Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement

UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security: Discussion

10:35 am

Ms Helena Keleher:

I am deputy director of the conflict resolution unit in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I will speak about UN Resolution 1325 in an international context. I will also go through the process for developing the next national action plan.

The first thing to note about the national action plan is that it was informed by an extensive and inclusive period of consultation with civil society organisations, academics like Dr. Hoewer and other experts in the field of women, peace and security. It was also informed by an innovative and unique cross-learning initiative which brought together women who had been affected by conflict in Liberia, Timor-Leste and Northern Ireland.

We had a series of workshops and discussions. A report was prepared and presented to the head of UN Women, which had just been founded by Michelle Bachelet. Even before we had a national action plan, NAP, the report was a good example of how Ireland had been leading the way in this field. The report contained recommendations for UN Women and the UN system on how to further engage with women affected by conflict. This consultation and consultative process also informed the NAP which describes itself as a living document. It is supposed to be iteratively improved and that is why it is being reviewed. It is a living document that will address the challenges and incorporate new lessons through regular monitoring and evaluation processes. The monitoring group, uniquely, is established by the NAP itself. Most other countries do not have this process.

The monitoring group is chaired independently by Liz McManus. The group also oversaw the production of a mid-term progress report, again, commissioned and carried out by independent consultants, Karen McMinn and Bronagh Hinds, who have extensive expertise in this area. The mid-term progress report was presented to the Tánaiste and President Higgins last summer. The consultants also met with the chair, colleagues within the Department, other relevant Departments and agencies to further examine the steps in implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution, UNSCR ,1325 and also met with civil society members of the monitoring group.

The conflict resolution unit where I work has two functions in regard to UNSCR 1325. First, we are the policy desk that has responsibility for driving the process forward but also we act as the secretariat to the independent monitoring group. There are two hats involved. The report, which was completely independent, identified challenges and examples of good practice and made recommendations for the second half of the NAP. Liz McManus has already spoken about the specific actions under Pillar 2 participation and Pillar 5, the promotion of UNSCR 1325, so I will not speak on them. What I would emphasise about Ireland’s NAP in comparison to other countries is that being a western country that is often a donor and has quite a high profile in overseas development aid, ODA, it is completely unique for us to have a national action plan on women, peace and security that also includes a domestic focus. The NAPs of most of the other countries that are major ODA donors focus on what they will do overseas, on peacekeeping and in funding aid programmes. The idea that we have a recent experience of conflict is pretty unique and is something that has been picked out by various multilateral organisations, including the EU, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE, and even our colleagues in the UN as a unique and positive thing and an example of good practice.

Liz McManus already mentioned the fact that we are in the process of developing the successor to the current NAP and setting up a consultative group which will be about 50% comprised of State actors who have a role in UNSCR 1325 and about 50% civil society and academic members. During the summer we hope to do a public consultation process. Rather than necessarily inviting particular organisations to make an input, anyone can make an input. That will be really valuable and hopefully will open up the level of inputs we receive, make them broader and have a wider perspective.

The last point I wish to flag about UNSCR 1325 is the international context. Liz McManus spoke about the importance of women’s voices being heard in peace building. We know that the majority of conflicts that exist in the world today are relapses of previous conflicts. Areas where peace has lasted are where women’s voices have been included in the peace-building process. There has been a shift in UNSCR 1325 at the UN level in recent years. The resolution was originally agreed in the year 2000. Our national action plan was a result of the ten-year anniversary of that. Since 2000 there have been seven resolutions on women, peace and security. Next year in 2015 it will be the 15th anniversary and there will be a high level review of what the UN is doing on women, peace and security. There is a very clear transformative shift towards the key participation and empowerment of women. It is not necessarily that women are simply victims of conflict or negatively suffer the impact of conflict, but also that they have a role in preventing and building peace, which is hugely important.

In terms of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, we are firmly committed to the issue both internationally and to the Ireland-Northern Ireland aspect. My colleague, Orlaith Fitzmaurice, from the Anglo-Irish division is present and she can talk specifically about the Ireland-Northern Ireland elements.

I thank the members of the monitoring group, in particular the civil society and academic members represented by Melanie Hoewer who have given freely of their time in calling the officials to task and making sure that the plan is being implemented and revised as it should be. Part of our appearance today is to ask for the committee’s help and for the meeting to provide an additional level of oversight and monitoring. We look forward to hearing what members think and to answer any questions members might have.


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