Looking for a way out of Afghanistan? Maybe it’s time to try something entirely new and totally different. So how about putting into action, for the first time in recorded history, the most enlightened edict ever passed by the United Nations Security Council: Resolution 1325?
Passed on October 31, 2000, more than a decade ago, that “landmark” resolution was hailed worldwide as a great “victory” for women and international peace and security. In a nutshell, SCR 1325 calls for women to participate equally and fully at decision-making levels in all processes of conflict resolution, peacemaking, and reconstruction. Without the active participation of women in peacemaking every step of the way, the Security Council concluded, no just and durable peace could be achieved anywhere.
“Durable” was the key word. Keep it in mind.
Most hot wars of recent memory, little and big, have been resolved or nudged into remission through what is called a power-sharing agreement. The big men from most or all of the warring parties—and war is basically a guy thing, in case you hadn’t noticed—shoulder in to the negotiating table and carve up a country’s or region’s military, political, and financial pie. Then they proclaim the resulting deal “peace.”
But as I learned firsthand as an aid worker in one so-called post-conflict country after another, when the men in power stop shooting at each other, they often escalate the war against civilians—especially women and girls. It seems to be hard for men to switch off violence, once they’ve gotten the hang of it. From Liberia to Myanmar, rape, torture, mutilation and murder continue unabated or even increase in frequency. In other words, from the standpoint of civilians, war is often not over when it’s “over,” and the “peace” is no real peace at all. Think of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the notorious “rape capital of the world,” where thousands upon thousands of women are gang-raped again and again, although the country has officially been at “peace” since 2003.
In addition, power-sharing agreements among combatants tend to fray, and half of them unravel into open warfare again within a few years. Consider Liberia throughout the 1990s, Angola in 1992 and 1998, Cambodia in 1997 and Iraq in 2006–07. At this moment, we are witnessing the breakdown of one power-sharing agreement in the Ivory Coast, and certainly the femicidal consequences of another, made in 2001, in Afghanistan.
It is this repeated recourse to war and the unrelenting abuse and neglect of civilians during fleeting episodes of “peace” that prompted the Security Council to seek the key to more durable solutions. They recognized that men at the negotiating table still jockey for power and wealth—notably control of a country’s natural resources—while women included at any level of negotiations commonly advocate for interests that coincide perfectly with those of civil society. Women are concerned about their children and consequently about shelter, clean water, sanitation, jobs, healthcare, education and the like—all those things that make life livable for peaceable men, women and children anywhere.