20 Years After UN Resolution 1325, women remain excluded from peace processes: Consequences for peace and security

Chloé Delaitre is a half-Spanish half-French second year International Relations student at King’s College London. She is the current Editorial Assistant for IR Today. Her interests lie in international diplomacy, global politics, risk analysis and humanitarian intervention. 

UN Resolution 1325
Twenty years ago, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1325 in efforts to integrate women in peace and security. The resolution specifically addressed how women and girls are disproportionately impacted by violent conflict in war and recognizes the critical role that women play in peacebuilding efforts, calling for their participation and inclusion in peacebuilding and decision-making processes at the local, national, and international levels. This was the first UN Security Council resolution to specifically mention the impact of conflict on women. Over the last 20 years, there has been some progress towards implementing the Resolution; the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda emerged in the wake of UNSC 1325, and it was further institutionalized with the adoption of National Action Plans by countries, which serve to localize the implementation of Resolution 1325. As of 2020, 86 UN Member States have developed National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security. Resolution 1325 has also served as a reference point for UN Member States in shaping the policies and programmes of a wide range of organizations that are working together to integrate gender-sensitive approaches to peace building and human security efforts. However, the progress since its adoption has been underwhelming.

Women still don’t have a seat at the table
Tangible change from the implementation of Resolution 1325 has yet to come, as progress has been slow and limited. Women continue to be excluded from peacebuilding processes; the Council on Foreign Relations notes that between 1992 and 2019, women constituted, on average, 13% of negotiators, 6% of mediators, and 6% of signatories in major peace processes around the world. The exclusion of women from peace tables is notable. Examples of this include the Dayton talks in 1995, in which Bosnian women were excluded from the negotiating teams even though during the conflict 40 women’s associations were active across ethnic lines. Furthermore, it was the women who were going to have to shoulder huge responsibilities during reconstruction post conflict. In Tajikistan there was one woman on a 26-person National Reconciliation Commission despite the fact that the war there left 25,000 widows to raise families and reconstruct communities. In Northern Ireland, women activists formed their own political party in 1996; the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition, in order to gain sufficient votes to have two seats at the negotiating table that was to decide on the future of Northern Ireland.

Why does this matter?

The lack of women in peacebuilding and peace processes is detrimental to peace accords and therefore to the security of the countries involved, as a weaker peace settlement leads to a higher propensity for future conflict. Indeed, study after study has shown that having women at the peace table results in better outcomes. Women’s inclusion leads to a more durable peace and a higher implementation of the peace agreement. Research from UN Women’s Global Study on the Implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) ‘Women’s Participation in Peace Processes’ shows that women’s participation in peace agreements increases the likelihood of peace agreement lasting for two years by 20% and increases the likelihood of peace agreements lasting for 15 years by 35%. Additionally, the participation of civil society in peace agreements decreases the probability of the peace agreement failing by 64%. This is why, in October 2000,  the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan remarked to the Security Council that women have ‘’ (…) proved instrumental in building bridges rather than walls’’.

Women have had impressive success in creating sustainable peace. Examples of this include women’s efforts to stop the bloody civil war in Sudan. There, women from different ethnic, socio-economic and political backgrounds worked together, something which eventually led to the formation of the Sudanese Women Empowerment for Peace (SuWEP). Conducting their own version of shuttle diplomacy, Sudanese women organized the Wunlit peace agreement in February 1999 in order to bring an end to the hostilities between the Dinka and the Nuer. The agreement succeeded in, amongst other things, the return of women, children and cattle to South Sudan, free movement, and the accommodation of some 20,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDP). Later a South Sudan Women’s Coalition for Peace of 50 organizations continued to lobby the South Sudanese government for women to take part in the revitalization process as negotiators and as part of the technical support team.

In India and Pakistan, women came together to bridge the differences between the two countries by organizing several initiatives such as the bus journey for peace from New Delhi in India to Lahore in Pakistan in the summer of 2000. Organized by the Women’s Initiative for Peace in South Asia (WIPSA), the journey led to the creation of an atmosphere for the building and rebuilding of human relations and for substantive dialogue on contentious issues including the Kashmir conflict. Additionally, in 1995, women activists joined forces to negotiate a prisoner exchange of fishers and their children who were in each country’s jails because they had strayed across maritime boundaries. In Liberia in 2003, it was women who, identified by their dressing in white t-shirts, mobilized, pressed for the peace talks to take place and challenged warring parties. They are now a critical part of the rebuilding process- an example is their implementation and running of ‘peace huts’ which aim to empower women and educate them about their rights. The list of women’s achievements in peace building goes on.

Coming to the peace table signals not merely a negotiation of the end of a conflict. It is also an opportunity to contribute to the foundations of a reconstructed society based upon transnational justice, economic development, education, rights and equality and thus the creation of a long-term sustainable peace. By ensuring that women are included and central to any peace process, the success of the settlement and consequently the chances of establishing sustainable peace in order to rebuild societies increase. Hence, it is imperative to let women in, who, as previously highlighted in this article, already have a wide-ranging experience in dialogue peace processes. As the current UN Secretary General put it; ‘’women’s leadership and decision-making is not a favour to women; it is essential to peace and progress for all’’. If women continue to be a rare sight at peace tables, insecurity around the globe will only increase.


What is the probability that the risk will materialize? – 2/3

If current global trends go unchanged, the severe lack of women at peace tables means that peace accords will remain weak and therefore instability will be greater.

What is the predicted size of impact? – 3/3

Outstanding. This is notably due to the urgent need worldwide to reduce conflict and establish sustainable peace.

What is the expected speed of onset? – 3/3

This is already happening, and if urgent measures are not implemented, the low numbers of women at peace tables could very well remain over the next years or even, sadly, decades.

Will regional or non-regional actors be involved? – 2/3

This one does not exactly apply to the subject of this particular article.

What is the probability of spillover? – 3/3

 If post-conflict reconstruction and stability is negatively affected by weak peace accords, conflict and instability will be on the rise- and even if this is originally a local instability, due to the interconnectedness of the world, it could very well have consequences across more than one country.

Risk-o-meter score: 13/15 (Elevated Risk)

Featured Image: https://participationdictionary.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/w-for-wipnet-women-in-peace-building-network-liberia/

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