The UN Security Council Marks Seventh Anniversary of Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security with Open Debate

C. Cora True-Frost
December 17, 2007


On October 23, 2007, the United Nations Security Council held its sixth Open Debate to assess progress in the implementation of Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security ("Resolution 1325" or "1325").[1] Resolution 1325 addresses the impact of conflict on women, recognizes women's role in preventing and resolving conflict, and calls for the equal participation and full involvement of women in efforts to maintain and promote peace and security. The unanimous adoption of 1325, in October 2000, followed decades of efforts toward women's equality within the UN system and the adoption in the late 1990s of gender mainstreaming policies throughout the General Assembly organs of the UN.[2] Unlike Chapter VII resolutions of the Security Council, Resolution 1325 is not binding on Member States. Nonetheless, Resolution 1325 has had important impacts on behavior at the international and national levels. For example, the Council's situation-specific resolutions increasingly address issues relating to women's involvement in conflict and peace operations. In addition, some UN Member States have developed national action plans to monitor implementation of 1325, including by tying aid delivery to the goals of 1325.

At the October Open Debate, however, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and several Member States friendly to the aims of 1325, including October's Security Council President, Ghana, expressed concern about the Council's failure to establish a central mechanism for tracking the implementation of Resolution 1325. The Secretary-General and these States actively advocated for the Council to establish such a mechanism to monitor sexual violence in armed conflict and peace operations. At the same time, not all States agreed that the Council should establish monitoring mechanisms. These States argued that such mechanisms would duplicate current gender mainstreaming programs within the UN system. Despite these differences on the question of how to integrate women into the peace and security mandate of the UN, the seven-year history of Resolution 1325 demonstrates the ways in which the work of the Security Council has created new pathways for supporting and implementing human rights goals that were historically confined to consideration within the General Assembly and its organs.

Background on Resolution 1325

In the past decade, the Security Council increasingly has adopted broad-based thematic resolutions which address general issues related to international peace and security, in addition to its geographic and situation-specific resolutions.[3] These resolutions on thematic issues of peace and security ("TIPS"): (1) are non-geographic and non-situation specific; (2) address broad themes or issues; and (3) include a role for entities or individuals outside the UN's state-based system (e.g., "parties to armed conflict" and "negotiators of peace agreements").[4] The subjects covered by TIPS resolutions now extend beyond narrowly defined questions of peace and security such as counter-terrorism, disarmament and non-proliferation, and include broad themes such as the status of women and children in armed conflict, conflict prevention, and HIV/AIDS.

Resolution 1325 is a TIPS resolution that calls upon various parties, including Member States, the Secretary-General, the Council and parties to armed conflict, as applicable, to: (1) gender mainstream UN peacekeeping operations; (2) increase women's representation and participation in decision-making processes before, during and after conflict; and (3) consider women's specific needs in conflict and post-conflict operations, including by harmonizing national laws with international human rights standards.[5] Resolution 1325's adoption reflected several years of efforts towards integrating women's issues into peacebuilding and conflict studies and all dimensions of the work of the United Nations.

In a 1997 report reflecting the culmination of efforts begun at the 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights and the 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women,[6] the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) defined "gender mainstreaming" within the UN system as:

[T]he process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programs in all areas and at all levels. It is a strategy for making women's as well as men's concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programs in all political, economic and societal spheres, so that women and men benefit and inequality is not perpetuated. . . .The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality.[7]

The ECOSOC report served as a basis for implementing gender mainstreaming across the UN. On the occasion of International Women's Day in March 2000, the Security Council acknowledged for the first time that "equality between women and men is inextricably linked" with the maintenance and establishment of peace and security.[8] Nonetheless, the next month the Council adopted Resolution 1296 relating to the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, in which it recognized women as suffering particularized harm during armed conflict, but failed to recognize the role of women as active or necessary participants in conflict resolution.[9] In response, NGOs, working in collaboration with UN entities such as the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the Division for the Advancement of Women and some Security Council member states, identified both the need for and the potential to leverage Council support for issues of women's equality in conflict and peace.

On October 17, 2000, the Security Council held an "Arria Formula" meeting with representatives of five NGOs.[10] A Security Council Open Debate on women, peace, and security was held later that month, in which the majority of over seventy Member States supported the Council's recognition of the connections between women and peace and security.[11] Following the Open Debate, the Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1325, and for the first time committed to remain actively seized of these issues regarding women in armed conflict and peace operations and to mainstream gender issues in its own efforts toward conflict prevention and management.

The October 2007 Open Debate

In this year's Presidential Statement, the Council largely repeated past statements, by calling on: Member States to develop national level action plans for implementation of 1325; parties to armed conflict to respect international law applicable to the rights and protection of women and girls; and the Secretary-General to increase representation of women in UN offices, to ensure the inclusion of information about the impact of armed conflict on girls and women in all country-specific reports, and in 2008, to review and evaluate the implementation of Resolution 1325 through the a UN System-wide Action Plan created in 2004.[12] The Council failed to address former Secretary-General Annan's and current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's proposal to develop a monitoring mechanism or establish a focal point on the Security Council to report on sexual and gender-based violence in peacekeeping missions, but instead called upon Member States and entities within the UN system to coordinate further implementation.[13]

Over 70 UN Member States participated in this year's Open Debate, which also included UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and representatives of UNIFEM and the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security.[14] The discussion addressed a number of issues, including, as noted above, whether the Council should include some form of monitoring mechanism to enhance accountability for implementing Resolution 1325.[15] Other interventions addressed the role of women in peacekeeping and post-conflict situations and the continued need for Member States and the UN to increase the participation of women in decision-making and peace processes.[16] A number of participants also underscored the need for the Council to work to end impunity for sexual and gender-based violence by providing political support to the International Criminal Court ("ICC") in prosecuting rape and sexual violence, and encouraging the Secretariat to develop better-targeted reporting of such cases.

Member States also raised procedural and institutional concerns about the implementation of Resolution 1325 and called on the Council to integrate Resolution 1325 more comprehensively in its work throughout the year, including by committing to regular consultations with representatives of women's organizations in countries that are on the Council's agenda, improving capacity building, increasing links between international and national level actions, and instituting accountability mechanisms within the UN system-wide Action Plan. A number of Member States who participate in the "Friends of 1325 Network" discussed their efforts to implement Resolution 1325 at the national level and to develop national level action plans.[17] The Netherlands and Germany called for progress on UN gender architecture reform.[18]

Implementation and Influence of Resolution 1325

Over the past seven years, Resolution 1325 has influenced behavior at both the international and national levels. As an illustration, in the six-year period before 1325's adoption in 2000, only four percent of Security Council resolutions mentioned women, girls or gender.[19] However, since the adoption of 1325, over twenty-five percent of Security Council resolutions include references to women, gender or Resolution 1325.[20] In addition, the Council has invoked Resolution 1325 in over twenty-five binding Chapter VII situation-specific resolutions, including those on Iraq, Cote d'Ivoire, Haiti, Democratic Republic of Congo ("DRC"), Burundi and Sudan.[21] The Council has also incorporated explicit consideration of women and 1325's norms into several peacekeeping mandates.[22] Thus, despite the fact that Resolution 1325 is not binding on Member States, the human rights goals of gender equality and women's participation articulated in Resolution 1325 are gradually, but not consistently, being given effect through the administration of UN peace and security operations.

As a matter of internal UN rule-making, Resolution 1325 has also been interpreted by various UN departments to operate as a mandate to consider the gender impacts of different policies. For example, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations ("DPKO") states that Resolution 1325 created its mandate to mainstream gender issues and conduct gender training in peacekeeping missions.[23] The DPKO has hired a Gender Advisor and has implemented gender sensitivity training for police officers and peacekeepers in peacekeeping missions. Gender advisors have also been appointed to missions to assist in the gender mainstreaming of peacekeeping operations. In addition, women's concerns were made prominent in the mandate of the newly created Peacebuilding Commission and are cross-cutting issues, not just the subject of a limited number of programs, in the Commission's recent strategic frameworks for peacebuilding in Sierra Leone and Burundi.

The Council has also promoted norms about women's equality in conflict and peace operations by issuing a number of Presidential Statements,[24] holding six Open Debates and hosting various Arria Formula meetings on women, peace and security, and the General Assembly has reaffirmed Resolution 1325 in its resolutions.[25] Resolution 1325 has provided a formal platform for advocates worldwide to leverage various human rights and human security norms against UN entities and peacekeeping missions as well as states.[26] Once TIPS norms, such as women's equal participation in political affairs, were articulated by the Council in Resolution 1325, transnational advocacy networks became active in encouraging Security Council follow-up by lobbying, holding training sessions for Council members, and tracking Security Council practice. Networks such as the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace, and Security have used their connections with grassroots organizations to share information and to press for national-level implementation of Security Council TIPS resolutions. Through their grassroots contacts, these networks also may provide a valuable outside perspective on the implementation and effects of Council peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions. Furthermore, grassroots advocates in some post-conflict settings have used this Resolution to train women's advocates about their rights in post-conflict areas and to make demands on or lobby their governments. Moreover, at the national level, many UN Member States have developed or are developing their own Resolution 1325 national action plans, including some that link donor aid with progress toward the goals of the Resolution.[27]

However, while Resolution 1325 has influenced UN, Member State and NGO behavior and continues to encourage the Council's formal engagement with women's issues in its peace and security work, not all Council members have welcomed full implementation of 1325. Russia and China, for example, have contended that the subject matter of 1325 broadens the mandate of the Council beyond its appropriate competence. Further, implementation is far from complete, and gender inequities continue within UN peace and security operations and post-conflict reconstruction processes worldwide. For example, a very low number of women have been appointed as Special Representatives or Special Envoys of the Secretary-General to peace missions. Problems which disproportionately impact women also persist within UN peacekeeping operations, including for example, sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers, in spite of the "zero tolerance" policy of the Secretary-General.[28]


This year's Open Debate highlights progress made and remaining gaps in the implementation of Resolution 1325. The Open Debate also underscores broader issues regarding institutional capacities within the UN system. First, the Open Debate highlights the incremental, but far from complete, progress towards implementation of the Resolution. Over the past seven years, the Security Council's Presidential Statements and Resolutions recalling and reaffirming the norms in Resolution 1325 have encouraged formal recognition of women's rights in peacekeeping missions. The existence of Resolution 1325 has also opened formal opportunities for dialogue between Security Council members, representatives from civil society, and UN Member States not sitting on the Council, about issues affecting women in armed conflict and women's roles in conflict and peace operations. As such, Resolution 1325 has created a framework through which Council members and non-state actors further investigate concerns about women in armed conflict and implement them into the Council work program. States', UN organs' and departments' and NGOs' voluntary implementation of Resolution 1325 both within and outside the UN system also might suggest that new "soft law" norms regarding women in armed conflict are developing within the international system. Voluntary implementation of Resolution 1325 by states, UN organs and departments and NGOs, both within and outside the UN system, also might suggest that new "soft law" norms regarding women in armed conflict are developing within the international system.

Second, the Council's interpretation of its institutional mandate to maintain international peace and security and the scope of any potential accountability mechanism for implementing Resolution 1325 within the Council are likely to remain controversial subjects among Council members in the coming year. The appropriate role of the Security Council within the UN system and the analytic and political limitations to what the Council might legitimately consider a "threat to international peace and security" will continue to provoke debate. Some Council and General Assembly members will remain concerned about the Council's widening interpretation of its mandate.

About the Author
C. Cora True-Frost, an ASIL Member, is a Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School and was formerly Coordinator of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security. She is currently writing about the accountability of international organizations. Email:


[1] S.C. Res. 1325, U.N. SCOR, 55th Sess., 4213th mtg., U.N. Doc. S/Res/1325 (2000) [hereinafter S.C. Res. 1325]. An Open Debate is a form of public meeting which affords non-Council members the opportunity to address the Council on issues on the Council's agenda. All non-Council members, representatives of international organizations and others as designated by the UN Security Council are permitted to participate. Media and members of the public are also permitted to attend the proceedings.

[2]See generally Cora True-Frost, The Security Council and Norm Consumption, 40 N.Y.U. J. INT'L. L. & POL. 115 (forthcoming Nov. 2007) (describing events and interactions leading up to the adoption of Resolution 1325). This Insight draws in part from this previously published material.

[3]Between 1999 and 2007, the Security Council adopted over 35 TIPS resolutions, compared with just 12 over the first 43 years of its operation. See True-Frost, supra note 2, tbl. 2.

[4]See e.g., S.C. Resolution 1325 and U.N. S.C. Resolution 1261. U.N. SCOR, 54th Sess., 4037th mtg., U.N. Doc. S/Res/1261 (1999). See also True-Frost supra note 2 tbls. 1, 2.

[5]The Preamble of 1325 recalls the commitments of the Beijing Declaration concerning women and armed conflict and reaffirms "the need to implement fully international humanitarian and human rights law that protects the rights of women and girls during and after conflicts". Resolution 1325 also calls upon all parties to armed conflict to protect women and girls from gender-based violence and to respect humanitarian and human rights law. It further calls upon states to end impunity for gender-based crimes. S.C. Res. 1325.

[6]See Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna, Austria, June 14-25, 1993, U.N. Doc. A/CONF.157/23 para. 40 (1993); Beijing Declaration 1995; U.N. Doc. A/CONF.177/20 para. 231 (1996); Report of the Expert Group for Gender Mainstreaming in Human Rights Organizations, here.

[7] UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Agreed Conclusions 1997/2, 18 July 1997. 1997/2. Online. UNHCR Refworld, available here [accessed 25 November 2007].

[8]Press Release, U.N.S.C, Peace Inextricably Linked with Equality Between Women and Men Says Security Council, in International Women's Day Statement, U.N. Doc. S/6816 (March 8, 2000).

[9]Resolution 1296 provides that, "[t]he Security Council" [r]eaffirms its grave concern at the harmful and widespread impact of armed conflict on civilians, including the particular impact that armed conflict has on women, children and other vulnerable groups, and further reaffirms in this regard the importance of fully addressing their special protection and assistance needs in the mandates of peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building operations", S.C. Res. 1296, ¶ 9, U.N. Doc. S/Res/1296 (2000).

[10] Arria Formula meetings are informal Security Council meetings which are held outside Council chambers to allow the Council to hear the opinions of non-governmental experts on subjects under its consideration.

[11]See U.N. SCOR, 55th Sess., 4208th mtg., U.N. Doc. S/PV.4208 (2000).

[12]In 2004, partially in response to pressure from Member States, the Security Council called for a system-wide action plan on the implementation of Resolution 1325, which the Secretary-General established in 2005 and in 2006, the Secretary-General assessed the progress made on implementing the resolution. U.N. Systemwide Action Plan, U.N. Doc. S/2006/770 (Sept. 27, 2006).

[13]S/PRST/2007/40. By contrast, in the case of the series of Children and Armed Conflict TIPS resolutions, through S.C. Res. 1612 (2005), the Council established a subsidiary monitoring organ, and determined that the use of child soldiers may result in sanctions administered by this organ.

[14]As of October 2007, the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security consisted of fourteen members. See (last visited Oct. 20, 2007). Some Member States did not directly participate, and were instead represented by regional group spokespeople.

[15]Interventions urging inclusion of a monitoring mechanism came from inter alia, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon; Gina Torry of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security; and the Permanent Missions of Ghana, Canada, the Congo, Croatia, Germany and Liechtenstein.

[16]The role of women in post-conflict peacebuilding was the focus of the October 2006 Open Debate and the Council's 2006 Presidential Statement encouraged gender mainstreaming in institutional reforms in post-conflict countries, at local and national levels, and welcomed the role that the Peacebuilding Commission can play in ensuring women's involvement in post-conflict reconstruction. See S/PRST/2006/42.

[17]Friends of 1325 is a "voluntary, ad hoc group of [27] U.N. Member States who identify as advocates for implementation" of Resolution 1325; UNIFEM, OSAGI, and the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security participate in the regular meetings by invitation. WILPF, Working Towards Implementation of 1325: Who's Responsible for Implementation, (last visited Aug. 27, 2007).

[18]A November 2006 report suggested that newly reformed UN-wide gender architecture could provide support for implementation of Resolution 1325. Secretary-General's High-level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence in the Areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance, and the Environment, A/61/583, 9 November 2006, ¶ 37.

[19]See True-Frost, supra note 2, tbl. 6.

[20]Report of the Secretary General on Women, Peace and Security, U.N. Doc. S/2006/770 (2006) at ¶ 28.

[21]See e.g. Iraq S.C. Res. 1483 (2003); Cote d'Ivoire 1528 (2004), 1721 (2006), 1782 (2007); Haiti, 1542 (2004), 1608 (2005), 1702 (2006), 1780 (2007); DRC 1565 (2004); Burundi 1545 (2004); Sudan 1556 (2004). See also True-Frost, supra note 2 at tbl. 7.

[22]See e.g., ONUB, S.C. Res.1545 (2004); UNOCI, S.C. Res. 1528 (2004).

[23]DPKO traces its mandate for gender mainstreaming directly to Resolution 1325 (2000). See Gender Resource Package for Peacekeeping Operations, Peacekeeping Best Practices Unit, DPKO, United Nations (2004) at 1, 9-10. The DPKO has stated that its gender mainstreaming policy is influenced by, inter alia, the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, adopted at the third UN-led Women's Conference in Nairobi in 1985. UN GAOR, 85th Plenary mtg., 42nd sess., U.N. doc. A/Res/42/62.

[24]See e.g., S/PRST/2001/31, S/PRST/2002/32, S/PRST/2004/40, S/PRST/2005/52, S/PRST/2006/42 and S/PRST/2007/40.

[25]See e.g., G.A. Res. 58/177, Dec. 22, 2003; G.A. Res. 59/168, Dec. 20, 2004.

[26]For examples of such advocacy using Resolution 1325, see PeaceWomen website (listing civil society initiatives).

[27]For example, the Swedish government adopted a National Action Plan for women, peace, and security implementation on June 15, 2006. Press Release, Permanent Mission of Sweden, Geneva, National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (Jun. 15, 2006), available here. The Norwegian Government also adopted an action plan for implementing Resolution 1325. Press Release, Norway Mission to the UN, Action Plan for the Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (Nov. 14, 2006) available here. And Denmark has also adopted an action plan for implementing 1325. Ellen Margrethe Loj, Statement to the U.N. Security Council (Oct. 26, 2006), available here; See also FROM LOCAL TO GLOBAL: MAKING PEACE WORK FOR WOMEN (SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION 1325 FIVE YEARS ON REPORT) (2005), available here.

[28]For further information about the challenges in implementing the zero tolerance policy, see e.g., "High-level Conference on Eliminating Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by UN and NGO Personnel, 4 December 2006", 8 March 2007 available here; Kofi Annan interview, BBC News, December 4, 2006 available here; "Report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations and its working group at the 2006 substantive session", Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixtieth Session, Supplement No. 19 (A/60/19) (18 December 2006).