Thirteen years ago something miraculous happened at the United Nations. For the first time, the highest decision-making body in the world – the UN Security Council – turned its attention specifically to the voices of the world’s women.
It was Halloween in America – 31 October, 2000 – when the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a Resolution that recognized women have a central role to play in creating peace and security.
It might seem like a no-brainer: how can peace and security reign after conflicts if women are routinely left out of the decision-making?
But the reality is that women are routinely left out. Since 1990, of the many peace agreements signed worldwide only 16 per cent either had a woman at the negotiating table or mentioned women at all in the content of the agreement.
…In 2000, when Australia hosted and helped to negotiate the Townsville Peace Agreement in order to end conflict in the Solomon Islands, women were not involved. To bring about that peace agreement, Australiaworked with three Government bodies and a range of cultural and social groups.
The agreement was signed by 15 different representatives and witnessed by a further 10. By any standards, this was an honourable diplomatic feat. But Australia should never again host such talks without women at the negotiating table.
Last year on International Women’s Day, Australia launched our own National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. Having such a plan is part of Australia’s obligations under the UN Security Council Resolution on Women, Peace and Security.
Australia’s National Action Plan commits us to including women in peace negotiations and upping women’s representation in our own armed forces. With Australia now sitting on the UN Security Council, we must ensure that Australia not only holds to our commitments, but also promotes women’s inclusion on the global stage.
This should be a fundamental part of Australia’s UN Security Council legacy.
The Australian Council for International Development is joining with the Australian National Committee for UN Women, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the ANU Gender Institute on 15 April to hold the first Civil Society Dialogue on Women, Peace & Security. It will bring together representatives from the Australian Defence Force, Government, NGOs and universities.
by MARC PURCELL & JULIE McKAY