8 March 2020: Women’s Day after Twenty Years of UNSC Resolution 1325
2020 marks the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the historical United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on ‘women, peace and security’. It was the first to recognize the importance of women in the peacebuilding process and served as the launchpad to increase women’s participation and incorporate gender perspectives in all UN peace and security efforts.
Since its adoption, women have increasingly become a part of the UN peacekeeping operations, acting as role models in the local environment, inspiring other women and girls in often male-dominated societies to push and advocate for their own rights and for participation in peace processes.
What is the background?
Since the second half of the twentieth century, several major global conferences and policy frameworks including the UN Convention on the ‘Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women’ championed the cause of advancing the rights of women and girls. In 1995, during the Fourth World Conference on Women, the ‘Beijing Declaration’ was signed, which pointed to key objectives to promote the role of women in peace-making.
The persistent lobbying efforts of the ‘Coalition on Women and International Peace and Security’ led to the genesis of the UNSC Resolution 1325 on 31 October 2000 which formally acknowledged the changing nature of warfare that increasingly targets civilians, especially women who are excluded from participation in peace processes. It officially addresses the vulnerability of women and girls during conflict and war and recognizes the critical role of women in peacebuilding efforts. It affirmed that peace and security efforts could become more sustainable if women were made equal partners in conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
The Resolution 1325 has four basic pillars: First- Increased participation of women at all levels of decision-making including in peace operations, as police, soldiers and as UN Secretary-General’s special representatives. Second- Specific protection of women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence, including during emergencies and in refugee camps. Third- Strategies for prevention of violence against women by the prosecution for violations of international and national law along with supporting peace initiatives of local women. Fourth- Relief and recovery measures addressing crises through a gendered lens especially considering needs of women while designing refugee camps.
Resolution 1325 set the ball rolling for a series of resolutions addressing specific concerns regarding the protection of women and girls during the conflict, and their participation in decision-making processes, the latest being SCR 2242 passed in 2015 marking the 15th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 and highlighting the role of women in countering violent extremism. The UN Secretary-General has appointed a ‘Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict’ ensuring that women are at all levels of senior leadership.
Women are more vulnerable to the impacts of conflicts and global security threats, including that of climate change. Often women are trapped in battle lines; many become victims of sexual violence and rape that is used as a weapon of war even in post-conflict times by peacekeepers. This highlights the need for more women peacekeepers who can also act as role models giving hope to the younger generations.
What does it mean?
Today, twenty-five years after the Beijing Declaration and twenty years after the UNSCR 1325, women continue to be underrepresented, comprising under 10 per cent of peace negotiators and under 4 per cent of signatories to peace agreements. The recent US-Taliban peace deal did not involve even a single provision dealing with women which indicates a widening gap between the rhetoric and implementation.
Many peace agreements still omit a gender perspective on peacekeeping operations. Femicide in Latin America is becoming increasingly evident. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is gaining prominence and a biased AI whose algorithms mirror unconscious prejudices like facial-recognition programs which generate more false-positive identifications for women reveal that the cybersecurity sector lacks gender parity. While some problems are solved, newer ones are surfacing.
The real success of UNSCR 1325 depends on the effective implementation by member states through their National Action Plans (NAP) and other strategies. The growth of Indigenous movements for women rights, especially in regions like Pakistan, Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia, bear witness to the fact that a revolution has indeed started, global efforts are not wasted, and UNSCR 1325 is bearing fruits.
This women’s day we focus on the newly evolved femininity, mixed with challenge and pride that enables women to play an increasingly crucial role in UN peacekeeping operations – conducting patrols, providing technical training, serving as naval officers, gunners, pilots, doctors, advisors etc. There have been rising demands worldwide for feminist foreign policies placing women’s rights as their prime goal, for example, Sweden. The effect may not have accelerated at the pace women expect, but the change in perspective is definitely there. In order to achieve SDG 5- gender equality which is no longer an optional luxury, in the words of António Guterres “the international community and world leaders must do more than just make speeches about women and actually invest in women as equal stakeholders in mediation, peacebuilding and peacekeeping activities.”
Coronavirus cases cross 100,000
Multiple reports surfaced on the numbers that are emerging across the world. There has been a rise in the number of cases in the US and in India. According to worldometers.info, the total number of cases as of 7 March 2020, is at 103,737 of which 58,456 have recovered or have been discharged and 3,522 have died. Among the 41,759 active cases, 85 per cent are known to be in a mild condition.
It has reached 98 countries and territories around the world and the one international conveyance case of the Diamond Princess which has over 696 cases. Fifty-two countries and territories have more than ten cases each which goes to show that the medical response to the outbreak has been below requirement. The cases in South Korea, Iran, Italy, Germany, France remain over 600. However, the percentage of cured cases look promising across the world, showing positive signs.
What is the background?
Cases and deaths concerning the virus outbreak have been majorly among the age groups above 40 years. Up to 53 per cent of the cases have been cured and discharged and about 80 per cent are mild and many of the cases are showing up late because the response mechanisms of many countries have been late or the medical costs are known to be expensive; like in the case of the US, where getting a blood test was known to cost over 300 dollars.
The economic impact of the virus outbreak is expected to show a slump in the first quarter of the year. The impact is strong in the airline sector. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts the outbreak could cost the airlines $113 billion in lost revenue as fewer people take flights. The impact on tourism and the manufacturing sector is expected to see a significant impact, though statistics are not visible yet.
What does it mean?
The steady increase in the number of cases abroad is the natural outcome of the globalized world. The fact that it has reached over 98 countries in three months shows the sheer interconnectedness in the world in terms of the movement of people. The medicine industry across the world does not work closely the same way. Success in the recovery of people has not been through uniform methods. However, signs show that the new cases have slowed down drastically and the numbers showing up now indicate the failure of detection and medical mechanisms.
Russia-Turkey agreement on Idlib: How long before the ‘olive branch’ breaks?
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed on a ceasefire agreement in Idlib, Syria during their talks in Moscow on 5 March. The Turkey-Russia brokered deal went into effect in Idlib from midnight on 6 March. The agreement that would come into force in Idlib is aimed to halt the violent clashes between the Syrian forces backed by Russia and the Turkish forces in the north-western border.
The deal also concedes “territorial gains for the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad”, who has been waging war to retake Idlib, the last outpost under the control of the opposition fighters in Syria. The deal establishes a security corridor in which six kilometres to the north and south of the M4 (an east-west roadway) along with the M5 will reconnect the major cities under the Syrian regime. Turkey and Russia also agreed to conduct joint patrols in this area, starting 15 March.
What is the background?
The agreement comes after weeks of intense fighting between the Russian-backed forces of Assad and the rebels. The fighting escalated last week when at least 34 soldiers from Turkey, which supports the rebels, were killed pushing hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing toward the closed border with Turkey. This crisis in Idlib had pushed Russia and Turkey towards a major confrontation, each supporting a proxy group in Syria. The fighting in Syria has also deteriorated Putin’s relation with Erdogan and put Russia’s aim to ally with Turkey, the easternmost member of NATO in a fix. Until the recent escalation, Putin had kept Assad in line with the Russian interests and also balanced the same with Turkey. In return, Erdogan had also used Putin’s bonhomie by feuding openly with the US. Thus, Turkey’s policy to accept the Russian made S-400 or to join the energy projects was in line with its ‘balance US’ policy. The escalation had sored this alliance bargaining amongst Russia and Turkey.
Also, Turkey also escalated the crisis by dropping an earlier agreement with the European Union to halt the flow of migrants across its territory. This has revived a divisive debate inside Europe over the management of yet another influx of refugees. The agreement sorts to put a plug back on the differing power dynamics for Russia and the refugee question for Turkey.
What does it mean?
First, the current crisis between Moscow and Ankara was particularly difficult to contain as many Turkish lives had been lost by the Syrian forces that are armed, trained and mostly directed by Russia. This had led to calls for revenge inside Turkey, and the agreement would now allow Erdogan to show the domestic people that it is capable of a voice vis-à-vis Syria and Russia. After losing the main cities in the 2019 election, the ongoing conflict had put a strain on Ergodan’s image as an ongoing leader. The agreement will serve as a symbolic stop-gap in the conflict for Erdogan giving him the much-needed scope for a return in domestic politics.
Second, the deal will not end the violence or the war in Syria. Like the previous agreement over Idlib reached by Putin and Erdogan in September 2018, this deal is only between Turkey and Russia and it remains to be seen how Assad, who was not part of the deal, would respect it. It is important to remember that Assad had vowed to recover “every inch of land” from the rebels.
Third, Russia has long understood the extent of the power of Assad in Syria. If it wants to protect its military bases in Syria, Moscow has no good options left but to turn to Turkey. Putin had foreseen that once Turkey is allowed to continue its military offensive, Assad will be effectively gone as without the support of Russia, Assad’s command in Syria is thin. Thus one sees an agreement on Syria without the Syrian leader between Russia and Turkey.
Last, Turkey’s refugee dilemma has also pushed the cause of the agreement. Assad’s offensive to reclaim Idlib that began last year has since intensified, displacing about one million Syrians. In the past few weeks, Idlib has witnessed one of the most violent confrontations in the entire nine-year civil war. The civilians fleeing Assad’s violence are pushing toward an ever-shrinking area near Turkey’s border. Erdogan cannot politically and economically afford to accept additional Syrian refugees.
Migrant Crisis between Greece and Turkey Escalates
More than 10,000 migrants mostly from Syria, Afghanistan, and other Middle Eastern countries have flocked to Turkey’s land borders with the European Union (EU) countries. Thousands of migrants have gathered on the Turkish side of the border with Greece at Pazarkule, after a decision by Turkey to stop preventing them from reaching the European Union’s outer border.
Greek authorities have responded with tear gas and blocked any new asylum requests for the next month. Since last Saturday, Greece has prevented around 32,423 migrants from coming into the country and arrested 231 people.
What is the background?
Nearly a million Syrians have fled to the Syrian-Turkish border since December amidst heavy fighting in the Idlib region between Turkish backed rebels and the Syrian government. Turkey has incurred heavy military loss in north-west Syria. Its disappointment over not receiving enough support from the EU on resettling refugees in a safe zone inside Syria has prompted Turkey to allow migrants to cross into EU borders.
Turkey’s geographic location between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia makes it a strategic actor in terms of regional migration governance. Hosting nearly 3.7 million refugees, as well as migrants from other countries such as Afghanistan has made Turkey’s crucial role even more evident. The restructuring of the Turkey migration policy, right from the 2016 EU-Turkey deal to the latest Turkey-Russia Ceasefire agreement points out to its non-linear evolutionary path.
EU and Germany have rejected from drawing any parallels to the ongoing migrant crisis with that of 2015. Germany’s stance on helping the refugees in 2015 was necessary to avert the humanitarian crisis, but it realizes its mistakes in the way it was handled. Cross-border cooperation within the EU has improved, and it is better prepared to handle new arrivals up to a certain point. The distribution of migrants equally among member states of the EU remains a bone of contention.
Top EU officials have visited the Greek-Turkey border area. EU has reiterated its support to the Greek government, by offering financial help and sending more guards using the Frontex agency. It has also assured to increase the EU’s presence on borders.
What does it mean?
First, the EU would want to prevent the repetition of the 2015-16 crisis when more than a million migrants entered the EU from Turkey. This would lead to a further drain in its resources, straining European security and welfare systems. Also, the member counties would not appreciate a change in their domestic politics based on migrants’ issues. The rise of right-wing populism in recent years has gained popularity based on anti-migrant policies.
Second, though there were attempts made by the EU to come up with an EU-wide asylum policy, it could not garner much support and consent on the policy from its member counties. Greece and Italy have been the hot spot arrival points for the illegal migrants. With the ongoing crisis, Greece remains under more pressure. Therefore it is more likely to see a push for an EU-wide asylum Policy by such counties and reduce their burden.
Third, Instead of only looking at the influx of migrants into other countries, it is feasible to look at the larger picture of the migrant’s issue by addressing the root cause. Finding solutions to the problems as to why people in large numbers flee their country and cross borders for their living can really be helpful.
Afghanistan: Is the US- Taliban deal collapsing?
On 1 March, Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan objected the prisoner swap, which would lead to the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners against 1,000 Afghan security force captives, after the signing of the US and Taliban peace deal on 29 February, in Doha. Soon after the objection, a blast hit in Kost province of eastern Afghanistan, killing three and wounding 11 Afghans. The attack was claimed by the Taliban.
Taliban responded, by resuming its offensive operation against Afghan security forces and refused from taking part in intra-Afghan talk until the Afghan government, agreed on prisoner’s release. The US carried out the first air raid after the deal against the Taliban in Helmand in retaliation to 43 attacks on Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) checkpoint and army point, in Kunduz and Uruzgan province. Colonel Sonny Leggett on Wednesday called the air raid as a defensive strike against Taliban fighter attack.
On 3 March, US President Donald Trump and Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, had their first direct discussion. Trump called the 35-minute long call, “a very good talk”. Later, Trump stated the US Secretary Mike Pompeo would speak to Ashraf Ghani, “so the barrier against intra-Afghan dialogue gets removed”. After two days, in a news conference, Pompeo said, “all sides should stop posturing and prepare for the intra-Afghan negotiation, including practical discussion about prisoner release”.
On 6 March, a ceremony marking the death anniversary of Abdul Ali Mazari, an ethnic Hazara leader, was attacked by ISIS leading to the death of 27 and left 29 wounded, in Kabul.
What is the background?
The deal signed between the US and the Taliban focused on four main points,
First, a timeline of 14 months for the withdrawal of all the US and the NATO troops from Afghanistan. The draw out will limit the US armed force to 8,600 from 13,000 in the first 135 days. Second, an agenda for negotiating on a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing agreement between rival groups in Afghanistan. Third, to begin an intra-Afghan dialogue on 10 March. Also, the deal proposed the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for 1,000 Afghan security force captives. Fourth, the Taliban guarantee that Afghan soil will not be used as a launchpad against the US.
The deal between the US and the Taliban was signed after several rounds of negotiations led by Zalmay Khalilzad, a US special envoy. The Afghan government was side-lined from the talks as the Taliban refused to engage with them and called them the ‘puppet government’. The deal failed to recognize the other extremist groups like ISIS into consideration while structuring the peace negotiations between the US and the Taliban.
Additionally, on 5 March, Piotr Hofmanski the presiding judge of International Criminal Court, ICC authorized prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, to launch a full investigation in war crimes committed in Afghanistan by the US, Taliban, and Afghan government. Honfmanski said, ‘Bensouda should proceed and not limit her investigation to preliminary finding as that would erroneously inhibit the prosecution truth-seeking function’.
What does it mean?
First, the resumption of violence between Taliban and Afghan forces indicates a crack in the deal within seven days of signing. It also shows Taliban’s unwillingness to make any further concessions. Second, Ashraf Ghani’s objection over prisoner swap indicates the Afghan government’s disregard towards the US-Taliban peace deal. On a similar line, the US cold responses over the objection show, that the US is unwilling to be part of internal Afghan issues again. Third, other than the three major actors in Afghanistan, ISIS’s recent attack may create further problems in the deal to prosper. Fourth, the second most important aspect of the deal the intra- Afghan talks, may see difficulties in discussing women’s rights, rights of minorities and governance in Afghanistan considering the Taliban’s violent responses.
Also, during this week..
Sri Lanka Parliament dissolved
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dissolved the Parliament, six months before its term ended. This is seen as a move to increase his powers in the Parliament, where his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa heads a minority government. With the snap elections on cards in April, the Rajapaksas aim to gain a majority in the Parliament, which would help them to pass any changes to the constitution, essentially reversing the policy of the Sirisena regime.