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20 years of Women, Peace and Security

An interview with Devanna De La Puente, gender expert in Colombia[1].

The year of 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325[2] (2000) on Women, Peace and Security[3]. This resolution was the first one to recognize the role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflict and peace-building. Although some implementation aspects of the resolution have progressed, such as women’s participation as peacekeepers and their increasing involvement as leaders in peace processes, there remain multiple challenges in the international sphere. Hence, the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, has called States and organizations to place this issue on the public agenda whilst reasserting that equal, meaningful and full participation of women is essential for sustainable peace[4].

As this matter is still thriving in the public agenda, it is key to analyze it in the academic sphere correspondingly. Therefore, an interview was conducted with a gender expert in order to deepen the analysis of the Resolution 1325 and women’s participation in peace-building processes.

1. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325/2000 marks an important milestone in the field of women’s human rights, peace and security, as the first instrument that compels parties of the conflict to respect women’s rights. How would you describe the circumstances that led to its adoption?

At the time of the proclamation of the Resolution 1325, there were several conflicts taking place in which it was evident that women were disproportionately affected and did not have a significant participation in the peace process. The need of women to be considered as key actors during peace dialogues was evident. Moreover, the participatory role that women gained in peace processes nowadays, like in the case of Colombia, is the result of a progressive achievement that had to be claimed by women themselves[5].

2. At the global level, in the context of the 20th anniversary of Resolution 1325, what are the main achievements accomplished regarding the Women, Peace and Security agenda?

There has been a rising number of achievements in the Women, Peace and Security agenda, such as the deployment of women in peacekeeping missions, increasing funding for diverse women’s organizations, improvement of placing gender matters in the public agenda and recognizing the gender component in different stages of peace processes, amongst others. [6]

Currently, more women are deployed as part of peacekeeping missions; however, a gender gap still counts for a 10% difference in relation to men[7]. Furthermore, the personnel deployed faced challenges at the level of training and instruction in gender-related subjects.

At the international level, key issues like Sexual Violence (SV) have been considered by international organizations and States. For example, the Resolution 1820 which recognizes SV as a war crime[8] has had a significant social impact. It is the case of Darfur (Sudan), whose former president was prosecuted by the International Criminal Court in order to respond for the war crimes committed during 2003-2004, in which sexual violence was notoriously contested[9]. As the resolution gained more prominence in the public agenda, funding for women’s organizations and women, peace and security-related projects increased. Nonetheless, compared to funding for matters like peace and humanitarian response, it still falls behind.

Finally, an important accomplishment has been the legitimate recognition of women as agents of peace-building. There is a multidisciplinary effort to ensure that any peace agreement has a strong gender component. The international community avails a certain degree of legitimacy when women are included in all stages of a peace process[10]. An example of this is the case of Afghanistan[11], where although it has been a challenge to bring women to participate in the peace dialogue, efforts are being made and alternative options are being considered by the parties.

3. How would you describe the main challenges for effective implementation of the Resolution 1325 in the context of armed conflict and post-conflict situations?

A main challenge continues to be how commitments are translated into reality[12]. There are numerous resolutions addressing women-specific issues during conflict[13]; however, there is still a substantial gap between the political commitment and how it is applied on the ground, along with who is responsible and accountable for its implementation.

Secondly, funding is a remaining issue specially for women’s organizations which take the burden to compete for budget against each other in order to carry on with the gender component of the agenda. It is evident how in many countries, these organizations struggle to achieve their objectives and participate in the debate without the resources to do so.

Lastly, the issue of security guarantees for women in the performance of various roles during peace processes has been in the public debate for some time now. Women tend to be victims of various types of violence linked to their political and social roles as individuals and as part of communities affected by violence and armed conflicts. In this sense, women face violence at home or in their communities, including sexual violence and even personal attacks due to their leadership status. The cases of Sudan, Iraq and Colombia are, amongst some others, specially threatening for women who take a public role and are outspoken. Consequently, if personal and collective security cannot be guaranteed, this has a direct and detrimental impact on the participation of women in peace processes.

4. How can the technical and political support provided by the United Nations in missions strengthen the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda?

The United Nations has an important role as an international organization that has the leverage and influence at the highest level in terms of political dialogue with the States, governments and other parties. It is the UN’s responsibility to move forward the Resolution 1325 agenda, by mediating and promoting dialogue with diverse actors and compelling the subject so it is not excluded in peace negotiations and processes. Moreover, the UN contributes with technical expertise which is key especially when there are budget constraints for the State or parties to have gender advisors in different stages of the peace negotiation and process. Nonetheless, there are examples of countries where the UN could have taken a stronger stance to push the topic in determined agendas.

5. What good practices would you highlight regarding the Colombian experience?

Colombia has been a good example in incorporating women in the peace process[14]. The peace agreement signed in Havana (Cuba) has a strong gender component, including 130 provisions regarding this subject. This was achieved because women’s civil society and human rights organizations had an important stance and role in the peace negotiations, thanks also to the support received from international cooperation[15]. Moreover, the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) had, in comparison to other armed groups, a high number of women as combatants. Around 23 to 25% of all combatants were women[16], which headed spontaneously to a series of women’s initiatives regarding the reincorporation of women in civil society.

Still, the implementation of the provisions agreed in Havana has been a major challenge due to various reasons. Women former combatants have returned to traditional roles within their households and in some cases face increasing violence.

6. How women and female former combatants have been affected by the recent escalation of violence in Colombia and what consequences they face?

In Colombia, between 2018 and 2019, attacks against women and female former combatants increased by 50%. This has had a direct impact on the participation of women in the implementation of the peace agreement.

The range of issues that are connected to the increasing violence vary from land restitution to eradication of illicit crops or human rights defense in communities affected by violence[17]. Thus, women’s organizations feel threatened to participate in the public debate or carry on with community activities, as they don't feel safe enough. An example of this are women who spoke out their testimonies in the Transitional Justice System, which is a special organization created by the peace agreement. However, because the organization takes too much time bureaucratically, the same women are in fear of being persecuted by their perpetrators as they don't have enough security guarantees. Just like this, there are many examples of some spaces created in dialogue with women during the peace negotiation, and that are at risk of being lost during the implementation phase, because of security issues.

Interview réalisé par Sofia Bouamran, Andreina Chaguan, Mathilde Chereau, Felipe Silva Mateos, Marion Tourné


[1] Magister Devanna De La Puente has over 14 years of experience in gender equality, prevention and response to gender-based violence (GBV) with a focus in humanitarian settings. She accomplished her experience by working with various non-governmental and international organizations such as the International Rescue Committee, Oxfam, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN regional and inter-agency bodies. Currently, she is working as a gender expert in Colombia, adding to her experience in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. [2] United Nations Security Council, Resolution S/RES/1325 (2000), available here. [3] United Nations Peacekeeping, 20 Years of Women, Peace and Security, accessible here. [4] United Nations Secretary-General, Call to Action - Women Transforming Peace and Security, available here. [5] United States Institute of Peace, How did the UNSCR 1325 come about?, accessible here. [6] UN Women, Timeline: 20 years of Women, Peace and Security, available here. [7] United Nations Peacekeeping, Women Peacekeepers: Gender Imbalance, October 2020, available here. [8] United Nations Security Council, S/RES/1820 (2008), accessible here. [9] Coalition for the ICC, Omar al-Bashir, available here. [10] UN Women, A Global Study on the Implementation of United Resolutions Security Council resolution 1325, Chapter 3: Women’s Participation and a Better Understanding of the Political, 2015, accessible here. [11] Ibid., p. 175 ; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Directorate of Human Rights and Women’s International Affairs (Afghanistan), AFGHANISTAN’S NATIONAL ACTION PLAN ON UNSCR 1325-WOMEN, PEACE, AND SECURITY, June 2015, available here. [12] Nato Parliamentary Assembly, UNSCR 1325 AT 20: achievements and remaining challenges in Implementing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, accessible here. [13] United States Institute of Peace, Subsequent Resolutions, accessible here. [14] United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, From Words to Action: The Experience of UN Special Political Missions on Women, Peace and Security in Colombia, accessible here. [15] UN Women, op. cit. note 10, p. 46. [16] Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Caracterización Comunidad FARC-EP, 2017, p. 3, available here. [17] United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, Report of the Secretary General, Resolution S/2020/943, 25 September 2020, paragraphes 69-71, available here.


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