The ‘war on terror’ and extremism: assessing the relevance of the Women, Peace and Security agenda

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Key points:
• The WPS agenda mandate is largely irrelevant in relation to new forms of war and/or systematic use of force by states against non-state actors or fragile/dysfunctional territories.
• The WPS agenda has to be made relevant in all wars, conflicts and substantive military engagements including terrorism and counter-terrorism.

Abstract: The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda has become the dominant discourse framing women’s advocacy and action in international affairs over the past 15 years. The engagement of the United Nations Security Council through a series of high profile resolutions has created a visible presence for women in the ‘war and peace’ terrain. It has produced a political vocabulary of requirement and benchmarking, and resulted in substantial state positioning on the centrality of harm done by and to women to the enterprise of regulating armed conflict.2 That visibility was further illustrated by the passage of UNSCR 2242 on 13 October 2015, marking the 15th anniversary of the launch of the WPS agenda. This new resolution is distinguished by a couple of extraordinary statistics. A record number of states (68) gave statements to the Security Council debate, as did the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the League of Arab States, the Organization of American States, the African Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The Security Council meeting lasted a marathon nine hours; there were 111 registered speakers in the open debate and 72 countries co-sponsored the resolution. The celebration and self-congratulation on display affirmed appreciation for the efforts and achievements of the WPS agenda. This article urges some cautionary restraint on the enthusiasm attending this latest resolution and the visibility of the WPS agenda.

Keywords: Gender; Women; UNSC Resolutions; UNSCR 2242; IOs; Feminism

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