Podcast 3 - UNSCR 1325: Women, Peace and Security


Welcome to the first podcast series hosted by the Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 or UNSCRR-1325. The Security Council originally adopted this resolution on Women, Peace and Security on the 31st of October in 2000. Twenty years later, the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces is still upholding the values that this resolution initially laid out for all of its members. The resolution reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building peacekeeping, humanitarian response, and in post-conflict reconstruction. It also stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.

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Nadia Blanchard: Welcome to the first series of podcasts organized by the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, or UNSCR 1325. The Security Council originally adopted this resolution on Women, Peace and Security on October 31, 2000. Twenty years later, the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces continue to support the values that this resolution originally set out for all its members. The resolution reaffirms the important role of women in conflict prevention and resolution, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian intervention and post-conflict reconstruction. It also stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts to maintain and promote peace and security.

UNSCR 1325 affirms that peace and security efforts are more sustained when women are equal partners in the prevention of violent conflict and in the peace-building process. Moreover, gender equality is essential for addressing the most pressing global challenges, such as building inclusive economies and promoting peace and security. To make our world a fairer, safer, more peaceful place, we must ensure that women and girls can participate fully and freely in our societies. In 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the appointment of Jacqueline O’Neill as Canada’s first Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security, and we are very pleased to welcome her into this conversation. With this in mind, we will open this first discussion with Canada’s Official Ambassador.

Hannah Rosen: Hello and welcome to the third podcast hosted by the Department of National Defence on the anniversary of UNSCR 1325; and today, we are lucky enough to have Ambassador, Jacqueline O’Neill, who is the Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security here in Canada, and we are just thrilled to have a conversation digging more into those questions that we asked in previous podcast started off by my lovely colleague, Nadia.

Nadia: Hello, everyone. I’m going to continue the discussion in French with the first question. What does UNSCR 1325 mean to you as linchpin between women, peace and security and the Canadian government? Does personal commitment to the resolution matter as much as organizational commitment?

Ambassador Jacqueline O’Neill: Thank you very much, Nadia. I will answer this question in both French and English. I will start with English.

I'll start with your first question about what it means to me; what Women, Peace, and Security actually is, and to me, it means that everybody has an opportunity to influence the decisions that affect their lives, including on everything that relates to their own security and their loved ones’ security. So, that means having the chance to decide if they want to defend their country in uniform, if they want to influence what's in their constitution or if they want to say in what issues are being negotiated in an attempt to end a war. Obviously, not everyone wants to exercise that opportunity, but the idea of Women, Peace and Security is about recognizing that there are often a lot of barriers in place specifically to women to doing so. And I'll add it to be clear, it does not mean that women are inherently more peaceful or somehow just better than men at doing any of that, or that any one woman should be in a job just because she wants it. It's just saying that women have important experiences and priorities, and we are all worse off when we prevent them from sharing those just because of their gender.

Regarding your question about personal commitment to the resolution, I’ve never been asked that question in that way, so I’m going to quote an Australian colleague of mine, who said, “My army doesn’t consult me on tank models. They don’t even consider it. So, when every level of leadership in an organization says that the integration of women is important, it’s important. You can’t just ignore them. So I think it’s important to have policies and processes in place so that people understand what’s expected of us. Fortunately, most people we work with want gender equality and understand that women are equally capable. They just want to serve with people who do their job well. So they don’t see any compromise or trade-off against talent.

Nadia: Thank you very much, Ambassador. I agree completely with what you just said.

I am going to move on to question number two with Hannah.

Hannah: Great, thank you so much Ambassador O’Neill. Moving onto our second question: with the increase in conflict and humanitarian emergencies caused by climate change and a lack of national resources, women and girls are disproportionately impacted, how should the Canadian government be preparing for the future within this context?

Ambassador O’Neill: And know that's such a great question, and we're already seeing this play out in a lot of ways, really has been for decades already. So, just to unpack the question: what does it mean for women and girls to be disproportionately impacted? Because obviously violent conflict and humanitarian emergencies are generally terrible for everyone. So, they generally tend to have the worst impact on people who are poorer, and women are a significant majority of the world's poor. And what does that mean in this context? They have less access to resources, so they're less likely to be able to flee, less likely to get access to a car, motorbike, or any other form of transportation to evacuate from floods or forest fires. They have fewer resources to rebuild if their homes or businesses are destroyed. Or even just to move if they can no longer farm their land, for example. So, there's overall being poor and there are impacts that also relate to traditional gender roles, so for example; in many parts of the world, women are responsible for collecting firewood or getting water. And as climate changes and we have droughts, for example, women need to walk further and further to get that water, get that firewood. And that means women spend less time in school, it also means that women and girls are at greater risk of being raped, especially when they're in the midst of conflicts, and we hear about this a lot, or that men have to go further to find space for cattle to graze, so the men are at greater risk. Women are left home alone and they're often left behind with children for longer periods.

So, what can we do? One thing is that we have to take seriously, climate risk as an early warning indicator, and we have to make sure that we have systems in place to ask and then to listen to really diverse groups of women about what they're experiencing and how that's affecting their security. We have to really learn from diverse groups about what they're doing to mitigate risk. So what are they doing to food production, to manage run-off, what are they doing to manage and use water resources responsibly. We have to listen to Indigenous peoples in particular about responsible management of natural resources, and I'm a huge believer in the importance of really fully incorporating GBA+ into all of our monitoring and all of our response planning. So how do we get services to girls? How do we get them to women in rural areas? How do we support or protect or get services to older men and women who can't walk to people with different disabilities? I think GBA+ just a great tool and we have to integrate it fully into every aspect of planning, including as it relates to climate and conflict.

Hannah: I think that's such a great point, especially when we consider just the different intersectionalities that people may face when in conflict or when impacted by natural emergencies or disasters. I think that often were very privileged here in Canada that we don't think about the things that might impact certain groups more than others when natural disasters hit, because we have such robust systems in place to protect us when a natural emergency happens. But it's definitely not the case in many other countries, with even just the fact of being more coastal towns or being that there's a better economy in our coastal areas, maybe that's also where possibly tsunamis happen and so on and so forth. I think it's so important to think about that kind of differential impact, and really extend our thoughts outside the norm of what we see as natural emergencies and how people are impacted here in Canada; how that differs.

Ambassador O’Neill: I’ll add to that. Even in the flood, the military support to flood victims in Gatineau a few years ago, and then other parts of Quebec, the military did GBA+ and they use that to figure out how to best distribute water to make sure that they weren't just dropping off water or at equidistant points, but figuring out which houses had pregnant women, elderly people, people who couldn't go to distribution points to get water. They were figuring out which groups of people were most likely to listen to their requests to evacuate, one of the things they realized was that the group that was least likely to evacuate were men in their 30s and 40s. So one of the things they did was have other men in their 30s and 40 days go to their front door and try to convince them. I think GBA+ is relevant everywhere all the time, and it's really about in service of achieving the goal of an operation, we have to figure out how different people are going to react to what we're trying to do and how to make sure that we're reaching people in the most effective way possible.

Hannah: That's so great, thank you so much. We're going to move on to question three, hosted by Nadia.

Nadia: Here’s question number three. Please tell me about an experience where you saw first-hand how the inclusion of more women in the peace-building or decision-making processes improved the policy, program or operations.

Ambassador O’Neill: The first one concerns our discussions on climate and conflict. A number of years ago, peace negotiations were held in an effort to end the war in Darfur, and the people around the table included mediators, the Government of Sudan, and rebel leaders. Some of the rebel leaders had been in exile in Europe, but they came to Abuja for the talks. At that time, our Canadian envoy, Senator Jaffer, said that we could take the lead in the negotiations with the warlords, so we could bring in women. So she arranged for about ten women to attend, including several from the refugee camps in Darfur. They were not officially invited, so they literally had to sit outside. Sometimes they were consulted, but often, after the doors were closed, the issues had already been discussed. At one point, the negotiations broke down; they were stuck. There was great frustration on all sides, because the parties couldn’t agree on who would control a river. The talks were at an impasse. The women came into the room and looked at the map on the wall. They said, this river, we can’t agree, because it dried up three years ago. I love this story because it shows that it’s not women who bring up some subjects, who discuss some subjects; rather, it’s the fact that people have different lived experiences, and we need to make our work available to everyone.

The second story I'll share briefly: A couple of years ago, I was in Pakistan and I was working with a group of women from the police, from civil society and from parliament. In Pakistan, fewer than 1% of the police and military are females. Less than 1%. And so we were working with several of them and we were doing a week-long workshop, and we're in this hotel. Many people had travelled from rural parts as well to come and stay in the hotel, and we were doing this workshop. So on the first day of the workshop, there was headline news, it was on all the TVs around the lobby that the son of a Supreme Court judge in Pakistan had been kidnapped. And the country sees that the army is coming out to say, “We're going to find him, we will bring the kidnapper to justice” it was a big, big news story. And on about the, I don't know, maybe fourth day that we were there, we're all having breakfast, and again, the TV flashes up that the son had been found, and there was this big news conference by the head of the army, and then he's flanked by tons of uniform men in the background, and they're saying - we caught these perpetrators, and what happened was that it was Taliban, and they were trying to put the son in a car and they tried to drive him over the border into Afghanistan, but we caught them. And this is yet another success story. So many of the police women that were there were kind of just shaking their heads a little bit and sort of saying “hmm”, and I asked him what was going on and they said - Well, what happened was that even though fewer than 1% of us are female, it happened that on that night, at a border control checkpoint between Afghanistan and Pakistan, we had a female officer serving and what had happened was that the Taliban had put this boy in a burka, drugged him and put him in the back seat and tried to drive through. And this woman, this officer, had noted that this person was behaving oddly, and because only women can search other women, tried to take him out of the car, searched and discovered it that it was the son. And so, what was striking to me was a lot of things, one being that the Taliban in particular had planned that whole operation, assuming that they wouldn't encounter women in security forces, and then also, we didn't actually know the operational benefit of having women as a result of that story. And that's an example related to one case, but we've seen a whole lot of women playing increasingly important roles in research and study and policy making around terrorism and violent extremism, and I think it's really helped us move from what's often a really reductive view of saying either women are just victims of terrorism. Or sometimes at most, women are mothers of young men who are vulnerable to recruitment, and that's part of it; but there's such a broader spectrum of things that we need to consider when we're thinking about why we need women in all aspects of security. We've really evolved now, still not where it needs to be, but we've evolved to the fact that we understand often that women are both terrorists themselves, they're vulnerable to recruitment. They are recruiting others. I could go on.

Nadia: I agree completely. There is also the perception in the public at large that women are not violent, but women are violent, and that isn’t considered in the analyses. People think it doesn’t happen.

But there's a huge percentage of women that are actually radicalizing and violent, so I think we have to talk more about that.

Ambassador O’Neill: Absolutely. I often say, sometimes we still think about gender, or GBA+, or women as kind of an add-on or a nice to have, but many of our adversaries are building it into their operational plans and their strategy. They don't use the same terminology, but in ISIS, one out of five foreign fighters or fighters from North America and Europe who left to go to the Middle East to fight for ISIS, were women... 20% were women. Boko Haram has two thirds of its suicide bombers are women, and part of that is strategy because women can enter markets, they can enter busy places without being searched, they attract less attention. There are a lot of ways that women are both strategically and tactically engaged in violent extremism or terrorism, and limiting our perception of their roles are reducing them to stereotypes doesn't serve anybody.

Nadia: Exactly. I'm going move on to number four.

Including women in decision-making, both in conflicts and in peacekeeping, strengthens reconstruction and community ties. How does the Canadian government ensure that women’s voices are heard and that women themselves are represented, both at home and abroad?

Ambassador O’Neill: We do that in many ways. The most important thing is when we made it a priority. And we have a comprehensive action plan to achieve this. To be clear, we’ve been making progress on this for decades thanks to the work of people inside and outside government, the Armed Forces, and the RCMP, and now we’re halfway through our second national action plan, which now has eight departments and the RCMP as implementing partners. There are three main partners: Global Affairs Canada, National Defence, and the Canadian Armed Forces. Canada also has a very, very engaged Parliament and civil society, and we’re doing a lot. There are many opportunities for improvement, but we’re doing a lot. For example, we’re improving internal processes by building in GBA+. We’re trying to get indirect support for grassroots organizations run by women, and we always try to support other countries and their women, peace and security. For example, General Vance currently leads the Women, Peace and Security

Chiefs of Defence Network. He expanded the network from a very small number of countries to over 50. There’s only one female defence chief in the world. So Canada has taken and expanded a group of men who hold discussions with other men on the importance of women in peace and security. I believe this is leadership.

Nadia: Yes, I work with the Women, Peace and Security Network, and we now have 54 member countries.
Alright. I am going to move onto Hannah for question number 5.

Hannah: So question number 5, Ambassador O’Neill, if you could implement one thing within your role, be it a policy, program, service, right now with the snap of your fingers, that would support the women peace and security agenda, what would it be and why?

Ambassador O’Neill: I would influence the curricula of every single course, every single professional military education program offered across our government and to Canadian Forces. So in an ideal world, we wouldn't have sessions about Women, Peace and Security that are a designated hour at the end of a period or at the end of a discussion on a theme. They're not always this case, but I think we have a long way to go in terms of looking at how this idea, the idea that women are not just victims, the specific ways that different operations can impact men, women, boys, girls, people of other identities, all kinds of dynamics related to this. I'd love to see them be incorporated into every single class that is taught, training exercise that we have. I taught a class on this at Georgetown University on Women, Peace and Security, and I have done a fair amount of trainings and workshops, including with police and military around the world, and one of my favourite things to do to start is to show a video and maybe some of you have done this exercise.  You show a video, and it's a video with like four or five people playing basketball, they're just kind of passing the ball to each other, and you ask the people in class to say, “I'm going show you this one-minute video, and I want you to count how many times people pass the ball to each other”. So they're just kind of running in a circle, passing the ball to each other and you stop the video and people say “I have 36” “I counted 34”. People start discussing, and there's always some students that have this kind of weird look on their face. And at some point you say, who noticed the gorilla? And they say, “what?”. And in this video, you show it to them again, and people are just watching, and they're passing the ball to each other, and at one point in this one-minute video, somebody dressed up in a gorilla costume, walks right in the middle of the circle that they're passing the ball, pounds on their chest and then walks away, and truly, without exception, about half the students notice the gorilla and half of them don't, and I think it's a great example to use because we go through… I went through university, grad school, a number of courses, and I didn't have this concept really introduced to me in my teaching, so I wasn't told that there are dynamics related to gender and conflict. That there can be early warning indicators that are gendered, or that people experience different things differently. And I wasn't told to look for them or taught how to look for them, and so they were probably there, but I didn't see them, and so it becomes a thing of: what's the gorilla in this example? What were we not looking for, but was present and what were we not trained or condition to look for? Not because we're bad people, but because it wasn't put in that context before. So my dream would be to make sure that as we're creating this exceptionally professional and capable diplomats and academics and military and police, we are really giving them as many tools as possible. And we're not waiting until the mid-point of their career to introduce the idea that Women, Peace and Security matters.

Hannah: I think that would be an amazing thing to be implemented within, honestly, more things than just government and our Canadian forces, I think it could really extend, like you were saying to academic institutions and what have you, especially the gorilla in the room, instead of the elephant in the room.

Ambassador O’Neill: I work in a lot of great folks within DND/CAF and elsewhere who are really working to integrate this, and it's just how quickly can we go and how much capacity have to keep working on it? But there are a lot of great initiatives and efforts already under way to make this happen.

Hannah: Well, that was just such a great conversation, thank you for joining us, this was a perfect note to end on. You really wrapped it up well, and I'm going to look into this video now. I might have to email you after to ask for this gorilla video.

Ambassador O’Neill: Anybody can find it. Everyone listening now knows the secret, but, do with your family. My husband, who was in the Canadian army didn't see the gorilla. So, do it with friends and family, and you can just Google it and it'll show up.

Hannah: Sounds great. I'm terrified of monkeys, so I feel like I would notice it almost immediately, but I'm excited to watch family interact with that video.

Ambassador O’Neill: Good luck. And remember, they're not bad people or simple, if they don't see it, it's just they are focused on the task you gave them.

Hannah: Exactly. Well, thank you again for speaking with us today, we so appreciate it.

Ambassador O’Neill: Thanks to both of you. Thanks everybody listening.

Thank you, everyone.

Hannah: Thank you for listening. This, it was the third and last podcast in our three-part series on the anniversary of UNSCR 1325 and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. Be sure to check out our previous two podcasts and have a great day.

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