This article has been contributed by Prajeena Karmacharya, Kristine St. Pierre and Tamar Palandjian-Toufayan.
Civil society organizations, and in particular those working to advance women’s issues exist in paradox in the Canadian context. The Minister of Foreign Affairs stated, at the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations that “[one] of the key premises of our values-based foreign policy is [that] we must actively support and promote not just the equality of men and women, but the full participation of women in all parts of civil society.”
Major budgetary cuts combined with changes to government ministries and departments have however had important negative impacts on the ability of civil society organizations to conduct their work. Part of this work involves monitoring the Government of Canada’s efforts toward the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions on women, peace and security.
These resolutions, five in total, provides a framework for countries like Canada to address the disproportionate effects of war on women and girls, and to ensure women are present at all levels of decision-making. The resolutions recognize the vital role that women play in conflict resolution processes and call on their greater representation in all aspects of peace processes, including their active participation in international peace operations.
The resolutions also call on countries to develop a ‘National Action Plan’ or NAP on women, peace and security that could support governments’ efforts. To date, 37 countries have adopted NAP, including the United States and most European nations. Canada’s NAP was adopted in October 2010 in view of the 10th anniversary of resolution 1325, the first resolution to link women’s security to peace.
The Canadian government, with the Department of Foreign Affairs at the helm, is currently working on its first official report for activities undertaken in 2010-2011. The report is expected to be released to the general public in October and should provide some generic insights on the types of efforts undertaken and funding disbursed by Canada in support of women, peace and security.
The Women, Peace and Security Network (WPSN) consist of a group of Canadian organizations and individuals committed to the promotion and monitoring of Canada’s efforts to implement and support the resolutions. Created at the beginning of the year, the network operates on a voluntary basis, drawing expertise from its wide range of members. As the group aspires to become an important voice on issues of women, peace and security in Canada, for now, its strength lies in each member’s voluntary commitment.
It is the intent of the network to be an active stakeholder to ensure the role of women in conflict resolution processes and address the disproportionate effects of war on women and girls through monitoring, analysis and outreach to increase awareness of the integral role women have in peace and security. It is the hope of WPSN that with the Minister’s clear support for women’s engagement, there will be positive changes to government ministries and departments to reinforce the Canadian government’s commitment to women’s civil society engagement.