Climate change is one of the global issues that disproportionately impacts women and girls, and deepens inequalities and insecurities, say the co-Directors of the Research Network on Women, Peace and Security (RN-WPS). The RNWPS is an international, bilingual research hub leading a multi-faceted study of the Government of Canada’s Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. The Network was recently funded $750,000 over three years by the Department of National Defence (DND) via the Mobilizing Insights in Defence and Security (MINDS) program.
McGill’s Jennifer Welsh, Professor of Political Science, Canada 150 Research Chair in Global Governance, and Security and director of the Centre for International Peace and Security Studies (CIPSS) is one of three co-directors of the RN-WPS. The network will be co-led by Yolande Bouka from Queen’s University and Erin Baines from the University of British Columbia.
Climate change is just one of the challenges the network hopes to address in a rapidly changing global landscape. Welsh says the network will also mobilize expertise and facilitate knowledge exchange among researchers working in Canadian institutions on ongoing and future international peace and security missions that involve the Canadian armed forces, as well as humanitarian and disaster responses.
"The Women Peace and Security agenda has been an important global focal point for both research and policy-making dedicated to addressing immediate and long-term threats to the well-being of women and girls” says Welsh. “This new network will enable us to tap into the most innovative thinking within a Canadian context, but also to mobilize that crucial knowledge in ways that change the priorities and practices of the many actors who affect women's security.”
The network is developing a database of “green” defence initiatives—civil and military cooperation in response to climate-generated instability—developed by governments and armed forces around the world. With the knowledge generated from the database, the network hopes to shed more light on the gendered nature of conflict, knowledge it hopes will support the DND in its efforts to create internal cultural change and strengthen its relationships with external communities and partners to advance gender equality.
“The MINDS Research Network on Women, Peace and Security constitutes a fantastic opportunity for scholars, practitioners, and activists, including those from historically excluded groups, to help advance inclusive peace and security domestically and internationally through robust research and sustained knowledge exchange practices,” says Bouka.
Specifically, the network will advance and disseminate research on three themes: climate change as a growing threat to resilience and security; the evolution of Canada’s defence relations and participation in multilateral missions to protect populations; and the future security challenges at home and abroad that require adaptation in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). Within these thematic areas, the RN-WPS will focus on the gendered impacts of armed conflict and other security threats, the forces and factors that are undermining the WPS agenda, the implementation of Canada’s new Feminist Foreign Policy, and the consequences of the military’s engagement in new security challenges for the CAF and Canadian society more broadly.
For Baines, the goal of the network is in part to develop of a new generation of researchers that will be ready to address strategic challenges for Canada in the forthcoming decades. “Since the first resolution of the WPS agenda in 2000, civil society, practitioners, researchers and change leaders within government and international organizations have collectively demanded and pushed for transformative and systemic change,” she says. “The RN-WPS will learn from and prepare a new generation to better understand, respond and imagine alternative futures to urgent policy issues such as climate change, the pandemic, and deepening global inequalities and insecurities.”
Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is also a topic of interest for the researchers associated with the network. For example, researchers will examine the immediate and long-term implications on CAF personnel who were deployed to vulnerable communities and elderly care during the pandemic. The network will gather data on the impact of these deployments on community relations and consider how to apply this knowledge to future peacekeeping and stabilization missions in marginalized communities.
Over the course of the three-year mandate, the network will host five roundtables featuring scholars and policymakers from DND and other relevant government departments, while launching a rapid-reaction facility to provide input on questions from policymakers related to gender, peace, and security. The network will also host two community-based research-practice workshops and summer institutes for in-depth training on women, peace, and security. An exchange fellowship program for the DND, the CAF, and for scholars from the Global South, will also feature in network activities over the next three years.
In addition, the network intends to publish the first bilingual journal issue on the topics of gender, peace, and security and to host an annual symposium with the aim of bringing together academics, practitioners, and members of the public for a knowledge exchange program. A website will also be launched in coming months, featuring a blog and policy briefs. Researchers will also contribute to the podcast and video series Arrêt sur le Monde, hosted by the Université de Montreal’s Centre d'études et de recherches internationals (CERIUM.)
With files from Matthew McLaughlin, Communications Assistant, Max Bell School of Public Policy