The UN Security Council’s Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda was established to integrate women’s experiences of conflict into international law and decision-making. Core to its remit is the promotion of peace and security in ways relevant to women, as well as men. This in part means challenging traditional approaches to conflict, which prioritise military solutions and the interests of the most militarily invested states. Yet five of these powerful states sit as permanent members of the Security Council. “Many countries seem unwilling to make real political and financial commitments to the agenda,” according to Christine Chinkin from the London School of Economics and Political Science, principal investigator of the GenderedPeace (A Gendered International Law of Peace) project. “Also, the focus on counterterrorism and extremism tends to co-opt women into those agendas, rather than ensuring women’s security and rights as a goal in itself.” The GenderedPeace project works with female activists and researchers from conflict-affected states such as Colombia and the Balkans and with feminist NGOs, including the Women’s International Peace Centre, Peace Track Initiative and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. “Alongside stakeholders’ enthusiasm to engage with the issues raised, there is consensus for new ways of making policy and law that deliver more equality and enriched notions of peace,” remarks Chinkin.
A diverse methodology
The project, funded by the European Research Council (ERC), is structured around three work streams: Women and Peace/Women and Security, Gender and Contemporary Forms of Violence, and Gender and Peacebuilding. Each engages a range of feminist research methodologies to deconstruct ambiguities in the WPS Resolutions, as well as more broadly within international law, then adopts diverse dissemination methods. For example, a documentary examines the legacy of the 2000 Tokyo Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery. Through interviews, it describes how women across Asia took action to seek gender justice, after the failure of formal legal processes. The project has also submitted amicus briefs – detailed legal arguments – in support of cases fighting gender-based violence and for women’s rights. For instance, in a recent submission to the International Criminal Court, the Court was urged to adopt a gendered and intersectional analysis, to ensure its jurisprudence achieves gender justice. The team also co-hosted a series of public conversations with the LSE library, exploring how women’s peace activism has often been silenced, with one bringing together activists from Iran, Iraq and Syria. “While COVID has prevented us from organising in-person events and undertaking planned archival research, advances in digital technologies have enabled us to reach a wider audience and to benefit from accessing digitally available material. It has also proved to be a leveller, with hierarchies harder to sustain when everyone appears in the same little box on a screen,” says Louise Arimatsu, who works as a researcher in the project.
Peace and security for all
While much of the project’s gender discrimination focus is informed by activities outside Europe, its findings are relevant to EU law and policy. The team’s work on human trafficking urges policymakers to reframe the debate through a gendered human rights perspective, rather than the currently dominant criminal justice model. “We need a complete mindset change, from militarism, profit-seeking, resource extraction and little accountability, to one centred on individuals, responsibility and the planet,” concludes Chinkin. The team are currently writing a book encapsulating many of the project’s themes.
GenderedPeace, peace, security, feminist, gender, violence, human trafficking, human rights, women’s rights