Saturday, November 28, 2015

Women, Peace and Security and China - Possible Opportunity for Canada

The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of the Government of Canada.

This year marks the 15th Anniversary of UN Security Council Resolutionv(UNSCR) 1325 and the 20th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action that was adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. To mark these anniversaries and to prepare for the Security Council High-level Review on Women, Peace and Security, the Secretary-General has commissioned a Global Study on the implementation of UNSCR 1325, which was published in October 2015.  During the high level debate, and in the Global Study, it was clearly stated that international community is failing to implement the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda.

UNSCR 1325 calls for gender training in peacekeeping operations, gender mainstreaming in policies and programming, increased participation of women in all aspect of peace and security, and respect for women’s human rights. Canada took a lead role in the development and implementation of UNSCR 1325.

In June 2012, when China was the President of UN Security Council, China has indicated its support for UNSCR 1325. China also developed the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2012-2015) that contains a section on women’s rights.  Although the engagement with China on women’s rights will be difficult, China’s actions indicate that there may be opportunities for dialogue on this matter. Since Canada has been a leader in this area, we should re-engage with China and find opportunities to share our WPS-related knowledge and expertise and help China develop its own strategy to implement the WPS agenda.

Canada should open a dialogue with China about the possibility of creating a knowledge-exchange network that would help China address the objectives of UNSCR 1325, when it chooses to do so. Such a network would enhance Canada’s reputation as the leader on this subject matter and could help China improve human rights within its own territory and its interaction with a variety of countries abroad.

This knowledge exchange network would have the following advantages:
  • It would start a conversation about women’s rights in China, without creating any obligations for the Chinese government. 
  • It would create a stronger relationship between the two governments.
  • Showing support for UNSCR1325 would improve China’s relations with other countries, since many Western countries care about women’s rights, while remaining uncommitted to certain actions at home. 
  • It would demonstrate Canada’s continuing leadership in this area.
  • It would not be a financially costly initiative for either country.
The pitfall is the possible politicization of the network by Canada. Thus measures should be taken to ensure the network exists as a pool of information/expertise, rather than a political pressure tool.

It should also be noted that China has been very sensitive to calls for protection of women’s rights in international forums due to the fear that its support could jeopardize its sovereignty if the international community decides to go into China on the basis of women’s rights protection. Consequently, it is imperative for Canada to develop a diplomatic approach to engage with China on women’s rights issues. A knowledge-exchange network could potentially be the right approach.

China is also of the view that UNSCR 1325 should be applied externally, rather than within its borders for the above-mentioned reason. Canada's implementation of UNSCR 1325 is also outward facing (for a very different reason) thus knowledge exchange would be work well. For instance, China is heavily engaged in Africa, where women's right abuses are wide-spread, and contributes a lot of troops to peacekeeping. Therefore, there would be great benefit if China subscribes to the WPS agenda, even if it's only in outward facing manner at this point. 

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