No Woman, No Peace

December 19, 2011

mother and child refugees in Dadaab Kenya
© UNHCR/B. Heger

Just moments ago U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a comprehensive new plan by the U.S. government to help protect women and girls in conflict zones and ensure that peace processes include women.

The new plan by the Administration is the first ever U.S. national action plan and Executive Order to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.   Often dubbed “the women’s resolution,” UNSC Resolution 1325 recognizes that significant action is needed to protect women and girls from armed conflict and include them in peace-building.  States have been asked to create a national action plan to specifically address the issue of women, peace and security.

Coming just days after her speech at the UN announcing U.S. commitment to the protection of LGBT rights worldwide, today’s announcement is another welcome step to protect the human rights of some of the world’s most at-risk communities.

Women and girls are uniquely and disproportionately affected by armed conflict.  In modern warfare, an estimated 90% of the casualties are civilians, and 75% of these are women and children.

But women and girls are not just victims of war; they are also powerful peace-builders whose efforts to prevent conflict and secure peace have been critical, yet largely unrecognized, under-resourced, and not integrated into formal peace processes.

Although women are often inescapably thrust into armed conflict, when the time comes to negotiate peace, women too often find themselves without a seat at the table. Only 1 in 13 participants in peace negotiations since 1992 have been women. Women have served as only 6% of negotiators to formalized peace talks and have never been appointed as chief mediators in UN-brokered talks.  By creating and implementing a strong national action plan, the U.S. is taking an important step to strengthen the role of women as peace-makers.

The U.S. Government’s plan will also help the international community’s ability to combat gender-based violence.  Global statistics that show that one in three women will be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime illustrate the staggering pervasiveness of gender-based violence.  The U.S. must seize this opportunity to take life-saving actions in conflict areas such as Afghanistan and the DRC; actions desperately needed by countless women and girls throughout the world’s conflict zones.

Amnesty International USA joined with other human rights organizations, women’s rights and peace groups to recommend the necessary components for a strong U.S. national action plan and is pleased to see many of these recommendations prominently featured in the plan.  These provisions include a focus on ensuring that women are full partners and participants in peace processes; ensuring training for U.S. personnel and contractors on women, peace and security issues; engaging and supporting women’s civil society organizations; and creating strategies to end sexual and gender-based violence.

The U.S’s commitment to women, peace and security is vital for the plan’s success.  Although a critical move forward, the release of this plan must be considered only the first in a series of actions to protect women’s human rights in the context of armed conflict and ensure their full participation in peace-building.

Because no woman, no peace.

Agree?  Visit our women’s human rights page to get involved.