ms. Nigeria Renteria, a principal negotiator in the peace process between the Colombian Government and the FARC, and Ms. Miriam Coronel Ferrer, Chair of the Government Peace Panel in the peace negotiation between the Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The discussion was moderated by Dr. Anne-Marie Goetz, a clinical professor at NYU CGA, and Ms. Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the GNWP.

This event could not have come at a more critical time. As we are approaching the 20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325 this October as well as the Generation Equality Forum that commemorates 25 years of the Beijing Platform for Action, a reflection on women’s meaningful participation in peace processes cannot be missing from these historical processes. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has further emphasized the importance of women’s participation in peace negotiations and the implementation of peace agreements and brought to the fore many of the barriers they face.

The presentation of the final research report by Ms. Agnieszka-Fal Dutra Santos, Program Coordinator at GNWP, and Ms. Foteini Papagioti, NYU CGA graduate student, paved the way for a critical and lively discussion. The panelists were joined by over 250 people on the Zoom webinar, and over 3,000 watched via a live webcast.

Key recommendations from the NYU-GNWP research

1. The design of peace processes needs to be diverse and inclusive.

The meaningful participation of women requires thoughtful and intentional design. Tokenistic representation, or participation only in advisory or observer roles is not enough. Participatory peace processes need to be built on broad-based and diverse participation.

Participatory design leads to more inclusive processes, and a more just and equal peace. As stated by Nigeria Renteria, the inclusion of women negotiators and the creation of a gender commission in the peace process between the Colombian Government and the FARC ensured that the interests of people of all sexual orientation and gender identity in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programs at the political, social and economic levels. This is consistent with the messages of the GNWP-NYU research, which found that women’s participation in peace agreements predicted a higher labor force participation rate, women’s  higher share in the Gross National Income, and a lower female-to-male GNI ratio five years after the conflict. “Today, it should be unthinkable for peace talks or negotiations that take place in the world to not incorporate gender as a central aspect, since women not only have a right to meaningful participation, but are also key actors in the construction of peace”, concluded Ms. Renteria.

In this context, it is critical to create stronger links between official (Track 1) peace negotiations and unofficial (Track 2 and Track 3) processes, where women are often at the forefront. This allows for more diverse participation and effective implementation of the peace agreement.

Read more about GNWP’s work to localize the peace agreement and bridge the gap between Track 1 and Track 2 & 3 peace processes here, here and here.

2. We need concrete action: gender provisions in peace agreements have to be actionable, context-specific and have a concrete implementation framework

In 2018, the proportion of peace agreements with gender-responsive provisions stood at only 7.7%, down from an average of 26% between 2001 and 2010. The GNWP-NYU research showed that concrete and actionable gender provisions – such as quotas for participation – can make a tangible difference in women’s political participation after conflict. With quotas, women use each successive election to increase their share of parliamentary seats.

However, panelists emphasized that implementation of the gender provisions – including quota – is not always a given. As attested by Ms. Coronel Ferrer, gender provisions in the Bangsamoro peace deal included a provision for a minimum number of political seats for women. Today, women form only 16% of total political representation in the transitional Bangsamoro Assembly. Coronel Ferrer emphasized that even though the number of the women in the Assembly is still not enough, their positive impact has already been apparent. She noted that these very leaders have been acting as catalysts of change in their communities via gender advocacy to change dominant, patriarchal culture.

Even where quotas have been formalized, such as in the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS), implementation has been extremely slow. Ms. Deng Alak pointed to the lack of political will, as well as patriarchal norms and attitudes toward women as the main reasons for this. Presently, only 4 of the 32 ministers are women; although that is a first, it still falls short of the 35%. Moreover, in political spaces, women are looked upon as “weak” and are forced to choose alliance to the party over the women’s movement or lose their career. Mali stands out in this matter, as pointed out by event attendee Ms. Mariam Diallo. Due to the 2015 gender quota law, Mali now has 29% of women parliamentarians, up significantly from the 10% or so representation prior to the law.

Thus, including quota in the peace agreements is important, but it is not sufficient in itself. Equally important is the inclusion of other gender provisions and concrete mechanisms for their implementation. In this context, Ms. Coronel-Ferrer shared that mandating concrete budgetary allocations for the implementation of gender provisions and for gender-responsive programs is a good practice for peace agreements to be effective.

3. Women’s economic empowerment in post-conflict countries must be a bigger priority for governments and donors.

This recommendation, echoed by the panelists and many of the event attendees, is not new. Local activists and peacebuilders constantly demand including women in decision-making on economic recovery. Event attendee Ms. Rahama Baloni from Mercy Corps, Nigeria commented that there is still very little support for peacebuilding programs that encompass economic empowerment. Ms. Deng Alak pointed out that economic empowerment and financial security is a must for women to have political participation and political support.

We have also seen the clear benefits of small economic empowerment initiatives. For example, young women whom GNWP trained in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) shared that running their own small businesses increased their decision-making power within their families and communities. As highlighted by Ms. Coronel Ferrer, the current gender provisions have not prevented women from being disproportionately disadvantaged economically. All five provinces of the Bangsamoro are at the bottom of the Human Development Index (HDI) rank and women make up only 26.1% of employed members of the labor force.

Women’s meaningful participation in peace processes is one of the six priority areas of accelerated implementation for UN Women in the context of this year’s 20th anniversary of resolution 1325. Ms. Mireille Affa’a, a Policy Specialist in the Peace and Security Section, reaffirmed their commitment and spoke about how UN Women prioritizes women’s leadership and economic empowerment to ensure their peace interventions are sustained through economic recovery and inclusion in economic life post-conflict.

Impact of COVID-19 on women’s meaningful participation and implementation of peace agreements

The panelists also discussed the impacts of the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19 on peace processes and the implementation of peace agreements. During this crisis, many functions of governments, UN, and other institutions have slowed down or cease. Financial, human, and technical resources for the implementation of peace agreements have shifted to COVID-19 response. However, as noted by Ms. Cabrera-Balleza, the founder and chief executive officer of the GNWP, this is a self-defeating strategy, since conflict and violence amplify the impacts of the pandemic and conversely, the pandemic is also a conflict multiplier.

In Colombia, COVID-19 is one of the biggest challenges to peace since 2016. It has affected the implementation of the public policy integrated into the government plans, as well as the development plans at the municipal, departmental, and national levels. The crisis is also aggravating the health and food security challenges in local communities, particularly marginalized communities, who do not have adequate medical and service infrastructure to address COVID 19.

Ms. Deng Alak stated that COVID 19 has brought South Sudan to a standstill. The national government is using the pandemic as an excuse to stall peace processes and keep women out. The threat of hunger and disease plagues the whole country, but women face an additional threat of violence, with reports of increased gang rapes of women by men in uniform during this period. In the Philippines, COVID-19 has further compounded ongoing issues of loss of overseas jobs, investments and tourism, all of which the region relies on heavily.

Despite ongoing challenges, women are expected to play a key role in the reconstruction and recovery of their community and society after this pandemic. As emphasized by UN Women’s Ms. Affa’a, concrete, and sustainable investments into women’s livelihoods are a necessary intervention to build societies up better than before.

The ongoing pandemic compounds many challenges that women peacebuilders and peacemakers face. Yet, as stated by Ms. Cabrera-Balleza, “Peace cannot wait and peace cannot be a casualty of the COVID-19 crisis!”

Solidarity & Peace Amidst the Pandemic: Young Women Leaders Meet Online for the First-Ever Global Dialogue

Solidarity & Peace Amidst the Pandemic: Young Women Leaders Meet Online for the First-Ever Global Dialogue

April 23, 2020 by Heela Yoon and Katrina Leclerc

Edited by Mavic Cabrera-Balleza and Agnieszka Fal Dutra-Santos

“Afghan women have been fighting for their right to be meaningfully included in the peace process with the Taliban throughout the past 20 years. Today, we are afraid that amidst the COVID-19 crisis, this progress will be lost, and provisions on women rights will be removed from the peace agreement.” This concern, shared by Sadaf Tahib, the Communication Associate of Afghan Women Welfare and Development Association (AWWDA), was echoed by many of over 50 youth peacebuilders from 11 countries, who came together in an online meeting to share their experiences of preventing conflict and violent extremism, building peace, and addressing the COVID-19 outbreak in their communities.

The meeting was organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), with support from NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, on April 15, 2020. It was the first-time members of GNWP’s Young Women Leaders for Peace (YWL) program from Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Sudan, came together. They were joined by women and youth leaders from Afghanistan, Georgia, Kenya, Lebanon, Myanmar, and Ukraine. By discussing the peace and security problems and the solutions to them amidst the pandemic and despite network connectivity issues, the women and youth peacebuilders sent a powerful message: COVID-19 will not stop us!

The event was also an opportunity to launch the Toolkit and Film for Young Women and Girls on Literacy, Leadership, Economic Empowerment, Media, and Theater. The toolkit and film are evidence-based, context-specific resources for elevating the voices and work of young women in preventing conflict and violent extremism drawn from GNWP’s work. They were developed based on the experiences of young women peacebuilders in Bangladesh and Indonesia, and good practices drawn from GNWP’s work around the world.

As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic grows including the aggravated levels of personal anxiety and stress, the women and peacebuilders underscored the need to hold regular discussions and continue supporting each other. Members of the YWL shared their frontline initiatives to reduce the negative impacts of COVID-19 on women and youth peacebuilders. This is showcased in the new podcast ‘GNWP Talks Women, Peace and Security’: Episode 25 on the Young Women Leaders Global Dialogue.

Young women’s frontline leadership

Speaking from Bangladesh, Young Women Leaders Machen Hia and Mathenu Rakhine, shared that they joined the YWL program to “make sure that there is peace and gender equality in [their] community in Cox’s Bazar.” They emphasized that there is still a lot of challenges, and highlighted their contributions to improving the gender sensitivity of humanitarian emergency response to the influx of 1.3 million Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar. They also shared their experience pre-COVID of conducting gender-sensitive, age-appropriate fundamental literacy and numeracy classes to Rohingya refugee and host community women and girls.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Young Women Leaders are workingto prevent, support and counter increased sexualized violence during the pandemic. During the meeting, Emilie Katondolo and Nicole Musimbi, shared that this work includes using media and technology to dismantle and challenge narratives of ‘victims’ to ‘survivors’ of sexual violence, and ensuring accurate and updated information is provided to women and youth across the communities of Eastern DRC. “Through our program, we try to provide women with opportunities to make income, so that they can improve their financial situation and change their life,” said Nicole.

In Indonesia, Young Women Leaders for Peace, conduct community-level advocacy on women’s rights; gender equality; youth, peace and security (YPS); and human security. Prior to COVID-19, young women have held advocacy meetings in their communities and have developed strong relationships with district-level leaders. Nur Aisyah Maullidah, Ilmiyah Maslahatul and Ririn Anggraeni, shared that since the COVID-19 outbreak, the YWL Indonesia have held online English classes to continue their capacity-building amidst the pandemic.

In the Philippines, Young Women Leaders are also at the forefront of COVID-19 response. Sophia Garcia and Lynrose Genon, presented that young women are distributing face masks, disinfectants, and ‘dignity kits’ to ensure that the specific needs of women and girls are met. These kits are prepared by YWL members and distributed to internally displaced women and youth in Sagonsongan Transitional Temporary Shelter in Marawi, a city ravaged by armed conflict between extremist groups and the Philippine Armed Forces.

Speaking from South Sudan, Elizabeth Biniya, a member ofYoung Women Leaders, and Nyuon Susan Sebit, former Cora Weiss Peacebuilding Fellow at GNWP, discussed their efforts in addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local populations. The South Sudanese young women leaders are using community radio to raise awareness of domestic violence and the available support for those affected. They also disseminate information on preventive measures such as hand washing and social distancing. Additionally, the South Sudanese Young Women Leaders organize theater performances in Torit, South Sudan to raise awareness on women’s rights, gender equality, and peace and security among local populations.

In today’s complex and interconnected world, it is important to recognize and promote the synergies between the women and peace and security (WPS) and youth and peace and security (YPS) agendas and how they are linked to humanitarian emergencies. This is highlighted during this global COVID-19 pandemic as we see young women peacebuilders who step up and become first responders in their local communities. In doing so, they not only mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis but they also secure the gains of Afghan women and all other women and youth peacebuilders who have been demanding to meaningfully participate in peace processes and all levels of decision-making.

Want to support young women leading on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic? Share and donate here.

GNWP is grateful for the support of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment; and the collaboration of the Asian Muslim Action Network – Indonesia and Jago Nari Unnayon Sangsta – Bangladesh for the production of the Toolkit and Film.

Please see also other articles produced by the GNWP on COVID-19 and the women and peace and security, and youth and peace and security agendas: