The Nordic Africa Institute


Bureaucracy impedes Women, Peace and Security agenda

Adding LAP and RAP to NAP will not close the gender gap

Tanzanian UNAMID police officer Grace Ngassa (left) interacts with a resident of Zam Zam camp for IDPs, near El Fasher, capital of North Darfur. Pictured with them is Jazira Ahmad Mohamad (centre), a community-policing volunteer at the camp. Photo: Albert González Farran, UN, June 2014.

Tanzanian UNAMID police officer Grace Ngassa (left) interacts with a resident of Zam Zam camp for IDPs, near El Fasher, capital of North Darfur. Pictured with them is Jazira Ahmad Mohamad (centre), a community-policing volunteer at the camp. Photo: Albert González Farran, UN, June 2014.

Date • 11 Apr 2023

Cooperation between government agencies and civil society organisations is key to achieve the UN Resolution 1325 goals of including women and gender perspectives in peacebuilding and conflict resolution. But cooperation efforts are impeded by bureaucratisation, excluded grassroots and increased competition for resources.

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By daike Möhrle, research trainee, The Nordic Africa Institute

Reading a testimony about the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 from the perspective of a civil society activist External link., who was at the time (the fall of 2000) directly involved in the process, a sense of irony strikes me. The resolution was initiated by a state – Namibia, which at the time had a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council – in cooperation with civil society. Yet today, the very lack of state-civil society collaboration has become one of the most incapacitating weaknesses in the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. There are several explanations for this. Three will be discussed here: (1) the increasing bureaucratisation of the agenda, (2) the lack of knowledge of WPS at the local level, and (3) the broadening of the agenda without corresponding broadening of financing. These three issues are intertwined and influence one another.

“Outsourcing” the gender inequality problem

The implementation of the WPS agenda is increasingly bureaucratised. In many cases, the intended bottom-up processes have degenerated into centralised top-down approaches, preventing civil society from influence External link.. The National Action Plans (NAPs) illustrate this problem. They are intended to adapt the implementation of the WPS Agenda to the national context External link. and enable cooperation with civil society, but all too often they are outward-facing towards foreign policy. Consequently, stronger involvement of civil society and societal changes in thinking and behaviour regarding gender mainstreaming seems to be difficult. Due to the failure of NAPs, we have recently seen the introduction of Local Action Plans (LAPs), which focus on the implementation of NAP goals at the local level, and Regional Action Plans (RAPs), which aim at cooperation between geographical regions. Common problems, like lack of motivation and funding, are not solved by the introduction of LAPs and RAPs External link.. They are only shifted to another societal/bureaucratic level, giving the impression that national governments are "outsourcing" implementation External link. due to a lack of will or abilities to fulfil their WPS obligations. This issue appears particularly problematic, as it is not to be expected that communication problems can be solved by further bureaucratisation and expansion of responsibilities.

A 2014 study of the effectiveness of the NAPs External link. suggests that most European NAPs have shortcomings that could be reduced by increasing civil society involvement. This example points to a significant contradiction: on the one hand, the implementation of the WPS agenda is increasingly handed over to the (local) population; on the other hand, local knowledge continues to be considered subordinate and is increasingly relegated to the background External link. in the development process of the plans.

Grassroots excluded from funding

Many local actors are working towards WPS goals without being aware of them and without financial support. This points to a crucial problem: lack of communication between civil society organisations at the international level and the grassroot level. Civil society is often seen as a conduit between global and local but there seems to be a disconnection and a division into elite and locals. However, the connection between the two levels is crucial for the implementation of the WPS agenda. Local actors are the link from theory to practice, from strategy to operative implementation, and thus important to achieve change External link., yet local organisations and grassroots are excluded from funding and influence.

(Un)Missed Masculinities

To change underlying gendered violence and power relations External link. and achieve long-term peace External link., the WPS agenda increasingly includes men’s perspectives. This inclusion is based on four arguments External link. in particular. First, alliance-building should help achieve gender equality through men’s power and influence. Second, addressing the vulnerability of men and boys allows for a more comprehensive view of the gender dynamics of conflict. Third, inclusion enlarges the stage and thus the influence of the WPS agenda. Lastly, inclusion seems necessary to change military masculinities and thus fundamentally prevent conflict.

However, the positive framing of engaging boys and men External link. ignores relevant problems. First, that the tokenistic inclusion of men leads to the valorisation of already privileged men, side-lines women, and reproduces traditional gender regimes. This creates a standardised “good men” industry that promotes a vision of good masculinity, through which women and girls are protected from the “bad men”. In the context of conflict, however, most combatants and perpetrators of (sexual) violence are men, and the new alliance should not forget to hold the perpetrators responsible.

The biggest problem, however, is that the “good men” industry attracts funding that would have otherwise gone to other WPS projects. The implementation of the WPS agenda requires financial resources above all, and the already existing tension and competition between organisations have increased. Already scarce financial resources are now increasingly shifting away from women-related projects, while women are still powerless and excluded compared to men.

… and they all lived unequally ever after?

What started as a collaboration should come together again, this time on a level playing field for all the actors. For this to happen, the importance of civil society influence must finally be recognised by the states. Otherwise, the “outsourcing” of implementation casts doubts on the credibility and necessity of NAPs, LAPs and RAPs. This is intensified by the transfer of tasks to organisations that do not seem to cooperate and communicate with each other, but rather see themselves in a fight for financial resources and recognition. Furthermore, the increasing tokenistic inclusion of men and masculinities is pushing women and their demands into the background again. Problems for which solutions urgently need to be found to finally achieve gender equality.

research trainee, the Nordic Africa Institute