Translating UN Security Council Resolution 1325 to Arab World Realities

Samar Muhareb

After more than 15 years since its passing, many organizations in the Arab world have worked to enact and apply UN Security Resolution 1325, which calls for a meaningful role and active participation of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts.

The contributions of women are represented in peace-building, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction. These are but some of the tasks that require women’s participation, particularly as they and children together form the greatest number of civilian victims of wars and conflicts.

Building upon this, National Action Plans (NAPs) have been put in place to inform on the implementation of the Resolution, and to encourage governments to cooperate in the designing of these plans. Iraq and Palestine have recorded successful experiences as the first two Arab to launch NAPs meant to implement the Resolution, and this was realized through the intensive efforts of the civil society and support of official bodies.

Today, Jordan has joined in these successes as it becomes the third Arab country to enact the decision at the national level through a coalition formed by the Jordanian National Committee for Women. The coalition was comprised of various governmental and security institutions, along with a group of civil society organizations. This experience proved the effectiveness of civil society and its clear ability to monitor the progress of Res. 1325. Governments and international organizations have come to acknowledge the role of civil society despite the weakness of organizations’ experiences in these sensitive areas; weaknesses which result from a lack of past participation in the planning and implementation of humanitarian responses, and security and political needs, and lack of financial support that would raise the possibility of contributing to the implementation of the resolution as needed to act on this difficult agenda.

While significant work on UNSC Resolution 1325 has been carried out over past years, both locally and globally, many challenges remain.

One of the most crucial difficulties continues to be the translation of the resolution to different global languages, especially Arabic, as language and terminology of UN Resolutions tends to be broad and highly technical, so that its content must to be deconstructed and made relevant to each state’s national socio-political contexts. It must also be adapted to the different types of crises facing each country, as the response needed for war and conflict is different from that to refugee crises or natural disasters. Additionally, there are differences in the usage of words from one time to another, such as the question surrounding the meaning of “security,” “protection,” and “peace” and the intended meaning as it relates to the conditions in each state.

The last challenge is achieving and continuing coordination among relevant governmental and civil society stakeholders working to implement the agenda of Res. 1325. Whether it be government or civil society organizations, they still face some challenges in coordinating agendas and priorities among one another, even in times of peace and stability.

Cases of gender based violence, child marriages, the torture of prisoners, human trafficking, prostitution, and sexual exploitation have spread along with the outbreak of conflict in neighboring states and regions. Efforts to address these challenges remain fragmented due to a lack of focused national and international funding, in times of both peace and war, accompanied with an unclear understanding of the implications of the main pillars of UNSC Resolutions 1325, – i.e. protection, participation, prevention – in the national context and on the ground.

Increasing the complexity of the situation is the fact that Jordan is currently not directly involved in any armed conflict itself but is nonetheless heavily affected by wars occurring in neighboring countries. Here the dilemma is hidden in understanding of how to apply the resolution to both conflict and peace-building and how we can bring the concepts together in the national context, specify responsibilities, distribute roles, and address this issue. The NAP achieved this and drew a general framework to implement the Prime Ministry’s decision, and affirm its commitment to the articles of the plan and implementation of this important agenda.

As such, the protection of women and girls in host communities and those directly facing conflict and crises of other states, such as the refugee crisis, take central importance as a first step towards empowering them to become participants in preventing further conflicts within their own communities.

Since women’s rights are deprioritized in times of conflict and emergencies in the Arab region, it is not easy to empower women and support them to play a role greater than just being protected as per the demands of Resolution 1325, especially in light of the difficulties they face in attempting to exercise their rights and meaningfully participate in public life. For instance, we are still at the stage of ensuring the necessary legislative mechanisms to ensure the provision of legal protection to facilitate the issuance of needed documentation such as identity cards, birth and marriage certificates or mobility and residency permissions. The aforementioned steps are crucial for enabling access to other multilayered services, e.g. shelter and basic needs, education, economic and legal support for their protection against aggression and punishment. From here it would be possible to enable women and girls to participate in decision making cycles and prevent conflicts in their communities.

As a way forward for Jordan and all Arab countries, we need to call on all actors from national governments, and the United Nations to muster the political will to offer political and peaceful solutions to the MENA region’s crises as a first priority, and to provide immediate economic and humanitarian assistance to affected regions. Also, there must be a guarantee of inclusive processes for women that open channels for their meaningful political participation, and a demand for national civil society to promote solidarity and to forge resilient ties between national, regional, and international institutions and learn from the experiences of other nations on how to implement this plan. Likewise, we must affirm the importance of including both citizens and non-citizens in a program of protection and establish strong connections between them and the security apparatus, and improve overall trust in the rule of law.

There is also the need to do a comprehensive review of the socio-economic and political agendas with the Res. 1325 NAP, in order to arrive at a safe, effective, and lasting protection system to limit communal violence and international conflicts. In this regard, it is important to document the learning and experiences of international organizations in crisis prevention, while building the capacity of national organizations and national governments. Having early warning systems to respond to future humanitarian emergencies, creating sustainability of knowledge and skills in the humanitarian sector including the humanitarian response and engaging with aid workers will keep capacities in line with international standards and national needs.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325 is not a standalone issue within the broader context of women’s rights. It goes hand in hand with the continuous work on the prevention of sexual and gender based discrimination as well as enhancing women’s meaningful participation in public life and political decision-making processes. While partnership with international organizations on women’s rights and the 1325 agenda is necessary, national and local actors should take ownership and responsibility of these efforts.

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