The United Nations Security Council this week unanimously adopted a new resolution on women, peace, and security meant to improve the UN’s agenda for these issues. The new resolution (UNSCR 2242), marks the 15th Anniversary of the launch of the Women, Peace and Security resolution with the passage of landmark resolution 1325, by explicitly recognizing some of the roadblocks that have stymied the women, peace, and security agenda. It acknowledges that these roadblocks can only be “dismantled through dedicated commitment to women’s participation and human rights, and through concerted leadership, consistent information and action, and support, to build women’s engagement in all levels of decision-making[.]” Just Security readers may be particularly interested to note that the resolution highlights the role of women in countering violent extremism, and addresses the impact of the rise of extremism on the lives of women through displacement, as well as direct and indirect violence. Thus, the resolution recognizes: 

… the differential impact on the human rights of women and girls of terrorism and violent extremism, including in the context of their health, education, and participation in public life, and that they are often directly targeted by terrorist groups, and expressing deep concern that acts of sexual and gender-based violence are known to be part of the strategic objectives and ideology of certain terrorist groups, used as a tactic of terrorism, and an instrument to increase their power through supporting financing, recruitment, and the destruction of communities, as described in the Secretary General’s Report on Sexual Violence in Conflict of 23 March 2015 (S/2015/203), and further noting the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s good practices on Women and Countering Violent Extremism …

The resolution proposes concrete action in this regard calling on states to integrate their agendas on women, peace, and security with counterterrorism and countering violent extremism policies. In addition, the Security Council requests the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) and the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) to integrate gender as a cross-cutting issue throughout the activities within their mandates. A highly specific definition is given to what the CTC might do, including integrating gender into country assessments, reports, recommendations to states, and including gender training when providing technical assistance.

While greater attention to the needs of and harms experienced by women in the contexts of terrorism, counterterrorism, and countering violent extremism is to be welcomed, there is a serious risk of securitizing women’s lives in already fragile and vulnerable contexts, an issue I have addressed before. The need to deal with new wars and insecurities for women in thoughtful, inclusive, and non-hierarchical ways has been underscored by many commentators and is a thread found throughout the Global Study on the Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 that was released this week. The optics of a new resolution are significant, as is the symbolic value of a unanimous Security Council vote (a rare occurrence these days). However, the hard work of preventing conflict, and ending those contemporary conflicts that continue to pour a unending sequences of harms upon women and their communities should not be hidden from view in the celebration and self-congratulation that was on display among states at the United Nations this week.

Another Security Council resolution does not per se protect women any better in conflict, nor does it ensure that women are included in conflict prevention and management strategies, or guarantee them a seat at any negotiation table. There is a pressing need for a move from rhetoric to concrete action. This means making the promises contained in 15 years of Security Council resolutions tangible in every peace and security area from peacekeeping to counterterrorism. After 15 years of promises, concrete financial commitments and sustained action by states are long overdue.