Gréta Gunnarsdóttir


It is a great pleasure to participate in this conference and I would like to thank the organizers for inviting me.
Before I go any further I would like to underline that I am speaking in my personal capacity and not on behalf of my employer, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

I am going to talk about Security Council resolution 1325 in light of the status of gender issues in general at the UN. The reason being, that I do not consider it possible to separate the implemention of 1325 from the implemention of other international commitments in the field of gender equality.

I will approach the subject matter on the basis of my experience at the UN and how I perceive these matters as a result of this experience.

The status of gender issues in general at the UN

Considerable progress has been made in the field of gender equality within the UN framework since its establishment. This is demonstrated by all the commitments made by member states at the various international conferences on women, especially in Beijing in 1995 and Beijing + 5 in 2000. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol also present a major step forward. In addition one should mention the numerous resolutions on gender issues agreed upon every year in the General Assembly as well as in other UN fora.

However, when we look at the implemention of these commitments throughout the world I think we can all agree that we still have a long way to go. And those of us participating in negotiations on these subjects, on a regular basis, also realize that not only do we have a long way to go, but there is actually a real danger of a backlash in some areas.

In his report of 2 September 2003 on the Implemention of the UN Millenium Declaration (A/58/323), the Secretary General says that there is an increased global awareness of issues affecting women´s rights, although at the country level there is little progress and in many cases even the rights that have been achieved are under threat. I agree. Women´s rights are in many ways threatened. Not only because of lack of implemention but also because of repeated attempts to weaken commitments already made by trying to weaken already agreed language at the negotiating table. This is expecially applicable in the case of reproductive rights. Also, as regards commitments not to invoke customs, traditions or religion as an excuse for human rights violations against women.

Further more by weakening references to certain important international conventions in UN resolutions and other UN documents.
My conclusion is therefore that in the coming years we will most likely have to put a lot of effort into preventing backlashes from happening. In this respect it is important to shift the focus from endless drafting on standards where we already have more or less all we need anyway, to putting more focus on the implemention of commitments already made .

Resolution 1325

Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security was adopted by the Security Council on 31 October 2000. On one hand it addresses parties to armed conflicts and calls for the protection of women. But the readyness to discuss women as victims is nothing new. What makes the resolution a landmark, is that it is the Security Council itself, the main body responsible for peace and security in the world, that is calling for increased representation of women at all decision making levels in the security field. By adopting the resolution the Security Council has acknowledged that women have a role to play, whether it concerns conflict prevention, peace negotiations, peacekeeping or reconstruction. The addressees are mainly the member states and the Secretary General who is among other things urged to appoint more women as special representatives and envoys, as well as to expand the role and contribution of women in field based operations.

Implementation of 1325

The main contribution so far of resolution 1325 is that women have been put on the agenda of the Security Council where main decisions are made on international peace and security in the world.

The resolution has already lead to some progress.

The Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has for example established an Inter Agency Task Force which consists of all the relevant UN bodies (such as the DPKO, UNFPA, UNIFEM, UNDP, WFP, UNICEF and others).

The Task Force tries to influence the implementation of 1325 for example by preparing reports on gender issues for the members of the Security Council before they go on field missions to war torn countries. In these reports the Task Force lists issues which it feels the members of the Security Council should study and discuss on their visits with regard to gender mainstreaming. The Task Force also has a check list on gender issues which they adapt to each visit of the Security Council.

The Task Force includes names of people and organisations which it believes Security Council members should meet during their visits. So the Task Force is putting a lot of effort into facilitating the Security Council´s ability to address gender issues. It is then up to the Security Council to decide whether they use these reports and checklists but I understand that this has worked rather well in practise.

Regarding how 1325 is reflected in recent Security Council resolutions one can mention that Security Council resolution 1483 on Iraq and 1509 on Liberia both contain references to gender, even though it would be hard to say that gender is in any way a focus of the resolution on Iraq, with only one reference in its preambular part, which means that it does not call for any action. The resolution on Liberia, however, contains several references to gender issues and is in that way unusual while the downside is that it mainly refers to women as victims and not so much as equal partners.

Before the UN offices in Baghdad were attacked UNIFEM had been planning a conference with Iraqi women to discuss the future of the country. It is now unclear whether the conference will be held.

Resolution 1325 invites the Secretary General to carry out a study on the subject matter of the resolution. His report was submitted to the Security Council last year. It focuses on the activities of the United Nations and provides an overview of current responses to armed conflicts by the UN System.

Since the resolution was adopted the Security Council has held yearly discussions on its implementation. At the end of October this year, under the chairmanship of the United States, there will be an open briefing on the resolution in the Council.

There are indications that the resolution is starting to influence work in other fora such as in the General Assembly. A recent resolution which was adopted on conflict prevention is referring to the important role women can play. In addition references to 1325 have been proposed by some member states, including by Iceland, in a draft resolution currently under negotiations in the General Assembly on the political participation of women. There is also a whole chapter on women in armed conflict, including a reference to 1325, in a draft resolution on violence against women also currently under negotiations.

Reports of the Secretary General to the Security Council do now also include some references to gender.

Operational Paragraph 13 of the resolution provides for taking into account the different needs of female and male combatants when it comes to reintegration. This provision has been applied in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where women were included in the „disarmament and reintegration programme.“

The reason for the importance of provision 13 is that women are often totally forgotten or ignored because they do not carry arms. The men get assistance if they hand in their arms as part of disarmament projects, while the women who have also been part of combat units are generally not armed and therefore they have nothing to hand in, ergo, they do not receive any assistance.

I have given you an overview of what I am aware of as regards the implemention of 1325 and it is clear that certain progress has been made. On the other hand it is not possible to talk about the full implementation of the resolution. Especially not when it comes to women and their participation in decision making, which I believe should be much higher on the agenda. Because their increased participation is bound to improve the situation of women. An example is the design of refugee camps. As most of you are aware, refugee camps are often very dangerous places for women, who often have to go a long way to go to the bathroom or get water. If women were involved in designing such camps the likelyhood is that they would be aware of women´s security concerns and take them into consideration by putting such basic facilities in areas that are safer for women.

I am going to mention a few issues which I feel represent the main obstacles for full implementation of the resolution.

Women are first of all not an interest group that needs to be taken into account in order for the Council to reach its objective of maintaining international peace and security. This is a major obstacle, especially as far as women´s participation in decision making is concerned. The question is therefore how we can make women count. It needs to be in the interest of those in power to include women. This means that it does not suffice to come up with completely rational reasons why women should be included. To say that it is a matter of gender equality. No. Their participation needs to be made in the interest of those in charge.

There are a few ways of approaching this. For example when the addressees are the warring factions who have just concluded peace agreements it is possible to make financial assistance conditional upon the inclusion of women and on the application of gender mainstreaming. Voters in democratic societies can also request their governments to be guided by gender mainstreaming in all political planning and decision making at the international level. It is to be expected that taxpayers in democratic societies, half of which are usually women, expect their governments not to restrict their support to only one gender when it comes to activities at the international level.

Secondly, there is resistance, both conscious and unsonscious. Conscious in countries where the status of women is bad. Unconscious on the basis of traditions and lack of awareness of those who take decisons, who are usually men.

Thirdly there is a general tendence within the UN to discuss gender issues in isolation from other issues and not in connection with them.

Fourthly, there is a resistance to look upon women as equal partners. There is a general understanding that women are increasingly victims of war and that something needs to be done to PROTECT THEM. All countries are ready to discuss that. But when we start talking about increasing the participation and influence of women then there is less enthusiasm. Then, as many of us recognize very well, there starts a discussion on the qualifications of women – there are not enough women with enough experience or education etc. One never hears much speculation, however, on the qualifications of ward lords and other such experienced men of war. They are armed, ergo, it is in the interest of those in charge to include them. So they are included.
A good example of the victim syndrome is Afganistan Before the war there was a lot of discussion on the horrible plight of Afgan women. After the war, however, there was considerable less enthusiasm to discuss their plight. As regards Iraq there has been very little discussion on the situation of women at the UN while the media has been calling attention to how insecurity is affecting their human rights.

What has Iceland done

The Icelandic Government has been very supportive of 1325.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs has emphasised the importance of 1325 in all his statements in the General Assembly since its adoption. Before, in the General Assembly in 2000 the Minister emphasised the importance of the participation of Kosovar women in the political process in the region. The resolution is also usually mentioned in all statements given by the Icelandic delegation at the UN on gender issues and Iceland participates actively in negotiations on General Assembly resolutions on gender issues.

The Icelandic Government has also had a gender expert working at the UNIFEM office in Kosovo since 2000. This is one of the most tangible contribution of Iceland to the implementation of 1325. UNIFEM in Kosovo assisted local women in developing an action plan for gender equality in Kosovo. This action plan has recently been endorsed by the authority of Kosovo. UNIFEM has also provided all kinds of courses to enhance gender equality, for example courses for municipalities on gender issues, definitions and the role of municipaltities in democratic societies. The majority of participants were men considering that they form the majority of elected members of municipalities. UNIFEM has also held very comprehensive courses for lawyers and some other professionals who are expected to be in a position to influence the future laws for the region with the objective to increase the likelyhood that the laws will lead to increased gender equality, not only de jure but also de facto.

The Icelandic Government has tried to seek both men and women for jobs within the Icelandic Peacekeeping Unit (Iceland Crisis Response Unit). I can mention a meeting that was held at the initiative of the Ministry for foreign Affairs and the State Police Commissioner a few years ago with Icelandic police women. The meeting was held to follow up a letter from the UN where it requeseted member states to increase the number of women in peacekeeping. The benefit of the meeting was first and foremost to introduce the possibility of work in peacekeeping missions to women police officers. But as a result of the meeting we were also more knowledgable about why women were not applying. Firstly, the women felt that the requirement of an 8 year working experience, was an obstacle as very few of them had such a long tenure. Secondly, if they had, already had families which made it difficult for them to go on missions. We informed the United Nations about these results.

The Icelandic Government has also contributed considerably to the establishment of a Social-center for women in Bosnia, which was raised at the initiative of Dr. Vilborg Isleifsdottir in cooperation with some Bosnian women. The house has to be considered as a part of the reconstruction of Bosnia.

Iceland´s ratification of the Rome treaty on the International Criminal Court also has to be considered as our input to 1325 as the Court presents a major step forward to put an end to impunity, including for crimes against women.


So what can be done to push for the full implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325.

We who live in western countries, who have freedom of expression and other civil and political rights, have a huge responsibility because we are in a position to have influence.

Democratic societies have a responsibility to lobby on behalf of women who live in societies where they do not have a voice.
Non governmental organisations have an important role to play not the least to increase awareness of commitments made.
People who are interested in promoting gender equality can seek jobs relevant to 1325. Women have to be much more daring in this regard, especially in the security field where the gender balance is exeptionally bad. Women have to realize that security is an integral part of politics. It is not so much about guns and missiles, which seem to be topics that alienate women, but first and foremost its about politics.

And then more needs to be done to convince men that gender issues are not women issues but of equal concern to both genders.

UN Peace processes offer great opportunities for the organisation and its member states to promote gender equality in states where there would otherwise be very little progress. Afganistan and Iraq – are good examples of such opportunities.

Whether there is enough political will or not, to use these opportunities, is another matter entirely.

The members of the Security Council are of course in a key position to implement 1325, and bear the main responsibility to do so. But the wider membership, being a direct addressee of the resolution, is also responsible through its participation in peacekeeping missions, for example by increasing women´s participation, to train its peacekeepers on gender issues and so on. Finally, donors can make it a decisive factor on whether to provide assistance or not, whether the recepients are sincerely trying to secure the interest of all their people or only one gender.

1325 has first and foremost put women on the agenda of the Security Council which is the main body responsible for international peace and security. The Security Council has to put the same effort into implementing 1325 as its other resolutions, otherwise it risks eroding its own authority through its inaction. That would be a very wrong message to send to the outside world. Especially now, during times of calls for reforms, when our main aim should be to strengthen the UN and not weaken it.

Non governmental organizations and academics, like those who organized this conference have an important role to play, not least in increasing awareness of the resolution.