This is an edited version of an address by Jo Hayter, Executive Director of International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA) at the Annual Civil Society Dialogue on Women, Peace and Security. Canberra, Australia 2013
IWDA sees UNSCR 1325 as much more than a framework for ‘adding women in’, central though women’s participation is. Real integration of women’s voices and gender analysis must include the opportunity to shape how peace and security are defined and prosecuted, not just taking up seats at the table once all the framing decisions have been made.
When women are not part of determining the scope and terms of discussion, they remain essentially ‘other’, invited in to contribute on terms they have not helped to define. This is not equality.
This understanding shapes our thinking about the role and potential of the ‘normative’ pillar of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. This pillar is about change in the conceptualisation of peace and security, and in the institutions and processes through which it is pursued, so that women have equal and full involvement in defining policies, frameworks, norms and expectations, priorities and processes. This is the transformative vision at the heart of UNSCR 1325. It is also the benchmark against which we can assess the adequacy and legitimacy of action to implement the NAP.
Government actions to achieve this pillar
So, how does IWDA see the government’s actions to achieve the ‘normative’ pillar of the NAP?
The NAP at the moment is a government plan, which measures success of each strategy through the particular government agencies responsible. Although the plan embraces and articulates the important role that civil society plays, we are not presently a part of that accountability.
IWDA would like to recommend that as this plan evolves, non-government agencies are also delegated responsibilities within each of the strategies. This will bring national collaborative action across sectors and beyond stand-alone dialogues with civil society each year.
We’ve heard today great examples of Australia‘s response in relation to diversifying security workforces and improving awareness of the gender dimension of women, peace and security. We can see the investment being made for training in the institutions of police and defence, both here and off shore.
If the NAP is to transform how Australia thinks about and pursues peace and security, by integrating gender considerations in the comprehensive way that the NAP envisages, then it needs to be complemented by more detailed implementation planning at departmental level. Then the Government will be able to illustrate what has been achieved with numbers about participation in training, statistics about women’s representation in particular activities or within particular security agencies, and some great stories of specific initiatives that have made a difference.
This approach, however, makes it much harder to point to the institutionalised changes that bring gender analysis into how Australia defines security, in the range of institutions and stakeholders identified as key to peace and security, and in how peace and security are prosecuted. We will have seen changes – but not changed the way we see and do security. If our focus remains located primarily in this institutional space ‑ i.e. Govt and UN ‑ we will limit our access to the expertise and experience of those most closely connected to and invested in preventing conflict and sustaining peace.
This plan provides a starting point for much deeper dialogue about how we as a nation progress human security. About how we shift from a national security mindset to one that identifies human security as the objective and the nation as a means of pursuing that objective. About how we reflect in policy frameworks, institutions and processes the understanding that peace and security is about more than what governments do.
What is IWDA doing to implement this pillar?
IWDA’s work implementing UNSCR 1325 runs from program support for organisations working to improve women’s status and voice, to support for women’s organisations and networks raising awareness of women’s rights and the specifics of UNSC1325 among communities and leaders, to support for specific initiatives that enable women’s voices to be heard in defining the nature of peace and security and their priorities.
IWDA works in the peace and security space every day and in every program so it difficult to summarise this in today’s session. I can share a couple of examples that illustrate our long term partnerships with women’s organisations and networks in Fiji, and along the Thai Burma border.
In Fiji, IWDA has supported Fem’LINKPACIFIC’s work in urban and rural community media since 2001, helping to ensure that there are participatory and interactive processes that link rural women’s networks with a range of human security iinitiatives, and ensure women’s voices are heard on issues of peace and security. This enables and supports rural women to engage proactively in the process of democratization, including constitutional submissions and the Fiji activities of the Regional Women’s Media and Policy Network on UNSCR 1325. Fem’LINKPACIFIC’s community radio, television simulcasts and mainstream media strategies continue to raise the level of awareness about human security priorities for women in Fiji and increasingly the broader region.
We also support the full membership of the Fiji Women’s Forum, as they seek to influence the development of the national constitution under difficult and dynamic circumstances, in the lead up to the first democratic elections since the last coup in 2006.
In Myanmar and along the Border there is a real risk that the women, peace and security agenda will take a back seat in the rush to support and build on recent reforms and the unprecedented Foreign Direct Investment. I am not saying that economic development is not important, but rather, that unless there is a parallel and equal commitment to the principles of participation, equality and voice enshrined in 1325, this development may well be at the expense of the rights and futures of women who have been displaced from their lands by conflict and abuse. Abuse that represent crimes against humanity and crimes of war such as rape, trafficking, enforced prostitution or sexual slavery.
Our work accelerates women’s leadership, research and evidence gathering on men’s VAW, CEDAW shadow reporting and research, and mobilisation for dialogue that is developing strategies and plans for peace building and democracy.
Our partners have underlined to IWDA the importance of meaningfully addressing women’s experiences of violence during conflict and through reconciliation processes. We invoke the intent of 1325 as we test the extent of progress in Burma/Myanmar by continuing to advocate for women’s central participation as non-negotiable and one of the markers we should expect of progress.
Australia’s election to the Security Council, which came after the NAP’s release, provides the opportunity to demonstrate what the commitment to UNSCR 1325 means for how Australia pursues peace and security through its two-year term.
Over the next two years the Australian Government can model what this recognition means, by establishing an ongoing advisory mechanism that brings gender considerations and the collective voice of women ‑ the women’s movement ‑ into Australia’s day to day work on the Security Council. This is what routine integration looks like. Without it, I believe we should be at the point where the absence of women’s voice and representation, and the absence of gender analysis, renders the process of decision-making, and the decisions themselves, illegitimate. What is the point of having a National Action Plan that ‘stresses the importance of women’s equal participation and full involvement’, if it doesn’t come into play on the issues of peace and security that matter most?
From policy to practice and from action to measuring impact of influence, it is crucial that we bring the advocates for women, peace and security into dialogue with the institutions of state.
The Office for Women, even if it were appropriately resourced, is not the women’s movement. The National Alliances have a role to play, but they have diverse interests and while some members are very focused on women, peace and security, many are not. I believe we need to establish a small group of representatives linked to organisations that have a core focus on women, peace and security, to provide ongoing input to Australia’s Security Council delegation, alongside departmental advice.
So let me conclude with a comment about transformation.
The Normative pillar of the NAP is centred on raising awareness of and developing policy frameworks to progress women, peace and security and integrate a gender perspective throughout. Today, there has been a sharp focus on women and girls – which is crucial – but much of the NAP is framed within a definitional space that sees security as a matter of state rather than an issue of broader human security or personal violence. The Plan speaks to human security but is linked to institutions that are ultimately empowered for interests of national security. The success of implementing the normative pillar over the next 5 years is dependent on gender analysis from men and women that goes beyond participation to transform the structures and rules of engagement.
 IWDA is an Australian development agency focused entirely on women’s right and gender equality. Women, peace and security is central to IWDA’s work, from addressing human rights violations in the home, to supporting the work of its women partners to shape national, regional and international priorities regarding women, peace and security.
Safety and security is one of IWDA’s four thematic priorities, and its activities reflect the understanding that to be meaningful, safety and security must operate as a continuum, from the home to the world. IWDA’s work here is intrinsically linked to support for women’s civil and political participation and emergence as leaders.