Such big words! The trialogue „women, peace and security“ combines three core values that our societies strive for, and it is the title of a Security Council Resolution of the United Nations (UN) that played an important role in my life. I hence want to take the opportunity and dedicate my September blog to the matter of gender equality and peace, preparing for a jubilee of this landmark resolution in October 2020. Exceptionally, I will provide this text in English.
INTRODUCTION TO UNITED NATIONS, GENDER EQUALITY & ME
I chose this focus, on the one hand, because September is the month of the annual General Assembly (GA) of the United Nations in New York, which is meant to deal with comprehensive global peace. The GA just started two days ago, on September 15th, 2020, and it is a good reminder to spotlight UN issues in our daily information routines. You can find the agenda here.
On the other hand, I am tied to „Women, Peace and Security“, as this Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000), constituted a major part of my dissertation on „The female path of peace? International instruments on women in violent conflict and peace processes, seen through the lenses of feminist peace and conflict research (published in German), and it is celebrating its 20th birthday on 31st of October! As a year of jubilees, there is also the 25th birthday of the outstanding Beijing Declaration of the 4th World Conference of Women - a conference that despite strong efforts did not find a follow-up event so far, the 75th birthday of the United Nations and the 65th birthday of the Austrian membership to the UN. Hence, a good year to take a moment and reflect.
And although this specific focus seems clouded by the covid19 pandemic, I consider it relevant and worth considering, because crises are known of making vulnerable groups of people – especially women, girls and children around the world – even more vulnerable: Be it concerning gender roles and individual security and autonomy, the exposure to cultural, structural and direct violence, which comes along with physical and mental restrictions, or concerning serious health risks driven by the pandemic. Crises can have a dual impact: On the one hand, to close the ranks and move closer together, on the other hand, to fuel opposing interests and thereby separation and conflict in terms of "we against the others". Hence, there is a good point in viewing and treating gender equality as a uniting matter!
SOME WORDS ON SCR 1325 WOMEN PEACE AND SECURITY
The above mentioned, unanimous resolution of the United Nations Security Council was a ground breaking achievement for the equal inclusion of women in peace processes, covering the whole range of conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peace building - as active participants as well as victims of war. It hence constitutes a comprehensive, powerful, let´s say, the most advanced framework in the realm of women and violent conflict.
But as I once put this quote of John Paul Lederach, Professor Emeritus of International Peacebuilding, in front of my thesis, the strive for gender quality and peace is a continuous endeavor: “Peace accords are often seen as a culminating point of a peace process. In the language of governments and the military, the accords are referred to as an end-game scenario…In reality, the accords are nothing more than opening a door into a whole new labyrinth of rooms that invite us to continue in the process of redefining our relationships.”
In analogy to that, during recent years, the international women´s agenda has to deal with diverse backlashes, narrowing of the agenda and attempts of revising former gains. In order to prevent the wheel from rolling backwards, continuous actions have to be taken to safeguard previous pioneering documents of the 90s and millenial years, such as the SCR 1325 or the final documents of the 4th World Conference of Women, the The Beijing Declaration and the Beijing Platform for Action. First evaluations 20 years after SCR 1325 and 25 years past Beijing are promising in many fields but inconsistent and insufficient in others, strongly depending on the applied perspective, benchmark and actor - but the tenor is clear: Whilst honoring the achievements, there is still a lot to be done! (See f.e. the recent volume of Swisspeace Apropos of civil society, UN Woman Austria as national UN branch, the Women, Peace and Security Index with new data expected in October 2020, or even the NATO 1325 score card preliminary findings 2015).
A FURTHER PERSPECTIVE
I therfore want to add some additional reflections and try to ground this international topic also in our everyday lives. Because peace is not a remote topic of the ivory tower of New York or selected scholars, disciplines or diplomats. I consider it highly relevant in many spheres and practical respects.
Personally, I once chose legal gender studies as my field of special interest during my law studies, as – among other aspects - I was fascinated by the deep interwovenness of gender in our every day lives. Well, this fascination comes along with some fault lines and challenges as well, as each and everybody is personally attached and involved!
An adherence and involvement that arouses heated discussions on women´s rights, male and female feminists, patronance and equality, political correctness, lip services – you name it – and cannot truly be seperated from the speaker her or himself. A kind of „internal observer“ to this phenomenon of attachment and identity would be needed…
Cutting a long discussion short, we are all biologically sexual and gendered beings and the topic of gender equality and consequently peace (!) moves deeply. My personal bottom line in this sense is hence the basic, universal and undividable respect for each human (and taken further, living) being. At this point, there is no matter of judgement, achievement, background or even religion, nationality, skin colour, sexual orientation or any other kind of discrimination. The foundation of interaction is equal for all of us. Unconditional. And, at its core, appreciating and even loving. The bottom line is life itself.
Taking the discussion on women´s rights and gender equality in the context of peace from there, many (counter) arguments simply fall apart. Many reactions get unmasked as hurt emotions (vice versa), bad experiences, violated ego mechanisms, power games, of course culturally and/or religiously bound traditions, open wounds - and the lack of knowledge on how to heal them. Because it is - to a large extent - about healing.
Heated, stuck and reactionary gender discussions are a lot about collective and individual healing and reconciliation - a heritage of quite some thousand years of human experiences and narratives of oppression, abuse, war and conflict. And it is good and healthy to learn and know how to reconcile, forgive and heal.
Being aware of the deep connection that gender topics have with our personal being, is a wonderful starting point of untangling the web. Of getting to know your own "trigger points". Your mental or emotional barriers or blockages. Of learning about your personal needs. Of getting in touch with your areas of discomfort and required empowerment – be a female, male or diverse person. Because appreciating empowerment is strongly needed among all of us. In different areas of personality and life though. But this is another story.
„Women, Peace and Security“ startet from the top level of a United Nation Security Council Resolution and evolved into reflections on transformation and reconciliation. A discourse that combines different levels, layers and dimensions of our lives, because finally, everything is interwoven. We do have to look into different realities and perspectives and beyond discipines, sciences and belief systems in order to advance and transform the challenges of our times, be it gender equality, all forms of discrimination and violence, or a global pandemic that fuels comprehensive change.
Yours, Birgit Allerstorfer