To promote protection of women and their participation in peace and security decision-making, one must take international norms and standards into consideration. Two of these norms, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (Women, Peace and Security, 2000) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1979), are critical norms for moving the gender equality agenda forward in conflict and post-conflict situations. Both CEDAW and Resolution 1325 are important regarding women’s rights, and there is synergy between the two sets of standards that can be used to promote implementation and impact. Resolution 1325 helps to expand the scope of CEDAW by clarifying its relevance to all parties in conflict and in peace. CEDAW, in turn, provides concrete strategic enlightenment for actions to be taken on the broad commitments outlined in Resolution 1325.
By using Resolution 1325 and CEDAW together, advocates can expand, strengthen, and operationalize gender equality in the context of conflict, peacebuilding, and post-conflict reconstruction. CEDAW and Resolution 1325 are powerful frameworks for upholding women’s human rights and demanding that governments and international institutions ensure these rights are realized by setting up sufficient responses to women’s needs and protection against violations of their rights. CEDAW is a global human rights treaty that should be incorporated into national law as the highest standard for women’s rights and requires governments to set in place the mechanisms and measures needed to fully realize women’s rights, while Resolution 1325 mandates member states to engage women in all aspects of peacebuilding. Thus, CEDAW enriches Resolution 1325 by providing significant normative guidance on 1325-related interventions, while Resolution 1325 can expand the scope of CEDAW’s application even in states in conflict that are not parties to CEDAW or in relation to non-state actors and international organizations.
Explaining Resolution 1325
What is Resolution 1325? It indicates that the Security Council has recognized the relevance of women’s experiences of conflict to its peace and security mandate, engaging the Security Council in advancing women’s rights in conflict resolution and peace processes. The resolution has 18 provisions to support women’s participation in peace negotiation and consolidation, and these range from calls to encourage the representation of women at all levels of decision-making in institutions promoting security to calls to all parties in conflict and peacebuilding to respond to women’s needs in justice and governance institutions; address women’s needs in disarmament, demobilization, and reinsertion efforts; protect women and girls from violence; and end amnesty for crimes against humanity affecting women.
Although resolutions obligate states to report on enactment, Resolution 1325 instead asked the secretary-general to conduct a study on the impact of armed conflict on women and girls, the role of women in peacebuilding, and the gender measurement of peace processes and conflict resolution and to submit a report, which was produced in 2002. In 2004, the Security Council asked the UN to develop a system-wide action plan regarding Resolution 1325. Since 2000, there have been five Open Sessions of the Security Council on Women, Peace, and Security in which all member states, not only the 15 Council members, have an opportunity to make statements related to gender equality in the context of peace and security.
CEDAW, often described as the international bill of rights for women, is the human rights treaty committed exclusively to gender equality. CEDAW establishes legal standards for the achievement of gender equality through the elimination of discrimination against women. It aims for equality for women in all aspects of political, social, economic, and cultural life. The provisions of CEDAW require
governments to take up tools to realize equality for women under the law and oppose the underlying social and political inequalities that lead to gender-based power imbalances. CEDAW is an indissoluble source of international law for those states that have become parties. It details the measures that a state should undertake within its jurisdiction to achieve gender equality. In particular, states that are parties to CEDAW are required to:
• integrate the principle of gender equality and nondiscrimination in their legal systems and abolish discriminatory laws;
• establish institutional protections against discrimination;
• take serious measures to advance gender equality; and
• eliminate discrimination against women by private persons and civil society organizations.
Rejecting Violence and Promoting Equality
The articles of CEDAW identify steps needed to achieve gender equality in a wide range of areas, including those relating to trafficking and prostitution; political participation; nationality; education; employment; health care; economic, social, and cultural life; rural life; and family relations. In addition, guidance on critical and emerging issues, such as violence against women and HIV/AIDS, is provided through the CEDAW Committee’s general recommendations. Country-specific guidance is also provided to each state party through the Committee’s concluding comments. In addition to implementing the provisions of CEDAW, states are obligated to submit reports to the Committee at least every four years, detailing progress and obstacles in their efforts to achieve gender equality. Resolution 1325 and CEDAW both demand women’s full participation in decision-making at national, regional, and international levels as a critical component in the achievement of gender equality. The undesirable and prevalent nature of violence against women, which interferes with the advancement of women and maintains their subordinate status, is rejected by both Resolution 1325 and CEDAW. Both documents call for legal equality of men and women and for the protection of women and girls through the rule of law. Each places an emphasis on security and requires that security forces and systems protect women from gender-based violence.
A recognition of the definite experiences and burdens of women and girls that stem from systemic discrimination lies at the core of both standards. Both Resolution 1325 and CEDAW seek to ensure that women’s experiences, needs, and perspectives are consolidated into the political, legal, and social decisions that determine whether sustainable peace, reconciliation, and development are achieved. With these commonalities, Resolution 1325 and CEDAW together fortify demands that commitments to gender equality and women’s human rights in conflict and post-conflict environments be transformed into concrete reality. They give gender equality advocates a choice of strategic tools, as well as the opportunity to insist that working for gender equality is the obligation of
all actors in conflict settings.
Using Resolution 1325 to Extend the Application of CEDAW
The broad reach of Resolution 1325 provides a valuable means for expanding the application of CEDAW. As a human rights convention, CEDAW is legally binding on states, and more specifically on those states that have become parties to this treaty. Some states engaged in conflict have not ratified CEDAW, however, and non-state actors, such as military and armed insurgent groups, are often directly responsible for the violations of women’s human rights. Resolution 1325 demands that all actors engaged in every stage of conflict, peace negotiations, and post-conflict reestablish, protect, and respect women’s human rights and be held accountable to international law applicable to the rights of women and girls.
Through Resolution 1325, CEDAW becomes clearly relevant to states that are not parties and to territories in conflict, such as the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Moreover, it reaches beyond governance bodies to all groups participating in the conflict, such as independent armed groups, militias, and paramilitaries. Resolution 1325 also specifically addresses the peacekeeping context and the role of the United Nations and the international community within this. By doing so, Resolution 1325 mandates a very broad
application of international women’s human rights standards and makes them central to maintaining peace and security.
Using CEDAW to Enrich the Interpretation and Implementation of Resolution 1325
While Resolution 1325 provides a political framework and outlines goals for making women’s participation and a gender perspective relevant to all aspects of conflict prevention, management, and resolution, it does not provide detailed normative or operational guidance about how these goals should be met. CEDAW can offer entry points, specific steps, and guidance to meet these obligations. CEDAW explains what discrimination against women is and how to eliminate it. It defines the ways in which discrimination works to disadvantage women in all aspects of life, including within the peace and security context. It addresses the consequences of discrimination, such as violence against women that perpetuates their vulnerability. CEDAW challenges discriminatory perceptions of the value, roles, and responsibilities attributed to men and women in society and the unequal exercise of power based on these relationships. Most importantly, specific measures that should be taken to achieve gender equality have been set out in CEDAW’s articles and in its general recommendations and concluding comments.
For example, while Resolution 1325 demands women’s increased participation, it is CEDAW that has set out concrete measures that should be taken regarding women’s role in policy formation and their representation at national and international levels of decision-making, voting, eligibility for election, quotas, and other temporary special measures. For this reason, CEDAW can be a critical method for identifying measures that need to be taken to achieve the goals outlined in Resolution 1325. When brought together, Resolution 1325 and CEDAW can have an impact that neither norm could have alone. For each of the stages involved in conflict management, resolution, and transition, there is a direct link between the standards laid out in Resolution 1325 and CEDAW as well as advice on ways to meet the standards indicated by CEDAW and its Committee’s “General Recommendations.”
Comprehensive Framework for Women’s Rights
The passing of the groundbreaking UNSC Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security (WPS) established a normative framework for women’s meaningful participation in decision-making, conflict resolution, conflict prevention and peacebuilding; protection of women’s and girls’ rights; and prevention of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict-affected situations. Over the years, Resolution 1325 was followed by nine supporting WPS resolutions.
Both CEDAW and the WPS resolutions provide a set of standards for gender equality; women’s rights; and women’s meaningful participation in decision-making at all levels. Both also resulted from the uncompromising work of women’s rights and peace activists around the world. Resolution 1325 is a powerful tool that all member states should implement, while CEDAW derives its force from the states that ratified the convention. Furthermore, its robust reporting framework, whereby all parties are required to periodically report to the CEDAW Committee and civil society groups submit shadow reports that are equally valued by the Committee, attests to the strength of CEDAW as an accountability mechanism.
CEDAW and the WPS resolutions, together with other human rights treaties and international humanitarian law, provide a comprehensive framework for the protection and promotion of women’s rights, including in armed conflict.