Members of parliament have an important role to play as peacebuilders. Although their participation in supporting the women, peace and security agenda has been variable they can encourage their supporters to respect human rights, including the rights of women to live securely and peacefully.
This is one of the many valuable recommendations found in UNDP’s new ‘Parliaments as Partners Supporting the Women Peace and Security Agenda: A Global Handbook,’ which launched last week in Oslo. The handbook provides comprehensive guidance to parliamentarians on how to work with stakeholders and policy evidence supporting and advancing the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda. It also includes lessons from UNDP’s Global Project on Parliaments as Partners Supporting Women, Peace and Security, which is supported by the Government of Norway and the first undertaking on this global scale.
The launch was part of a dialogue that looked at how parliamentarians and civil society can advance the WPS agenda in law and policy, promote accountability for the agenda and support women peacebuilders. It was the result of a collaboration between the UNDP’s Global Project on Parliaments as Partners Supporting the Women, Peace and Security, the Government of Norway, the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) and the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership.
UNDP and ICAN have been working to provide a unique opportunity for an inclusive exchange between parliamentarians, government officials, civil society and the UN. It is through such efforts that we can ensure that the words and spirit of the WPS agenda are institutionalized, moving beyond national action plans to deepen the agenda’s foundations through law and governance.
The event brought together more than 140 members of parliament and women activists from all over the world, including those from Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, Nepal and Sri Lanka. They represented UNDP’s Global Project, to learn about each other’s distinctive work and the associated challenges and to explore the opportunities and gains of greater collaboration. During the event, HRH Sophie, Countess of Wessex, Norway’s Foreign Affairs Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, UNDP’s Director of Governance Sarah Lister and Camilla Bruckner, Head of UNDP’s Nordic Representation Office, led a discussion on who women peacebuilders are, what they do and what kind of support and partnerships would make the most difference.
The importance of broad-based efforts has been acknowledged in several WPS resolutions and UN efforts. In September, for the first time, the annual report of the UN Secretary-General on women, peace and security specifically recognized UNDP’s Global Project’s results in supporting parliaments to identify ways in which they can support the WPS agenda.
“Change is coming at a pace that is too slow for the women and girls whose lives depend on it, and for the effectiveness of our efforts to maintain international peace and security,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council during an open debate in October.
The Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2492 (2019), urging states to recommit themselves to the WPS agenda, by creating safe environments for women leaders, peacebuilders, human rights defenders and political actors around the globe.
As we near the 20th anniversary next year of the groundbreaking UN Security Council resolution 1325, we see little systemic change that would ensure diverse, equal and meaningful participation of women in peace, reconciliation and post-conflict reconstruction. In part this is because existing WPS strategies are not anchored in effective accountability and are not supported by adequate national funds.
What is increasingly clear though is that the engagement of national parliaments in this global agenda is key to providing accountability, securing sufficient budget allocations and pushing past the inertia to ensure a major leap forward. UNDP’s new handbook shows that the inclusion of parliaments has been variable and collaboration and coordination between parliaments, national and local government and civil society has been lacking.
To address this gap, UNDP’s Global Project on Parliaments as Partners Supporting Women, Peace and Security has been working in Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, Myanmar, Nepal, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka to assess the challenges and opportunities that shape women’s participation and representation in democratic processes, while encouraging parliamentarians to use the tools at their disposal to advance the WPS agenda.
So far the results of the project have been encouraging.
Supported by UNDP, in 2019 the Parliament of Sierra Leone endorsed a Parliamentary Resolution on WPS, followed by a complementary Parliamentary WPS National Action Plan, which identifies the actions to be prioritized. These include the promotion of law reforms in support of gender equality, such as removing discriminatory clauses from the 1991 Constitution.
In Kyrgyzstan, members of the Parliamentary Women’s Caucus engaged with local stakeholders and communities to identify locally-specific WPS challenges. Inputs from forums organized by MPs with local authorities, women’s organisations and the media informed the parliamentary road map on WPS.
In Sri Lanka a dialogue was organized between women’s groups working on WPS issues and parliamentary officials. It has fed into law reform proposals developed by the Parliamentary Sectoral Oversight Committee on Women and Gender, including on marriage ordinance, maintenance ordinance and land development ordinance.