The political participation of women should have long been a matter of discussion — if only because they make up half of the world’s population. We also know that when women are involved in processes, these processes change. According to a study by UN Women, this translates into concrete terms in the context of foreign and peace policy: If women were involved in the negotiation of a peace treaty, the probability that this peace would be maintained for 15 years or more would increase significantly.
Furthermore, there should be more focus on the participation of women and feminist approaches in the context of future peace efforts in the Middle East.
When we celebrate the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 this year, we unfortunately have to conclude that progress in the area of women, peace, and security (WPS) is still too slow. From a woman’s perspective, feminist approaches in politics and integrating women on an equal footing unfortunately are still not being implemented in many political areas. In foreign and security policy in particular, there is still a great need to catch up. For a sustainable and comprehensive foreign policy, however, the equal participation of women in political processes is central not only from a human rights perspective but also with regard to gender justice and the need to overcome discriminatory social structures. This must remain our declared goal.
Foreign and Peace Policy Must Advance Gender Justice
In peace policy in particular — one of the most important tasks of foreign policy — we see that women and girls are particularly and gender-specifically affected in conflicts but are hardly ever heard in that context and, in most cases, are unable to actively participate in the resolution of conflicts. It is one of the great tasks of our foreign and peace policy to finally act in the sense of gender justice. This means respect for human rights and the integration of feminist approaches into all political and social decisions.
In 2000, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1325, the cornerstone of the WPS agenda. The demands to include women in all phases of conflict resolution and peacebuilding, strengthen their role, and protect them from conflict-related sexualized violence have not lost any of their relevance. In recent years, 86 states have adopted National Action Plans (NAP) to implement the resolution; however, although it is generally known that the likelihood of lasting peace increases through the participation of women and women are now sitting at the negotiating table more often, in most cases they are still not at the negotiating table. Only 13% of the people who conduct peace negotiations are female, and only 6% of them are mediators.
German Government Promotion of 1325
The German Federal Government has declared WPS to be one of the main topics for the UN Security Council’s 2019-2020 agenda and has been able to provide important impetus in this area, such as the adoption of resolution 2467 on the protection of sexualized violence in conflicts. Beyond membership, increasing the participation of women in foreign, peace, and security policy processes will continue to be an important concern of the Federal Foreign Office, to which many resources are devoted and which is repeatedly applied in bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
The Third NAP for the federal government’s implementation of 1325 is to be presented in spring 2021. It is important that the Third NAP sets important and ambitious goals for our foreign policy but also other political fields, which we intend to implement consistently and coherently in the coming years.
The WPS agenda can also provide an important impetus and support for the resolution and for overcoming conflicts. For example, the federal government is strengthening the participation of women and peace activists in the peace process in Libya and is promoting the political participation of women in many states, including Israel.
With the participation of Israeli and Palestinian women, various projects are focused on the implementation of 1325 and on the promotion of female multipliers who want to help shape conflict resolution and a two-state solution. Israeli and Palestinian civil society organizations and women’s rights groups have been increasingly advocating new approaches to peace negotiations with the participation of women and civil society. In both Israel and Palestine, the proportion of women in the parliaments, government, parties, and military is far below 50%. Women are politically underrepresented but are particularly active in social movements in the region and, as part of civil society, are increasingly involved in political events and peace efforts.
Women Underrepresented in Israel-Palestine Peace Talks
In 2017, the Palestinian government presented its first 1325 NAP, which emphasizes the participation of women in peace processes as an overarching goal. In a recently published study by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung on the implementation of 1325 in Israel, among other places, it was shown that for many years there have been numerous civil societal efforts to implement a first 1325 NAP in Israel. Despite an announcement to this effect in 2014, the Israeli government has not adopted an NAP yet. It would be a welcome and an important step if Germany and the European Union were able to exchange positive experiences with the Israeli government on implementation in a spirit of partnership and continue to support civil society in its efforts to implement 1325.
Women were massively underrepresented in past peace negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian governments. For a sustainable negotiated two-state solution for all people living in the region, the participation of women in peace negotiations should be a central concern of international as well as German efforts. The German Bundestag has repeatedly advocated for the federal government to actively support a negotiated two-state solution. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has also repeatedly stressed that Germany and the federal government would be prepared to actively support a renewed peace process.
In the future, in the spirit of 1325, initiatives on the part of Israeli and Palestinian civil society to increase the participation of women in such a process should also be taken up. This could make a large and important contribution to more sustainable peace in the region. It would be welcome if the German government, together with other states, were to lend its support to such an approach.
The German government continues to hold the position that only a negotiated two-state solution can bring lasting peace in the Middle East. Such peace should not be negotiated without women.