Toward the Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325

Betty Reardon

Founder, International Institute on Peace Education

(Featured article: Issue #76 October 2010)

“Reaffirming the importance of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace-building, and stressing the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, and the need to increase their role in decision-making with regard to conflict prevention and resolution…”

suzuyo-nelidaSo reads what the NGO members who conceived and lobbied for Security Council Resolution 1325 believe to be the central purpose of the resolution, the 10th anniversary of which is being observed during the last week of October with a book fair and daily panels describing women’s actions for peace.  While the resolution has been an impetus to women’s efforts toward the assurance of human security, and it has inspired some governmental steps toward gender equity in conflict resolution and security, the realization of the substance and purpose of the resolution remain still in the hands of feminist peace activists.  What we  celebrate and observe on this 10th anniversary is not the conversion of the patriarchal state system to the principles of human rights, grounded in the ethic of human equality that would have states actively striving  for women’s “full involvement” in all peace and security matters.  Rather we celebrate the public recognition of the basis in law and fundamental justice of the integral relationship between gender equality and human security.  The intention is to further educate the UN community and general citizenry to the significance of this relationship.

The week long program at the United Nations Interchurch Center at 777 UN Plaza is, in fact, a major effort in peace action as peace education, very much in the spirit of applied research and active learning that is at the core of the Global Campaign for Peace Education. Many women and men in this movement for the advancement of “peacelearning” complement and strengthen their work in education with activist learning in feminist peace actions that manifest the spirit of 1325, striving towards its realization.  We seek to integrate the issues, problems and possibilities that gave rise to the resolution into peace studies and peace education as we work toward citizen awareness and policy changes necessary to bring about full gender equality in the making and implementing of security policies. Policies derived in gender equal circumstances are more likely to contribute to human well-being through reducing and eliminating armed conflict and war, fundamental necessities of human security.

vieques4Among the crucial factors in revealing the human security deficits imposed by the present militarized state security system, prioritizing state security over human security, are the systematic, daily, detrimental effects of militarization on women’s lives both outside as well as inside combat zones. A major case in point is the long-term military presence of off-shore military bases, the majority maintained by the US in virtually all world regions.  Women in many base areas have been active in resistance to this militarization which carries with it frequent sexual violence of the type that is the focus of Security Council Resolution 1820, a supplement to 1325 intended to reduce sexual violence in armed conflict.  One realm for the full implementation of the two resolutions lies in recognizing the military violence against women that takes place outside combat in these base areas. Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence (OWAAMV) have documented many of the sexual crimes against women committed over the 60 years of US military presence, essential evidence of military violence against civilians.

The experiences of civilian populations in all base areas are similar in this and other regards.  Okinawa, Japan and Vieques, Puerto Rico are especially similar in the colonial experience that accounts for their islands being used for bases, and in the undermining of their human security in environmental destruction, economic distortion impeding autonomous development, disrespect for fundamental human rights and in frequent gender violence and other crimes by military personnel.  These similarities and possibilities for joint action toward realizing their human security and regaining control of their communities were explored by representatives of OWAAMV and the Vieques Women Alliance in a Solidarity Encounter in Vieques in September, one of a number of activities marking the decade of 1325. 

The on-going joint project they initiated is but one example of many such actions which still constitute the main work of fulfilling the vision of this landmark Security Council Resolution.  Their joint resolution can be found following the link below.


An Issue for Peace Education: Gender & Long Term Military Presence

vieques5Over the past two decades resistance among the national and local residents of the many areas that host American over-seas military bases has grown into a major international anti-base movement.  This movement seeks to call to public attention the multiple negative, long-term consequences to the security and quality of life of residents of the military base areas.

These consequences include environmental degradation and corollary health problems, daily insecurity due to military and military related accidents and crimes committed by militarypersonnel, including and especially, on-going experience and threat of sexual violence.  The latter become the focus of public attention, only when the crimes are particularly egregious and/or produce intense reaction from base area residents – as was the case with the rape of a twelve year old girl in Okinawa by three US military members in 1995.

The quotidian nature of the effects of long-term military presence on local civilian populations impacts most heavily on women, and consequently has produced vigorous and significant action among groups of women in all these areas.  They have been among the main organizers of the local and international actions of resistance, and have been a strong voice for the protection of the human rights of those most affected.  In a number of cases they have sought to educate the public to the gendered nature of the human rights violations that serve to illuminate the ways in which military bases undermine the human security of the affected local populations, even after base closing as is the case in Vieques, Puerto Rico where vigorous nonviolent protest and resistance brought about the withdrawal of the US Navy
in 2003.

vieques3The essential and leadership roles women play in the anti-base movement receives little or no acknowledgement in media coverage of the problems of foreign bases or of the anti-base movement.  Indeed, the movement itself has given inadequate attention to or analysis of the gendered nature of the problems and violations for which it seeks resolutions and legal accounting.  As in most cases gender has been neglected as a core issue even by the growing global anti-base movement. Lack of attention to the degree to which gender is integral to the problem, to the proposal of viable security alternatives – based on human rights and ecologically sustainable development – as a basis to gain public support for the withdrawal of bases has limited its inclusion in issues addressed by women’s rights groups and various peace organizations.  Recent attention to the 10thAnniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security provides an opportunity to bring wider attention to the issues of gender and long-term military presence.

A group of feminist peace educators and activists held the Solidarity Encounter described here to bring these issues to wider attention through public non-formal education and peace education in the schools of United States and Japan.

Report on Vieques-Okinawa Women’s Solidarity Encounter 1 (September 8-12, 2010)

vieques2A five person team, representing Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence (OWAAMV), The UNESCO Chair in Education for a Culture of Peace of the University of Puerto Rico, and the International and Community-based Institutes on Peace Education met on the above dates with a delegation of five women representing the Women Alliance of Vieques.  All of the latter had been active in the movement to persuade the United States Department of the Navy to withdraw the long-term naval base, a military weapons testing and combat training area on the island, and are now working for the “rescue and recovery” of Vieques’ ecology and economy.

The participants from Okinawa, Japan, US and the larger island of Puerto Rico were provided with opportunities to tour the areas occupied until 2003 a by the US Navy and to meet with educators, students, town’s people and media representatives of Vieques. They also participated in a public forum, and two radio programs. The delegation joined the members of the Women Alliance of Vieques in an intensive meeting devoted to sharing women’s experiences and perspectives on the effects of militarization on each of the two islands, hosts to US military bases for over 60 years, Okinawa has had along-term presence of US military personnel since the invasion of the island in the final land battle of World War II in 1945.  Since 1995 OWAAM has resisted the presence and protested the on-going sexual violence against Okinawan women and children and other crimes committed by US military personnel. The Encounter explored these and other local consequences of military bases, as well as the conversion and developmental possibilities to follow base withdrawal. They considered solidarity activities toward the demilitarization and autonomous development of their islands.

vieques1An education and public information initiative will be undertaken with special focus on audiences in the United States and mainland Japan in whose hands are the relevant political decisions.  Issues of post-base recovery, environmental clean up and just and sustainable economic development will be featured in their proposed common education material and political strategies to pursue the demilitarization of security.  A specially designed information/education materials were projected as a device to encourage public adult and school education about the negative consequences of long term military presence, the possibilities for demilitarized security systems and just economic and ecologically responsible development. Support networks on the US and Japanese main lands will be built through the distribution and use of these materials.  A second Solidarity Encounter for further development of the project is to be held in 2011.