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The Sustainable Development Goals: A Tool to Make a Difference for Women in Conflict

Putting people before profit and greed: this is the mission of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, launched in 2015. Together, these 17 Goals (or the “2030 Agenda”) challenge the world’s destructive systems, and they are the closest that the UN has ever gotten to a coordinated approach to equality, development, and peace.

Image credit: WILPF
WILPF International Secretariat
5 July 2019

Putting people before profit and greed: this is the mission of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), launched in 2015. Together, these 17 Goals (or the “2030 Agenda”) challenge the world’s destructive systems, and they are the closest that the UN has ever gotten to a coordinated approach to equality, development, and peace.

WILPF and the SDGs

In 2015,  we were thrilled to see specific goals for gender equality (SDG 5) and peaceful and inclusive societies (SDG 16) incorporated in the 2030 Agenda – and to see that the UN recognises  that gender equality and peace are necessary for development to happen. This is a big improvement over previous models, like the Millennium Development Goals, which mostly excluded conflict and gender. 

The SDGs have been criticised as “dreamy,” nothing more than a “high school wish-list for how to save the world.” But at WILPF, we think the SDGs have the potential to be truly transformative.

Why We Believe in SDGs

First, the SDGs have a feminist vision at heart. The SDGs include targets like ending discrimination and harmful practices against women and girls, and ensuring women’s full and effective participation. Gender issues are included across the goals. This is a huge victory for feminists, who worked hard to make this possible.

Second, the SDGs provide a solid framework for overcoming structural barriers. States commit to policy coherence across the goals. This means they should basically do gender, peace, and environment audits of everything that they do. Because SDG goals and targets are backed by monitoring and reporting obligations, we can use them to demand transparency and hold Member States accountable—to spotlight best practices, push back against retrogressive ones and call out complacency—and radically transform their behaviour.

Third, we can use the SDGs for conflict prevention. The SDGs create opportunities for shifting investment from political economies of war to peace and gender justice. And the world needs this now, more than ever: World military expenditure is estimated to have been $1,822 billion in 2018. Imagine what could be done with this money? We have. Our #MovetheMoney initiative calls on the United Nations and Member States to invest in gender-responsive budgeting, transparency in defense budgets, national action plans on Women, Peace, and Security, and civil society-inclusive UN funds.

We have the ideas and the solutions. Using the SDGs, we can urge States to implement them.

What We Do to Make SDGs Count

In order to make a difference in women’s lives, especially women in conflict-affected areas, WILPF has been advocating for effective implementation of the SDGs. This means, for example, that governments must consider gender and peace when addressing climate change and poverty. 

They must look at how arms transfers by developed countries affects gender-based violence and other forms of violence in other countries. They must not just do short-term projects, but address long-term structural issues. The list goes on, and there is much work ahead.

From 9-18 July, WILPF will be busy in New York, where we will be at the United Nations’ High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development to check the progress made towards the SDGs and to promote our values on peace.

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WILPF's believes the SDGs can be a powerful tool for preventing conflicts and sustaining peace. In oder to be successful, the SDGs should be implemented though a human rights framework that addresses other obligations, including disarmament, women's human rights and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.

We have developed the campaign #WomenLead2030, which we invite you to share on your social media.
This campaign highlights the work of local women throughout the world in building peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.

Access the full campaign package.

We will bring local expertise from women peacebuilders around the world to the HLPF in New York. Our members from UK WILPF, WILPF Cameroon, and WILPF US will be there together with Margrethe Tingstad, who is our Vice-President. Together, they will attend and speak at different events on how important it is for their countries to make peace a reality.

Together, our goals for this year are to place pressure on Member States to ensure sustainable development works for women and girls in conflict situations. This means addressing “spillover effects” of arms transfers on gender-based violence and increasing coordination and policy coherence. We will focus on SDG 16 on peaceful and inclusive societies and SDG 17 on means of implementation, and will put pressure on specific countries under Voluntary National Review, including Cameroon and the UK.

During the Forum, you can follow our activities on WILPF and PeaceWomen social media. We will also produce an analysis of what happened during the Forum with a focus on SDG16 and 17 soon, which we will share on this website and in our newsletter after the Forum.

Subscribe to our newsletter to get updates about the HLPF! 

If you are interested in learning more about our work on the SDGs, go to the peacewomen website.

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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.

Melissa Torres

VICE-PRESIDENT

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

VICE-PRESIDENT

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

PRESIDENT

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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Demilitarisation

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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