Greater participation of women in peace and security can contribute to women’s empowerment across society, according to Dr. Saisuree Chutikul, an adviser to the United Nations sub-committee on Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security.
Speaking with International Peace Institute Senior Policy Analyst Andrea Ó Súilleabháin, Dr. Chutikul said research has shown there are many benefits to increasing the involvement of women in peacekeeping, particularly when it comes to dealing with other women.
“For example, women seem to have more empathy, more sympathy, and probably can convey feelings on the same wavelength as other women. Not only that, but they also could serve as role models, and then women can see what other women can do,” she said.
“And also, women can bring in vital knowledge and skills that are not really related to peace issues but to other issues in life. Those who participate also will learn something that they can bring back to their country or the place of origin to help further the cause of getting women’s participation in all areas.”
As well as increasing participation of women, Dr. Chutikul has significant experience working in other core areas of Resolution 1325, namely protection, prevention of violence, and relief and recovery. She is a recognized campaigner on ending human trafficking through her work in various bodies of the UN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the government of her native Thailand.
As Thailand prepares to adopt its National Action Plan on women, peace, and security in 2015, Dr. Chutikul said that the plan should prioritize raising awareness among men, “so that all men—particularly the troops and police force—have gender equality in mind; their mindsets have to be changed.”
The conversation took place on March 12, 2015, in conjunction with an event on “Gender Equality and Peaceful Societies: From Evidence to Action” at the International Peace Institute, on the sidelines of the 59th session of the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women.
Listen to interview:
As we know, this year marks 15 years on from Resolution 1325, and 20 years on from the [UN’s] Beijing Platform for Action. Why does women’s participation matter, and what are the remaining obstacles to realizing it in practice?
From what the research results have told us, the participation of women is needed at all levels, and across all areas of concern. So, the benefits of having women participating, particularly in peacekeeping and conflict resolution, is that when women go into the field, women in the war zone, or in conflict-affected areas, probably they would like to put more trust in same sex persons. They probably don’t want to talk of their problems, or their situations with males, and in that sense women can serve as a point of trust. Not only that, but women have certain points of view on situations like that, which probably are different from men.
For example, women seem to have more empathy, more sympathy, and probably can convey feelings on the same wavelength as other women. Not only that, but they also could serve as role models, and then women can see what other women can do. And also, women can bring in vital knowledge and skills that are not really related to peace issues but to other issues in life. Those who participate also will learn something that they can bring back to their country or the place of origin to help further the cause of getting women’s participation in all areas.
On protection, as a member on the Committee on Elimination on Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), you’ve called for clear, national reporting and monitoring frameworks. Could CEDAW be more effectively linked to efforts to implement 1325? How can these normative frameworks work together to protect women from violence?
I think CEDAW has the responsibility, actually, to put 1325 into their agenda, although this hasn’t become very visible recently. While I was with CEDAW, we were talking about the possibility of formulation of the general comments on 1325. General comments serve as guidelines for all the countries’ reports to CEDAW, and if 1325 was there, then every country would have to look at it and have to say something about it in a way, not as mandatory, but [it would be] almost like mandatory for them to have to report.
CEDAW needs to work with UN Women more. CEDAW needs to work more with the DPKO [Department for Peacekeeping Operations]. CEDAW needs to work with the research institutes like yourself, IPI, and so on. There are many, many research institutes around the world that work on women’s issues and 1325, and they should have a network with all these people. I think the research results are important in their work so they know what evidence base would help them, guiding the direction of the report.
Looking at prevention, you serve on the board of the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons. Does trafficking disproportionately affect women, and what can be done to prevent this illegal practice and the violence and exploitation that it brings?
That’s a very comprehensive question to answer in a few minutes! At the beginning it was trafficking of women more than trafficking of men and boys. In Thailand, for example, we’ve had this law since 1928. The law was written for women and girls, and then we had to change to women and children because we found boys to be involved. Then we had to change to trafficking in persons because adult men now are also involved.
But women, girls are vulnerable. Prostitution has been with the world since biblical times 4,000 years ago. So this still is going on, and to us in Thailand, if women are over 18, free of exploitation, free of being forced, we think it’s okay—we decriminalized that. But girls under 18, whether you have consent or not, is a no-no. So trafficking at the beginning is pretty much a women’s issue, and so you have to work on policy statements; you have to work on prevention; you have to work on protection and reintegration, recovery; you have to work on legal frameworks and law enforcement; you have to work on partnerships; you have to work on capacity building, research, data, and so on. You have to work to integrate all these aspects, otherwise you’re not going to do away with all these problems.
Turning to relief and recovery—the final pillar of 1325—your region, Southeast Asia, has been affected by natural disasters and climate crises, and in your own country this includes severe flooding. Have ASEAN countries taken steps to ensure that women participate in and benefit from disaster warning, response, and recovery?
Well, fortunately ASEAN is interested in these aspects, and they have organized seminars to begin to discuss what we can do as ASEAN countries to help with all aspects related to natural disasters as well as man-made disasters, as well as accidents that are very harmful to the family and women and girls. But they’re just beginning to do it. Wait a few years, and I’m sure that they will come up with some sort of plan of action, including for climate change. This has been the subject of intensive discussion at the moment.
And finally, to link its international commitments to its national laws and local practices, your country of Thailand is set to adopt a national action plan this year. In your opinion, what are the most important issues for the national action plan to address?
I would say the most important, the most urgent at this point is at least on two counts. One is to create awareness so that all men—particularly the troops and police force—have gender equality in mind; their mindsets have to be changed. So awareness raising, the change of attitudes and values, this is important because otherwise I don’t think it will work. And the second thing is capacity building, because you also have to come up with all kinds of interesting modules for training and so on, and these need to be contextualized in some ways to fit in with our situation. But I think the capacity building of all personnel related to 1325 really needs to be done quickly in order to get the quality of our delivery with the UN—even at the domestic level, because we would like to extend 1325 into, not the UN-global level, but the national level, the local level, and in conflict-affected zones, because women are suffering quite a lot.
Thank you for joining us and sharing your insights today.
I hope it’s useful. Thank you.