Assessing the Security Development Nexus: UN Resolution 1325

On 9 June 2015, the Embassy of Sweden together with the Georgetown Institute of Women, Peace, and Security hosted a panel to discuss the security development nexus, particularly the progress and shortcomings of UN Resolution 1325. Best characterized by the popular mantra of “there is no development without security and no security without development,” the security development nexus represented the convergence and blurring of the security and development sector. Thus, as international actors tried to navigate this complex new space, the UN adopted UN Resolution 1325 on 31 October 2000, which urged “all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspectives in all United Nations peace and security efforts,” reaffirming the importance of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts.

The panel featured some of the field’s most distinguished thought leaders: Ambassador Melanne Verveer (the Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security), Major General (ret) Patrick Cammaert (a member of High-level Advisory Group for Global Study on SCR 1325), Dr. Cindy Huang (Deputy Vice President of Sector Operations at the Millennium Challenge Corporation), and Dr. Robert Egnell (Visiting Professor at Georgetown’s Security Studies Program).

Commander Jan Dunmurray of the Nordic Center for Gender in Military Operations opened the panel in the sun-drenched room by saying, “to reach sustainable peace, men and women must be engaged at all levels,” emphasizing the Nordic Center’s mantra that “sharing is winning.”

Over the years, especially during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the security development nexus has been touted as the future of humanitarian interventions and warfare in an increasingly complicated security landscape. But the translation of the high-minded ideals of UN Resolution 1325 to action has been fraught with obstacles and shortcomings. The provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) deployed in Afghanistan have drawn sharp criticism for militarizing humanitarian space in the name of security. The mixed results of the program have raised the question of whether development workers should work in tandem with warfighters on such an intimate level. Furthermore, the panel admitted the “one size fits all” mentality pervasive in the international community has failed to effectively map or promote locally driven solutions.

Yet, at the same time, one cannot deny the inexplicable connection between development and security, particularly the vulnerability and importance of women in conflict and post-conflict environments. Major General (ret) Patrick Cammaert, who served as the General Officer Commanding the Eastern Division in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC), soberly recounted how thousands of women in Gaza suffer from PTSD, while gang rape is routine among female genocide victims in Rwanda even today. Dr. Cindy Huang further added, “gender-based violence keeps women, the very people we are targeting, from participating in economic growth programs” whether it is education or access to clean water. As a whole, the panel argued that empowered women, working as partners with their male counterparts, are a necessary foundation for open and safe societies.

Dr. Robert Egnell highlighted that one of the greatest challenges of UN Resolution 1325 has been the “underestimation of the organizational changes needed” to implement its ideals. He continued to say, “We are fundamentally changing the way we define and look at peace and security,” so unsurprisingly, the resolution has received resistance by the status quo power structure. For instance, although featured in several international organizations, gender advisors and experts are commonly marginalized from decision-making and positions of power.

Major General (ret) Patrick Cammaert recounted how a Brigadier General under his command in the Congo refused to work with civilians, especially women. He criticized how this kind of narrow-mindedness was toxic to the spirit of UN Resolution 1325. He stated that thousands of his own troops in the Congo hailed from countries where women walked three steps behind the men. So, he asked, how do you expect these soldiers who are leading the patrols and ordered to serve and protect women to perform such intellectual and cultural acrobatics?

In response, Dr. Cindy Huang emphasized the pressing need to reform the incentive structures of organizations, both civilian and military. She commented on how people required a reason to abandon old and practiced habits and adopt more gender-informed perspectives. Similarly, Dr. Robert Egnell said that “the military is the last bastion of male exclusivity,” reflected by the controversial and heated debate of women serving in combat roles in the US Armed Forces. He argued that you must transform the incentives of behavior within organizations like the military such as the guidelines for promotion and pay raises. In other words, before structural transformation can occur, the culture at its foundation must first be addressed.

Like many well-intended UN initiatives, UN Resolution 1325 has fought an uphill battle from its inception. The chasm between the ideals preached on paper and the reality on the ground is undeniably large. Arriving upon its fifteen-year anniversary this year, the UN Security Council commissioned the 2015 High-Level Review of UN Resolution 1325, a global study evaluating best practices, implantation gaps, and emerging trends. Hopefully, the review will produce both the impetus and vision required for incorporating and implementing a more comprehensive and gender-informed perspective in a male-dominated security field.

In the end, we must decide whether the main goal of the UN is to provide security and peace for men and the nation-states they live in, or if we’re going to stretch that goal to include women.  A security objective that only targets half the world’s population seems half-hearted at best.

Photo by MONUSCO / CC BY-SA 2.0

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