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The adoption of Resolution 2467 on the 23rd of April 2019 under the title of ‘Women, Peace and Security’ represented a progressive step in the protection and rights of women in times of war. After a three-hour debate in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the Resolution was carried 13 votes in favour, with Russia and China the only member states to abstain from the vote. On the Monday prior to the vote, the U.S. had threatened to veto the resolution but it is understood that last minute concessions made to the language used to reference sexual and reproductive health rights, and the role of the ICC as the leading prosecutor, on Tuesday morning during the debate managed to ensure the U.S. remained in favour of the drafted resolution.
Following the adoption of Resolution 2467, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Nadia Murad noted that sexual violence in conflict had become “a dangerous phenomenon that requires action from us all.” She later affirmed, “We have failed to protect women and girls from enslavement,” she said, adding, “We as people must shoulder the responsibility to rescue those still missing and in captivity since 2014.” Denis Mukwege, another Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, contrasted today’s international landscape to that of ten years ago, when many doubted the link between sexual violence and peace and security. Mukwege argued, “Healing is complete only when justice has been served.” The Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict declared, “Wars are still being fought on and over the bodies of women and girls.” She added that, in the ten years of her mandate, “a crime that has often been called ‘history’s greatest silence’ has seized the consciousness of the international community and global action has escalated in an unprecedented way.” However, the adoption of Resolution 2467 has sparked debate within the academic community. In a blog, scholars Allen and Shepard note that “It is frustrating that this relentless and uncompromising pushback by the U.S. should have come as any surprise to the Security Council.” They elaborate further by adding, “It sets a dangerous precedent for the agenda that the Trump administration was essentially able to hold the resolution hostage through threat of veto until representatives could secure a commitment to a watered down, reduced version.”
There is no doubt the adoption of Resolution 2467 represents a pivotal ‘step’ forward in the construction and representation of the female body in times of war. Whilst this moment is clouded by the orchestrated manipulations of the Trump administration in relation to the provisions on sexual and reproductive health rights of survivors, as well as language on the role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in prosecuting perpetrators, it should not take away from the ceremony of the international community to pass such legislation – of which has proved increasingly difficult of late (consider the 12 vetoes exercised by Russia in relation to Syria). Therefore, whilst relatively small, the adoption of Resolution 2467 should be thought of as a win.
The Women, Peace and Security agenda is relatively new on the global policy landscape. Early efforts to address the position of women within times of war were witnessed in 1969 during the Commission on the Status of Women. The Commission questioned whether women and children should be afforded special protection during conflict. In 1974, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict. The passage of UNSC Resolution 1325 in October 2000 was generally accepted as the founding document of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. The provisions of the WPS agenda are often discussed in terms of ‘pillars’ deriving from the ‘system-wide action plans’ on WPS implementation: prevention; participation; protection; relief and recovery; and at times a normative pillar – of which enforced appropriate standards of behaviour towards women as international law. Also in 2000, the Security Council issued a presidential statement commemorating International Women’s Day (March 8th). This statement recognized the connection between peace and women’s rights. Since 2000, nine resolutions on Women, Peace and Security have passed, and Resolution 2467 represents the fifth to focus specifically on the conflict related sexual violence component of the agenda.
The adoption of Resolution 2467 presents future, and greater, opportunities to expand on the international Women, Peace and Security agenda. Whilst the political motivations of nation states remains a critical hindrance to more progressive and detrimental action on this front, such motivations will alter over time – particularly if a U.S. election is to fall in the favour of the Democrats. One should think of the adoption of the most recent resolution as a ‘stepping stone’ that will ultimately lead to the outcome the majority of nations idealize – the liberation of female bodies from the subjugated battlefields of masculinized warfare. Hence, the adoption of Resolution 2467 can only be conceived as positive – to reiterate comments made within the UNSC during the debate, “It is vital to ensure compliance with international law and to exert pressure on all warring parties . . . the resolution represents significant steps forward in that regard.”