As Australia nears the end of its current National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security (2012-2018) and look toward the development of the next iteration of the NAP, the Australian Civil Society Coalition on Women Peace and Security (‘the Coalition’) is focussed on amplifying the voices of diverse women in Australia and our region to inform policy development. In September 2017, the Coalition organised a series of roundtables in each Australian capital city, with the support of the Australian Government, to provide a space for women to discuss what peace and security mean in practice. A Talanoa discussion was also held at the Triennial Conference of Pacific Women.
This report provides a summary of these roundtable discussions and will inform the discussions to be held on 30 November 2017 at the Annual Dialogue between the Australian Government and civil society. The Dialogue discussions, together with this summary, will be published in a report in early 2018.
In July 2018, the Australian Government will be submitting its first Voluntary National Review on the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda to the United Nations. The Australian Civil Society Coalition on Women, Peace and Security made a submission as part of this process which you can downloadhere.
Australia needs a transformational foreign policy, particularly on issues of peace and security, if we want to “deal with the world as it is” and influence the way the world responds to tension and all forms of violent conflict. The advancement of women’s right, the achievement of gender equality and ensuring the participation of women in conflict prevention and all peace and post-conflict processes will bring about a more balanced approach to addressing and preventing recurring conflicts, as well as peacebuilding efforts.
The Australian Government has taken a global leadership role on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, and in 2012 launched the inaugural Australian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) 2012 – 2018 (‘NAP’). Australian foreign policy must be aligned to the agreed and binding principles of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda under international law, including the suite of eight United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) on WPS and should prioritise an approach which reframes peace and security from a focus on defence to a focus on conflict prevention and human security (including the economic and social dimensions of security).
This submission recommends the Australia government to identify WPS as a foreign policy priority and that it fully incorporates the pillars of the WPS agenda into the strategic planning of Australia’s foreign policy. These pillars are: prevention, participation, protection, relief and recovery, and mainstreaming.
Today, Tuesday 25 October 2016, Russia is hosting the annual United Nations Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security, which will focus on how Member States, regional organisations and the UN are working towards the commitments and recommendations made during the 2015 High-level Review of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).
In advance of the debate, the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security brought together 254 organisations from 55 countries to write an Open Letter to Permanent Representatives to the UN, urging Member States to provide details on the progress made on their political, financial and institutional commitments.
You can read the letter here which outlines key recommendations for the Security Council, specifically in regards to:
Women’s participation in prevention and resolving conflict and post conflict rebuilding
Addressing humanitarian crises through a gender lens
Strengthening justice, accountability and the rule of law
Developing and implementing National Action Plans on 1325
Financing the WPS Agenda
The Australian Civil Society Coalition on Women, Peace and Security is proud to be a signatory to this Open Letter, which has now been sent to the New York missions of all Member States and published online.
Following the release of a UN report on human rights violations in South Sudan on 11 March 2016, which detailed harrowing accounts of sexual violence committed against women and children, the Coalition wrote to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP (copied to Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja AM). In this letter the Coalition urged the Australian Government to confirm its commitment to prioritising the Women, Peace and Security agenda in foreign policy by making a public statement drawing attention to these ongoing atrocities.
The UN report was produced by an assessment team sent to South Sudan by the UN High Commissioner from October 2015 to January 2016, in accordance with a resolution by the Human Rights Council in July 2015. The extreme brutality of sexual violence committed against women in South Sudan detailed in the report is alarming. The scale of sexual violence is particularly shocking; from April to September 2015, the UN recorded more than 1,300 reports of rape in just one of South Sudan’s ten states, Unity. The assessment team also documented reports of abductions of women in Unity, Upper Nile and Central Equatoria states. Some women and girls were forced to marry their aggressors, while credible sources also indicated that groups allied to the Government were being allowed to rape women as a reward in lieu of wages. The report concluded that the prevalence of rape is part of an intentional strategy to terrorise and punish civilians.
Following our letter, the Coalition was encouraged that Australia spoke out in the interactive dialogue on South Sudan at the Human Rights Council condemning abuses being perpetrated routinely by all parties in South Sudan. This included specific reference to the practice of rewarding Government-allied troops with abducted women in lieu of wages.
The Coalition looks forward to seeing the Australian Government continue to prioritise the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in foreign policy, including urging further action to improve security for women and girls in South Sudan.
On Wednesday 8 June 2016, Dr Alan Ryan (Executive Director of the Australian Civil-Military Centre) launched the Third Annual Civil Society Report Card on Australia’s implementation of its National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.
Launched at a roundtable jointly hosted by the Dialogue Steering Group (WILPF, ACFID, the Australian Committee of UN Women and the ANU Gender Institute), this civil society shadow report aims to independently review, support and advocate for the Australian Government’s continued commitment to this agenda.
The report card can be found on the ACFID website here.
The UN Secretary-General’s Report, One Humanity Shared Responsibility, highlights that over 80 per cent of humanitarian assistance, requested by the United Nations, goes towards meeting life-saving needs in conflict settings since major civil wars have increased from 4 in 2007 to 11 in 2014 and peacekeeping missions now last three times longer than in the past. The economic and financial cost of conflict is estimated at USD14.3 trillion, or 13.4 per cent of the global economy. The international community is in a constant state of crisis management which is unsustainable.
It is for the above reasons that the Agenda for Humanity identifies Global leadership to prevent and end conflict as Core Responsibility One. To move beyond perpetual crisis management and achieve the goals of humanitarian assistance which is to save lives and ameliorate suffering, immediate crisis response, rehabilitation and longer term development support must be integrated with effective conflict prevention and long term peacebuilding. This requires an approach to humanitarian assistance which recognises and prioritises the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.
This briefing paper underscores the importance of a gendered approach to humanitarian action and assistance in conflict settings. Effective conflict prevention and long term peacebuilding is needed to replace the perpetual crisis management and to reduce the magnitude of the humanitarian assistance currently needed.