Volume 18, Issue 4

The Politics of Gender in UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security

Maria Jansson, Maria.Jansson@statsvet.su.se, and Maud Eduards, maud.eduards@statsvet.su.se

Over the last couple of years, the signs of increasing militarization have been a common lunch-break topic amongst feminist colleagues in political science at Stockholm University. Research results, as well as news reports and political debates have presented several problematic tendencies. First, clearly warring activities tend to be described as “policing” of conflicts rather than armed conflict or war, reported for example by Caroline Holmqvist. Second, results from a master student thesis indicates that the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 has resulted in Swedish aid funding being redirected from gender equality projects to “security” projects. Third, launching its “feminist foreign policy”, the Swedish government defined gender equality, and particularly Resolution 1325, as the route to world peace and the universal liberation of women.

All this worried us since we believe that these are examples of widening the scope of military undertakings while masking it as something else. This increasing militarization can never lead to peace. Besides, we see tendencies that the armed forces and the government appropriate feminism for their own political and nationalist purposes. In other contexts, we have written about how Swedish gender equality polices underpin nationalist ideas. We have also argued that gender equality as nation-branding is detrimental to the creation of policies that make a difference for women.

We also became aware that within certain circles promoting Resolution 1325, armed conflict is even regarded as something positive for gender equality, since it could give rise to change. Our curiosity pertaining to the resolutions on Women, Peace and Security grew: How could ideas about women’s protection from the horrors of war give rise to this kind of militarizing arguments? We were, of course, aware of the feminist critique of the resolutions, that they constructed women as peaceful and beautiful souls, and that they lacked a feminist analysis of gendered power relations. But this didn’t really explain how the resolutions could be used to legitimate war.

Going to the sources – re-reading the body of resolutions initiated since 2000 – we realized that they are constructed along two different trajectories: one dealing with sexual violence and the other with women’s representation. These two trajectories follow different scripts, and are subject to different solutions. We argue that increased participation and representation is a way of gendering security. More women in armed forces as well as in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes and peace negotiations serve to highlight women’s conditions and vulnerability in war, and to project gender equality onto the future, the peace to come. However, this process towards gender equality and peace is depicted as conflict-free and void of gender power relations. We maintain that without a broader discussion of power structures, women’s exposed position tend to be seen mainly as a product of war, rather than the result of gender power.

The question of sexual violence follows another pattern, an approach we call securitizing gender. The resolutions regard sexual violence as an illegitimate way of conducting war. Focus is set on punishing the perpetrators. Hence, sexual violence is located in the context of war regulations along with, for example, the ban on chemical weapons. In this way sexual violence is turned into a security matter “proper”. However, this approach turns sexual violence into a question of individual perpetrators, thus denying the structural gender dimensions of sexual violence.

In the end, however, both trajectories are built on the argument that the horrors of wars can be remedied or regulated. The resolutions thus manage to make a connection between regulating and governing war, on the one hand, and the idea of protecting women, on the other. By combining old notions of the protection of women as a sign of being civilized with “modern” ideas of gender equality, the resolutions can be argued to reproduce war as a practice of protection as well as “updating” war into a new, modern and gender equal standard. In our interpretation, the focus on women and peace hides what is actually protected by the resolutions: war and the male soldier. 

The problem of using 1325 as a starting point for a feminist security policy is that, accordingly, gender equality, justice and women’s vulnerability are appropriated for violent purposes. The prevailing and unequal gender order is neither noticed, nor problematized. When this is the case, the gender equality rhetoric becomes an appropriation of the feminist project, rather than a step towards emancipation. 

Intersectionality in Resource Extraction

Susan M. Manning, PhD Candidate, Political Science, Dalhousie University, susan.manning@dal.ca

This article started as a research paper for my Gender and International Relations course during my Master’s degree in 2014. Little did I know when I sat down to start writing it during a frantic month near the end of the term, that it would later be published. This article addresses some key questions that have informed my scholarly career thus far, including:

  • What are the responsibilities of Canadians and our government in relation to the operations and conduct of our resource extraction companies both at home and abroad?
  • Who is invisible in the dominant conversations surrounding resource extraction?
  • How can intersectionality be used as a methodological approach to study resource extraction?

My current doctoral research explores best practices for mitigating, through government-mandated regulatory processes, the negative social impacts that often accompany natural resource extraction in communities in Northern Canada. My focus is how marginalized groups within Northern communities, including women and girls, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, and people living on low incomes, shoulder a disproportionate burden of the costs as opposed to benefits when a resource extraction project comes to their community.

My research asks what can be done to prevent that burden before it happens and investigates improvements to the regulatory process that can allow marginalized members of communities to gain more benefits from resource extraction projects. While this may seem at first glance like a stretch from the content of this article on the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea, my doctoral research engages some of the most important themes raised in this article in the Canadian context.

My starting point is the 2011 private sector funding of the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea initiated by the then Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). One of the first companies CIDA chose to partner with was Barrick Gold for a development project in Peru. As I argue in the article (and numerous other scholars and political commentators have argued), this decision is easily interpreted as the Canadian government directly funding a corporation’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. This decision is controversial in itself for blurring the lines between development assistance and CSR.

However, it is even more controversial when we consider Barrick Gold’s record in relation to the communities near its extraction sites. Looking into the company further, the stories from women in the Porgera area who experienced sexual violence emerges as one of many sets of terrible human rights abuses allegedly carried out by Barrick or its employees. The fact that CIDA chose Barrick as a private sector development partner is even more troubling in light of these allegations.

My article delves further into the question of what are the responsibilities of the Canadian government in relation to this sexual violence around the Barrick mine site in Porgera. While not necessarily of the same magnitude as Porgera, increased rates of gender-based violence and sex work are often a consequence of new resource extraction projects near communities in Northern Canada as well.

My current research and this article are both largely concerned with the question of who is invisible in the dominant conversations surrounding resource extraction? The women living in the Porgera area who experienced sexual violence are certainly largely invisible in the dominant conversations about Barrick Gold and its relationship with the Canadian government. While the efforts of advocacy organizations, including Mining Watch Canada, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have been tremendously helpful in creating awareness and pushing for change in relation to this issue and other human rights abuses linked to Barrick, it is still not part of mainstream conversations in government or policy circles. The experiences of marginalized members of communities in Northern Canada are similarly overlooked in conversations about resource extraction in that context. The emphasis is typically the potential for jobs and economic development, not the social, economic and environmental costs associated with the new projects. 

This article was also an experiment on my part in using intersectionality as a methodological approach in relation to resource extraction – an approach I hope to build on and use in my doctoral research.  For me, using intersectionality as a methodological approach in this context begins by asking critical questions about relationships of power between groups or actors on multiple levels that shape experiences of inclusion and exclusion in decision-making processes as well as the costs and benefits from extraction projects. I hope that other researchers might find this type of methodological approach applicable in their own research areas.


Hashtagging Girlhood: #IAmMalala, #BringBackOurGirls and Gendering Representations of Global Politics

Helen Berents, Lecturer, School of Justice, Queensland University of Technology  


 I have a strong interest in the ways in which youth and childhood appear, act, and are narratively or visually constructed in the context of conflict, crises, and disaster. How do these appearances and imposed constructed narratives intersect with questions of power, privilege, and politics? I’ve asked this and related questions enough—in social media posts, blogs, and my academic work—that now friends and colleagues send me emails, tweets, or Facebook messages asking if I’ve seen the latest horrific image, or devastating incident, or (far less often, sadly) story of a young person doing something amazing. In my article I focus on the social media movements around Malala Yousafzai and the Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, but here I want to point to the broader instances of representations of young people in global crises, how I’ve navigated and responded in an emotional and intellectual capacity, and what questions it raises for feminist scholarship.

These images and stories that I have come to collect fall broadly into three categories that are well documented and critiqued: victim, hero, and delinquent. For young girls, the most common two are the dichotomised victim and hero. Less often we see examples of the delinquent girl. These categories are gendered, youthed, and racialised. Young women, as I explore in this article, frequently are framed as the innocent victim (the Chibok girls) or heroine who has triumphed over adversity (Yousafzai). The delinquent is usually a young male (see reporting on the 2011 riots in London, or the reporting on the New Years Eve sexual assaults in Cologne, Germany at the beginning of this year, highlighting a fear of the young Muslim male as other to European values). However, as I’m exploring in ongoing work, the complex intersection of narratives about “jihadi brides” demonstrates the potential for girls to be seen as delinquent also.

In recent years the ubiquity of social media has meant that conflicts and crises often break into broader public consciousness when particularly shocking images of children are circulated and shared. Since initially writing the article, the image of the tiny body of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi, the Syrian refugee, on the Turkish beach in September last year overwhelmed my social media. 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh, ‘the boy in the ambulance’ in Aleppo, Syria, was also circulated by a horrified public (and even invoked by Clinton in the US Presidential debates) in August this year. For many, while these images were deeply affecting, their lasting impact has been questionable. I have wrestled in blogs (here and here and here) and forthcoming academic work, about the implications of sharing these images, and the representations of children—at the intersections of race, age and gender— within them.  I assuredly still do not have satisfactory or complete answers to the questions I want to ask about them, but I feel they are questions that need to be taken seriously.

The images of young girls and boys that my friends and colleagues send me often have emerged as viral social media posts that become catalysts for activism. Activism can be good, amplifying voices of suffering and standing in solidarity with those marginalized are powerful and important tools of complex and meaningful feminist activism.  However, social media is predicated on uneven power relations and selectively amplifies certain narratives, thus what sort of narratives advocacy via social media depends upon and amplifies deserve close scrutiny. 

In the context of the two movements I explore in this piece, #BringBackOurGirls and #IAmMalala, there is an explicit cooption of the girls. In one instance, it is a claim of ownership, of the Chibok girls as ‘ours’; and the other is a claim of solidarity expressed as appropriation through the use of “I am”, which moves the focus to the tweeter rather than the girl in question. The uneven topographies of power and privilege were evident in the frequently circulated tweet of Michelle Obama posing in a White House room holding a sign reading #BringBackOurGirls while pulling a sad face. In the two years since the kidnapping of the Chibok girls, any time girls are freed from Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, after providing the basic details, the news almost always includes a sentence lamenting that despite initial hopes, none of these girls are the Chibok girls, as if the value of their freedom is measured against their social media virality. Last October (2016) came the news that twenty-one of the Chibok Girls had been freed; the consequences of their abduction will persist far beyond the hashtag advocacy of the event. 

While developing the ideas in this article I spent a lot of time caveating this work to myself, to audiences, to colleagues. “These critiques aren’t to diminish the incredibly bravery of Malala” I’d say, or “in saying this I’m not minimising the horrific results of the kidnap of the Chibok girls”. I wanted instead to explore the reactions, the representations, the responses of those who consume and engage in these stories of extraordinary girlhood and victimisation via social media and campaigns of the global North. To acknowledge that the girls who live through crises and catastrophe are complex human beings, is to be compelled to recognise that their narratives and experiences are complex also.

These reflections, and my article in IFjP, are offered as the hopeful start of a conversation. The asking of questions, not the answering. While social media is not a ‘new’ phenomenon any more, the ubiquity of platforms like twitter in the daily lives of many people, and the fact that for many these are the primary ways they get news and engage in international crises, means that the way stories are told and circulated via the bodies of young women, should be critiqued and questioned. I think we can and should, as feminist scholars and activists in diverse ways, bring critical consideration of social media activism into conversation with concerns about uneven topographies of power, and gendered (and youthed) experiences and representations of crises.