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2018 High-Level Political Forum: Global Circus or Lever for Feminist Peace?

As part of our work to strengthen holistic action that implements the SDGs for transformative action on disarmament, gender equality and peace, and mobilise awareness about the importance of local women’s peace work, WILPF engaged around the 9 to 18 July 2018 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF).

Image credit: WILPF
WILPF International Secretariat
25 July 2018

In 2015, the world’s governments adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a universal “2030 Agenda”, which has the potential to address the conflict prevention gap and move from political economies of war to political economies of peace and gender justice.

Three years after the SDGs were adopted, there are more opportunities for an integrated approach that addresses root causes than ever before. Yet on the big issues, we are going backward: this year the SDGs review took place just a week after the US President called for NATO members to double their military spending, and a just couple weeks before the day global consumption outpaces the regenerative reproduction capacity of our planet. This is not the world we want.

As part of our work to strengthen holistic action that implements the SDGs for transformative action on disarmament, gender equality and peace, and mobilise awareness about the importance of local women’s peace work, WILPF engaged around the 9 to 18 July 2018 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF). We monitored the Forum around gender, peace and means of implementation issues, launched the #WomenLead2030 Campaign, and worked with our coalition Women’s Major Group to push for the implementation of the SDGs to work for women in conflict.

Now, the Forum is over!

It is time to assess progress on building societies capable of sustainable development and peace. Addressing systemic barriers is particularly important, since the 2019 HLPF will review SDG 16 on peace, as well as be the first Quadrennial review of the HLPF process.

What Happened at the HLPF?

The 2018 HLPF convened under a theme “Transformation Towards Sustainable and Resilient Societies”. It focused on reviewing SDG priority goals on water (Goal 6), energy (Goal 7), cities (Goal 11), responsible consumption (Goal 12), forests (Goal 15), and partnerships/means of implementation (Goal 17).

As part of this, the HLPF included an opening segment, discussion reviewing each goal, and thematic reviews, as well as over a hundred of side events. Thematic discussions targeted issues such as building resilience, policy coherence, data and innovation for the SDGs. Side events addressed such issues as gender and energy, drought and migration, rights and meaningful participation and defending Human Rights Defenders (HRDs).

WILPF at the HLPF 2019

WILPF monitored the HLPF with a focus on gender, peace and means of implementation and mapped opportunities for strengthening the preparation and action ahead of 2019.

WILPF launched our #WomenLead2030 campaign to bring attention to the invisible work that women do every day for peace, nonviolence, and justice. Building on this, we contributed to the TAP Network consultations for the SDG Accountability Handbook to share good practices from WILPF on engaging media, advocating for gender-sensitive national policies, ensuring accountability for arms transfers and corporate militarisation, as well as building movements for peace.

With our coalition, the Women’s Major Group, WILPF worked to ensure that the 2018 HLPF Ministerial Declaration recognised that sustainable development cannot be realised without peace and security and that peace and security will be at risk without sustainable development. We supported Women’s Major Group statements in the official programme, as well as advocacy materials. Our messaging addressed current spending patterns on privatisation, militarisation and arms trade, as well as conditionalities linked to funding provided by international financial institutions (IFIs), to mobilise action to #MoveTheMoney from war and violence towards the realisation of human rights and gender equality.

Ministerial Declaration

The HLPF concluded by adopting a negotiated ministerial declaration. This reaffirms member state commitment to realising the 2030 Agenda and leaving no one behind, and raises key issues to be considered in the 2019 HLPF modalities review.

The Group of 77 event held on the sidelines of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), under the theme “Innovative practices for the financial inclusion and economic empowerment of women especially rural women: Lessons from the South” (UN Photo/Loey Felipe)

As part of this, the 2018 HLPF Ministerial Declaration recognises the interlinkages between peace and sustainable development and affirms peaceful, just and inclusive societies based on respect for human rights is necessary for sustainable development (para. 12). It calls upon Member States and relevant stakeholders to redouble efforts to resolve or prevent conflict and to support post-conflict countries, including by ensuring that women have a role in peacebuilding and state-building. While Russia called for a vote on the paragraph affirming gender equality, Canada led cross-regional affirmation of its inclusion and the declaration retained this commitment to gender equality and reinforcing the linkages between SDG 5 and the other SDGs.

However, the Ministerial Declaration still had gaps on the importance of engaging with civil society, defending defenders, and as well as concrete action to address structural gaps for implementation and accountability.

Call to Action

The 2018 High-Level Political Forum has demonstrated that the 2030 Agenda provides a unique space to bring diverse constituencies together and mobilise action that creates a new kind of economic development that promotes women’s human rights and protects the environment. However, as the Women’s Major Group has noted, HLPF discussions today seem more like a circus where poor countries beg for funding from donors. This must not continue.

Realising the transformative intent of the SDGs requires recognising that people are not just left behind by accident: They are excluded as a matter of design. This exclusion is due to policies and priorities that prioritise patriarchal power over people and planet. To improve people lives, we need to disarm violence, invest in gender justice, and build economies and political governance for feminist peace.

As we prepare for the 2019 review of SDG16, we invite you to call on leaders who are leaders on SDG16 and who are under review in 2019 to put implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda at the heart of their action on peaceful societies:

  • Governments should commit to concrete steps to implement the WPS Agenda as part of commitments to mobilise further action to accelerate implementation of SDG16 at the UNGA Ministerial Review September 2019
  • Governments should commit to reporting on WPS implementation at the July 2019 HLPF and to making concrete steps to implement the WPS Agenda at the September 2019 UNGA Ministerial Review as part of commitments to mobilise further action to accelerate implementation of SDG16
  • Governments should refrain from justifying military aid towards fulfilment of their obligations on SDG16
  • Governments should report on the extraterritorial impact of policies on women and girls, including on arms exports, consistent with the Arms Trade Treaty and SDG16.2 as part of their VNR process to strengthen policy coherence and extraterritorial accountability
  • Governments should integrate human rights reviews and address civil society shadow reports on human rights as part of the VNR process to strengthen policy coherence and human rights accountability
  • Governments should address barriers to women civil society participation including by democratising spaces at local, national, regional and global levels on SDG design, monitoring and implementation, consistent with Rio Principle 10; this should include strengthening core, ongoing funding for local women civil society and strengthening regional civil society engagement mechanisms
  • International Financial Institutions should refrain from pushing for austerity measures and instead support an economic model that supports people, communities and territories, including by supporting social safety nets to ensure women’s economic, social and cultural rights, and gendered reparations to promote justice and address harms of militarism and war

For more information, download the full blog in PDF: HLPF2018 Blog PDF

Check the Activist Toolkit for the HLPF that we put together to mobilise recognition of local women’s work and strengthen action that implements the SDGs.

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WILPF International Secretariat

WILPF International Secretariat, with offices in Geneva and New York, liaises with the International Board and the National Sections and Groups for the implementation of WILPF International Programme, resolutions and policies as adopted by the International Congress. Under the direction of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat also provides support in areas of advocacy, communications, and financial operations.

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Thank you!

Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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