The Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Africa: An urgent need to step forward Spécial

 By Fatima LAHNAIT

Gender, Peace and Security -Timbuktu Institute


The African continent faces multidimensional challenges (population growth, employment crisis, rapid urbanisation, chronic conflicts, ethnic tensions, violent extremism, climate change, and environmental degradation), that require a holistic approach. Some of these challenges are exacerbated by the lack of inclusion of all segments of society. Despite the many undeniable assets, including a young population and highly coveted natural resources, Africa cannot ignore women - who make up 50% of its population- if it is to achieve its goals of sustainable development and inclusive growth.

The United Nations is preparing to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security adopted on the 31stOctober2000. Has Africa been able to design and implement the necessary measures within the framework of this Agenda? An overview of the situation is required.


  • Women, Peace and Security Agenda: What is it all about?

     In its Resolution 1325, Women, Peace and Security (WPS) adopted on October 31, 2000, the United Nations Security Council made the following observations:

- Gender inequality contributes to instability, insecurity and violent extremism.

- Sustainable and lasting peace requires the participation of all members of society, including women.

Based on these observations, the U.N. Security Council has defined three main objectives in its WPS agenda (sometimes labelled a "program") which encourages the consideration and implementation of a gendered approach in the elaboration of any policy:

  1. Protecting women against violence in conflicts
  2. Promoting and ensuring the participation of women in conflict-prevention and resolution
  3. Working for Peace building and societal recovery

In all countries, it is also important that women and girls are, going forward, more systematically and sustainably integrated into any peace and security issue.

The experiences of men and women in times of war/conflict are indeed different. The gender approach therefore, offers an essential perspective in conflict analysis: women generally propose peace-building strategies that aim to create links between opposing factions and increase the inclusiveness, transparency and sustainability of peace processes.


- There is an urgent need to put women at the heart of peace and security arrangements to build a better and more equitable world -

The participation of women should not be interpreted as a favour granted to them. This participation must be taken for granted by everyone. In fact, it is an essential condition for achieving lasting peace and security.

It should also be remembered that women are not a homogenous group: the experiences of women and girls with disabilities, young women, displaced women and girls, among others, should not be overlooked.

Although twenty years have passed since the United Nations Security Council adopted the landmark Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security(WPS), gender analysis is still often absent from responses to global security and humanitarian challenges.

- Women's bodies are not a battlefield -

Since 2000, nine other complementary resolutions have been adopted by the Security Council[1].

1] This series of resolutions constitutes a fundamental basis for taking into account the situation of women in conflicts, and a solid foundation for the implementation of the WPS agenda by member states and international institutions. Each one addresses a unique theme concerning the protection of women and girls during conflicts and their participation in decision-making processes.

- Resolution 1820, adopted in 2008, thus made it possible to recognise sexual violence as a weapon of war. This resolution marked a real awareness on the part of the international community, of the need to significantly strengthen the fight against sexual violence in armed conflict, to fight against impunity, and to take into account the long-term effects of sexual violence on communities.

International law and the courts have adopted new norms, and set a clear precedent by classifying sexual violence as a crime against humanity and a war crime.

- A reaffirmed priority -

Since Resolution 1888 adopted in 2009, an increasing number of peace-keeping operation (PKO) mandates have taken into account the role of women at all stages of crises.

Also in 2009, SCR (Security Council Resolution) 1889 was adopted to address barriers to women's participation in peace processes. It calls for improved international and national responses to the needs of women in conflict and post-conflict situations. Twenty-six quantitative and qualitative indicators ('global indicators') have been defined to assess the implementation of Resolution 1325, in addition to the monitoring of National Action Plans(NAPs) and independent monitoring by civil society. However, this monitoring and control remains difficult.

Fifteen years after the adoption of founding Resolution 1325, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 2242 (2015) which reaffirms the importance of women's participation in political processes, peace negotiations, conflict resolution and prevention mechanisms, and emphasises in particular the role of women in the fight against violent extremism. It also addresses the differential impact of terrorism on the human rights of women and girls[2].


- Only less than half of U.N. member states have implemented UNSCR 1325! -

Since 2005, U.N. member states have been implementing the principles of UNSCR (UN Security Council Resolution) 1325, by developing National Action Plans (NAPs), which last three to five years. They work to promote and consolidate efforts to promote women's leadership in the areas of peace and security by highlighting them in national and international contexts.

The NAP process helps countries identify their priorities in this area, define action plans and necessary resources.

These action plans are an important element in the implementation of UNSCR 1325 world-wide. Some countries are already in their second or third version of their NAPs. But there is still a long way to go.

As of August 31, 2020, only 86 UN member states have UNSC 1325 National Action Plans[3].   Indeed, the implementation of the 1325 agenda relies on a voluntary basis not a compulsory one, which is ultimately deplorable.

- On the African continent, a mixed picture -

Aware of the stakes involved, nearly 50% of the African Union states have adopted National Action Plans in order to, among other things, integrate women into peace processes as recommended by Resolution 1325.

Governments and regional organisations have made significant progress in developing legal, political and institutional mechanisms for the implementation of the WPS agenda.

Within regions, the adoption of NAPs varies considerably:

- 13 NAPs in ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States (the first body to adopt a regional action plan in Africa),

- 5 in the East African Community

- 3 in Central and Southern Africa

- and 1 in North Africa

West Africa is by far the leader, with 13 of its 15 member states having adopted a NAP. The region is among the leading proponents of the SPF (Strategic Partnership Framework) agenda since six states (out of 15) had adopted a NAP by 2010[4].

In North Africa, there is a clear lack of awareness of the SPF agenda. Tunisia is thus the first - and only - country in the region to have adopted its NAP in August 2018.

It should be noted that the Regional Action Plan (RAP) of the African Union allows for feedback and sharing of best practices in the implementation of UNSCR 1325.

- West Africa steps ahead -

At the national level, 25 African governments have so far adopted a NAP on UNSCR 1325.

       These are as follows : Côte d'Ivoire (2007), Uganda (2008), Guinea (2009), Liberia (2009), Rwanda (2009), Democratic Republic of Congo (2010), Sierra Leone (2010), Guinea-Bissau (2010), Senegal (2011), Burundi (2012, revised in 2017), Burkina Faso(2012), Gambia (2012), Mali (2012), Togo(2012), Nigeria (2012), Central African Republic(2014), Kenya (2016), South Sudan (2015), Niger(2017), Angola (2017), Cameroon (2017), Mozambique(2018), Tunisia(2018) and Namibia (2019)[5].

Only about fifteen states have updated their NAPs to take into account the post-UNSCR 1325 resolutions.

And looking ahead, South Africa's NAP was presented to parliamentarians in September 2020 and should be made public soon. Other governments have committed to finalising their first NAPs, including Morocco, Egypt, Madagascar and Zambia.

- Change is happening at too slow a pace for the women and girls whose lives depend on it" - Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations - October 2019 -

The context in which the SPF agenda is being implemented in Africa is complex.

Terrorism, inter-community conflicts, bad governance, and civil wars generate violence on the continent.

The situation is aggravated by illegal migration, displacement of populations, proliferation of arms and the effects of climate change.

The lack of real political will, and the lack of interest of some leaders in women's rights are also deplorable. The implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda is therefore not a priority for some governments.

This is also due to a lack of resources. The implementation of the NAPs requires substantial budgets that most States do not have! Out of the 84 NAPs registered as of December 31, 2019, only 28 (33%) have a budget allocated for implementation[6].

Faced with projects suspended due to lack of funding and interest, civil society will have to keep stepping forward and thus continue to improve the visibility of the major contribution of African women to the WPS agenda. This contribution may not fall within the framework of a NAP, but it does have the merit of existing and should be welcomed and encouraged.

In addition to taking stock of the progress made over the last twenty years, the commemoration of SCR 1325 will make it possible to identify the obstacles that persist in the area of gender equality (one of the SDG, Sustainable Development Goals planned to be achieved by 2030).

This is all the more important as the world faces the Covid-19 pandemic and its repercussions ; a situation that has demonstrated, once again, that women and girls are the most affected by the consequences of any crisis, whether at home or in the workplace, in cities, in rural areas or in refugee camps.

[1]The U.N. Security Council has adopted 10 resolutions on Women, Peace and Security (WPS): Security Council Resolutions 1325 (2000), 1820 (2008), 1888 (2008), 1889 (2009), 1960 (2010), 2106 (2013), 2122 (2013), 2242 (2015), 2467 (2019) and 2493 (2019).



[4]African Union Commission - Report on the Implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Africa - October 2019 -