Evaluation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 in Serbia

By Kindyl Boyer Post date: Mar 21, 2014


Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (BFPE) is an NGO that focuses on equality and the provision of aid to groups who often fall victim to discrimination, such as women. Therefore, they were a main player in the creation of Serbia’s action plan for implementing the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 “Women, Peace, and Security” in 2010. Resolution 1325 called for a higher female participation in states’ security sectors and the protection of females during times of conflict against gender-based violence (“BFPE”). BFPE paired with Serbia’s Ministry of Defense (MO) to establish the state’s objectives and activities that would fulfill these objectives (Bjelos and Odanovic 10).

These activities covered a wide range of the actions that would be taken in order to make defense and security sectors more inclusive to women. Although the NAP was adopted, it took much longer for the institutions that would implement these activities to be set up. The institutions also found themselves lacking funding and enthusiasm;this was perpetuated by the NAP’s lack of transparency for they could not be held accountable for their inaction (“BFPE”) (Bjelos and Odanovic 18)

Although the BFPE and the MO have taken considerable action to come up with a NAP that would achieve the goals of Resolution 1325, progress still needs to be made. There has not been a momentous increase in the number of women in the defense and security sectors, despite higher awareness of why larger female participation is necessary. There has been a general rise in women holding higher positions in these sectors, but discriminatory practices have not been eliminated.The implementing institutions need to be more transparent and held accountable for their progress in fulfill the goals of Resolution 1325. If these objectives are realized, Serbia will not only see results domestically, they will be respected more internationally (Bjelos and Odanovic 12-13).

Background of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and Serbia

On October 31, 2000, the United Nations Security Council  (UNSC) adopted Resolution 1325. The vote to adopt this resolution was unanimous and demanded a greater recognition of women in the international and domestic dealings of peace and security. This resolution called for member states to encourage women to have a larger and more equal role in peace building and peacekeeping. It also addressed female rights and demanded the eradication of gender-based violence such as rape and sexual abuse in the context of armed conflicts (“Landmark resolution on Women, Peace and Security”).  It was deemed necessary due to the greater involvement of civilians in warfare, as targets, and the absence of female representation in peace negotiations. Without female representation in these decision-making positions, there would be a lack of understanding of the needs of a large percentage of a state’s population (“What is U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 and Why is it so Critical Today?”).

Although this resolution has been passed, there has been very little done in order to address this absence of women representation. Therefore, four years after the adoption of this resolution, member states and civil society were expected to construct a National Action Plan (NAPs) in order to effectively realize the resolution’s idea, as instructed by the UN Secretary-General.The NAP was expected to give countries a plan of how they are going to go about increasing the prominence of women in decision-making positions regarding peace and security. The NAP would be constructed to cover the four “pillars” of Resolution 1325. Resolution 1325 calls for augmented participationof women in security and peace institutions, protection against gender-based violence, prevention of gender-based violence, and relief and recovery or attending to the needs of females following a crisis (“What is U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 and Why is it so Critical Today?”) (“Landmark resolution on Women, Peace and Security”).

As one of 17 other countries, the Government of the Republic of Serbia adopted a NAP in order to set up guidelines of how the state would achieve the goals of Resolution 1325 (Licht 7). The NGO, BFPE, was most involved in the creation of Serbia’a NAP due to their overall mission of good governance and specific goal of reaching equal political participation of both men and women while fighting discrimination (“BFPE”).BFPE believed that this resolution was especially important for states emerging from war, which was the case with Serbia due to their involvement in the conflict concerning the territories of former Yugoslav. In order for their post-conflict reconstruction to be successful, all actors needed to be involved in the process, including women (Licht9). There were many indicators that there was a need for an effective implementation of Resolution 1325 in Serbia, some of these indicators include:

- The refugee situation in Serbia, where over half of the displaced persons were women and the impending return of displaced persons to Serbia;
- The concerning number of women who were attacked by their partners using personal firearms (Licht32);
- The low percentage of women training to be female professional soldiers;
- The low percentage of women(2.77%)who make up the Ministry of Interior’s management (Licht33).

Decisions about what is the best course of action in addressing these issues should be made by those who would be affected i.e. women, therefore there needs to be an increase in their representation at the decision-making level.

Analysis of why BFPE chose its specific direction of work in Serbia with the Ministry of Defense (MO)

In 2009, Serbia began work formulating its NAP with the help of BFPE (Licht10). Serbia was a post-conflict country and therefore in a transitional stage in its history, which provided a perfect opportunity to expand the role of women in the security sector (Licht9). The implementation of activities that would fulfill Resolution 1325’s goal would, as Sonja Licht, the author ofUnited Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 in Serbia- On Women, Peace and Security states, confirm Serbia’s intention to contribute actively to the processes of peace-building, stability and security, above all, in the immediate environment of the Southeast European region, as well as in entire Europe through a comprehensive process of European integrations and the world at large through its participation in peace support operations. (Licht10)

BFPE’s had began work on the project, The Role of Women in Building a New Security Paradigm in Serbia,focusing on women in the political field (NGO women activists and women involved in public administration) and applied their knowledge of this experience to the creation of the NAP (Licht12). Members of parliament, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Economy and Regional Development, the Ministry of Justice, the Centre for Civilian-Military Relations, the European Movement in Serbia, Atlantic Council of Serbia, the Faculty of Political Sciences, the Institute of International Politics and Economy, and journalists from RTS and Politika Daily were brought together to tackle the task of constructing the NAP (Licht12). Together, they analyzed past experiences of other countries and decided that a participatory method and interdepartmental approach would work best, meaning the inclusion of both the advising group as well as representatives from within the field that would be affected (Licht15). This called for an understanding of the current situation explained by female expertsand compilation of the general and specific objectives that would fulfill the provisions included in the Resolution (Licht15).

Due to the large amount of activities that would be directly related to Serbia’s Ministry of Defense, this administration was deemed “main implementer of the drafting process and proposer of the draft NAP,” (Licht19). Also included in this process along with the other administrations previously mentioned was the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, the Gender Equality Department, and representatives of citizens who are affected by Resolution 1325 (Licht 19).

Analysis of methodology used by BFPE and Serbia

Four objectives were laid out by the NAP and four “working groups” were organized to tackle these objectives.

These objectives included:
-  Increasing the participation and power of women in the processes of decision-making concerning defense and security;
-  Safeguarding equality of the sexes in peace negotiations and processes (Licht17);
-  Maintaining protection of women against discrimination and abuse of their rights;
-  Enhancing employment opportunities and conditions in the security sectorfor women (Licht18).

Working Group 1 focused on the “Role of Women in Decision-Making Process”(Licht35), Group 2: “Participation of Women in Conflict Resolution, Post-Conflict Situations and Peace Support Operations”(Licht45), Group 3: “Instruments of Legal Protection of Women”(Licht49), and Group 4: “Sensitization of Male and Female Members of Security Sector to Gender Issues”(Licht56). To satisfy these objectives the NAP drafting group pulled from previous policiessuch as the National Millennium Development Goals in the Republic of Serbia that assigned specific tasks such aseliminating economic inequalities of the sexes and generating a larger representation of women in politics, the Poverty Reduction Strategy (2002) that defines women as a part of “a vulnerable social group”, and other defense strategies (Licht30-31). They also broke these general objectives into specifics and listed activities that could realize these objectives. The intended results of what would indicate that the activities had been successful and how to recognize problems that may arise with these activities were included, as well (Licht43).

Working Group 1: Role of Women in Decision-Making Process

Group 1 addressed the issue of low representation of women in government decision-making positions as well as security managerial positions and the fact that little has been done to improve this. There objective was to change this by the, as the group stated, “creation of social, normative and institutional assumptions for increase of participation of women in decision-making,” (Licht37). One of their specific objectives focuses on the first part of the issue. They believed a top-down approach was necessary. Women are needed in higher, managerial positions in order to increase the female participation overall. Females at the lower level need representation in order to have their concerns recognized (Licht37). Gender equality must also become the norm; if this is a regularized policy the influence of women will be the same of men (Licht40). The increase of women overall in the security sector,as well as managerial positions, and the results of their work will be indicators that the objectives were achieved (Licht43).

Working Group 2: Participation of Women in Conflict Resolution, Post-Conflict Situations and Peace Support Operations

Following the conflict in former Yugoslavia, women were absent from the peace and conflict resolution procedures, despite the fact that they represented much of the victim population (Licht45). Group 2 addressed this issue by designing activities that would boost the part played by women in negotiation and conflict processes, not only by having a larger number of women involved but also by electing women to higher positions (Licht45-46). They also focused on how to go about incorporating gender perspective in these procedures (Licht46). The increase of women in these procedures and more emphasis on gender perspective would indicate success (Licht47).

Working Group 3: Instruments of Legal Protection of Women

Security and rights of women in Serbia are often jeopardized, especially post-conflict. There is little recognition or understanding of these violations of rights within higher levels of policy-making (Licht49). Group 3 focused on how Serbia could improve the level of human security and safeguard women’s rights against discrimination and gender-based violence (Licht51). This calls for a need to, as Group 3 states, “integrate human security and gender-based perspective into all societal policies,” and not tolerating “violation and threat to right and gender-based violence,” (Licht51-52).  Group 3’s other specific objective addresses the necessity of an effort to sensitize the community to the violation of women’s rights (Licht53). The adoption of policies and a lower statistic of women whose rights have been violated will indicate the success of these activities, among other indicators (Licht54).

Working Group 4: Sensitization of Male and Female Members of Security Sector to Gender Issues

Group 4 addressed the issue of discrimination in the security sector, such as the use of quotas at military and police academies and the low enrollment of women in these schools (Licht56). They produced a plan to increase and improve the employment of women in the security sector, as well as, to sensitize the security sector on these issues (Licht60). A higher percentage of female employees in the security sector and interestingly, the percentage of men, who take sick leave due to their child’s illness, are among the indicators of success of group 4’s objective (Licht62).

Short description of activities: what actually has been done

As mentioned previously, each group designed activities in order to fulfill their objectives. For Group 1 the activities were based on the two specific objectives: more female representation in the security sector and more female influence on decision-making (Licht39-40). The activities to fulfill the first objective included the establishment of norms and taking special measures to ensure that women would be equally represented, such as focusing on the application of the Gender Equality Act and educating security sectors on the importance of inclusion (Licht37). Unfortunately, since the adoption of the NAP in December 2010 to July 2012, Bjelos and Odanovic state, “a decrease of the number of women was registered both in the Ministry of Defence (MO) and the Serbian Armed Forces (VS) compared to 2010,” (Licht12). This was also the case with the percentage of women in managerial positions in the security sector, as well as, Serbian women in multinational procedures. There was a general trend of women within the security sector being appointed to higher positions (Bjelos and Odanovic 12).

Group 2’s activities were focused on women’s roles in peacekeeping missions or conflict resolution and also their need for support during times of conflict (Licht45). These activities included providing incentives for being peaceful, education on war crimes such as gender-violence, funding programs that will aid refugee women, and training programs that will facilitate the inclusion of women in conflict resolution (Licht46). Serbian women’s participation in conflict resolution has remained low. This can be partly blamed on the cultural norm that women’s only domain should be their homes where they are needed to care for their children, and they should not engage in a job that would require them to be far from their families for long periods of time. Prejudices in the security sector could be another contributing factor, for some may see working in the security sector as a job only suitable for men. Women also represent a small number of peacekeeping workers due to the fact that there are such a small number of women in the lower ranks. With the admission of more women into security schools and forces there will be a greater number of women engaging in conflict resolution missions (Bjelos and Odanovic 25).

Group 3’s activities must implement “gender-base perspective” into society as well as in the security sector, work to protect women from discrimination and violence, and sensitize the public on gender-based crimes. These activities work to include gender perspective in all policies, promote the importance of human security, work towards gender equality, eliminate discrimination with anti-discrimination acts, and break down gender stereotypes (Licht50-53). As mentioned above, gender stereotypes are still prominent in Serbian society and discrimination exists in the case of inclusion of women in arenas that are more often considered masculine (Bjelos and Odanovic 24, 27). Not only do women face discrimination upon entrance into the security force, but also MO and VS men are paid a third more than women (Bjelos and Odanovic 21). This discrimination stems from a lack of change in the prejudices against women as is indicated by the 70% of Serbian policewomen who feel they are not recognized for their achievements and 76% of policewomen who were offered sexual proposals by superiors (Bjelos and Odanovic 27-28).

Group 4’s activities address the need for measures to be taken in regard to women working in the security sector. Activities included, but were not limited to, removing quotas at security schooling, promote women enrolling in such schools or joining the security force, improve human resources management, evaluate admissions processes, the creation of “persons of trust” (someone women can reach out to about issues or questions), and creating a gender equality advisor position (Licht57-61). There has been an improvement in the level of gender equality in these military and police schools, but there is still an issue with some senior officials who are resistant to this kind of progress (Bjelos and Odanovic 12). The “persons of trust” has not been implemented yet due to the unclear job description of the position. The gender equality advisor was appointed in December 2011 and has worked diligently to give these activities momentum, such as figuring out how this “persons of trust” will be selected (Bjelos and Odanovic 16)

Difficulties/challenges in achieving the results

Over 100 activities based on each groups’ objectives were listed in the NAP. The large number of activities and lack of funding may have contributed to the difficulty in implementation, but the large delay in the state administrations engaging in these activities indicates that there has been a significant lack of enthusiasm. This was especially the case with the previous government for,it was not until ten months after the NAP was adopted that the implementing groups were organized. The following election also caused a delay in implementation for the new government needed time to establish itself and its agenda, leaving the NAP on the back burner (Bjelos and Odanovic 14).

“Gender responsive budgeting” was proposed to improve gender equality, yet only the Ministry of Defense has engaged in this budgeting and now administrations find they do not have enough funds to implement these gender equality activities (Bjelos and Odanovic 17). This could be a result of what many civil society organizations (CSOs) have not been pleased about, which is the fact that the implementation process of the NAP has been largely behind closed doors. The public does not have access to information on the progress of these activities, besides a small number of reports released by the Ministry of Defense and Serbian Armed Forces, and the CSOs believe this is hindering the progress of these activities (Bjelos and Odanovic 13). This can very well slow the progress of the NAP, for transparency allows the public to be aware of the happenings within government and this in turn pressures the government to behave, as the public believes it should.

There have also been insufficiencies in establishing clear indications that the activities are effective. Bjelos and Odanovic write, “common indicators for monitoring NAP implementation in all of the competent ministries and institutions are non-existent,” (18). Therefore, the ministries are reporting that they are implementing the activities, but there is no way of knowing if the activities are doing what they were intended to do. In June 2011, a list of indicators was created, but it has not yet been adopted by the administrations (Bjelos and Odanovic 18).

Results and impact in Serbia

Due to the significant difficulties of the NAP implementation, there have not been substantial results.There was a noticeable upward shift in the level of the position heldby womenin security and defense sectors and in the awareness of the need for more female participation (Bjelos and Odanovic 12). There has not been an increase in the number of women in the security sector and it is evident from the percentages mentioned before that prejudice and discrimination against women still exist (Bjelos and Odanovic 12). If Serbia were to be successful in the implementation of these activities and results were apparent, there would be large domestic and international benefits. The increased participation of women would bring about new ideas and Serbia would be respected for having a society that respects the rights of both men and women. This could even lead them to be considered as a potential new member of the EU (Licht9-10).


Overall, the process of the implementation of the NAP needs to be more transparent. With transparency, individuals and CSOs can apply pressure to the government to make the NAP for Resolution 1325 a priority. This can be achieved by having all involved institutions publicizing progress reports. Having a plan is the first step, but there needs to be significant pressure to turn this plan into action. After these activities have been implemented there needs to be a way to understand the effects of these activities, which can be done with a list of clear indicators that institutions should look for. The institutions should not stop after implementing an activity, there must be follow through and the results, whether successful or not, should be noted (Bjelos and Odanovic 18). 

As for the problem with persisting prejudice and discrimination, Bjelos and Odanovic state, “prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex or any other personal traits must be explicitly integrated in the laws and policy documents,” (36). The only way for men and women to experience equal representation in the security sector is if prejudice and discrimination are eliminated and the only way this can happen is by changing the norms of society. In order to change the norms, laws must be made that explicitly ban that behavior (Bjelos and Odanovic 36).