Women, peace and security


Women and girls are disproportionately affected by violent conflict.

Violent conflict reduces the access women have to resources that assist them with household responsibilities, which can increase during times of conflict. During these times, women often become the heads of the households and more active agents in promoting peace and resolving disputes in their communities. However, everyday activities, such as gathering water and firewood, can expose them to physical assault or sexual violence. At the hands of armed groups and terrorists, women and girls are often subjected to rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution and other forms of sexual violence; survivors are left to deal with a lifetime of severe stigmatization, familial and social shunning and reprisals. 

However, women find innovative solutions to continue with their daily responsibilities despite these horrendous conflicts, while protecting their children. These experiences enable them to bring different perspectives and priorities into conflict-prevention and -resolution processes and into peacebuilding.  For example, when women are involved in peace talks, they often raise economic and social issues, and advocate for a more equitable peace. As a result, these peace processes are more likely to ensure that common drivers of conflict and fragility are addressed in the agreements and that subsequent reconstruction and peacebuilding processes contribute to a more sustainable peace.

Thanks to the resolute advocacy of women’s organizations, the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security (WPS) was the first resolution to recognize the unique and disproportionate impact of violent conflict on women and girls, and urged member states, the UN and other actors to address this impact while recognizing women’s unique contribution to conflict prevention and resolution. Today, the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda is comprehensive and comprises eight resolutions: 1325 (2000), 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1889 (2009), 1960 (2010), 2106 (2013), 2122 (2013) and 2242 (2015).

The WPS agenda calls for the international community to promote the meaningful participation of women in conflict prevention and resolution, including in all decision making, and to enhance the protection of women and girls during conflict situations and other emergencies. The agenda also calls for the full respect of the human rights of women and girl, the prevention of sexual violence in conflict, the realization of gender equality and the integration of gender perspectives into all peace-and-security activities and interventions. To date, 67 countries have established national action plans on women, peace and security.

Canada recognizes that sustainable peace is only possible when women and girls are fully involved in the prevention and resolution of conflict. The active participation of women and girls in peace and security presents unique and pivotal opportunities to create gender-transformative solutions and, ultimately, more inclusive, gender-equal and peaceful societies. Canada launched its first National Action Plan in 2010, for the period 2011 to 2016, and has tabled five annual progress reports in Parliament. This plan was implemented mainly by Global Affairs Canada, National Defence and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The Government of Canada has now announced Canada’s second National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security for the period 2017 to 2022, with a strengthened focus on gender equality and an increased government partnership. The Action Plan is a key component of Canada’s Feminist Foreign Policy, which includes the Feminist International Assistance Policy and the Defence Policy: Strong, Secure, Engaged.

Canada builds upon its existing international leadership in advancing the WPS agenda through its diplomatic and programming efforts. Canada has also advanced the WPS agenda in international forums such as the UN, NATO, G7, the International Committee of the Red Cross and La Francophonie. Canada advocated for the inclusion of WPS-related input into the three major UN policy reviews on peace operations, peacebuilding and the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325. In January 2016, Canada took up the chair of Colombia’s International Cooperation Gender Coordination Group (Mesa de Género) and included peace implementation as one of the priority areas.

Canada is proud to lead on the implementation of the WPS agenda. In November 2016, Canada announced a $1.5-million contribution to the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund, a financing mechanism aimed at enhancing women’s participation in peace and security. Canada has also been a strong advocate of a gender-based approach to security-sector reform. Canada fostered the professionalization of the Haitian National Police by supporting training and professional-development initiatives for senior officers, which integrated gender considerations, including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

In addition, to help end impunity and support survivors of SGBV, Canada supports the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Conflict (SRSG-SVC), with a $3-million grant (2015 to 2018). The SRSG-SVC conducted missions to North Africa and the Middle East to engage with national authorities and armed groups, raise awareness, address challenges associated with conflict-related sexual violence and help fight against impunity.

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