Ticking off the Czech Republic’s UN Commitment as Completed: Reflecting on the First Czech National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

Ticking off the Czech Republic’s UN Commitment as Completed: Reflecting on the First Czech National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

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Ticking off the Czech Republic’s UN Commitment as Completed: Reflecting on the First Czech National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security[1] 

In January 2017, the Czech Republic introduced its first National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325[2] on women, peace and security (NAP 1325)[3], adopting it as the 64th country in the world, as the 18th EU Member State and as the first country in Central Europe to do so[4]. Notwithstanding its status as a country unaffected by direct conflict, the Czech Republic is obliged to pursue a gender, peace and security (GPS) agenda through its foreign policy, just as other EU member state signatories to UNSCR 1325 are expected to do so. The country’s very recent engagement with gender, peace and security can be seen as a major shift in Czech foreign policy. Yet, the next question is whether the Czech government’s initial steps will deliver changes on the ground in favour of women, girls and societies in conflict-affected areas, or whether they should rather be seen as a ticking the box exercise with little actual impact. The following reflection on the Czech response to UNSCR 1325 indicates that the latter is more probable.

Including Gender in Foreign Policy

The Czech Republic only began to incorporate a gender equality perspective more actively into its foreign policy in recent years. Until then, the foreign policy was literally gender-blind, exemplified in the case of its human rights promotion. After a political regime shift in 1989, the Czech Republic developed a strong foreign policy tradition of promoting human rights internationally, including, for example, through the support of dissidents in Belarus, Burma or Cuba. Nonetheless, the country’s focus on human rights overlooked women’s rights and gender equality.

On the policy level, a gender perspective was first incorporated in the Czech Republic’s Development Cooperation Strategy 2010 – 2017. The document adopts a twin-tracked approach to gender mainstreaming, including, firstly, mainstreaming in the programming of development cooperation and in various stages of the project cycle, and secondly via a thematic approach supporting specific projects aimed at empowering women[5]. There is also a reference made to UNSCR 1325 in a footnote stating that its principles are “designed to enhance the effectiveness of development projects in conflict and post-conflict areas and ensure the more effective stabilization and reconstruction of society whilst empowering women. The Czech Republic will seek to reflect these practices in development cooperation”[6].

Since 2010, a gender perspective has been gradually incorporated into several other policy documents such as the Human Rights and Transition Promotion Policy Concept of the Czech Republic 2015[7].  With a new government assuming power in 2013[8], a more proactive approach towards gender in foreign policy became apparent, evidenced by the documents ‘The Concept of the Czech Republic’s Foreign Policy 2015’ and the National Action Plan 1325.

 

The New Concept of the Czech Republic’s Foreign Policy 2015

The new Concept of the Czech Republic’s Foreign Policy 2015 places a clear emphasis on supporting women and their rights. The document states:

The Czech Republic will also work towards the global strengthening of women’s place in society. Although this assistance will typically be provided as part of the general promotion of human rights, the Czech Republic will raise this issue more actively within the United Nations because it considers it to be a serious global problem that cannot be reduced to human rights or development issues. The Czech Republic will concentrate in particular on matters related to women’s participation in public life”[9].

This text cannot be accepted without reservation, as it is included in the document’s reference to vulnerable and marginalized people and in doing so, supports the language of victimization. In spite of this, the Concept can be seen as an advancement, generating a previously absent policy coherence. Moreover, the document is based on an inclusive process of consultation with civil society.

However, it is obvious that two years after the adoption of this improved foreign policy, gender equality and women’s rights have simply remained meaningless rhetoric, especially when looking at the key areas of development cooperation, transition promotion and humanitarian aid. It should be noted that a significant part of these programmes cover conflict-affected countries, among them Afghanistan, Georgia, Kosovo, South Sudan, Syria, Serbia and Ukraine. For now, gender equality has not been anchored systematically, there continues to be a lack of human capacity, and supporting mechanisms for practical implementation, together with an absence of adequate monitoring and evaluation concerning policy implementation. Even though the government approved the NAP 1325 in 2017 and prior to that the Ministry of Defence developed its own Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 in 2015, the real impact of these documents remains questionable.

Ministry of Defence Action Plan on UNSCR 1325

In the Czech context, the first strategic document responding to UNSCR 1325, was authored by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). In June 2015 the Defence Ministry Action Plan to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325, on Women, Peace and Security[10] (MoD AP 1325) was approved. According to the MoD this document in response to the NATO Action Plan on UNSCR 1325[11], which was passed in 2014[12]. The MoD AP 1325 was drafted by a team of people consisting of MoD representatives only. Consultations with civil society or the Government Council for Equality of Women and Men[13] were not part of the preparation process, although the Council’s involvement was initially promised in the Government Report on Beijing + 20[14].

In general, the MoD AP 1325 lacks the basic attributes of an effective action plan such as clear priorities, goals and activities, SMART[15] indicators, a monitoring and evaluation system and a budget for implementation. Most importantly, the document gives minor attention to the international dimension and hence omits gender aspects in conflict and post-conflict situations, which is the essence of UNSCR 1325. Although the plan draws on the “3Ps” of UNSCR 1325 – Prevention, Protection and Participation, the activities fail to correspond to these principles. For example, as part of the Protection principle, the MoD AP 1325 deals only with protection against discriminatory behaviour in the MoD´s workplace, rather than focusing on the international protection of women and societies in conflict-affected areas. Hence, the plan repeats national measures on gender equality already covered by other government documents, at the expense of activities directly linked to the principles of UNSCR 1325.

These weak points are to some extent repeated in the Czech National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325, which builds on the MoD AP 1325.

Czech NAP on UNSCR 1325 (2017 – 2020)

In January 2017, the Czech government adopted its first National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 on women, peace and security and related resolutions for the period 2017 – 2020 (NAP 1325). The NAP 1325 covers the activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defence, and also refers to the Office of the Government – the Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation - as the national coordinator of the gender equality agenda. The drafting of the document was coordinated by the MFA, and took around 10 months.

The starting conditions for the NAP 1325’s preparation were not so favourable in the Czech context, due to the lack of expertise, academic research and wider political support, as well as the absence of strong civil society advocacy. However, the fact that the MFA was committed to the drafting of the NAP 1325 has to be appreciated. On the other hand, the Czech NAP 1325 has some fundamental structural and content weaknesses as a result of the non-existence of any research foundation, its inadequate preparation time, and its non-standard drafting process.

More specifically, the drafting of the NAP 1325 did not comply with the minimum international standards, since it almost excluded civil society and public experts. The process was in direct conflict with UN requirements for an inclusive consultative process involving all relevant actors, including civil society. Moreover, after 17 years of global experience with UNSCR 1325 processes, there are many books, guidelines and examples of good practice available for the creation of a NAP UNSCR 1325. Representatives of the Czech Republic’s civil society participated in the MFA’s introductory workshop in March 2016, aimed at sharing experiences on NAP 1325’s drafting and development with delegates from the Swedish and Austrian governments. In June 2016, civil society provided comments on the basic structure of the NAP 1325. However, concerning the actual content of the NAP 1325 itself, civil society received the “final document” just before government’s approval and literally had only a few days to provide comments. It was therefore impossible to do some fundamental changes in the document. Nor was it possible to engage Czech NGOs[16] working directly in conflict and post-conflict states or local civil society from conflict affected areas. Accordingly, civil society believes that its knowledge and experiences were not taken into account and therefore does not assume any ownership of the Czech NAP 1325.

In terms of the structure and the content, the NAP 1325 can be assessed as a draft version, requiring further elaboration and improvement. Since there were no essential mapping and analyses done prior to its drafting, the NAP 1325 is not based on identified needs and gaps. As a result, the document specifies too many tasks that are very general, unrealistic and highly unlikely to be accomplished in a three year period. In terms of priorities, the better-known topics concerning the national level are overemphasized, at the expense of foreign policy activities. Hence, some parts of the NAP 1325 such as work-life balance for ministries employees repeat measures already covered by other government documents. In contrast, areas such as development cooperation and humanitarian aid are inadequately developed in relation to the conflict setting, failing to go beyond the formalities outlined in particular policy documents. In some of the NAP 1325’s tables, the logical linkages between goals and activities are missing. For example, while the goal is to support increasing the representation of women in the army and in police, the tasks required to achieve this goal is to collect statistics on the number of women entering the army and police[17]. Finally and importantly, the plan lacks the budget necessary for its implementation, including, for example, adequately supporting NGO projects in Afghanistan, South Sudan, Ukraine and other conflict-affected states.

Engaging Civil Society as a Path Forward

Considering the Czech NAP 1325 has many imperfections and little civil society ownership, it is likely that it could remain just a commitment on paper rather than a strategic tool supporting transformative changes in conflict-affected areas. By excluding the main actors targeted by UNSCR 1325, including women and grassroots organisations in conflict countries together with NGOs working directly with them, the potential for changes on the ground significantly decreases.  

According to a recent study on the implementation of UNSCR 1325 in 20 European countries, it appears that those NAP UNSCR 1325s that have been developed through inclusive processes in which civil society organisations were involved as advocates, drafters and implementers, have had a better chance of being implemented[18]. Furthermore, both critics and supporters of UNSCR 1325 share the perspective that the resolution’s emancipatory potential lies in its ability to empower grassroots women’s groups and peace initiatives[19]

The role of the civil society has so far been marginalized in the Czech government’s approach to UNSCR 1325. Yet, the GPS agenda is still in its infancy, partially explaining why links with civil society are still to be established. At present, it would be beyond comparison to look at the approaches of the Czech government and some of the leading promoters of GPS issues such as the Government of Sweden. Similarly, the involvement of civil society in the Czech context is very different to the more UNSCR 1325-experienced countries such as Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden or the UK, which have had strong civil society platforms on UNSCR 1325, and a flourishing academic research on the subject. In the Czech Republic, civil society and academic actors have yet to develop a deeper understanding and interest in GPS issues.

Although the subject of UNSCR 1325 has been regularly covered in Shadow Reports[20] and in several public events led by Czech civil society, advocacy attempts have not been as intensive and systematic. One of the key challenges to this is the lack of interest in the topic from women´s and gender organizations, which have been almost entirely preoccupied with national issues. Thus, advocacy efforts on UNSCR 1325 and on systematic inclusion of gender issues in general in Czech foreign policy have been limited to only few individuals working within the development NGOs and specialists’ communities[21], operating without a stronger civil society backing. However, even these joint advocacy initiatives in the form of analyses, comments and recommendations, were largely not reflected by the government in its preparation of the Czech NAP 1325.

Conclusion

Even with its weaknesses, the Czech NAP 1325 can be seen as a first attempt of the Czech Republic to approach the agenda of gender, peace and security and find a space for it in its foreign policy. The NAP 1325 preparation, implementation, annual monitoring and periodic revision can build capacities and awareness as well as more interest and confidence with the subject among all actors. Perhaps the new Working Group on Women, Peace and Security set up by the MFA may become a common forum for all relevant actors, including civil society and academia, for furthering the agenda on gender, peace and security.

 

However, while engaging with gender, peace and security, it should not be forgotten that this agenda is rooted in feminist power transformative vision and it should not be about ticking off the UN commitment box as completed.

The Czech Republic has now the opportunity to become the leading advocate on GPS within the group of the Central European countries. A brief scanning of the information available on GPS in the Central European context shows that this subject is almost non-existent throughout the region. The Czech Republic is the first country to have the NAP 1325, while Poland is currently drafting one[22]. A future research study focusing on gender, peace and security in the Central European context could enrich policy and practice in this area.

 

[1] This text is partially based on the authors’ previous analyses:

O’Sullivan, Míla – Šimůnková, Blanka. České bázlivé nakročení k celosvětové podpoře ženských práv Mezinárodní politika. ČR, 2017.

http://www.iir.cz/article/ceske-vahave-nakroceni-ke-globalni-podpore-zenskych-prav

O’Sullivan, Míla – Šimůnková, Blanka. Mezinárodní dimenze naplňování Pekingské akční platformy - Ženy, ozbrojený konflikt a mezinárodní rozvoj. In: Kubálková, Petra (ed.): Ženy a česká společnost: Hodnocení implementace pekingské akční platformy na národní a mezinárodní úrovni (Peking +20). Cats2cats, ČR, 2016. 

http://cats2cats.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/zeny-a-ceska-spolecnost-Peking20_final.pdf        

[2] United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325

[3]Akční plán ČR k implementaci rezoluce o ženách, míru a bezpečnosti. ČR, 2017.  http://www.mzv.cz/jnp/cz/udalosti_a_media/tiskove_zpravy/x2017_01_11_akcni_plan_cr_k_implementaci_rezoluce.html

[4] This text refers to Central Europe as to the countries of the Visegrad 4: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

[5] Development Cooperation Strategy of the Czech Republic 2010 – 2017. Czech Republic, 2010, p. 20 – 21. http://www.mzv.cz/file/762314/FINAL__Development_Cooperation_Strategy_2010_2017.pdf

[6] Development Cooperation Strategy of the Czech Republic 2010 – 2017. Czech Republic, 2010, p. 20 – 21. http://www.mzv.cz/file/762314/FINAL__Development_Cooperation_Strategy_2010_2017.pdf

[7] Human Rights and Transition Promotion Policy Concept of the Czech Republic 2015. Czech Republic, 2015.  http://www.mzv.cz/file/583273/Human_rights_and_transition_promotion_policy_concept_of_the_Czech_Republic_.pdf

[8] It is a coalition government led by the Social Democrats.

[9] Concept of the Czech Republic’s Foreign Policy. Czech Republic, 2015. http://www.mzv.cz/jnp/en/foreign_relations/policy_planning/concept_of_the_czech_republic_s_foreign.html

[10] Defence Ministry Action Plan to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325, on Women, Peace and Security. Czech Republic, 2015.  http://www.mocr.army.cz/assets/informacni-servis/povinne-informace/1-rovne-prilezitosti/defense-ministry-action-plan-to-implement-un-security-council-resolution-1325--on-women--peace-and-security.pdf

[11] NATO/EAPC Action Plan for the Implementation of the NATO/EAPC Policy on Women, Peace and Security, 2014.

[12] Information obtained by email from the MoD on June 29, 2015.

[13] The Government Council for Equality of Women and Men is the Czech government’s advisory body comprised also of members from civil society. 

[14] Implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Czech Republic – National Review, 2015, p. 23.

[15] Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.

[16] Non-govermental Organisations

[17] Akční plán ČR k implementaci rezoluce o ženách, míru a bezpečnosti. ČR, 2017, p. 13.  http://www.mzv.cz/jnp/cz/udalosti_a_media/tiskove_zpravy/x2017_01_11_akcni_plan_cr_k_implementaci_rezoluce.html 

[18] UNSCR 1325 IN EUROPE: 20 Case Studies of Implementation. Brussels: European Peacebuilding Liaison Office, 2013. http://www.c-r.org/downloads/EPLO_UNSCR_1325_Europe.pdf

[19] Klot, F. Jennifer (2015): UN Security Council Resolution 1325: A Feminist Transformative Agenda? In: Baksh R. and Harcourt W. eds. The Oxford Handbook of Transnational Feminist Movements. New York: Oxford UP, p. 740.

[20] Shadow Reports on CEDAW and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

[21] These include mostly the platform of the Czech Forum for Development Cooperation and the Institute of International Relations Prague. 

[22] Statement of Margareta Kassangana-Jakubowska, Deputy Permanent Representative of Permanent Mission of the Republic of Poland to the United Nations in New York, October 15, 2016. http://www.nowyjorkonz.msz.gov.pl/en/c/MOBILE/poland_in_the_un/speeches_and_documents/polish_voice_in_the_security_council_open_debate_on_women_and_peace_and_security