How UN's unreformed structure is challenging us in CSW66 - A Question of Peace and Progress
Marion Böker, IAW Acting President and
Heide Schütz, Convenor of the IAW Commission on Peace
1. The landmark United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) framework and Feminist Foreign Policy are widely celebrated as progress and IAW on all levels of its membership supports them with various efforts. Peace, Freedom and Justice in Democracy exist all too rarely. Even in most of the countries where people are lucky to grow up in peace, their past and present cultures as a society, in families, in their economies are still influenced by and connected to armed conflicts and wars.
IAW is aware that the end of war is still a long way off and we need another, a multilateral level of working for Peace and the UN We Want. We hope to achieve this through better networks in our membership dealing with this issue, firmer grounding of our advocacy and by winning a new generation for the Women, Peace, Security (WPS) agenda, as well as fighting for the fulfillment of the Human Right to Peace with a strong Treaty and Treaty Body, and reform of the United Nations (UN) and its Security Council to be able to fulfill the UN Charter’s mandate. The creation of peace is enshrined in the 5th chapter of IAW’s Action Program, and this needs to be strengthened in an update of the Action Program for the next triennium.
During the 2021 Generation Gender Equality Forum in Paris, the IAW Peace Commission made commitments under individual areas of the Global Compacts on Women, Peace, Security and Humanitarian Action. This allows us to unify our members around the WPS agenda in a project on assessing, evaluating and developing an approach for a more effective implementation and future of the WPS agenda, based on our members’ experiences on the ground. In the upcoming months we will present more on this topic and the next International Women’s News will also serve as a call for the participation in the project.
We see how important this step is while as we also acknowledge the bitter reality of a new re-militarization which is already depleting budgets globally for the social investments we need. This destroys lives, causes hunger, pain and another burden of violence to be digested over generations.
Women peacemakers on the ground are still not heard and taken seriously as partners for peace. We learn this when looking into long persisting (armed) conflicts and wars all over the world, in many of our member organisations’ countries, in all regions but also looking into the painful lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic, with an obvious backlash against our hard-fought achievements in gender equality, against hunger, for education, empowerment, justice, women’s human rights and in all areas. Women do not only care for the victims of society’s ills. Women now want a changed world order which starts from a caring and sharing climate-balanced economy, want to de-colonize, disarm and detoxify destructive gender concepts of toxic masculinity and femininity. Women need feminist and peace-loving men as partners to get a world order in place which gives humanity and the planet a future. The mere escape to another planet or a back-up of our world by artificial copy and paste we will not accept. Therefore we need gender parity in all sectors and new leaders who are capable of creating this new world. This is not a vision that is nice to have, it is a necessity for survival.
During the years, the war by the Russian Federation against Ukraine has been evolving into the same failure we have seen with the International Community in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and so many more places , to simply fulfill the United Nations Charter’s mandate to stop war and keep peace. We had called for a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) reform but we only heard it would be impossible. Today many wish a reformed UNSC which would have been a chance for better outcomes, and we will never tire of calling for this! The responsibility for the mandate of peace-keeping must be shared by all, all countries, and all women, and all men.
An ineffective UNSC and a retrogressive, dependent UN General Assembly (UNGA) had as a result ignoring women’s voices from Ukraine directed to the them since 2014 as it had before from Syrian, Kurdish and Ezidi women and other communities. We have had to witness in the current case that the UNGA did not made the slightest reference to women and the UNSCR 1325 framework in its UNGA Res. ES‑11/1 of March 2, 2022, which demands a full withdrawal of forces of the Russian Federation, an end to the invasion into Ukraine, and a reversal of its decision to recognize the self-declared People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk announced on territory in Ukraine and the Russian Federation. No Feminist Foreign Policy was taken in consideration.
Women’s and civilian issues which are now so obvious in the war were once more side tracked. When it is serious, it is still in many cases a men’s game following the medieval rules of Machiavelli: going to war is a tolerated option of politics. Going to peace must be as well. Deaths of civilians and sexual violence are weapons of war. Investigation of war crimes comes much later and is not yet a real obstacle for war parties of the old-world order to commit massive war crimes. We need to strengthen the International Criminal Court (ICC): states need to invest in it to make it strong in personnel and resources needed for all international investigations and the ICC needs to create effective mechanisms which serve as binding obstacles to war. Finally, a new UNSC needs to have a gender sensitive early warning system in place which is fed with data and observations of all stakeholders, including women, to alarm the International Community early enough on rising conflicts to order to be able to counteract and resolve them in a state before there are weapons in use. This investment for peace – next to the educational one from cradle to grave – can never be bold enough if we ever want to achieve a global capacity for peace keeping. Women’s claims within the UNSCR1325 framework had always covered this, we cannot repeat this often enough. As our Parallel Events during CSW66 showed, it is also related to Climate Change. A Gender Responsible Early Warning System (GREWS) needs to look into various systemic crisis developments, Violence Against Women in its whole scope, economics, justice, well-being, care and caring capabilities, leadership, climate change. In view of next year’s CSW67 on digitization, we want to define not only its gains, but also its threats and conflict potential for war.
2. Progress under the shadow of war is an illusion – We need to shape a UN capable of survival.
The protection of civilians, especially women and children, guaranteed by international law and women’s participation has deteriorated to mere decoration.
But we could demonstrate in two of our Parallel Events of CSW66 and our advocacy with the leading negotiators: women peace and change makers do not give up, no matter how many disasters are accumulating. While the systemic violation of women’s rights, health crisis, conflicts, climate change mount, there are women who fight against them and are always pointing to the path for peace. They need finances, support and to be acknowledged for their expertise, for example, Hands Across the Divide (HAD) in Cyprus, women peacemakers in Kashmir and India, women in Cameroon, DRC, Georgia, Ukraine, Cameroon. When talking of or drafting soft or hard law on Climate Change, we need to face down and decrease, finally getting rid of the military. From its production, transport, maneuvers, its use to kill, its remaining waste, it is in all its phases one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emission, pollution. It is also a man-made disaster for all the progress humanity wants and needs to make. When we hear that only a handful of countries can keep us from facing reality and the threats for humankind and nature’s future, we know which changes we need.
IAW, as part of the Women’s NGO community at CSW66, witnessed how much women of Civil Society, science, other areas and some member states were concerned about the war against Ukraine and other – not forgotten- similar suffering populations in countries under years of armed crisis, war, never-ending conflicts and divides while the UN Commission on the Status of Women was not showing any courage and flexibility to even mention it. Nor did it respond adequately, even though there is, as always, a strong link to the Priority issue of Climate Change and the disaster of man-made war and the military.
Due to the missed chance to discuss military as one contributor to the manifold devastation of humanity and of Climate Change, we need to look ahead and work with like-minded individuals, for example feminist politicians and diplomats, to include this issue in follow-up resolutions to the UNSCR 1325. We must also check into other activities of the UN. One of these networks, which is open for our NGO contribution, is the WPS Focal point network.
The UNSC is also, as we heard in briefings, an obstacle to progress. It was said that three to four states stopped any text referring to the military being included in the CSW66 Agreed Conclusions and text on the full scope of UNSCR 1325 was limited by their powers. As we have stated our support of the UN as a multilateral organisation in which we see the future of our planet, we have to give more concrete support to the reform we want of its entities. This is no longer something very visionary, it is the pure defense due to what we heard in briefings, that there is the attempt from within the UNSC to isolate itself from the UNGA. This is no less than the intention to keep privileges to a few superpowers and friends and destroy the core mandate and with it the UN itself.
Even prominent UN representatives had announced at CSW66’s beginning that the priority theme would be ambitious and should achieve progress over the Paris Agreement or the COP26; all this is now proven to have been empty words. Progress was left behind. The standards were reaffirmed, repeated, and left us with nothing new, except that we have to build stronger alliances with women NGOs, women at all decisions-making levels, and we start from the scratch. This is especially true for the women and their families in war-torn countries and regions. We are questioned in our means. We are too limited. We need to focus more seriously on changing the world order. We, while also supporting the UN and multilateral organisations, cannot leave the governments, the UN alone. We need to rise up and so focus on more real engagement.
CSW66 was a place to learn that we need a Global Cease Fire and a true Culture of Peace, the rule of Human Rights and Law, in order to deal with increasing Climate Change without delay. This should unite us across borders and conflicts. For this immense challenge, we need all brains; what we do not need are soldiers, or dictators, or leaders who deny facts and mingle with dictators.
IAW will stand firm. Not only are we taking our lessons learned in the CSW66 Parallel Events seriously and will follow up in the Peace Commission. We had passed a resolution during Congress in November 2020 on “Fund for health care not war fare”, and our mission for peace has been known since our founding mothers established this NGO in 1904 for women’s suffrage and gender equality and peace. We have known through generations: where there is no peace, there is no gender equality, no human rights. And today we must state: where there is no caring society and economy in peace there is only disaster, suffering, inhumanity and the loss of our planet earth as our basis in nature.
 Adopted by the UNGA as a Declaration on the Right to Peace on 19 December 2016 by a majority of Member States. IAW worked on it during the 2018 Board Meeting in Berlin (see documented in DFR-Dokumentation-IBFS_Quadratur-des-Kreises-fuer-Frauen-Frieden-und-Sicherheit-2018.pdf (deutscher-frauenring.de) page 50 – 57 (partly in German, please use translation tools such as DeepL Translatee. ). You can find Hon. Pres. Rosy Weiss‘s presentation there in English.
 We know that non-feminist states regard women mainly as an object, a source of reproduction of the population, of soldiers, and therefore control women; see the newest book Our Bodies Their Battlefield – Christina Lamb ; we need to see women as subjects and decision makers sharing power.
 To be informed on the number of armed conflicts, long term frozen conflicts by and between states, war, or, as in the last decades, conflicts initiated by non state actors, one can check List of ongoing armed conflicts – Wikipedia, CrisisWatch | Crisis Group, Home | SIPRI or Peace research units of Universities. Unfortunately, there is no international unified mechanism. Wiith available technical means, the UN should have one available for its priority purposes under the Charter. This could include a Human Rights warning mechnaism. The way SIPRI is working could be a basis for this because it works with indicators for a long time.
 IAW has been in communication with the National Council of Women of the Ukraine since Feb 2021 about their alarm call to the women‘s NGO‘s communities. Thus we created broad solidarity within the European Women‘s Lobby and during CSW66, together with the NGOCSW North American & European Caucus presenting Statements to the UNSG, UNGA and UNSC on its behalf.