#WPSAdvice: Welcome to Our Blog Series

By Beth Woroniuk, Coordinator, WPSN-C Follow her on twitter @bethottawa

The elections are here.  For the next few weeks, we’ll be bombarded by ads, polls, speeches, digital campaigns, news coverage, robo calls, gaffs and debates.  Candidates knock on doors.  Organizations work hard to get attention for their issues. Pundits predict. Political operatives spin…

The members of the Women, Peace and Security Network – Canada are following the campaign with great interest.  Many members are asking candidates their views and looking for commitments on specific actions. There is an active coalition Up for Debate pushing for greater attention to women’s rights throughout the campaign.

We’re also looking ahead to the dust settling, the formation of the incoming government and its legislative agenda.  And we have some advice on how Canada can move forward on our ‘Women, Peace and Security’ commitments.

In the following weeks, we’ll hear from WPSN-C members with their advice to the incoming government – regardless of the outcome – on how to make concrete progress on the WPS agenda.  There are thoughtful and concrete recommendations on gender-based violence in conflict, disarmament, the Saudi arms deal, protecting and supporting women human rights defenders, peacekeeping, and more.

What is the Women, Peace and Security Agenda?

We often use ‘women, peace and security’ as short-hand for an ambitious agenda for change.  Although it is rooted in Resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council, feminist peacemakers around the world have pushed for a broad interpretation. We want to see the links among and between militarism, patriarchy, environmental catastrophe, inequalities, failed economic models, racism, & toxic masculinities made clear. This will help to develop solutions to build a more just, equal, and sustainable world.

In 2017, when the Government of Canada was preparing for the relaunch of its WPS National Action Plan, members of our Network held many discussions and developed recommendations.  We wanted to see Canada include a broad range of issues in its NAP and adopt a coherent approach across all of government.

Our key recommendations were:

  1. Support women peacebuilders through feminist and women’s rights organizations. The importance of women activists and women’s organizations in building peace is well recognized. Canada can be a global leader in supporting these organizations at the grassroots, at national and regional levels, and at the international level (networking, learning and influencing global trends). This requires long-term, stable and predictable funding, as well as diplomatic support.
  2. Address the inter-related nature of domestic and international WPS issues. Global realities consistently highlight the growing interconnectedness of states. Issues such as conflict-related migration (especially refugees), violent extremism, illegal flows of weapons, human trafficking, and epidemics have both domestic and international dimensions. Thus, the C-NAP cannot only be an externally facing document.
  3. Include investments in conflict prevention that address root causes. The WPS Agenda is about building peace and peaceful options to support conflict resolution. This requires a focus on building non-military alternatives to armed conflict and resolving conflicts before they become deadly. It also requires investments in nuclear disarmament, countering violent extremism, reducing the arms trade, promoting the conditions for inclusive growth, and developing alternatives to militarization based on an intersectional gender perspective. 
  4. Include steps to transform the internal culture of Canadian security institutions (primarily the Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP) as they relate to attitudes towards women, sexual abuse/violence, homophobia, and other diversity issues. If Canada supports training of other militaries and police forces, it is essential that our own institutions be world leaders in this area. This also includes robust attention to sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers and other deployed security forces.
  5. A strong mandate to include a feminist approach (inclusive of a gender perspective) and actions to implement the WPS agenda across all areas of Canada’s foreign, defence and development policies, programmes and initiatives. The commitment to use GBA+ (with clear guidance on intersectional analysis) across all policy areas should be restated and resourced within the CNAP. As well, there should be a clear imperative not just to do an analysis, but also develop proactive measures on the WPS agenda even when this is not the official focus of discussion. To name just a few areas, Canada can bring gender perspectives (and analysis of gender hierarchies), as well as WPS priorities into discussions on peace operations, nuclear disarmament, humanitarian assistance, countering violent extremism, conflict resolution in specific contexts, post-conflict recovery and the conflict/climate change nexus (leading by example).

Canada’s Commitments

In November 2017, Canada launched its second National Action Plan on WPS.

The objectives of the Plan are: 

  1. Increase the meaningful participation of women, women’s organizations and networks in conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and post-conflict statebuilding.
  2. Prevent, respond to and end impunity for sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated in conflict and sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers and other international personnel, including humanitarian and development staff.
  3. Promote and protect women’s and girls’ human rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in fragile, conflict and post-conflict settings.
  4. Meet the specific needs of women and girls in humanitarian settings, including the upholding of their sexual rights and access to sexual and reproductive health services.
  5. Strengthen the capacity of peace operations to advance the WPS agenda, including by deploying more women and fully embedding the WPS agenda into CAF operations and police deployments.

Network members applauded the new plan for its ambition and detail, but also raised questions, urged greater investments and cited the importance of more coherent approaches to an overall feminist foreign policy.  

We’ve seen one progress report and look forward to the tabling of the second progress report once Parliament resumes sitting after the election.  This progress report presented an optimistic outlook, noting that the GoC was ‘on track’ or ‘mostly on track’ to achieve the Action Plan’s objectives. 

Global Progress

This year, the United Nations will host WPS week starting October 28th.  The Security Council will host an open debate on WPS issues on October 29th.   Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the first Security Council Resolution on WPS – known by its number: 1325.

While there has been some progress, there is frustration on the slow progress on the implementation of national and global commitments. Women continue to be left out of peace negotiations.  Financial investments lag behind global rhetoric. Sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers continues. 

Much remains to be done.

Your inputs into these discussions are welcome.  What do you think the incoming government should do to support Canada’s implementation of the WPS agenda? Write to us at wpsncanada@gmail.com.  Follow us on twitter:  @WPSNCanada.  Use the hashtags:  #elxn43   #WPSAdvice. Watch our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/wpsncanada 

Please note that the views in these blog posts are those of the author and may not represent the views of all members of the WPSN-C.

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