In depth

Central Articles

Resolution 1325 on the role of women in the construction of peace, ten years after its approval

Manuela Mesa
Director, CEIPAZ
Manuela Mesa

Manuela Mesa

October 2010 saw the tenth anniversary of the passing by the United Nations Security Council of Resolution 1325 on the role of women in the construction of peace. The resolution was the result of hard work by many organisations in civil society (NGOs, women's groups, peace and human rights organisations, etc.) which had worked together for years to place the issue of women, peace and security on the international agenda and in the decisions made by the United Nations. The passing of this resolution led to other subsequent resolutions,1 but all must be seen in a joint and complementary context.

Resolution 1325 combines two dimensions. First, it calls for increased protection for women in armed conflicts, and second, it highlights the importance of women's participation in peace processes and post-war rehabilitation.

The resolution was accompanied by the Action Plans2 which have been adopted by some governments in order to facilitate its implementation and to adapt it to the needs and characteristics of each situation. The production of these plans has in many cases being a participatory and dynamic process with a great deal of interaction between the organisations of civil society and governments.

An overview of the progress made over the last ten years shows a situation containing positive and negative factors. First, significant formal and institutional progress has undoubtedly been made, both within the United Nations, and in other international and regional intergovernmental bodies. In particular, the major breakthroughs in the two years prior to the tenth anniversary include the appointment of Margot Wallstrom in March 2010 by the General Secretary as the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. This new post enables progress in preventing this type of violence to be made, and is a major step forward in ending impunity. Michele Bachelet (ex-president of Chile) was appointed director of UN Women, the new agency specialising in women's issues, on 14 September 2010. This organisation brings together in one institution the four United Nations funds and programmes that had previously worked in the field of women's issues: the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women, the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), and the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues (OSAGI). In terms of its mandate and institutional profile, it will be similar to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the organisation's head will have the rank of under-secretary-general, the highest rank within the administrative hierarchy of the international body, after the Secretary General.

Elsewhere, the resolution has been highly effective in structuring and reinforcing a global women's movement based around issues of peace and security.

Many initiatives from civil society have taken place in these years, which have brought together organisations from various places in the world based on an agenda of peace and gender issues. Pressure has been brought to bear on governments and various international institutions for gender issues to be included in the design, planning and assessment of programmes, although the results of this work have been uneven.

This is due to the major obstacles that this agenda still has to face. The transition from words and good intentions to implementing the proposals and initiatives involved in the effective application of Resolution 1325 and those following it has been very difficult. The situation of women who live in conflict zones has not significantly improved. In 2010 alone, the year of the tenth anniversary, cases of sexual violence continued to be recorded, such as the mass rapes of women in the Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as a result of which the special representative has called for the application of sanctions. Over 8,000 women were raped in the country in 2009. Cases like these show that greater pressure from the international community and greater political will by governments are necessary for this issue to remain a priority and for very strict measures preventing these situations from arising to be taken.

In countries that have adopted Action Plans as required by the Resolution, there are often no clear and/or reliable indicators showing which measures work and which ones do not. In this area, the United Nations has worked intensively on the definition of indicators, with the participation of fourteen UN organisations led by UNIFEM, in close concentration with member states and women's groups from civil society from all over the world. This work culminated in the Secretary General's report (S/2010/173) presented on 27 April 2010, which recommended a series of international indicators on the application of Resolution 1325 in various areas, and in particular, as regards the participation of women in all aspects of conflict prevention and resolution, the prevention of violence against women, and the protection of women's rights during and after conflicts.

The major problem with the proposed indicators is that they require an appropriate level of financing to ensure that their compliance is monitored, and this will be difficult in many countries. As pointed out by ambassador Chowdhury (2010)3, this task is left to the governments, which means that many of them will not complete it, unless there is major pressure in the international arena and specific financing lines are created.

Furthermore, some of these indicators have limits per se, especially those of a quantitative nature which focus on increasing the number of women at various levels of decision-making. Increasing the number of women may represent a first step, but the inclusion of the gender perspective must also include qualitative measures that really change the power relations in political, social, and military structures which entail ending the inequality and violence that women in situations of conflict suffer from. This implies supporting women committed to the values of equality, the promotion of peace, sustainable development, human rights and justice. A major commitment by the international community, the Secretary General and the United Nations system will be essential in achieving breakthroughs.

The Secretary General of the United Nations can contribute to providing a new political boost for this agenda, which together with the synergies created between various local, national and international actors, could lead to significant breakthroughs in the application of the Resolution. However, it is also important that the United Nations system also does its work, which includes the gender dimension in all agencies and the creation of specific programmes, appointing specialists and mobilising resources.

Member states must show the political will necessary to include women's issues, peace and security on its agenda, and create programs fostering the prevention of violence against women and their increased participation in decision-making arenas.

Finally, the role of civil society will be vital in this process, as has become clear over these years, in which it has been able to make this Resolution a tool for mobilisation could change, and for placing gender issues on the international agenda. A meeting of the Security Council to discuss the Resolution is scheduled for the last week of October 2010 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. In the preceding months, organisations in civil society have been preparing proposals and initiative.4 The aim is for this anniversary to be the starting point for real progress in the situation of women in areas of conflict, and for greater recognition of women in the construction of peace.

1. These include Resolution 1820 of 19 June 2008, covering sexual violence and other problems in United Nations peacekeeping operations, and Resolution 1889, which has been passed, covering the relationship between women, peace and security, and specifically issues relating to the planning and financing of external aid in post-conflict situations. . (Back)
2. 19 countries currently have an Action Plan: Austria, Belgium, Burundi, Chile, Côte d'Ivoire, Denmark, Spain, Finland, the Philippines, The Netherlands, Iceland, Liberia, Norway, Portugal, United Kingdom, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sweden, Switzerland and Uganda. (Back)
3. Anwarul K. Chowdhury, "Doable Fast-Track Indicator for Turning the Promise into Reality", 27 July 2010, available at: (Back)
4. These initiatives can be monitored at: (Back)