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‘Leading the Way’: Women driving peace and security in Afghanistan, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Yemen

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This briefing paper explores challenges, lessons learned and opportunities related to realizing the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda in Afghanistan, the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and Yemen, and makes recommendations to a range of national and international stakeholders on how to support its implementation.
Years of advocacy and activism by feminists, women’s rights organizations (WROs) and civil society led to UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000 – the first UN Security Council Resolution on WPS. This was the first time that world leaders recognized the crucial role of women in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding, and that conflict affects women and men differently.

Since then, civil society has bravely undertaken efforts to advocate for women’s meaningful participation in decision-making on peace and security, in spite of ongoing conflict, insecurity and occupation. But while national and local women’s organizations are key agents for realizing the WPS agenda, without national duty bearers and international actors stepping up to meet their commitments, implement National Action Plans (NAPs) and provide resources and support, the full potential of the agenda will not be reached.

In Afghanistan, while intra-Afghan peace talks started in September 2020, there are concerns that they will jeopardize fragile gains made for women’s rights over the past two decades. Systematic challenges and weak cooperation persist, and civil servants have limited awareness and knowledge on the implementation of policies and practices on gender equality. Still, civil society has been able to push the WPS agenda forward in Afghanistan and progress has been made in recent years.

In OPT, the Israeli occupation has had devastating impacts on the lives of Palestinians – especially women, who experience a ‘double jeopardy’ of structural violence under both occupation and patriarchy. Yet women’s and human rights organizations have been at the forefront of localizing the WPS agenda in OPT, and contributed significantly to the development and implementation of the Palestinian NAP.

In Yemen, women were on the frontlines of the uprising in 2011 but have become increasingly marginalized since the conflict escalated in 2015. They are among the most badly affected by the country’s humanitarian crisis, which is one of the worst in the world. Despite lack of political will from authorities, insufficient donor support and severely restricted civic space, women’s organizations in Yemen remain committed to WPS and national peace efforts.