Overcoming the Gender Gap

Sarah Hewitt

Gr2pcsw60

This blog is based on a recently published article by Sarah Hewitt, “Overcoming the Gender Gap: The Possibilities of Alignment between the Responsibility to Protect and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda”, Global Responsibility to Protect 8/1: 3-28 (2016). To remain up to date with GR2P Issues and to submit your own article to GR2P, kindly visit here.

This week the UN Commission on the Status of Women meets in New York for its 60th session to discuss the priority theme: Women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development. The responsibility of governments to ensure women’s empowerment is one held by multiple actors and institutions and is, I argue in my article, directly relevant to both the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) agendas.

In the article I examine the relationship between the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). The WPS agenda is the most comprehensive policy articulation of gender issues in peace and security. It is based upon United Nations Security Council Res. 1325, passed unanimously in October 2000. UNSC Res. 1325 addresses the unique and different impacts of conflict on women and men, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in conflict and the importance of women’s empowerment and inclusion as respected agents in international peace and security.[1] The resolution, and the WPS agenda more widely that consists of an additional 7 UNSC resolutions, follows a general three-pillar mandate: prevention of violence and derogation of rights; protection from violence; and participation in peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction.[2] Laura Shepherd and Jacqui True add a fourth pillar: identifying the structural social, political and economic conditions required for sustainable and lasting peace.[3]

In the article I address the following question: are there any potential overlaps that exist between these two normative frameworks to provide a more holistic gender-sensitive approach to conflict prevention, protection, and post-conflict reconstruction? The article questions where there is a lack of women and women’s participation regarding decision-making, designing, and implementing policies concerning conflict and peace. Both R2P and the WPS agenda hinge upon the same central tenets of prevention, protection, and participation, but women’s involvement in R2P and within wider UN peacebuilding efforts is grossly deficient. I expand on existing literature by explicitly mapping the overlaps between the R2P and WPS frameworks and how they can be normatively and practically aligned. [4] First, I examine the development of the WPS agenda and how it has extended women’s human rights and gender equality architecture, becoming the eminent reference to women’s security. Second, I review existing feminist critiques of the R2P principle. Third, I focus on the three central and parallel tenets of R2P and the WPS agenda.

In the article I identify three common intersecting commitments of these two normative frameworks to provide a more holistic, gender-sensitive approach to conflict. First I consider conflict prevention, specifically early warning mechanisms and the incorporation of gender-sensitive indicators. Next, protection is analysed as to the potential for ensuring women’s participation and mainstreaming gender in peacekeeping missions. Lastly I examine post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding. The post-conflict phase is extremely complex, thus I concentrate on the importance of women’s participation and representation in peace processes. A feminist perspective that analyses the socially constructed gender binaries based upon masculine/feminine characteristics underpins the article. These characteristics that are inherent in conflict, peace, protection, and security are highlighted.

I argue that locating women’s experiences in conflict and peace contributes to transforming R2P into a holistic gender-sensitive vehicle for protection and prevention of conflict. I conclude that identifying common areas of engagement could potentially effect positive changes for women and men on the ground in conflict prevention and protection, and post-conflict reconstruction.

Sarah Hewitt is a postgraduate student at the Gender Peace and Security Initiative, School of Social Sciences, Monash University. She is a research assistant on the Prevention of Sexual Violence in Asia Pacific research project.


[1] S/Res/1325, 31 October 2000.

[2] Katrina Lee-Koo, ‘Translating UNSCR 1325 into Practice: Lessons Learned and Obstacles Ahead’, in Sara Davies, Zim Nwokora, Eli Stamnes, and Sara Teitt (eds.), Responsibility to Protect and Women, Peace and Security: Aligning the Protection Agendas (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2013), p. 39; Laura J. Shepherd and Jacqui True, ‘The Women, Peace and Security Agenda and Australian Leadership in the World: From Rhetoric to Commitment?’ Australian Journal of International Affairs, 68/3: 257-284 (2014), p. 264.

[3] Shepherd and True, ‘The Women, Peace and Security Agenda’, p. 264.

[4] See Sara Davies, Zim Nwokora, Eli Stamnes, and Sara Teitt (eds.), Responsibility to Protect and Women, Peace and Security: Aligning the Protection Agendas (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2013); Eli Stamnes, ‘The Responsibility to Protect: Integrating Gender Perspectives into Policies and Practices’, Global Responsibility to Protect, 4/2: 172-197 (2012); Jennifer Bond and Laurel Sherret, A Sight for Sore Eyes: Bringing Gender Vision to the Responsibility to Protect Framework (INSTRAW, 2006); Jennifer Bond and Laurel Sherret, ‘Mapping Gender and the Responsibility to Protect: Seeking Intersections, Finding Parallels’, Global Responsibility to Protect, 4/2: 133-153 (2012); Sara Davies and Sarah Teitt, ‘Engendering the Responsibility to Protect: Women and the Prevention of Mass Atrocities’, Global Responsibility to Protect, 4/2: 198-222 (2012); Sara Davies, Sarah Teitt, and Zim Nwokora, ‘Bridging the Gap: Early Warning, Gender, and the Responsibility to Protect’, Cooperation and Conflict, 50/2: 228-249 (2015).

Author: protectiongateway

Human Protection Hub

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