Women in Peace and Security in Southeast Asian Countries

Session Report
Trisha Shivdasan

Feminist Foreign Policy in the Asia-Pacific Region an Online International Workshop Program, a Two-Day Immersive Online Discussion Workshop was conducted on 19 and 20 September 2023 by IMPRI, Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi.

Feminist Foreign Policy, relegated to the margins for decades, is slowly gaining much-deserved recognition as a result of the efforts of peace-making, peacebuilding and peacekeeping by transnational feminist solidarity. A feminist foreign policy provides a powerful lens through which we can counter the violent global systems of power, i.e., patriarchy, racism, cultural nationalism, imperialism, and militarism, that leave the majority of the population in perpetual states of vulnerability and despair. It puts promoting gender equality and women’s rights at the centre of a nation’s diplomatic agenda.

On the first day our second speaker, Atiqah Nur Alami, Head of the Research Center for Politics at Indonesia’s National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) in Jakarta continued the discussion on Feminist Foreign Policy in the Asia-Pacific Region by talking about the participation of women and importance of gender perspectives in peace and security.

Global Attention to Gender in Peace and Security

Dr Alami underscored the global recognition of the importance of gender perspectives in peace and security, culminating in the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000. This landmark resolution emphasized the involvement of women in all peacekeeping and peace-building measures and the incorporation of a gender perspective into peacekeeping operations. The four pillars of this resolution – participation, prevention, protection, and relief and recovery – have paved the way for transformative changes in addressing the disproportionate impact of conflict on women.

Women in Peace and Security in Southeast Asian Countries

The discussion then turned its focus to the specific situation in Southeast Asian countries. The region’s history of conflicts and ongoing security challenges makes the women, peace, and security agenda particularly relevant. Atiqah Nur Alami pointed out that while several Southeast Asian countries have initiated policies and strategies to address gender equality and women’s security, only a few have developed comprehensive national action plans for women, peace, and security.

Atiqah Nur Alami highlighted the case of Indonesia, which has demonstrated a commitment to implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1325. Indonesia’s national action plans emphasize the protection and empowerment of women and children during social conflict, prevention and mitigation of gender-based violence, and include emerging security issues such as violent extremism and hate speech. Indonesia has also increased its deployment of female peacekeepers in UN missions, contributing to gender diversity in peacekeeping efforts.

Transnational Solidarity in Advancing Women in Peace and Security

Transnational solidarity for women in peace and security in Southeast Asia involves engagement between ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and civil society organizations. Dr Alami noted that ASEAN recognizes the importance of women in peace and security through the adoption of the Joint Statement on Women, Peace, and Security in ASEAN. Civil society organizations in the region have played pivotal roles in promoting women’s roles in peace and security, participating in policy development, and contributing to various aspects of conflict resolution and recovery.

Persistent Challenges

Despite the progress made, challenges remain. Dr Alami acknowledged the persistent low levels of women’s participation in peace and security efforts and the influence of social and cultural constraints that hinder their involvement in security sectors. Additionally, institutional designs, such as the ASEAN way emphasizing consensus and non-interference, can pose barriers to feminist activism and the promotion of women’s rights.

Moving Forward

To overcome these challenges, Dr Alami emphasized the need for transnational advocacy networks to involve civil society in formal negotiation processes. It was stressed that women’s involvement in these processes is vital to create a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to peacebuilding. Furthermore, engaging men as advocates for gender inclusion in peace and security is essential to challenge existing structural biases and promote lasting change.

In conclusion, Dr Atiqah Nur Alami provided a comprehensive overview of the women, peace, and security agenda in Southeast Asia while underscoring the importance of adopting gender-inclusive approaches at both the domestic and regional levels and the role of civil society in advancing this agenda.  Dr Alami called for continued efforts to overcome persistent challenges and promote gender equality in peace and security across the Southeast Asian region.

Acknowledgement: Trisha Shivdasan is a research intern at IMPRI.

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