What We Are Reading: September 2022

Graphic from The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation

Written by Beth Woroniuk

September. For many, it marks back to school and for those of us in the northern hemisphere, shorter days and cooler temperatures. It also marks the month before the annual debate in the United Nations Security Council on the anniversary of the first Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) resolution: 1325 passed in 2000. So this month, What We’re Reading takes a look at new WPS resources we think are worth reading.

Article: Afghanistan’s Women are On Their Own: How the International Community Turned Its Back by Shaharzad Akbar in Foreign Affairs. August 2022.

Ali Khara / Reuters

Afghanistan has been called a test for the global WPS agenda and for those countries with feminist foreign policies. August saw numerous reflections and analysis as we marked the one-year mark of the Taliban’s retaking of Afghanistan. Shaharzad Akbar’s piece in Foreign Affairs is an important read.

Akbar outlines the numerous rights violations and restrictions imposed on women and girls this last year and then turns to a stinging critique of the response of the international community. She notes that Afghan women – often at the forefront of nonviolent resistance to the Taliban inside Afghanistan – are realizing that they are, for all intents and purposes, on their own. The dominant response of most western governments has been “hollow condemnations.”

Although Western leaders have talked for the last two decades about supporting Afghan women, at critical junctures, where women’s rights activists’ rights and lives are on the line, Western countries have provided limited support for them or their cause, exposing a deep hypocrisy.

Akbar also has advice for the Afghan women’s movement. She urges activists to continue to demand the world’s attention and call out “foreign leaders and countries who normalize the Taliban’s oppression of women’s rights.” She also counsels attention to the relationships among activists in diaspora and women still in Afghanistan, urging creativity and patience.

The article offers key insights for Western governments and the international feminist community. The tension of delivering much-needed aid to Afghanistan and women’s organizations inside the country while not recognizing the Taliban is challenging, but not impossible, to solve. Support is urgently required for women’s organizations struggling to operate inside Afghanistan, activists in the diaspora engaging in global discussions, and for opportunities to strengthen the connections among these two groups.

Policy Brief: The Future of the UK’s Women, Peace and Security Policy by Paul Kirby, Hannah Wright and Aisling Swaine. Centre for Women, Peace Security Research at the London School of Economics. Policy Brief 07/2022.

National action plans (NAPs) are one of the primary instruments to support the implementation of the WPS agenda. The United Kingdom (UK) was one of the first governments to develop a NAP, launching its first plan in 2006. Preparations are now underway for the UK’s fifth plan. This policy brief by a trio of respected WPS scholars reviews key trends in the UK’s work on WPS to date and offers recommendations for the forthcoming plan.

The authors analyze prominent and missing themes in the four previous NAPs and compare them to global tendencies. They note the emphasis over the years on conflict-related violence, references to men and boys, and human rights defenders. They also point out the lack of attention to climate change which, to be fair, is a gap in the vast majority of NAPs.  

The brief highlights three areas for improvement and provides detailed recommendations for each one:

  • Tracking investments and strengthening monitoring, evaluation and learning;
  • Ensuring coherence between international policies and approaches and national issues (also called the ‘domestication’ agenda);
  • Committing to the full breadth of the WPS agenda and ramping up UK ambition (including bringing WPS principles to issues such as climate change and arms transfer controls).

Although the focus of this brief is the UK, the analysis of gaps and challenges is relevant for many global north governments as they work to improve both the design and implementation of their WPS NAPs. This includes Canada where discussions are underway on Canada’s third NAP. (The Equality Fund submitted a short brief to the civil society dialogue.)

Position Paper: The Climate, Gender and Conflict Nexus. Kvinna till Kvinna. 2022

This position paper from the Swedish feminist organization Kvinna till Kvinna explores an issue highlighted in the previous policy brief: the climate/gender/conflict nexus. 

The gender dimensions of climate change are well documented and the reinforcing pressures of climate disasters and conflict are well understood. Now, analysts are now also realizing the benefits of looking at  climate, gender, and conflict in a comprehensive fashion.

This paper unpacks the issues related to gender-based violence and sexual and reproductive health and rights, women’s participation, peacebuilding, economic gender justice, financing, and female environmental activists, providing recommendations in each of these areas. Themes throughout these recommendations include better analysis, putting women’s rights at the centre of responses, better data, and increased financing for women-led organizations and women human rights defenders (including from climate finance envelopes).

Although the focus of the paper is on explaining Kvinna till Kvinna’s approach and understanding of the issues, the recommendations are helpful to those looking to build a coherent approach to this key constellation of issues.

In addition, here are a few additional recent publications/resources of note:

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