UNFPA - United Nations Population Found

State of World Population 2010

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About this report

Ten years ago, on 31 October 2000, the United Nations Security Council took an important and unprecedented step into new territory. Recognizing the vulnerability of women and girls to violence during and after armed conflict, and the absence or low level of women's representation in efforts to prevent war, build peace and restore devastated societies, the Council passed resolution 1325.

Liberian women demonstrate in Monrovia, Liberia, at the height of the civil war in 2003. Image from the film, Pray the Devil Back to Hell©Pewee Flomuko

The resolution sought formally for the first time in the Security Council to end this neglect and actively to promote and draw on the untapped potential of women everywhere on issues of peace and security.

The release of the 2010 edition of The State of World Population report coincides with the 10th anniversary of that historic resolution. The report highlights how women in conflict and post-conflict situations—as well as in emergencies or protracted crises—are faring a decade later.

The 2010 report is different from previous editions, which took an academic approach to topics related to the mandate and work of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. The current report takes a more journalistic approach, drawing on the experiences of women and girls, men and boys, living in the wake of conflict and other catastrophic disruptions. They speak for themselves about the challenges they face, the ways their communities are coping and becoming more resilient and about how many of them have become involved in reconstruction and renewal. The individuals featured in the report are neither statisticians nor demographers. They are rural people living off the land and urbanites trying to survive in broken cities. Many survivors of conflict and natural disasters are now working in their communities to help fellow citizens recover and readjust.

Globally, there is a growing roster of non-governmental organizations and community activists working in partnership with governments, United Nations agencies, donor countries and foundations. In the mix are also traditional elders and religious leaders who strive to comfort the suffering and bring decimated societies back to their cultural roots and principles, so often warped by war, refugee flight, occupation and natural disasters. Local initiatives are healing wounds while rethinking old habits and rules of behaviour for a new age.

While the Security Council was passing resolution 1325 in 2000 and several others on the protection of women in the years that followed, activities were already taking place on the ground in countries where victims of conflict and disaster were frequently not even aware they had moved into the Security Council’s spotlight. They just knew from experience that there was a lot of rebuilding to be done, and they started undertaking it, head on, often with help from United Nations agencies, funds and programmes and humanitarian organizations.

[1] United Nations Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security

Resolution 1325 (2000), on women, peace and security, was the first to address the impact of conflict on women during and in the aftermath of armed conflicts. The resolution called on all parties to an armed conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse.

Resolution 1820 (2008) was the first to exclusively address sexual violence in armed conflicts. The resolution recognized sexual violence as a security issue, noting that the perpetration of sexual violence as a tactic of war against civilians was a threat to the maintenance of international peace and security.

Resolution 1888 (2009) was a follow-up resolution to resolution 1820, emphasizing the importance both of addressing issues of sexual violence from the very outset of a peace process and of bringing perpetrators to justice. The resolution called for the inclusion of specific provisions for the protection of women and children in the mandates of United Nations peacekeeping operations and United Nations-sponsored peace negotiations. The Security Council emphasizedthe importance of addressing sexual violence issues from the outset of peace processes and mediation efforts, to protect populations at risk and promote full stability, particularly in the areas of pre-ceasefire humanitarian access and human rights agreements, ceasefires, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and security-sector reform.

Resolution 1889 (2009) reaffirmed the Security Council’s commitment to the continuing and full implementation, in a mutually reinforcing manner, of resolutions 1325, 1820 and 1888, as well as two other related resolutions: 1612 (2005), 1674 (2006) and 1882 (2009). The Council expressed its continued deep concern about the persistent obstacles to women’s full involvement in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and their participation in post-conflict public life. It recognized that the marginalization of women can delay or undermine the achievement of durable peace, security and reconciliation.

This report is constructed around interviews and reporting in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Haiti, Jordan, Liberia, the Occupied Palestinian territory (West Bank), Timor-Leste and Uganda. The diverse nations were chosen for various reasons. Some have recently emerged from conflict and are rebuilding with limited resources. Some have experienced profound social changes as a result of war and displacement. All have a United Nations presence, in some cases an integrated peacekeeping mission, but everywhere an active group of United Nations agencies supporting both governmental and non-governmental efforts. Liberia and Uganda are living in the aftermath of recent conflicts. Stories from the West Bank illustrate the particular issues created by occupation. In Jordan, Iraqi refugees talk about their uprooted lives. Bosnia and Herzegovina demonstrates how long it can take to heal the victims of war, and how communities can help or hinder the process. In Haiti an impoverished population already worn down by decades of unrest now has to rebuild a nation after a cataclysmic earthquake, which came on the heels of two devastating hurricanes.

Assistant Commissioner Bennetta Holder Warner, in the women and children protection centre of the Liberian National Police.
©VII Photo/Marcus Bleasdale

Working at the grassroots level, community organizations—some barely a few persons strong—and larger non-governmental organizations have already broadened the meaning of Security Council resolutions and United Nations declarations. What began as a call on governments a decade ago to deal with abuses or neglect of women and girls has steadily grown into a broader movement that encompasses all members of society. Today, for example, more attention is being paid to the psychological and physical wounds of men and boys, who, people in very different countries now agree, must be part of rebuilding societies and lives and creating space for fostering peace.

Psychosocial counselling for victims of trauma is expanding exponentially and becoming more professional in many places. The needs of wounded communities are defined not only in terms of peace agreements and the cessation of violence after conflict but also in informal and formal programmes that dig deep into history, politics, economics and culture to try to explain why violence happened—or continues after conflicts end—and what to do to root out the causes. The importance of bringing young people into these discussions is widely accepted and many novel programmes have begun in recent years. Artists of all kinds and of all ages are eager to join in the discussion through their work, as are sports personalities who volunteer to work with youth.

Dubravka Salčić-Dizdarević, a physician at the National University Hospital in Sarajevo and one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leading psychotherapists. “Torture also has the aim of victimizing the whole family.”
©VII Photo/Antonin Kratochvil

Echoing the spirit of the 2005 United Nations General Assembly’s World Summit, even if unintentionally, many citizens are taking heed of governments’ “responsibility to protect” their people. Nations of the world agreed in 2005 to assign to governments first and foremost the burden of shielding their citizens from harm on a mass scale, with the international community standing by to help or take action to stop abuse if all else fails. The responsibility to protect has been interpreted widely. Apart from ensuring against physical harm, in some places it is seen as covering, at least in spirit, such steps as creating or strengthening legal and judicial institutions necessary in post-conflict areas, where property rights are frequently in dispute or there is unsettling violence in homes or crime in the streets. Functioning institutions of all kinds, including health and educational services, hasten a return to normality and can help prevent future conflict.

Gender-based violence and abuse continues in many forms, often exacerbated by armed conflict or the destabilization of family life in camps for the displaced or for those who have lost their homes as a result of natural disaster. It is now recognized that gender roles can be upset and transformed by war, military occupation and refugee life, all of which can lead to changed economic relationships within households. Such changes can have profound social effects, and the opportunity to fathom them and put the knowledge to constructive use is a bellwether of the post-conflict world. In countless small and large ways, in many countries where life has been disrupted, people, often with support from humanitarian and development organizations, are working in many ways to make the future better.

[2] UN Women

The United Nations General Assembly voted unanimously on 2 July 2010 to establish a new entity to accelerate progress in meeting the needs of women and girls worldwide. The establishment of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Womento be known as UN Women—is part of the United Nations reform agenda, bringing together resources and mandates for greater impact.

“UN Women will significantly boost United Nations efforts to promote gender equality, expand opportunity, and tackle discrimination around the globe,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

UN Women will build on the work of four previously distinct parts of the United Nations system:

  • Division for the Advancement of Women;
  • International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women;
  • Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women;
  • United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

UN Women will begin operations in January 2011.

[3] Transforming resolutions into reality

UNPFA, in partnership with many stakeholders, is helping countries and territories transform resolution 1325—and subsequent ones that also deal with women, peace and security—into reality. Much of UNFPA’s work at the country level focuses on developing the capacities of governments, United Nations agencies and institutions to incorporate gender issues in the design and implementation of activities in the realm of peace and security, prevention, protection and participation.


In Colombia, UNFPA created a task force to mainstream gender issues and sensitize the armed forces and police to issues of gender-based violence.

In Georgia, UNFPA provides training to service providers on issues related to reproductive health, sexual and gender-based violence and clinical management of rape survivors.

In Kosovo, UNFPA supports psychosocial training for staff of the Ministry of Health and the Kosovo Women’s Network of non-governmental organizations that advocate for gender equality and women’s empowerment and for the prevention and elimination of gender-based violence.

In Liberia, UNFPA supported the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare’s establishment of psychosocial and community support services, especially for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.

In Nepal, UNFPA is supporting the development of a National Action Plan for the Implementation of resolution 1325. UNFPA and partner organizations have also conducted training for women members of the Constituent Assembly in 2008 on basic human rights, with an emphasis on Security Council resolutions 1325 and 1820.

In Tajikistan, UNFPA collaborates with a committee of non-governmental organizations that combat violence against women under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.


In Botswana, UNFPA supported and provided sexual and reproductive health services, including HIV prevention, to a clinic serving refugees.

In Colombia, UNFPA is supporting projects that develop the capacity of institutions and communities to expand integrated protection systems related to violence against women.

In Côte d’Ivoire, UNFPA has created centres to provide services to survivors of gender-based violence.

In Indonesia, UNFPA supported the Aceh provincial planning and development agency in drafting a provincial action plan to address issues of women, peace and security.

In Kosovo, UNFPA and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare are collaborating on a funding strategy for shelters for women victims of domestic violence.

In Lebanon, UNFPA is helping develop the capacity of service providers for ensuring quality mental, psychosocial and reproductive health services to women in post-conflict communities.

In Liberia, UNFPA supported the Ministry of Justice’s establishment of a sexual and gender-based violence prosecution unit, with a 24-hour-a-day hotline and a court that deals exclusively with cases of gender-based violence.

Women’s participation

In Colombia, UNFPA’s humanitarian strategy includes a component related to the participation of women in decision-making processes related to humanitarian situations. UNFPA is also supporting women’s organizations to participate in the peace process.

In Botswana, UNFPA, in partnership with the local state university and UNICEF, initiated a programme to develop capacities of the House of Chiefs in Parliament to holistically address issues related to women, peace and security.

In Rwanda, UNFPA is supporting the National Police to more effectively address gender-based violence and promote recruitment and promotion of women within their ranks.

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