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On the ‘big table’ of the Security Council, Australia must champion the cause of women

Australia has always taken a lead role in international security debates at the United Nations. In Canberra, representatives from civil society organisations will meet with the government to discuss Australia’s…

Australia should use its new power on the UN Security Council to make sure women are high on the UN agenda. UNIFEM

Australia has always taken a lead role in international security debates at the United Nations. In Canberra, representatives from civil society organisations will meet with the government to discuss Australia’s priorities for the rare opportunity presented by Australia’s ascension to a seat on the UN Security Council for 2013-14.

One key issue at the meeting will be what agendas Australia might pursue during its first of two one month stints as President of the Security Council, due in September 2013. With the presidency, Australia assumes an important responsibility for handling the crisis management powers of the Security Council as determined by the UN Charter. It also gives Australia the opportunity to promote broader issues of the Security Council’s work, like peacebuilding or protection of civilians.

Australia should use this opportunity to build upon its already strong commitment to the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. This is an important, cross-cutting issue, and is relevant to all areas of the Security Council’s peace and security work.

It is also one area where Australia is very well positioned to make a real difference. The agenda stems from a cluster of five Security Council resolutions that have been passed between 2000 and 2010. The most commonly known and comprehensive of these is Resolution 1325, passed in 2000.

These resolutions highlight that women and girls experience conflict in ways that are different from men and boys by virtue of their gender, and that violators of women’s rights should be brought to justice. They also note that the experiences of women and girls, and women and girls themselves, have been overlooked in processes designed to bring about peace.

The resolutions further draw upon evidence that peace is more likely to be sustainable when women are included alongside men in designing processes for conflict prevention, conflict resolution, peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction.

These points have been demonstrated in all conflict zones. For example, the Iraq Ministry of Planning estimates that as a consequence of its many conflicts, there are about 900,000 widows (or female heads of household) in Iraq today, less than 10% of which receive government benefits. In a patriarchal country whose reconstruction process has focused on getting men back to work, women are unlikely to find economic independence.

Similarly, the UN’s work has highlighted the widespread specific targeting of women for gender-based violence in conflicts in Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan and the Sudan. Such structural and physical violence affects women’s health and wellbeing and their capacity to participate in peacebuilding processes.

Since 1990, only 16% of peace agreements either had a woman at the negotiating table or mentioned women at all in the content of the agreement. The UN has also never appointed a woman to be the chief mediator of a peace process.

The resolutions call upon UN member states to ensure that there is a gender perspective included in its analysis and understanding of conflict, and that women themselves are included in all aspects of the UN’s work. This translates to a consideration of how each issue affects men and women differently: something that is long overdue.

Having gained a seat at the table, will the Australian government take up the opportunity to influence the Security Council’s agenda? EPA/ Jason Szenes

In order to implement this agenda both domestically and internationally, Australia has released a National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security in 2012. The plan outlines Australia’s commitment to including women in peace negotiations, training our police and peacekeepers to understand gender issues, and increasing women’s representation in our own armed forces.

So what can Australia do in the Security Council to promote this agenda? The short answer is plenty. When it takes on the role as President of the Security Council in September, Australia can promote strategies to hold existing gains on the issue and protect women’s full range of rights during military drawdowns and other transitional periods, such as those now occurring in Afghanistan and the Solomon Islands, to name but two.

Australia has the opportunity and ability to bring the lived experience of women to the attention of the primary security institution in the globe, and it should do so. After all, whose security is it anyway?

Join the conversation

16 Comments sorted by

    1. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Janeen Harris

      Agree, Janeen. Standing up for the rights of women (and consequently children) is a conflict of interest for many on the council - remaining true to religious doctrine or standing for human rights. Difficult for some.

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  1. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    " The resolutions call upon UN member states to ensure that there is a gender perspective included in its analysis and understanding of conflict, "

    " and that women themselves are included in all aspects of the UN’s work. This translates to a consideration of how each issue affects men and women differently: something that is long overdue. "

    The above needs splitting for on one hand, you can attempt to analyse and understand all you like whilst conflict will always be conflict, usually ( and…

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    1. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Greg North

      We don't have to "put them in harms way", greg, they could choose to enlist. A US study which found women were 2.5 seconds faster to shoot an enemy and 12% more accurate (from memory) to kill, is one of the many studies to dis-proove all that baloney about women as a soldier can't hack it. Modern armies utilise many skills, for a professional modern army you can even have flat feet and glasses. At the end of the Vietnam war anything up to 70% of the vietcong were women.
      The point of the article is that womens opinions are different for a variety of reasons, and should be given a greater voice, when considering the impact of war and conflict, something which could benefit the outcomes for communities undergoing reconstruction after these conflicts. There is absolutely a place for better considering the impact of conflict on both genders, that is, including, womens opinions. You seem to be the one trying to separate.

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  2. robert roeder
    robert roeder is a Friend of The Conversation.

    retired

    Just a wild idea ladies, a world wide campaign for women to only vote for women in elections, that would balance things nicely.

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    1. Janeen Harris

      chef

      In reply to robert roeder

      We don't need more sexism Robert. However I'll be voting for a party that is headed by a woman. Her name is not Julia.

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    2. robert roeder
      robert roeder is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Janeen Harris

      I don't know about sexism Janeen, women are around 50% of the population do you think they are fairly represented, what I suggested was a bit of direct action. Start up a site take pledges if the numbers grew large the patriarchs would notice, you may be surprised how many males would support you.

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    3. Janeen Harris

      chef

      In reply to robert roeder

      The trouble is that there are places that will not tolerate women in authority. No amount of direct action in Australia will give the women in Pakistan a voice and when a woman got into power there she was killed. As this article says, the violence of men is beyond the scope of what women can cope with. How do you get a sexist nutcase, with god behind him, to see women as valid human beings? I also can't see how women only voting for women will help the security council deal with this huge problem.

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    4. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to robert roeder

      I like this idea Robert, 50% parliamentary representation, vote for your own sex, what about transgender?

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    5. robert roeder
      robert roeder is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Janeen Harris

      Of course you are right Janeen, it is a tragedy. In such cases I look to the Desiderata for wisdom " change what you can change " social mores are like memes they can spread rapidly.

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    6. robert roeder
      robert roeder is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice, your question has blanked my mind zzzzz. Of course once parity was achieved the measure should no longer be necessary.

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    7. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to robert roeder

      We all have a blank mind today Robert, but really we don't have parity, we could all take a lesson from some indigenous tribes in au. Elders were both equally representative , and they'd sit, and sit and talk, till consensus was achieved. Sadly it's all so "tribal". And male.

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    8. Marilyn Shepherd

      pensioner

      In reply to Janeen Harris

      Agreed Janeen, I would vote for a party led by a woman but not one led by Julia Gillard.

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    9. robert roeder
      robert roeder is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      We seem to be straying off the UN topic but, most tribes in Oz were strongly patriarchal there were mens and womans camp fires a bit like todays bar b q. In the book ( fiction ) Red Chief by Ion Idriess he describes how a tribe was weakened by the practice of the old men obtaining the young women as brides through barter/ favours, they had several. I have never heard of a Kadaitcha woman. It is interesting looking at the social mores of the Bonobo monkeys maybe we should aspire to emulate them.

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  3. Marilyn Shepherd

    pensioner

    Clearly some have no idea that Australia is currently jailing and tormenting the women and children who have fled wars and asked us for safety here because if they were they would not believe that Australia cares about women and children of war.

    Here are two stories I got this week,

    .This past week I have met mothers who have demonstrated this powerful love for their children by making decisions and taking risks which saved their lives. They will not be getting flowers and breakfast in bed…

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