Where to now? A feminist, peace, and security agenda
In 2018, WILPF launched a guidance note identifying several elements that are necessary for a feminist UN Security Council. Building off existing Security Council resolutions and WPS commitments, the goal of the guidance note is to provide recommendations for Security Council members to adopt and support actions that work for women in peace and security.
First, there is the need to strengthen partnerships with diverse women in civil society, not as tokens invited to discuss “sad stories” or homogenise women’s experiences as one woman representing all women but to value women as intersectional knowledge holders who provide nuanced analysis on the root causes of conflict and avenues towards sustainable positive peace (WILPF, 2018, pp. 2-3).
Second, the tendency of the UN to “parachute in” solutions and engage primarily with local leaders (who tend to be male) in political, economic, and traditional socio-cultural structures systematically excludes women and their experiences. Thus, a priority of the Security Council must be to support local, national, and regional leadership to foster opportunities to strengthen locally driven approaches to peacemaking and facilitate democratic, grassroots participation for nonviolence and justice, which fundamentally involves the effective participation of women (WILPF, 2018, p. 6).
Third, prioritising gender and conflict analysis throughout the UN is recommended, not only siloed to WPS. To avoid a blinkered focus on protection concerns and prevention of sexual and gender-based violence only, a holistic gender analysis which considers the relationship between gender and crisis, masculinities and femininities, patriarchy and militarism, and looks at “how gender roles, norms and identities shape and are shaped by conflict” is vital (WILPF, 2018, p. 10).
Fourth, the effects of militarism and proliferation of small arms has a monumental impact on women, restricting their mobility and participation and increasing their vulnerabilities and fear of violence. This is reinforced by the valorisation of militarised masculinities that fuels violence and intensifies unequal gendered power relationships. A feminist Security Council must take concrete action on disarmament to reduce military expenditure, arms transfers, and the globalisation of the weapons industry, and it must take seriously a people-centred approach to security (WILPF, 2018, pp. 14-16).
Last, the promotion of transparent and democratic governance within the Security Council itself is important. This recommendation takes aim at the continued use and politicisation of vetos by the 1’5 member states (UK, China, US, France, and Russia) that leaves the Security Council’s mandate unfulfilled, blocking urgent action on humanitarian catastrophes in situations such as Syria and Yemen. Reforms are needed to ensure an accountable and transparent Security Council to prioritise rights and the promotion of economic justice and peace (WILPF, 2018, pp. 18-19).
A feminist Security Council would help integrate a Fl’E approach into the WPS agenda, making it obligatory for institutions and members states to implement. Moreover, such feminist engagement should extend beyond the Security Council towards other institutions, especially economic ones, that are powerful stakeholders that determine the distribution and redistribution of post-conflict power (True and Sverdberg, 2019, pp. 336—337). As Jacqui True and Barbro Sverdberg (2019, p. 337) observe, despite being primary funders of post-conflict economic recovery and reconstruction, 1 FIs are largely overlooked as implemented of WPS nor are they targeted for such explicit feminist transformation. This is despite IFIs tremendous influence on societies transitioning out of conflict and violence. True and Sverdberg (2019, p. 340) argue (with some caveats) that this is a missed opportunity where potential exists for IFIs to be key actors in financing gender-inclusive peace and post-conflict recovery as promoted by WPS. This includes an integration of FPE that includes a gender analysis of care and remittance economies and the functions they perform in societies transitioning and recovering from conflict and violence (True and Sverdberg, 2019, p. 345; Duncanson, 2019; Martin de Almagro and Ryan, 2019).
Many things women identify as insecure, as evidenced by the above discussion, relate to their economic realities. The WPS fourth pillar, relief and recovery, might be one avenue to institutionalise and implement a feminist political economy of peace and help the WPS agenda reach its transformative potential (Davies and True, 2019; True and Hewitt, 2019). This would encompass gender-responsive budgeting, regular audits of post-conflict financing to hold the international community and governments accountable to feminist commitments, and a gender-sensitive economic analysis so that resources benefit women as well as addressing inequalities among diverse groups of women (True and Hewitt, 2019). This includes treating the formal and informal economies as intertwined and mutually constitutive of each other: the productive economy is unable to function without the reproductive economy (Martin de Almagro and Ryan, 2019, p. 5).
The international community, IFIs, and peacebuilding agendas, including WPS, must recognise this and look towards alternative models of growth, underpinned by the care economy. It is necessary to make visible significant contributions and various participations of women in the formal and informal economy. Post-conflict reconstruction agendas must consist of a rigorous feminist conflict and gender analysis to highlight entrenched structural inequalities that contribute to ongoing social conflict and dissatisfaction (True et al., 2017, p. 7). Diverse women and their meaningful participation in developing and designing such an approach is essential to avoid the historical cycle of “one size fits all” peacebuilding mentality. A feminist peace project is only possible if such a feminist economy of peace is realised—a peace project that prioritises a just and sustainable economy and ensures women’s socio-economic rights.