Women, Peace & Security

Women, Peace and Security – challenges and opportunities in light of the corona pandemic

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Given the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 marking the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Resolution on WPS (UNSCR 1325), an article written by Carmen Niethammer for Forbes.com explores the challenges and opportunities that have emerged for the WPS agenda.

Key points are:

  • During times of crisis – such as natural disasters and wars – the risk of gender-based-violence escalates.
  • Stay-at-home lockdowns in response to the coronavirus crisis have brought dramatic increases of domestic violence incidents as reported all over the world, including from Brazil, Cyprus, Italy, to Spain.In Australia, during the outbreak Google has registered the most searches for ‘domestic violence help’ with an increase of 75% in the past five years.
  • In the United States, the National Domestic Violence Hotline initially actually had fewer calls following the recently coronavirus induced “stay-at-home” policy put in place in many states. Calls were down from 1,800-2,000 a day to approximately 1,700. According to a New York Times article Where Can Domestic Violence Victims Turn During Covid-19?, this is not because domestic violence is happening less, but because it is harder for victims to report it. 
  • Anita Bhatia, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women (the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women) agrees: “The very technique we are using to protect people from the virus can perversely impact victims of domestic violence.” For example, following the closing of schools and daycare facilities, children are now at greater risk of domestic violence.
  • Globally, according to the Copenhagen Consensus Center (using 2013 data), the annual cost of intimate partner violence worldwide is $4.4 trillion, which is about 5.2 percent of global GDP.
  • Domestic violence is rooted in a need for power and control – not only in times of crisis, instability and war, but also during times of peace. In fact, the prevalence of violence against women in a country can be a predictor of a country’s proneness toward terrorism and civil conflict.
  • Ensuring that women and their needs are addressed is essential, given that women are an integral part of the workplace, marketplace and the communities in which they operate. A new initiative by Finland and Spain, Commitment 2025, was launched to ensure that women’s inclusion and meaningful participation in peace processes becomes the norm by 2025. While focusing mostly on governments and international organizations, Commitment 2025 may want to explore critical partnerships with the private sector to match any public sector shortcomings and gaps.
  • Reflecting on the corona pandemic, Ambassador Melanne Verveer (the executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and special representative on gender issues for the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe Chairmanship) is optimistic: “History has shown that highly disruptive scenarios can create new opportunities,” she says. “We cannot write off the talent of half the world and expect to confront our challenges.”

Read the full article here.