If We Fully Implement Resolution 1325,
Inclusion Would Be the Default Standard

Author: Svetlana Janković

On this day 21 years ago, a truly historic step was taken when the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1325. For the first time, the unique impact of war on women was recognized, and so was the need for women’s full and equal participation in peacebuilding. From that moment on, we had internationally-agreed mandates to increase women’s representation at all levels of decision-making, provide specific protections to women and girls, and incorporate a gender perspective into all peace and conflict work. With Resolution 1325, a global agenda for Women, Peace, and Security was born.

Like so many, I celebrated this achievement and the new era that it signified. As an Army officer, veteran and member of the Ministry of Defense, I found the vision of 1325 especially meaningful. It has been my privilege to participate in the drafting of my government’s first (2010–2015) and second (2017–2020) National Action Plan (NAP) to implement the resolution in Serbia. Now, I am part of a special working group of the government to draft a National Strategy for Gender Equality for 2021–2030. With each plan, we keep moving forward.

Anniversaries like today’s offer us an important opportunity to honor the progress we’ve made but also to consider the work that remains unfinished, and why. In some ways, our experience in the Western Balkans is specific to our region, but in many others, the barriers we struggle to overcome are the same in other nations.

The first of these is a decline, or in some cases even an absence, of political will. Globally, only 51% of UN member states have adopted their own NAPs to implement Resolution 1325. Of those 98 countries, just 35 allocate a budget to implement their plans. These two facts are a clear indication that still today, two decades on, there is a significant gap between rhetoric and reality when it comes to women, peace, and security. Political leaders are quick to express their support for women but slow to act on it. Unfortunately, this is a universal problem.

As long as we trust in political will as a central driver of change, our progress will always be at risk. A shift in leadership can prevent or even reverse key gains. Instead of depending on political goodwill, we must insist on institutionalizing the directives that make 1325 a useful tool for peacebuilding and gender equality. Only institutional transformation can guarantee that this crucial work continues on, at a steady and consistent pace. In Serbia, the recent adoption of a new law on gender equality, which includes a section on security, is a step in the right direction.

The second challenge we face, like many others, is a tendency to ignore implementation at the local level. The simple fact is, peace is not the task of the national security sector alone. Every unit, garrison and administration office, down to the last soldier or police officer, must be trained in line with 1325. We also must acknowledge that local actors — from municipalities to civil society organizations, teachers to advocates, merchants to citizens — always have and always will play a role in preventing and resolving conflict. To fully implement 1325, we need to engage all areas of society across the four pillars of the resolution: Participation, Prevention, Protection, Relief, and Recovery.

We need to focus much more on local understanding and acceptance. We need to translate grand, distant objectives into every-day speech and relatable experiences. What does ‘security’ or ‘gender equality’ mean, practically, for our neighbors, cousins, and parents? A nation, after all, is made up of these people too. We need to better communicate the protections of the 1325 and its advantages, and encourage the development of local policies that normalize equality. Everyone needs an equal chance to create a better life for themselves, their families, and their communities. If we can localize and properly implement 1325, inclusion would be promoted as a default standard. In Serbia, some municipalities have adopted their own Local Action Plans, which are implemented by local governments and civil society groups. This concept has great potential and must be supported.

Looking back, without question, there has been substantial progress when it comes to the implementation of 1325. In Serbia, the last decade saw an increase in women’s representation in the security sector. More employment opportunities in the sector were made available to women. And media and education campaigns expanded public awareness about women’s role in peacebuilding.

But our work is far from over. Serbia’s latest NAP expired last year, and now a third plan must be developed. It’s my hope that the reflections above are to be taken into consideration. Ultimately, a plan is only as good as its implementation. As many of us know, the adoption of history-making laws, policies, or resolutions really only marks a beginning. It’s what follows that matters most.

Today, the most meaningful way that I can think of to honor this anniversary is to recommit to the implementation of the full promise and potential of the 1325 — our world can be a more peaceful and equal place because of it.