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Comment: Women are key to resolution of the war

Comment: Women are key to the resolution of the Russia-Ukraine War

Published on: 21 March 2022

Women need to be included from the outset, and not just in the final stages of negotiations, if we are to bring about better and more inclusive outcomes, comments Dr Katharine A. M. Wright.

It has long been acknowledged that women having a seat at the negotiating table is key to an inclusive and lasting peace. The United Nations Security Council acknowledged this in 2000 through the adoption of Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security which both called for the better representation of women in peace and security and noted the gendered impact of war, including its disproportionate impact on women. The Russia-Ukraine war is no exception in being deeply gendered, in terms of how masculinities and femininities are invoked in constructing Russia, Ukraine and the war in geopolitical imaginaries, or in the gendered silences of just who is seen to fight or be protected in coverage of the conflict, to name just a couple of examples

Yet, as both Ukraine and Russia indicate progress in the peace talks, noticeable by their absence from either side has been women. On the Russian side this is to be expected, Russia has done much to undermine the Women, Peace and Security agenda and has no policy for its implementation. For Ukraine, this comes as something of a surprise given Ukraine has committed to its own policy to implement Women, Peace and Security and is also a co-signatory to NATO’s Policy on Women, Peace and Security which is adopted in conjunction with partner states. Women need to be included from the outset, and not just in the final stages of negotiations if we are to move beyond an approach of ‘adding women and stirring’ toward women’s representation at the table bringing about better more inclusive outcomes.

NATO has also neglected the gendered aspect in its response to the Russia-Ukraine War. Notably, while NATO has a policy to implement the Women, Peace and Security agenda, including during collective defence, for example, through the deployment of gender advisors, it is far from evident that gender advisors or a gender perspective have been integrated into the deployment of the NATO Response Force under an Article 5 remit in response to the Russian invasion. This is despite NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg previously stating that ‘gender equality is an integral part of all NATO policies, programmes and projects’.

Relatedly, NATO could do more to draw attention to the values which underpin the alliance in its strategic communications. The Women, Peace and Security agenda links to NATO’s foundational purpose to uphold the values of individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Therefore, integrating a gender perspective and associated messaging matters, not just because of the utility it provides NATO in its work, but because this is also a war about values: Russia has actively opposed and sought to undermine the Women, Peace and Security agenda including at the Security Council. In not implementing the agenda at a time when it is most relevant, NATO and its members and partners (Sweden, Finland, Georgia and the EU have also been present at NATO meetings on the war) are playing into Putin’s hands and risk undermining the Women, Peace and Security agenda going forward.

Dr Katharine A. M. Wright is Senior Lecturer in International Politics

Read our other commentary on Ukraine:

Ukraine and the USA: a different relationship 

Versions of history obscure Ukraine's rich and vibrant past 

A turning point in the German-Russian relationship 

The invasion of Ukraine points to a colonial history 


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