War in Afghanistan
4 min

Nancy Ruth on Women, Peace and Security

Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth, who chairs the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights, presented the committee’s report on Resolution 1325 of the United Nations Security Council yesterday.

“Last month was the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325. 1325 deals specifically with women, peace and security,” Senator Nancy Ruth said. “Today the Standing Committee on Human Rights tabled its report, entitled “Women, Peace and Security: Canada Moves Forward to Increase Women’s Engagement.”

Liberal co-chair, Senator Mobina Jaffer, noted that testimony showed that progress has been achieved since Resolution 1325 was adopted in 2000, but that there are shortcomings with respect to the implementation. Jaffer says there needs to be a focus on training that Canada provides to its own personnel, and foreign military and police forces. The committee looked in particular at the training provided to Department of National Defence, Canadian Forces and RCMP.

“Based on our hearings, the committee determined that the UN resolutions on women, peace and security were not specifically dealt with in any level of detail in terms of training or professional development,” Jaffer said. “The committee believes that the general training on ethics and codes of conduct is not enough. Women, peace and security issues must be comprehensively integrated throughout all of pre-deployment and in-theatre training received by Canadian Forces and RCMP personnel.”

The same training should be delivered to foreign militaries and police forces including those in Afghanistan.

“Canada’s post-2011 training mission in Afghanistan provides a unique opportunity to implement these training guidelines in practice,” Jaffer said. “If we are successful in integrating gender-sensitive training, we will be going a long way to advancing a security sector in Afghanistan that is professional and legitimate in the eyes of the entire Afghan society.”

Nancy Ruth outlined her three favourite recommendations of the 26 given.

“One of them is that the government has to give clear targets and be very specific about its action plans. In what it presented in October, it said that it would report every year and so on, but it didn’t assess money to the targets, it didn’t give them time, and it wasn’t precise about what those targets were.

“Secondly it’s great that they’re going to report annually. The committee would very much like DFAIT to table its reporting the House of Commons and in the Senate, and we also think that the tabling of these reports must go to a committee. One of the keys of trying to train people on what 1325 means to Canadians and means to people around the world, is that we think all the committees should get a shake at investigating this tabled report. We’d like to see committees like Foreign Affairs, International Affairs, Human Rights, Justice, National Defence and Public Safety – do a rotation, year-by-year, on how this report is implemented and how Canada is advancing on it.

“The other key point that I am fond of is that we would like funding set aside through one department or another that is earmarked specifically for women’s participation in the peace process, whether that’s Canadian women going out to be part of peace building, peace-making or peacekeeping, or whether it’s women in other countries.”

At the end of the presentation, I asked the following questions.

Q: How might this look in terms of Afghanistan and how we can get more women involved in that process?
NR: Why don’t we have an all-women troop, and an all-women police division? You’ll see a number of countries do – India, Bangladesh. If you’re going into places that have different gender issues than Canada does, it would be useful to have a woman-specific force. The RCMP or any military outfit would be one way.
MJ: There are many different aspects that we can look at in Afghan training. Our own military needs to understand 1325 – what does 1325 mean? It’s training so that women are involved in the decision-making, they’re involved in issues of protection, participation, issues of prosecuting peace building, and most important, there not be a climate of impunity. The first stage is for us to train our own forces – rather than the one-day training they receive, that they receive a very intensive training. The training package that our forces will go into Afghanistan has to have this as part of it. Secondly, on-the-ground training when they are doing the training of Afghan forces, there needs to be a gender perspective. When I was in the Sudan implementing 1325, one of the most important things that women in the Sudan said to me was ask your police forces to train our police forces on how to investigate a rape. We have the tools in our country to make sure that the training that we have here, we can teach in Afghanistan from a gender perspective, and that would make a difference for women in Afghanistan.
NR: To add to that, the training of the troops needs to come because the Generals want it. It is a recommendation from the committee that everyone, from Cabinet ministers down, Privy Councillors, DFAIT, CIDA – everybody, the whole of government, needs to understand gender analysis, and needs to understand that if women aren’t part of the solution, the solution isn’t going to work.

Q: Are there other countries that you see this should be a priority?
MJ: From my perspective, certainly in the Sudan, especially with what’s happening with the referendum, and we were involved in the training in the Sudan, and most importantly in the Congo. We have very few forces. When I was the envoy to the Sudan, we had a hundred men, and I can vouch for the fact that those hundred men made a huge difference for the lives of women in the Sudan, and I dream every day we’ll have a hundred soldiers in the Congo, and do the gender perspective, as we all know that the lives of women in the Congo are dire. Every day, women are genitally mutilated, especially in Kivu, and we need to look at providing our armed forces to working with the Forces in the Congo and the Sudan for sure.
NR: Ultimately any country’s intervention in another country is to help build that country, give it infrastructure and people-structure, so a lot of the schooling that Canada’s been involved with in a country like Afghanistan is great, but it also needs to move up to a level of say a women’s university, so that you can start training the teachers, but also the diplomats and the leaders of various enterprises – economic, social, political, the civil servants. I would like to see Canada move some of its funding up to higher levels beyond primary schooling.
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