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Updated: Fri, 07/12/2024 - 12:16

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Alerte de McGill. Le campus du centre-ville restera partiellement fermé jusqu’au lundi 15 juillet, en soirée. Complément d’information : Direction de la protection et de la prévention

Implementing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda at Home

As International Women’s Day is approaching 23 years after the first United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), Western States are not adequately equipped to implement the WPS agenda at home.

Upon reviewing National Action Plans (NAPs) drafted by Western States in response to UNSC’s Resolution 1325 (2000) on WPS, the absence of domestic considerations is glaring. Western NAPs that do include inward facing commitments feature them as afterthoughts that pale in comparison with the number of commitments outlined and of high-profile departments mobilized under international assistance and overseas military efforts. Countries like Canada and Sweden who (until the recent change in political climate in the Swedish case) advertised proudly their feminist approach to foreign policy (see for instance Sweden’s Feminist Foreign Policy Handbook & Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy) have not taken a truly humbler approach in terms recognizing their WPS challenges at home and addressing them via national-level NAP commitments.


Canada’s Case


Canada for instance, despite assuming a leadership role in the implementation of WPS, features some gaps at the domestic level in its NAP (2017-2022), notably with regards to its own well-known issues surrounding indigenous women’s rights and cases of sexual harassment and assault within its armed forces. While Canada recognizes via its NAP that the situation of Indigenous women domestically constitutes a peace and security issue, the dispositions leave some key elements unaddressed (see the Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and Indigenous Services Canada implementation of Canada’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security). Notably, no commitment appears toward reducing violence on reserves - which disproportionately affects women (see the National Inquiry’s into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Final Report; Reclaiming Power and Place) - nor toward facilitating indigenous women’s access to justice when finding themselves victims/survivors of violent acts. While Canada’s NAP (CNAP) includes one commitment toward addressing Calls for Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, most related actions pertain to compensation for victims and their families (with no commitments related to the effective legal impunity of perpetrators) and very little is geared toward prevention.


As for CNAP’s commitment related to Canada’s Defense and Armed forces, core national-level elements of WPS are indeed found in the Department of National Defense and the Canadian Armed Forces implementation of Canada’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, such as the recruitment and promotion of women, the education and training of staff about women and conflict as well as the integration within operations of Gender-Based Analysis (GBA+). However, with regards to sexual harassment and assault within its ranks, the operationalization of commitment remains questionable, as the plan refers to Operation HONOUR, terminated in 2021 and scaled back to the Path to Dignity and Respect (of which Operation HONOUR was initially part). Further to this, the ‘Path’ does not include a publicly available Performance Measurement Framework against which progress could be tracked and reported on (contrary to the former Operation HONOUR). The reduction in scope of this key NAP commitment on Canada’s approach to decrease instances of sexual harassment and assault within its armed forces is yet another instance where Western NAPs as they currently are don’t serve their full domestic purpose, especially when compared to the breadth and resources put toward overseas commitments. That said, Canada’s NAP is far from the only suboptimal NAP on the domestic front.


The Necessity to Rethink Domestic Components of NAPs


The initial framing of the WPS agenda (dating back to the drafting of Resolution 1325) is partly responsible for the misrepresentation of both women and conflict in general and of the expected scope of the WPS agenda (i.e. taking effect in conflict affected States and nowhere else). Painted out by Resolution 1325 as a victim’s role, the Security Council’s perspective on women and conflict has since then been broadened to include the « equal and effective participation of women at all stages of peace processes » (S/RES/1889 (2009)). While this rightfully remains focused on the participation of women in and of conflict affected States, it is no longer restricted to this narrow definition and represents an opportunity for non-conflict affected state to review their security apparatus and (in)security challenges at home from a feminist perspective.


Thus, the WPS agenda - shaped not only by Resolution 1325 but by all subsequent UNSC Resolutions - is meant to be a comprehensive tool (perhaps solely because no other tool of this type and scale is available) to guide all security-related intervention through a feminist lens. There is therefore a critical need for Western countries to rethink the domestic elements of their NAPs and for the United Nations to issue a clear policy framework with which to align future NAPs (including clarity around what constitutes a strong domestic response to WPS).


The fact that Western countries - of which many position themselves as champions of the agenda and were amongst the first to develop NAPs - understood the WPS agenda as an initiative largely applicable to international assistance and military presence abroad betrays the often pointed out imperial currents in the field of foreign policy. Ownership from the West regarding their own peace and security issues and the presence in NAPs of feminist commitments addressing domestic issues will be necessary to the successful implementation of the WPS agenda.

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