Over the past couple of years, women have continued to face the consequences of international conflict started by men. For example, the war in Ukraine has seen countless stories of Ukrainian women being raped by Russian soldiers who have invaded their country. Over in Afghanistan, the Taliban have ensured that women no longer have the right to education and employment.
Considering women are so heavily impacted by conflict all over the world, it seems wrong that they don’t play a key role in conflict resolution. This is even more perplexing when you consider that on the occasions where women have been involved in peace talks, positive resolutions have been found.
For example, in Colombia in 2016 women played a key role in resolving the conflict between the Colombian government and the revolutionary armed forces of Colombia. A gender perspective was also included in the accord as a guiding principle which is still abided by today.
The UN’s acknowledgement of women’s security in society
In 2000, the first United Nationals Security Council Resolution on Women, Peace and Security addressed the impact of war on women and recognised the importance of female participation in peace talks.
On top of that, it also called for special measures to be put in place to protect women and girls from the type of sexual violence that we are currently seeing in Ukraine. As this took place over 20 years ago, it’s fair to say that the Council Resolution perhaps hasn’t done enough to support women in conflict.
Not only that, but there has been very little increase over the past two decades in the number of women at peace tables and women’s rights across the world are seemingly heading in the wrong direction.
Work of the UK Government
In recent times the UK has been trying to take the lead on the issue. In 2021, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) launched the Joint Service Publication on Human Security in Defence which formalises the need for gender sensitivity.
Additionally, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office has been running a Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative for ten years now. This initiative has helped conflict-related sexual violence victims get the support they need for the trauma they have experienced.
Today, a new UK National Action Plan (NAP) on Women Peace and Security has been launched by the Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, and the Minister of State for Armed Forces, James Heappey. This action plan sets out the UK’s vision for how they will close the gap between words and action in relation to women’s role in international conflict.
The action plan, which will be in place from 2023 to 2027, take a new approach to the problem. A focus on transnational threats has been included to that the impact of issues such as climate change and cyber threats on women are not overlooked moving forward. Unsurprisingly, Ukraine and Afghanistan are included in the plan as “focus countries”.
The action plan also isn’t ignoring the fact that the UK is far from perfect when it comes to gender equality. The agenda is going to be embedded into domestic systems and policies and was developed with input from the Home Office.
Domestic targets set out within the action plan include increasing female recruitment in the British armed forces. Currently, only around 11% of our armed forces are made up of women but that number should increase over the next few years if the new NAP’s initiatives work.
One area of the armed forces that the NAP is targeting is on negotiating teams. Evidence shows us that peace negotiations undertaken by women have a far higher success rate than those undertaken by men.
It seems somewhat ironic that the two people who have launched this new action plan in government are men, however, perhaps that just amplifies the issue of gender representation further. Having said that, this has the potential to be a very important initiative that could benefit the UK, and the rest of the world, moving forward if successful.
It simply doesn’t make sense to keep women away from negotiating tables any longer. Not only are they more effective at thrashing out peace terms but they are also disproportionally impacted by international conflict. Therefore, from a fairness point of view at the very least, they need their voices heard.
Chamber’s work on Women and Equalities
Chamber UK has been leading initiatives bringing together politicians, industry leaders and charities working in the space of gender equality. In our most recent project, we hosted an exclusive interview between 50:50 Parliament and Flick Drummond MP, and Apsana Begum MP on gender inequality in elected office. Stay tuned to our YouTube Chanel for the full video. Stay tuned to our website and Twitter Page for further announcements on our work with national leaders.
If you would like to get involved in Chamber’s work on gender equality, kindly reach out to Research ad Policy Analyst, Shivani Sen at email@example.com