Now Is a Time for Action, Not Celebration

Theimages original op-ed was published by Hibaaq Osman in The Huffington Post here.

Women activists from across the world are gathering in New York City this week to mark the anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325. This agreement is one of the cornerstones of the international women’s rights movement and was rightly described as a landmark when it was passed. But in choosing to celebrate, are we wasting valuable energy when there is so much work still left to do?

Since 2000, Resolution 1325 has formed the basis for how women’s rights and needs are taken into account in countries affected by conflict. Drawing on previous standards and contemporary discussions, 1325 has set the discourse and practice on this issue. It highlights the central role that women need to play in “the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping [and] humanitarian response.”

As crucial as 1325 has been in forcing governments to consider the needs and rights of women on conflict, now is not a time that I wish to look back and celebrate. How many conflicts have there been since 2000? How many women have suffered as a result of these conflicts?

The United Nations’ own commitment to the principles of 1325 must also be scrutinised and called into question. Women have been all but absent from the ongoing peace efforts in Syria. Male diplomats and envoys still dominate the halls of the United Nations. What message does this send to UN members about 1325’s call for women to be enjoy “equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security”?

Syria is a hugely significant case in point. The conflict has displaced millions of people, with women and children making up a disproportionate number of those who have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. Those who have escaped the violence have found it hugely difficultly to access even basic healthcare and services.

These women are being failed by the international community and I cannot look back with pride on 14 years of Resolution 1325 when I think of these women. I am not filled with joy but anger that so long after we though we had secured progress, the women of Syria, the women of Iraq, the women of Libya, the women of Somalia, the women of Sudan still suffer so gravely.

Amid this there are countries that can show the international community the way to weave the principles of 1325 into the fabric of conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Norway, the country that provides the greatest international assistance taken as a percentage of its national income, is the textbook example of how 1325 should be taken forward. It first presented an action plan for implementation of the principles in 2006 and has regularly updated it. From the very top of the its government to its agencies and NGOs on the ground, Norway has a sought to give the needs and rights of women necessary consideration in conflict and post-conflict.

At the recent Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that in conflict and post-conflict, “where women are participants, where women are respected, where women are part of that dialogue, inevitably there is greater stability, greater progress, faster.” Secretary Kerry is right but he and other leading figures must turn those words and the words of Resolution 1325 into action.