Women, Peace and Security

Bucharest Workshop on UN Security Council Resolution 1325

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Day 4
Keynote Speaker


Making Policy Real

A new report from the UN Secretary-General to the Security Council tackles many of the same subjects that were hashed out at the Bucharest workshop on the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325.

The report lays out in detail, by agency, how the UN will enhance gender equity in conflict and post-conflict situations, as called for by the landmark resolution.

UNFPA is charged with responsibilities relating to conflict prevention, peacebuilding, preventing gender-based violence, humanitarian response and post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation. Key actions include: systematically consulting with NGOs, building the capacity of women's groups, documenting best practices and methodologies, and developing training programmes that empower women to participate in political processes.

It also tasks UNFPA with ensuring that women's rights are integrated into law reform, providing psychosocial support and medical services for survivors of gender-based violence, and gender and HIV-prevention training for peacekeepers.

These were all topics that were brought up again and again at the Bucharest workshop on women, peace and security. But during the four-day meeting, participants had an opportunity to flesh out these subjects in conversations, dialogues and debates. In working groups and plenary sessions, over meals and in hallways, they shared their knowledge, frustrations and expertise about the complications and messiness of translating official UN policy into practice on the ground.

Learning from and being inspired by others was one of the highlights of the workshop, several participants reported.

I'm very excited about some of the ideas that came up here, said Karen O'Sullivan, Project Manager for UNFPA Timor-Leste. I'd like to use some of them in the 16 Days Against Violence Against Women (25 Nov-10 Dec), which is a very big deal in East Timor.

I want to organize religious leaders to talk about this, said Melissa Alvarado, who works on gender-based violence among Burmese refugees in Thailand for the International Rescue Committee.

I'll start using the guidelines at the grass-roots level, and the resolution as a tool for advocacy at the policy level, said Martha Ismail, Assistant Representative, UNFPA Indonesia.

The combined expertise of the group was amazing, as one presenter noted. Participants brought with them on-the-ground knowledge from dozens of countries affected by conflict or disaster. They included doctors, lawyers, demographers, scholars, gender specialists, former refugees, torture victims, aid workers, community organizers. Some were enthusiastic about resolution 1325. Others were skeptical.

Zoë Wilson, a post-doctoral fellow from the Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa, is one of the skeptics: At the rhetorical level there's a lot of commitment to participation and broad democracy, she said. But often there's nothing in these resolutions that actually sets in motion the activities that would change the structures of power that keep the world the way it is.

I have seen some heartening things here, she continued. I've heard a lot of recognition of women as complex individuals not just victims in need of protection, but agents of change, peace builders, peace brokers. It's important to remember that their perceptions of the world and themselves are incredibly complex they need to participate fundamentally in decisions about where their communities are going and how they will get there. But I worry that resolution 1325 is in danger of being ineffective.

Yes, 1325 is not perfect,acknowledged Sahir Abdul-Hadi, organizer of the conference for UNFPA in her closing remarks.

Yes it needs stronger teeth, she continued. But things have changed. When I was working in refugee camps, we had nothing like this to work with. No one had the concept that health was a right. It was considered a privilege. Unfortunately, the mere existence of 1325 does not mean all is well. Only with the strong collaboration of our partners can we take it forward.