It is no secret that throughout history, to varying degrees, women have experienced disadvantages in both political and social realms of their home countries. More often than not, women’s voices have been forcibly diminished, ignored, or totally silenced in the patriarchal societies that dominated most of the modern world. Today, many of these gender inequalities have been addressed in law and substantially reduced in most industrialized and developed countries, such as the United States. The global shift in women’s rights, albeit slowly spreading in fits and starts, is arguably largely due to the rise and spread of democracy and resulting values that become ingrained into society, such as human rights, equality, and governmental transparency. While the United States’ transition to democracy and the increase in freedom and power of women throughout the years were arguably seamless, other societies and governments, such as Western Balkan countries, have experienced a slower, more resistant approach to including more women in the political realm. The United Nations recognized this persistent imbalance in resolving gender equality, and on October 31, 2000, the security council of the UN passed Resolution 1325.
Serbia is an example of a Western Balkan country that adopted and attempted to implement Resolution 1325. This case study will focus on Serbia and, more generally, on Resolution 1325 since its implementation. Specifically, it will define Resolution 1325 in further detail and its general effect on the UN since adoption in 2000. It will review the political background and context of Serbia before the Resolution 1325 implementation, and address how it served as catalyst to increase female participation in the political sphere. In addition, it will lay out the key actors, donors, and organizations, both local and international, that were and still are involved in making this Resolution a success. Full integration of the Resolution in Serbia is still a work in progress, but women’s participation in security, peace, and overall authority has, without question, increased since 2000 and has drastically accelerated within the past few years.
Resolution 1325 essentially demands that all UN complying states balance the gender perspective within governments. States must increase the participation levels of women in the political realm, specifically giving them a stronger voice in maintaining a state’s peace and security efforts. The Resolution stresses the importance of women’s roles in the prevention and resolution of both internal and external conflicts; the importance in protecting all females from sexual abuse and other gender discriminatory violence; and the importance of women’s roles in overall peace sustaining and negotiating. The Resolution requires more than an increase in the inclusion of women in government offices; it requires an increase in women’s meaningful participation in local, regional, national, and international organizations.
In addition to the inclusion of women in the political realm, governments must understand and address the rights, protection, and overall needs of women at all times, recognizing that such needs will be different based on the current situation. For example, in post-conflict times, such as following war, states must acknowledge and address the personal needs of women and understand that their needs may be different than men’s needs. States must take steps to understand the needs specific to women such as rehabilitation, resettlement, etc, and respond accordingly. This similar idea of personal need also applies to the differing training needs and methods pertaining to men and women holding positions in the political realm. States must support “gender sensitive training efforts,” as described by the Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality, and adhere to specific needs of women, such as financial needs, during their training. In general, Resolution 1325 essentially demands the equality of females in the political realm and ensures they have a powerful voice in a state’s decision making process over peace matters, security matters, and general political matters. The Resolution also demands that states recognize, uphold, and protect female rights and equality in various situations, such as assault, and understand that women’s needs differ from that of men’s, and must be acknowledged and responded to appropriately.
The Security Council’s implementation of Resolution 1325 arguably reflects the UN’s evolving democratic values in the early 2000s. For example, the once strongly patriarchal society that reigned over Europe is now completely undermined by current statistics reflecting the views of European citizens on women in power. 78% of EU citizens believe that, given more political power, women in developing countries would considerably and positively contribute to the development and functioning of that country. In addition, statistics show that 65% of EU citizens believe women in political power, assumingly due to their perceived less aggressive nature than men, would decrease future conflicts and war between states. A startling 9 out of 10 Europeans believe that women in positions of power overall contribute positively to the overall operating of society.
These beliefs may be potentially drawn from the UN Security Council’s realization that women can offer a different political perspective than men, often offering more transparent, negotiable resolutions in peace building procedures and significantly inspiring the construction of Resolution 1325. In fact, Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, the president of the UN Security Council at the time of Resolution implementation, as described by an article on the United States Institute of Peace website, “The main question is not to make war safe for women, but to structure peace in a way there is no recurrence of war and conflict,”. Clearly, from this statement, it is evident that Ambassador Chowdhury believed women can offer more sustainable peace-keeping strategies than men, again probably likely due to their innate less aggressive nature. It can be argued that this type of belief resulted in the changing views of EU citizens concerning women in political power. In an article posted on the Delegation of the EU to the Republic of Serbia website, Andris Piebalgs, EU Commissioner for Development, also offered an encouraging comment, stating “We put women at the heart of everything we do; making sure that our aid programmes take women into account in everything from education and healthcare, to agriculture and energy, so I am delighted to see the majority of Europeans agree with this approach.”
At the time of the Resolution’s implementation in October 2000, Serbia was not a member of the EU. However, due to its post-war political and economic suffering, the Serbian government decided to reinsert itself into the European community. One of the steps Serbia took to reengage with Europe was to adopt Resolution 1325. Like many EU countries, as well as several other Western Balkan countries, Serbia constructed and published a National Action plan describing how Resolution 1325 would be integrated into society. National Action Plans essentially described strategies for Resolution implementation, which often included steps promoting public awareness and rallying public support for the Resolution’s changes. The idea behind rallying public support for gender equality is an arguably strong democratic action, and by promoting democratic values, nations can theoretically appear stronger and more unified. Perhaps this was another incentive for Serbia’s decision to implement Resolution 1325 – it would be one more step closer to becoming a qualified potential addition to the European Union.
The Serbian government outlines a convincing display purporting to demonstrate that it is effectively and successfully implementing its National Action Plan for Resolution 1325. However, upon further investigation, the success of Resolution 1325’s implementation into Serbian government is controversial. Now that Resolution 1325’s definition and reasons for EU implementation have been explored, this study will now consider the Resolution’s successes and failures in promoting democratic values, namely gender equality in positions of power, in Serbia.
The National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia publically announced its appointment of commissioned officials overseeing the National Action Plan during the years 2010-2015. These officials include Zlata Djeric, Milovan Precun, Sandra Raskovic, Milanka Jetovic Vukojicic, Katarina Rakic, and Kosana Beker. Each of these officials oversees a different sector of society and the Resolution’s effect on each. These sectors include human/minority rights and gender equality, defense and internal affairs, foreign affairs, labor/social issues/social inclusion/poverty reduction, judiciary, and protection of equality. On the surface, the Serbian government produced a list of elites to oversee the Resolution’s implementation, but in reality the effectiveness of these elites is arguably questionable. In actuality, a female based organization called ‘Women in Black’ arguably followed through with the implementation of Resolution 1325 more effectively when it witnessed the government failing to meet its desired needs, and many other organizations also contributed to the implementation of the Resolution’s standards. ‘Women in Black’ and other organizations will be discussed in depth later on in this study.
In addition, women working for the UN implemented several projects on the ground in Serbia to help establish and maintain women’s economic and social rights as well as their presence in the political sphere.These projects are specifically called ‘Advancing Women’s Economic and Social Rights’ and ‘Advancing Implementation of UN SCR 1325 on Women Peace and Security in Western Balkans.’ These projects will be referred to as Project 1 and Project 2 respectively. Project 1’s main focus was on promoting gender equality particularly in the labor market, both nationally and internationally.It advocated for equal policies for women in all realms of employment, including labor and budget laws.Economic security and women’s rights at the national and international level was ultimately the main focus of Project 1. Project 2 focused mainly on effectively and permanently implementing security and societal equality aspects of Resolution 1325, ensuring that laws and policies upheld gender equality standards demanded by the Resolution. They ensured this equality on the national level by searching for more effective ways to measure the progress of gender equality policy change and by more closely observing the lengths to which certain policies are followed through on. In addition, Project 2 focuses on strengthening policies and networks at the grassroots level, promoting the exchange and discussion of gender equality values between different organizations and bringing regional organizations in line with the standards of Resolution 1325. While these projects appear progressive and valuable, promoting social and political changes across all regional, national, and international sectors, there is evidence proving the degree to which the Siberian government is implementing these projects and strategies is limited and deceptive. This study will now shift its focus from the government imposed strategies of implementing Resolution 1325 to the actual strategies of female Serbians in grassroots networks. In reality, the implementation of Resolution 1325 into Siberian society has in fact proved somewhat successful, but leaves enormous room for improvement.
Back in the very early 1990s, before the creation of Resolution 1325, only 1.6% of representatives in Serbia’s parliament were held by women. By 2000, this percentage had barely increased to 2.08%. Following the war with Yugoslavia in the early 1990s,Serbia remained an essentially communist state lead by a man named Slobodan Milosevic. Milosevic did very little to enhance women’s rights and presence within Serbia, as his main concern was retaining his own power through military coercion and the idea of nationalism. Although he ruled Serbia with a wife alongside him, giving the artificial appearance of his support of gender equality, Milosevic supported several political parties with stagnant views towards political gender equality. Needless to say, with Milosevic in power, women’s rights continued to be suppressed. Even after Milosevic was overthrown in 2000, Serbia continued to suffer post-war traumatisms, which predominantly affected the lives of women. For example, after the war, Serbia found itself in extreme poverty, yet continued to uphold its strong patriarchal societal values fostered under Milosevic’s rule. As a result, women found themselves experiencing little access to health care, shortened life expectancy, difficulty finding and maintaining employment, and a withdrawal of social care for their children. The introduction and implementation of Resolution 1325 was arguably the first effective, political effort to change the patriarchal status quo, equipping female activists to advocate for their own political and human rights. One predominant organization called Women in Black published a report in 2012 titled ‘Independent Monitoring of the Implementation of Resolution 1325 in Serbia,’ documenting the National Action Plan’s progress in implementing the Resolution. Overall, as described throughout their entire report, the Women in Black organization details the lack of progressive movement to implement the Resolution.
The report points out that Resolution 1325 does not possess the legally binding qualities that accompany a law. They refer to the Resolution as a “soft law,” (pg. 7) and argue the specific vocabulary used within the Resolution is more like that of a recommendation than of an actual law. The report follows this up with the claim that not only has the Resolution not been sufficiently implemented in society, but that numerous local organizations have totally disregarded and refused to support the efforts of progressive civic society organizations. In addition, the report accuses the government of adopting the National Action Plan purely as a means to achieve the political goals of the current ruling elites, and that it was created without any real intention for follow through.As far as women’s rights are concerned, the report argues that as of June 2012, no real national policies have been created to protect women’s rights in the domestic sphere or against sexual predators. The report follows up this claim with evidence stating that 25% of attacked women note that their attacker possessed a firearm, and Women in Black have advocated for an increase in taxes on firearms in an effort to protect women. The report continues to accuse the government of being too militaristic in their approach to gender equality issues, and demands more state support of all progressive women’s organizations, and for overall government transparency. In general, they advocated for an increase in women’s rights by spreading awareness of feminist values and demanded obedience and accountability of all state organizations, political or not, to uphold and respect these values. The Women in Black advocated that women are “peace makers” (pg. 10) and are very concerned with human security, particularly political, personal, and economic security.
June 2-3, 2011, the Women in Black organization began to take initiative in forcing the implementation of the National Action Plan for Resolution 1325, holding training sessions in Radmilovac, Bulgrade. The sessions were headed by UN women trainers from New York and 19 women activists from different organizations and from 7 Siberian cities were in attendance. These sessions served as a launch pad for progressive movement for female based organizations everywhere throughout Serbia, describing ways in which the government’s National Action Plan could actually be implemented successfully, and also addressed how to deal with unforeseen adversity in executing these strategies. The findings and discussions from these sessions were made nationally and internationally known and were published not only on the Women in Black website, but countless other websites.
While the Women in Black organization is one of the most prominent female grass roots organizations in the Western Balkans, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia also published ‘A Report on the Status of Implementation Of UNSC Resolution 1325 in the Western Balkans.’ This report, unlike the Women in Black report, offers a more positive discussion on the successes of Resolution implementation. For example, women’s participation in the military has significantly increased, and the percentage of women participating in military academies (25%) is greater than that of most other Western Balkan countries (10%). However, there have been 296 military personnel deployed from Serbia on various “peace keeping missions,” (pg. 10) since 2002, and 13% of these 296 have been women – a relatively small amount. It appears that women are participating more on military medical teams, with 65.11% of an average graduating class from Serbia’s military medical academy are women. In fact, in 2008/2009, women accounted for half of the enrolled cadets at the military medical academy and 27.64% held other “managerial positions,” (pg.43) at the academy. This increase in female enrollment may be a result of the Ministry of Defense’s promotional campaign to encourage women to enroll in military school and to strive for professional careers.
The report goes on to describe other accomplishments of female inclusion in the security sector. For example, it points out that females are state secretaries for the ministry of defense and the ministry of justice, which are the highest posts in security systems held by women. While this may seem like a minor position, the progressive notion that women are striving to work in such serious sectors of the government is arguably commendable to Resolution 1325. On a more local level of security, women have also become a greater presence in police forces, especially with the establishment of the South Eastern Europe Police Women’s Network. In addition, women’s networks are developing in other branches of the Serbian government, such as the defense sector. In addition, women now have greater access to achieving an education in the security sector. Not only have the numbers of women increased in the military and security sectors, but police academies throughout Serbia now implement courses in gender equality and gender based violence, promoting awareness of female rights and gender equality. The report later claims that media promotion of women in security sectors is a Serbian National Action Plan priority, and if this is the case, awareness of female rights and gender equality in the political sphere will arguably drastically increase.
Overall, although the Serbian government officially adopted and seemingly planned to implement Resolution 1325 through its National Action Plan, the Women In Black report states the government’s follow through with the National Action Plan leaves much to be desired. While political gender inequality still exists in Serbia, the Helsinki report describes some of the progressive statistics and policies designed to reestablish the importance in successfully implementing Resolution 1325. Arguably, progressive Serbian gender equality organizations will continue to need support from the EU in the effort to promote Resolution 1325, as the EU is the second largest donor in the world. Despite the resistance and slow implementation of Resolution 1325, the future for Serbian women looks bright. On October 18, 2013, the UN Security Council created Resolution 2122, demonstrating the UN’s relentless focus and energy dedicated to promoting gender equality. Resolution 2122 essentially demands for stronger measures to be taken in including women in the political sphere, offering more efficient strategies in implementing gender equality in peace in security matters. Under this new Resolution, women theoretically experience more direct and stronger access to crucial decision making information, promising women would be more included in discussing political strategy and peace-keeping discussions. Overall, Resolution 2122 tremendously reinforces the policies of Resolution 1325, demonstrating the seriousness and dedication level the UN has committed to ensuring gender equality throughout Europe. In addition, other NGO organizations, such as the Working Group on Women, Peace, and Security, or NGOWG, founded in 2000, are becoming increasingly influential presences within the EU and Western Balkans. The NGOWG, like the Women In Black organization, campaigns for participation equality in all government sectors that deal with international peace and security, and also supports the implementation of all UN Security Council policies that deal with political gender inequality issues. While Serbia has arguably displayed their limited willingness and capability to embrace democratic gender equality values, the shift in the EU’s and (more gradual) shift in Serbia’s attitude towards political gender equality is, at the very least, promising for the potential for a gender equal society in Serbia.