Tuesday, 5 September 2017
On 31 October 2000, the United Nations Security Council passed UN resolution 1325. That was the first time an international agreement acknowledged the pivotal role of women in building and maintaining peace as well as the disproportionate impact of conflict on women and girls. This resolution was the result of many years of strong advocacy, women and men from across the world expressing their own experiences and talking about the particular impact and need for women to be involved in all areas, looking at peace in our community and the impact of war.
Since that time, eight more resolutions from the United Nations Security Council have sought to strengthen the implementation of UNSCR 1325. They were passed in 2000, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013 and, most recently, in 2015. These resolutions through the United Nations Security Council provide a framework for women, peace and security. Together these resolutions focus on four main areas: prevention, participation, protection, and relief and recovery.
The area of prevention is about supporting local women's peace initiatives and conflict resolution processes, strengthening women's rights under national law, and providing and improving intervention strategies in the presence of violence against women, including by persecuting and prosecuting those responsible for violations of international law. The area of participation is about increasing the participation of women at all levels of decision-making, in institutions and mechanisms related to conflict prevention, resolution and management, including peace processes and the participation of civilian, military and police women in UN field based operations.
The area of protection is about the protection of women and girls, and their rights—including in relation to sexual and gender based violence, an emergency humanitarian situation, such as in refugee camps and settlements, and the Security Council mission's resolution processes. The area of relief and recovery is about ensuring that a genuine gender perspective is incorporated into all relief and recovery efforts to support specific needs and recognise the capacities of women and girls, including in the design of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programs, refugee camps and settlements and, in Security Council mission resolution processes, the establishment of the rule of law and transitional justice.
As part of this, there was moved a process to allow for national action plans to be developed in countries across the world. So far 66 countries, including Australia, have developed national action plans. The first one from Australia was a bit slow but we got there in 2012. We are now in the process of looking at the introduction of the second plan. Why is there a plan? There needs to be a plan so that there is a real purpose around looking at the pages and pages of rhetoric—one thing we do know is that the United Nations has lots of words, and Security Council resolution 1325 is not a short document. You can have all these words but, most importantly, you need to have action. That's why the action plans are the models on which countries can make their own commitment and ensure their own communities and institutions take part in making a real difference.
The purpose of the Australian national plan is to articulate Australia's ongoing commitment to implement UNSCR 1325 and the broader UN Security Council women, peace and security agenda. It's also to establish a clear framework for a coordinated whole-of-government approach to implementing this plan and related resolutions. We hear that 'whole-of-government process' way too often, but the importance is that this should not be isolated. We need to have engagement from across all levels of Australian government to ensure that they understand and are working together on this process. It's also to identify strategies and actions that Australia will undertake both domestically and overseas to implement 1325 and related resolutions and to measure the effectiveness of the work over the six-year period from 2012 to 2018. It's also to highlight the important work that Australia is doing in partnership with the international community to respond to women's needs, to recognise their roles, to promote equal participation and to protect women and girls' human rights in fragile conflict and post-conflict settings.
The implementation of the women, peace and security agenda must be a long-term and transformative piece of work. The need is to make actual change. We have the plan, and we need to ensure that there is transformation. It's about changing the approach to peace and security efforts in order to integrate a genuine gender perspective and consider the experience and the needs of women and girls across a range of complex issues. The national action plan is both a symbolic and a practical step which will bring Australia's implementation of UNSCR 1325 and the related resolutions into practice.
It is not exhaustive, and it can never ever be static. It's a living document that will provide ongoing guidance to inform the work and policies of the Australian government agencies and departments. As this was the first plan, as part of plans across the other 65 nations across the world, it has to be a foundation document so that we introduce the plan and build on it during the 2012-18 period and also as we move forward to develop the new plan.
Part of the issue is that, within the period of this plan, there were at least two evaluations, because we know that there has to be effective monitoring and evaluation. The first one was in 2015 and then, on the basis of that, there is the final evaluation, which is taking place now. This national plan consists of five high-level strategies and 24 actions that fit underneath those strategies which are linked to the responsible implementing government agencies. The five key strategies are to integrate a gender perspective into Australia's policies on peace and security; to embed the women, peace and security agenda in the Australian government's approach to human resource management of Defence, the Australian Federal Police and deployed personnel; to support civil society organisations to promote equality and increase women's participation in conflict prevention, peace building, conflict resolution, and relief and recovery—they are, as you remember, the key areas that were a goal of the plan; to promote women, peace and security implementation internationally; and I suppose this is the one that pulls it together, to take a coordinated and holistic approach domestically and internationally to women, peace and security.
We got the plan in place. We had people who made a commitment, and, most importantly, we had one of those very important interdepartmental committees that was tasked with making sure the plan worked. So it happens, there was one more thing. The expectation was that there would be a report back to the parliament about what was happening with the plans. I have been watching, and I have been listening, and I don't think that there has been a wide celebration in parliament about what's happening with women, peace and security. That was one of the issues that was mentioned when we had the first round review in 2014-15. It had a clear look at what we were doing up until that stage. What it came up with was a recommendation that we could do better and that there were places that needed more focus. But, as I said, it was a foundational document; it actually got those words into the agenda; it got government agencies realising they had responsibilities in this space.
The interim report called for opportunities for collaboration between government and civil society—absolutely essential in this space, because we would not have had a women's peace and security plan if there had not been the active advocacy and engagement of civil society over very many years. It also said that we had to effectively implement the actions and gaps in challenges, we had to ensure the relevance of the plan was clearly known by all the participants and we had to really ensure that there was effective monitoring and evaluation. In that period, we have had the plan, we have had the first round review and now we are moving forward to 2018 to have a look at what happened with the six-year plan and also build on that to introduce the second plan, which is due to start at the end of 2018.
One of the things that has been most important throughout this whole process is engaging with civil society. In fact, there is a group that has been formed amongst the NGOs which has a commitment to ensuring that this action is taken. That's the Australian Civil Society Coalition on Women, Peace and Security—hopefully called 'the coalition', which is much, much shorter. It is a non-partisan, independent coalition of civil society organisations, networks and individuals working to advance the women, peace and security agenda in Australia, our region of the Asia-Pacific and globally. This particular coalition is calling for people to become involved in their process. They're asking for people to want to join in this process. It brings together activists, feminists, practitioners, humanitarian actors and those with firsthand experience working on the frontline on issues relating to women, peace and security. Coalition members have a wide-ranging expertise in gender and peace. The coalition engages with the Australian government to progress the implementation and scope of the Australian national action plan, and it contributes to the dialogue on this agenda in Australia and our region by amplifying the perspectives of women's organisations working in conflict afflicted countries and working collectively to advocate for changes in policy and practice. That is the link. It is the link of people who have the lived experience and the commitment to bring their experiences into the policy development. We build alliances with others working on issues related to the women, peace and security agenda in order to constructively promote a gendered approach to peace and security, which was exactly the need and stimulant for the original process in 2000 and, subsequently, today.
The vision of the organisation—the coalition—is a world in which gender equality and the contributions and rights of diverse women and girls are at the forefront of transforming conflict to build peace. This is the core of women, peace and security. The purpose of this coalition is: to reshape the peace and security dialogue, policy and practice in Australia away from focusing increasingly on the militarised and security approach towards a transformative—there's that word again—women, peace and security agenda; to redefine security for all women within Australia's foreign and domestic policy; and to harness and bring together a solidarity of approach through the collective power of women's and peace movements towards our vision in Australia, our region and globally.
This is what this group is doing in our community. They are working with government to ensure that we can take the transformative action that is the purpose of this plan. A document has been circulated to stimulate the discussion. One of the ways this is working is through a series of roundtables that are being coordinated around the country. I know there are some coming up in Brisbane and Melbourne through people who are part of the coalition, and I want to note particularly here the work of the women in international peace and security who have been working in this area for so long. There is a wonderful quote from an excerpt from Women Building Peace: What They Do, Why It Mattersby Sanam Naraghi Anderlini. This quote, for me, encapsulates what the core of 1325 is all about:
From Bogota to Baghdad, women are on the front lines of providing services, heading households, caring for the sick and the elderly, and sustaining and ensuring the survival of their families … It is often women who first give voice to civilians silenced by atrocities. Increasingly, they are claiming their place as major stakeholders and active agents in resisting war, building peace, and defining security on their terms…. There is no single ideology, approach, or even motivation that defines this growing sector, which veteran activist Cora Weiss calls "peace women." In effect, these women—be they antimilitarists, former fighters, the elite, or grassroots actors—come together through their commitment to social justice, fairness, and equality for all.
That is the core of resolution 1325.
Every year there's a discussion at the UN where people bring together their experiences around this issue. In 2017 the global peace index presented us with a mixed bag of good and bad news. While, on the one hand, as a global community we're slightly more peaceful than we were in 2016, over the last decade we've actually become less peaceful. We are seeing a rising trend in peace inequality, with most countries having only small increases in peacefulness while a handful of countries have had large deteriorations in peace. Globally we have become susceptible to populist political movements.
In 2017, under the peace index, overall 93 countries improved, while in 68 countries peace deteriorated, which is a cause for great alarm and concern. It means that these areas of the world are less peaceful. In that ranking—and I know we all like to see these performance tables—Iceland remains the most peaceful country in the world, and that's a position it's held since 2008. They have a plan. I'm not sure why things are particularly peaceful in Iceland, but perhaps we could learn a lot about why Iceland has such a peaceful environment and a commitment to peace. It's joined at the top of the index by New Zealand, Portugal, Austria and Denmark—and I am not going to make any comment about New Zealand. On the list, Australia ranks 12th out of 163 countries, so it's near the top of the index. However, we all know the areas that are the least peaceful, that are the most dangerous and where women and children are most vulnerable, and there does not seem to be much movement in that area at all. Syria remains the least peaceful country in the world, followed by Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan and Yemen.
We know that there is a commitment to maintaining the women, peace and security process. We need to ensure that the actions in this program are seen as effective, real and valuable, that it's not rhetoric, not something where you just tick a box or make a report; you actually can make a distinct difference. In this place we have seen reports about where this peace agenda has been integrated into Australia's work. Only in the last sitting period Senator Fierravanti-Wells and I talked about the process in the Solomon Islands and the RAMSI process and how, throughout that whole activity, which was noted as being a major success—governments from our region working together in a country where there had been war, where there had been complete disruption—an intervention was called upon by that government and responded to by people throughout our region. Throughout that whole process the issue of the women, peace and security structure was integrated into the action, and we saw women involved in the peacekeeping forces. We saw them working in community. We saw them rebuilding community. That is the kind of program that we have to ensure continues to exist. If you check the UN website you can see inspiring, challenging and heartbreaking stories about women from across the world in the most dangerous situations who have used their own experience, their energy and their commitment to change the societies in which they're living. They put the action into the plans I've been talking about this evening.
In the middle of World War I, a group of women got together in Europe to talk about why there needed to be peace, why there had to be change, in the midst of what was at that stage a war that was tearing apart their whole environment. At that conference, women gathered and made a number of recommendations about how we could actually secure real peace in our lives. Many of those suggestions integrate immediately into the current Women, Peace and Security Programme. So, in October 2000, the women who were still with us from World War I could see that their words finally had acceptance by the United Nations. In 2018 we'll be building a new plan for Australia. We have to listen to the past, we have to understand this experience and we need to have genuine peace in our time.