Senior Adjunct Professor of Global Leadership Rangita de Silva de Alwis examines the challenges and potential solutions to expand the “Women, Peace, and Security” agenda.
Ten years ago, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) General Recommendation 30 granted “authoritative guidance to countries that have ratified the CEDAW on concrete measures to ensure women’s human rights are protected before, during, and after conflict.”
Rangita de Silva de Alwis, Senior Adjunct Professor of Global Leadership and Member-Elect to the CEDAW, examines key issues surrounding the UN’s Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda and proposes solutions to ongoing challenges to WPS initiatives. At the invitation of the US Department of State, she presented these arguments in Washington, D.C., at the WPS Focal Points Network 5th Capital-Level Meeting on June 8.
A High-Level UN report published on the 15th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 points to several markers of progress on the Women, Peace and Security agenda, as well as ongoing challenges. While the report notes that “there has been an appreciable rise in the number of references to women in the text of peace agreements,” one of the overarching concerns was that out of the four pillars of UNSCR 1325—typically defined as prevention, protection, participation, and peacebuilding—the protection pillar generally was given more attention than the participation and prevention pillars. The idea is not to make war safe for women but to have women lead in peace building and conflict prevention by addressing power structures through a transformative, feminist and Global South approach.
New challenges—including the Taliban’s exclusion of women and girls from education and certain forms of employment—push us to reimagine the UNSCR 1325’s paradigmatic focus on women’s bodies toward a more holistic understanding of violence against women. The term of art, “conflict-related sexual violence” as defined by Security Council Resolution 1820, must be reconceptualized in light of the current forms of violence against women in geographies such as Afghanistan.
The confluence of a pandemic, an economic crisis, the war in Ukraine also highlight the nexus between UNSCR 1325—the seminal resolution that located women as agents of peace rather than as victims of violence—and a panoply of intersecting UN Security Council Resolutions, including UNSCR 2417 on the threat of food insecurity in conflict and UNSCR 2601 on safe schools in conflict.
In addition to her faculty position at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, Rangita de Silva de Alwis is an expert on the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Focal Point on Women, Peace and Security; Senior Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Center for the Legal Profession; and Visiting Fellow at Oxford University in the Trinity Term of 2024.