In October 2000, the UN Security Council endorsed the ground-breaking Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) on women, peace and security. UNSCR 1325 responded to a raft of serious lessons learned from the previous decade and more of peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts. Experience showed that the nature of warfare was changing, with civilians increasingly targeted and women, in particular, often bearing the brunt of conflict. Women suffered a range of harms, from sexual and gender-based violence inflicted by combatants, to the loss of their spouse and families, to the loss of their livelihoods and personal autonomy. Furthermore, even during transitional and peacebuilding periods, it became clear that women continued to be marginalised, with domestic and international stakeholders consistently overlooking their contributions and/or excluding their voices from critical peace processes. Notably, this early analysis focused primarily on sex-based violence, but there is a growing understanding that sexual minorities and non-binary gender identities also face distinct vulnerabilities during conflict which should be reflected in a broader framing of the WPS agenda.
UNSCR 1325 called on countries to explicitly address the specific impacts that conflict had on women and girls around the globe and to more systematically include women in peacebuilding efforts, including peace talks, peacekeeping and post-conflict reconstruction efforts. Over the last two decades, UNSCR 1325 has been complemented by an additional eight resolutions on women’s peace and security (see Chapter 1 below for more detail). Together, these resolutions provide guidance to both national and international actors on their duties and roles in relation to women’s peace and security.
The women, peace and security agenda remains of critical importance in a globalised world that continues to grapple with complex manifestations of conflict, whether expressed through violent state-based warfare, civil war, internal domestic conflict or violent extremism. In response, many countries across the world have pushed to ensure a more systematic implementation of this crucial agenda. Most obviously, in nearly 80 countries, National Action Plans (NAPs) on women, peace and security have been developed, to prioritise actions for government bodies and other agencies. In other countries, gender-sensitive peace and security priorities have been captured in sectoral gender, justice or national security strategies. Notably however, experience has shown that the inclusion of parliaments in efforts to support the women, peace and security agenda has been variable, with many parliaments either unaware or uninvolved in national implementation efforts.1
Recognising the value of the UNSCR 1325 agenda to ongoing efforts to ensure the protection and promotion of women’s rights and gender equality, this Handbook seeks to provide guidance to parliamentarians on their role in supporting this agenda. The objectives of this Handbook are threefold, namely to:
• Provide information to parliamentarians on the substance of the global women, peace and security agenda as it applies domestically;
• Provide guidance on how parliaments and parliamentarians can support implementation of the women, peace and security agenda. This guidance is intended to be useful not only to Members of Parliament and parliamentary staff, but also to development practitioners who work with parliaments, to help guide their programming, project activities, knowledge and advocacy products and country context analyses;
• Share examples of good practice from other parliaments and parliamentary project that could be considered for adaptation according to each specific domestic context.
It is important to recognise at the outset that this Handbook is aimed at all Members of Parliament (MPs), whether male or female. Addressing peace and security issues that affect women is not an issue only for women MPs; it is the role of all MPs to ensure that every member of society has the protections and opportunities to live peaceful and prosperous lives. All MPs – whether in their role as individual Members raising questions or promoting Private Members Bills, or as members of parliamentary committee or political caucuses – have a role to play in using the powers of their office to ensure that the WPS agenda is effectively implemented to improve the lives of all women and girls.
The Handbook begins with three chapters which aim to explain the core substance of the women, peace and security agenda, in the context of broader global and national commitments to gender equality and sustainable development. The focus of these chapters is to demonstrate the connection between efforts to support women’s peace and security and the broader achievement of national development goals. It should be noted that these Chapters are intended as a brief summary rather than an exhaustive explanation. For more detailed guidance on the background and substance of UNSCR 1325 and the deeper conceptual frameworks underpinning the women, peace and security agenda, it is recommended that parliamentarians refer to: ✓ UN Women (2012) Sourcebook on Women, Peace and Security;✓ UN Women (2015) Guidebook on CEDAW General Recommendation No.30 and the UN Security Council Resolutions on women, peace and security.The next five chapters of the Handbook discuss in more detail how the women, peace and security agenda can be implemented in the context of each of the core functions of a parliament – namely, lawmaking, budgeting, oversight, and representation. These chapters are intended to provide parliamentarians and other stakeholders interested in working with MPs to progress the WPS agenda (whether inter-governmental agencies, development partners or CSOs) with ideas for action, in particular, by showcasing real-life, good practice examples from other countries.
Finally, the last two chapters of the Handbook reflect upon how parliamentary groupings and parliamentary staff can support efforts to progress women’s peace and security. At the end of each section a short series of questions is presented to stimulate reflection on current parliamentary roles and capacities as well as to foster discussion on how parliaments can improve their ability to proactively engage with this agenda.
Each substantive section of the Handbook is supported by: (1) Self-Assessment Questions, which can be used to supplement existing parliamentary self-assessment tools (see Chapter 3 below on the various SDGs self-assessment toolkits available); and (2) Action Points for Parliamentarians, which set out a range of ways that MPs could use their parliamentary powers and processes to progress the WPS agenda.
It is important to recognise that this Handbook and the various questions and action points identified are not intended as a “one-size-fits-all” template for action. This Handbook is designed in recognition of the reality that each parliament and its parliamentarians are well-placed to understand and analyse the domestic political, social and cultural context under which they operate (whether as individual MPs, or working with government officials, CSOs or constituents) in order to determine what can and should be done by parliament to ensure the effective implementation of the women, peace and security agenda. In that context, this Handbook seeks to provide ideas and suggestions for possible action, based on good practice and lessons learned from real-life experiences of parliaments around the world, in order to assist parliamentarians to take actions that will have a positive impact on the lives of women and girls around the world.