Carving out Meaningful Space for Justice in the Women, Peace and Security Agenda?

A Quick Backgrounder and Opportunities for 2020


By Kimberly Brown, Senior Program Officer

UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein

At the core of SDG16+ is the understanding that in order to enable a better and more sustainable future for all, peace, justice and inclusion cannot be seen as goals in isolation from other key objectives and priorities. 2020 is a pivotal year for the SDG16+ community, particularly as it pertains to the critical role of — and linkages with — gender equality.

This year the global community kicked off the Decade of Action to implement the 2030 Agenda, is taking stock of 25 years of progress on the blueprint for women’s rights via the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and is celebrating 20 years of implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 — which helped to define the women, peace and security agenda. All of these conversations are foundational to building more just, inclusive and peaceful societies, and provide the opportunity to take stock of tools and policy spaces to elevate the ways that gender equality is pivotal for the success of all global goals, and the opportunity for justice.

This is most easily illustrated by the cross-cutting “justice targets” for the Sustainable Development Goals set out in Agenda 2030 — where all have gender equality implications, and more than half directly reference the issue.

The Justice for All report launched by the Task Force on Justice reframes the justice for all agenda and sets out three policy recommendations moving forward for international and national stakeholders:

1. Resolve the justice problems that matter most to people;

2. Prevent justice problems and create opportunities for people to participate fully in their societies and economies; and

3. Invest in justice systems and institutions that work for people and that are equipped to respond to their need for justice.

Pathfinders consistently seeks to utilize transformative strategies, catalytic actions and critical enablers to push forward accelerated action on the SDG16+ agenda. Below are two prospects in the year ahead that can help accelerate action on Justice for All by strengthening partnerships and elevating the critical importance justice plays in the women, peace and security agenda.

1) Strengthen Preventative Role that Justice Plays in Women Peace and Security Agenda

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1325 in 2000, following engagement with the women’s movement civil society organizations, leadership by member states, and in coordination with the multilateral support of UN agencies. Since 2000, the 1325 WPS agenda has grown tremendously — with 9 subsequent resolutions deepening the responsibilities of states and non-state actors to meaningfully involve women in building peace and transformative justice processes. Furthermore, several of the resolutions as well as a plethora of policy documents surrounding the 1325 agenda clearly articulates the role of justice — which were underscored by the UN’s Global Study on the Implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325, Preventing Conflict, Transforming Justice, Securing the Peace.

Launch of the Global Study, Source: UN Women

The women, peace and security agenda seeks to prevent and end conflict, and the Justice for All framework can be a critical lever in supporting this agenda. It has repeatedly been noted that peace and justice are deeply interdependent, and reports underscore the role that perceived or actual injustice play in facilitating insecurity and violence around the world.[i] Key messages from the 2015 Study that directly resonate with the Agenda 2030’s Justice targets include:[ii]

  • The world has lost sight of some of the key demands of the women’s movement while advocating for the adoption of resolution 1325: reducing military expenditures, controlling the availability of armaments, promoting non-violent forms of conflict resolution, and fostering a culture of peace.
  • States that have lower levels of gender inequality are less likely to resort to the use of force. Stronger recognition is required of the depth of the influence of gender norms, gender relations and gender inequalities on the potential for the eruption of conflict.
  • Prevention requires both a short-term approach which includes women’s participation and gender-based violations within early warning measures, as well as longer term structural approaches to address the root causes of conflict, including inequality, and address new sources of conflict, including the impacts of climate change and natural resources.
  • Justice must be transformative in nature, addressing not only the singular violation experienced by women, but also the underlying inequalities which render women and girls vulnerable
  • The focus on impunity and perpetrators…must be matched by an equal focus on reparations, services, and redress for victims.
  • While investment has increased in ensuring informal justice systems deliver equal protection of rights for women and girls, this remains an under-resourced and under-serviced site of engagement.

What is the opportunity for 2020?

  • Bring people centered justice centerstage in WPS agenda, strengthening prevention element.
  • Ensure holistic approach to justice in new and updated versions of 1325 National Action Plans.

As the international community revisits the progress and challenges in implementing the women, peace and security agenda, strengthening the role that justice plays should take center stage in line with the SDGs. This includes harnessing the potential to foster synergies between national justice sector reform agendas and ongoing development or review processes of UNSCR 1325 National Action Plans.

1) Enriching the Evidence and Data Case

The Justice for All Report underscores how the persistent challenge of lacking people-centered data hinders the provision of quality access to justice in line with the six most prevalent justice problems that people face globally: “violence and crime, disputes involving land, housing or neighbors, unresolved family disputes, problems related to money, debt or consumer issues, or those related to access to public services, and legal needs related to employment or businesses.”[iii] There are significant improvements being made, including the Women, Peace, and Security Index.

In October 2019, the second Women, Peace, and Security Index was launched, strengthening the evidence driven approach to understanding the experience of women in 167 countries around the world.[iv] The WPS index is groundbreaking in that it provides a measured snapshot of women’s experiences around the world across three dimensions of their well-being and empowerment — covered by measures relating to inclusion, justice and security. Justice is given significant prominence in understanding the experiences of women — one-third of their wellbeing being attributed to the issue.

Justice, in the WPS Index, is defined using three indicators — legal discrimination (largely looks to the formal legal framework), son bias, and discriminatory norms. The index underscores that these indicators were chosen guided by six principles including: global relevance related to the SDGs, actionability, data availability, data quality, transparency, and statistical reliability.[v]

Source: 2019/2020 WPS Index

What is the opportunity for 2020?

  • Continue to advocate for improved justice data that represents the experiences of people.
  • Seize the opportunity to improve linkages between WPS and justice data.

The Justice for All report broadens our understanding of justice, with the aim of enriching the focus on people-centered experiences of justice systems and justice journeys. To help strengthen the powerful synergies between the women peace and security agenda and the justice sector, in its third edition, the WPS index should seek to explore the inclusion of additional indicators that aligns more closely to this expanded and nuanced understanding of justice.

This also underscores why we need the additional UN SDG 16.3 indicator to be approved by the UN Statistical Commission in March 2020, as it will infuse broader experiences of communities in the national and global reporting metrics for the SDGs than current indicators that focus largely on criminal justice.

The text of the indicator proposed by UNODC, UNDP, OECD and debated in October 2019 by the IAEG-SDGs is: Proportion of the population who have experienced a dispute in the past two years and who accessed a formal or informal dispute resolution mechanism, by type of mechanism civil justice also reflects where the majority of justice problems arise.

Countries can also complement the formal SDG indicator framework by adopting robust justice and WPS indicators in their national SDG indicators, allowing for better alignment to context and policy objectives.

[i] United Nations; World Bank. 2018. Pathways for Peace : Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict. Washington, DC: World Bank.;World Bank. 2011. World Development Report 2011 : Conflict, Security, and Development. World Bank.; Will Bennett and Thomas Wheeler, Justice and peace go hand in hand — you can’t have one without the other, The Guardian (26 October 2015)

[ii] Preventing Conflict, Transforming Justice, Securing The Peace: A Global Study on the Implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325, Chapter 5, Chapter 8,

[iii] Report of the Task Force on Justice, “Justice for All”, page 21, accessed January 23, 2020,

[iv] Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and Peace Research Institute Oslo. 2019. Women, Peace and Security Index 2019/20: Tracking sustainable peace through inclusion, justice, and security for women. Washington, DC: GIWPS and PRIO,

[v] Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and Peace Research Institute Oslo. 2017. Women, Peace and Security Index 2017/18: Tracking Sustainable Peace through Inclusion, Justice, and Security for Women. Washington, DC: GIWPS and PRIO,