Gender - Elcano Royal Institute empty_context Copyright (c), 2002-2018 Fundación Real Instituto Elcano Lotus Web Content Management <![CDATA[ Women, gender and think tanks: political influence network in Twitter 2018 ]]> 2019-03-31T09:04:53Z

What are the relationships and networks of gender studies and women specialists within the global network of political influence on Twitter?


What are the relationships and networks of gender studies and women specialists within the global network of political influence on Twitter?


The presence of women in think tanks is still lower than that of men but, in addition, female influencers seem to be less influential in Twitter than their male counterparts. In addition, gender studies are hardly taken into account in the different fields of the analysis of international relations.

During 2018 we have monitored the network of relationships of the world’s leading think tanks and some of its analysts and have added a small network of gender research centres and activists, and women analysts interested in these issues. Our representation of reality, however, gives rise to certain questions: how large is the female presence in think tanks?; how do gender studies relate to the rest of the international relations field?; and how does the gender focus flow within the network?


As Mary Beard describes in Women and Power, women have been taught to remain silent since ancient times. The British scholar brilliantly traces the reason why female voices have traditionally been ignored in the public sphere by recounting how, in ancient Greece, Telemachus, son of Odysseus, orders his mother to remain silent because ‘speech will be the business of men’. According to Beard,

‘… it is a nice demonstration that right where written evidence for Western culture starts, women’s voices are not being heard in the public sphere. More than that, as Homer has it, an integral part of growing up, as a man, is learning to take control of public utterance and to silence the female of the species.’1

Quite a few centuries later, the presence of women in the public debate, despite significant progress in the past few decades, is still limited. This has a direct impact on their visibility, which, in turn, relates directly to their capacity to exert influence. The situation is more than evident even in disciplines in which women outnumber men.

Journalism is one of them. There are more women in schools of journalism and newsrooms than ever. In Spain, for instance, women account for 60% of Information Science students and half the staff of most media outlets. However, they only hold 10.9% of the leading positions in printed media and a slim 3.9% in digital media; when it comes to their role as columnists and opinion-makers, only 21% of the opinion pieces in the Spanish press are written by women. These figures are not very different from the European average of 23%.

It is similar in the academic realm: more than half the students in Spanish universities, around 40% of lecturers and 21% of professors are women. However, the higher the position, the smaller the number of women, with only 20% of deans being female.

The think-tanks world is no exception. When Anne-Marie Slaughter (@SlaughterAM) became the head of the New American Foundation in 2013, only seven of the 50 most important think tanks in the US were run by women according to Foreign Policy Magazine. In Spain, there has never been one.

A good number of surveys and reports show that women are less cited in academic papers than their male counterparts. Dion, Sumner & Mitchell, for example, show that ‘Accumulated evidence identifies discernible gender gaps across many dimensions of professional academic careers including salaries, publication rates, journal placement, career progress, and academic service and recent work in political science also reveals gender gaps in citations, with articles written by men citing work by other male scholars more often than work by female scholars’.2

Similarly, Maliniak, Powers & Walker, who have studied the specific case of International Relations, find that ‘Research produced by a woman will be read less and cited less than research produced by a man. Not only does this mean that the trajectory of intellectual developments will be slower than it should be, but it means that the types of topics and methods being showcased in journals and on syllabi are likely to be skewed toward those favoured and pursued by men’.3

One of the significant reasons the authors identify for their findings is that women tend to cite themselves less than men, which clearly has an impact on their capacity to be more cited by others.

A few years ago, various movements started to claim a greater presence of women in expert panels. Several well-known authors ‘rebelled’ against the lack of women at the annual World Economic Forum at Davos. Others, like Owen Barder, Director for Europe of the Center for Global Development, set up initiatives such as ‘The pledge’, inviting the expert community not to take part in events without women; many others followed. Lists of female experts have also been collected extensively. A pioneer case was Hay mujeres, a Chilean foundation which offers advice and training for expert women to appear in the media. More recently, in 2018, the office of the European Parliament in Spain launched the initiative #DóndeEstánEllas (‘Where are the women?’) with a similar intention.

The number of women in politics varies enormously from country to country and is not covered here. The introduction of quotas and laws to guarantee a significant presence of women in national parliaments and governments has been critical to improving figures in this respect. The Spanish Parliament, with more than 40% of women among its members, is one of the countries with the largest percentage, behind only Sweden and Finland.

But returning to our topic, be it in the academic realm, in the world of experts or in politics, the link between visibility and influence seems more than obvious: in order to achieve the latter, experts need to make their voices heard.

Over the past decade, Twitter has become a forum where political ideas and influence have found a new channel and new forms of expression. How think tanks behave and relate amongst themselves and with other actors in the new digital arena has been the scope of different pieces of research by the Elcano Royal Institute in previous years.

In such an exercise, together with the papers by the Elcano Royal Institute, the online magazine esglobal published a special dossier that includes two rankings: one with the most influential think tanks and one with the most influential think-tanks experts in Twitter.

In 2018 a Twitter conversation was initiated about the small number of women in the latter ranking, generating a good number of interactions. That conversation is the starting point of this paper. This time the focus of research is therefore twofold: on the one hand, the place, relations and networks of female think-tank experts in Twitter; on the other, the relationships and networks of gender studies and specialists within the global network of political influence in that universe.

The global think-tank network

At the beginning of the 21st century, the number of think tanks increased significantly worldwide, especially in the US. Think tanks are research and analysis-oriented organisations in the fields of international relations and public policies whose aim is to influence different players who intervene in decision-making processes. Influence, presence and power are all concepts used in the analysis of international relations. Unlike presence and power, however, influence needs to generate trends through ideas or ideology.

In that respect, we designed our political influence network of think tanks in Twitter following the one published in 2015 by Manfredi, Sánchez & Pizarro.4 We have added to that network a number of researchers and analysts linked to different institutions, since they help to disseminate and to strengthen the political message beyond the political realm.

The resulting network comprises 799 active Twitter accounts of think tanks and think-tank experts and analysts (Figure 1).

Having framed our network as the context in which we observe political influence in Twitter, we have gathered activity data for three specific periods along the course of 2018: March, August and November. The result is a total of 284,700 relationships, of which 248,033 are tweets, retweets, mentions and conversations (replies). The other 36,667 correspond to Twitter interactions that took place before 2018 and 2017. The bulk of the activity measured (87.12%) can thus be dated throughout 2018 and be used to draw the relationship map of that year.

In our network of influencers in Twitter (Figure 1), which has become our representation of reality, how large is the female presence?, what kinds of relationships between men and women are established in a specialised network such as this?, how do gender studies relate to the rest of the international relations field’ and how does the gender focus flow within the network?

Apart from looking at the number and interaction of women in our network, in order to introduce the role of gender in our study we have also added a small network of 15 gender research centres, which include UN Women and specialists in gender issues and international relations. This will allow us to analyse the behaviour of gender studies in the larger network as well as the gender gaps that emerge in international relations and area studies.

Figure 1. Global political influencer network
Figure 1. Global political influencer network
Source: Information & Documentation Service, Elcano Royal Institute.

When measuring network modularity, we can see that 92% of the network is distributed in five modules or sub-networks: International Relations, Gender, Development, In Spanish and ECFR. We understand modularity as the ability of a network to be seen as a union of several modules, sub-networks, clusters or communities that interact with each other and shape a common logic within the global network. Each module/cluster has specific and differential features in comparison to other modules/clusters while maintaining its relation to the global network.

Women, gender, think tanks and Twitter

One of the outcomes of including gender as a specific field is that the geographical element –key in previous editions of the study– fades away, while the network becomes more polarised and also more global. This is directly linked to the weight of global influencers such as UN Women, Human Rights Watch (HRW), ECFR and Crisis Group, which become important nodes (Figure 2).

Gender studies appear to be isolated in relation to the other fields of activity within the realm of think tanks. Gender is of interest mostly to gender specialists and perhaps to a few experts and institutions dealing with human rights and development.

Figure 2. Gender cluster relations map
Figure 2. Gender cluster relations map
Source: Information & Documentation Service, Elcano Royal Institute.

Our on-line global network of political influence reflects a similar proportion of female presence to that seen in other areas in the offline world: it hardly reaches a quarter of the total on average (see Figure 4: 22.03% women, yellow; 32.29% men, green; and 45.71% institutions, blue).

Looking at our Political Women Influencer Network we can see that Women (yellow nodes) are in the majority in the upper part of the graph, dominated by gender studies, development and human rights. Meanwhile, the global cluster is dominated by institutions devoted to International Relations, security issues and the international economy, while female influencers (in yellow) are very scarce at the centre of the graph.

Figure 3. Political women influencer network
Figure 3. Political women influencer network
Source: Information & Documentation Service, Elcano Royal Institute.

The list of the top 10 women influencers shows a mix between gender specialists and IIRR and area experts:

Figure 4. Top 10 women influencers
Influencer Twitter Institution Research area Weighted indegree
Judy Dempsey @Judy_dempsey Carnegie Europe International Relations 1194
Phumzile Mlambo @phumzileunwomen UNWOMEN Gender 1038
Leyla Hussein FRSA @leylahussein The Girl Generation Gender 1036
Helen Clark @helenclarknz Former UNDP Development


Kate Andrews @kateandrs Institute of Economic Affairs International Economy 870
Florence of Arabia @florencegaub EU Institute for Security Studies Middle East & North Africa 750
Katja Iversen @katja_iversen Women Deliver Gender 718
Tamara Cofman Wittes @tcwittes Brookings Institute International Relations


Malala Yousafzai @malala Malala Fund Public Policy 641
Melinda Gates @melindagates Fundación Bill & Melinda Gates Development 609
Note: the ranking depends of the weighted indegree according to relations. Source: Information & Documentation Service, Elcano Royal Institute.

The weighted indegree is the variable that helps measure and compare influence. The weighted indegree looks at each influencer’s activity as well as at his or her impact on the global network; it varies according to the kind of activity registered by each influencer in Twitter (Follow 1; Tweet 2; Retweet 3; Mention 4; and Reply to 6).

What happens when comparing the level of influence of these women with the list of the top 10 male influencers? (Figure 5)

Figure 5. Top 10 male influencers
Influencer Twitter Institution Research area Weighted indegree
Kenneth Roth @kenroth Human Rights Watch International Relations 1265
Mark Leonard @markhleonard ECFR International Relations 1258
Sam Bowman @s8mb Adam Smith Institute International Economy 1033
Andrey Baklitskiy @baklitskiy PIR Center - Russia Security 967
Charles Grant @cer_grant Centre for European Reform European Issues 918
Tony Mwebia @tonymwebia Women Deliver Gender 887
Dmitri Trenin @dmitritrenin Carnegie Moscow Security 871
Charles Powell @charlestpowell Elcano Royal Institute International Relations 859
Sinan Ulgen @sinanulgen1 Edam - Turkey Security 839
Michael Clemens @m_clem Center for Global Development Development 836
Note: the ranking depends of the weighted indegree according to relations. Source: Information & Documentation Service, Elcano Royal Institute.

The initial impression is that the difference in influence between men and women is relatively small (barely 100 points) considering the larger presence of men in the global network.

However, extending the analysis to the top 100 women and top 100 men, the gap keeps growing: while the women’s weighted indegree is around 480 points, the men’s is at around 622 points.

Female influencers therefore seem to be less influential in Twitter than their male counterparts.

The International Relations/Global Cluster

This cluster covers most of the disciplines that traditionally fall under the international relations label. It accounts for 44.56% of the total network and includes 130 male and 31 female influencers and 195 institutions. Among the women, Judy Dempsey (Carnegie Europe), Tamara Cofman Wittes (Brookings Institution), Jane Kinninmont (Chatham House), Elvire Fabry (Jacques Delors Institute) and Natalie Sambhi (Perth USAsia Centre) stand out, all of them devoted to the analysis of international relations and area studies. Only one is associated with gender issues, Alicia Wittmeyer, the gender editor at The New York Times.

Geographically, this cluster is mostly placed in Europe and the US. Content-wise, foreign policy, international security and international relations at large in the European, US and global arena are the broad areas of work for the experts and institutions included in it. The dominant approach is European but there are also transatlantic and global perspectives.

Despite the majority of the nodes being European, influence lies predominantly in US institutions, especially think tanks with a global reach and working on traditional hard-power issues, which is reflected in the list of the 20 most influential. Washington appears as the undisputed centre for ideas and influence in the US; on the other side of the Atlantic, however, European influence is distributed between different capitals (London, Brussels, Stockholm, Berlin… and, interestingly, Warsaw).

Figure 6. Top 20 international-relations cluster influencers
  Influencer Twitter Country Geographical Scope Indegree
1 Int Crisis Group @crisisgroup US Global 3008
2 Brookings Institution @brookingsinst US Global


3 Chatham House @chathamhouse UK Global 2186
4 Carnegie Endowment @carnegieendow US Global 1945
5 CSIS @csis US Global 1942
6 SIPRI @sipriorg Sweden Global 1664
7 Council on Foreign Relations @cfr_org US Global 1609
8 European Policy Centre @epc_eu Belgium Europe 1580
9 German Marshall Fund @gmfus US Global 1551
10 Atlantic Council @atlanticcouncil US US 1446
11 Brookings Foreign Policy @brookingsfp US US 1381
12 Carnegie Europe @ carnegie_europe Belgium Europe 1354
13 US Institute of Peace @usip US Global 1348
14 Ifri Paris-Bruxelles @ifri_ France Global 1340
15 Polish Institute of International Affairs @pism_poland Poland Europe 1313
16 The Wilson Center @ thewilsoncenter US US 1280
17 Judy Dempsey @judy_dempsey Belgium Europe 1194
18 RAND Corporation @ randcorporation US US 1133
19 Peterson Institute @ piie US Global 1105
20 SWP Berlin @swpberlin Germany   1050
Note: the ranking depends of the weighted indegree according to relations. Source: Information & Documentation Service, Elcano Royal Institute

The narrow link between gender and development

The Gender cluster accounts for 19% of the total network (152 nodes). Most of the influencers are female experts (98) working on gender and public policies. Some of them, though, also work on gender and development.

To identify gender influencers we have applied the same Snowball methodology used to form the global network in 2015. Taking UN Women as the main seed, and adding think tanks as well as analysts and activists in gender issues, we have obtained a small network of 15 think tanks and institutions. None of these organisations is included in James McGann’s Globalgotothinktanks Index in its latest edition (2018). Throughout the ranking there are only two think tanks focused on gender issues: the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), in the US; and the Center of Arab Women for Training and Research, in Egypt, which does not have a Twitter account (and therefore cannot be included in this study).

Why does a survey on political influence experts and think tanks not deliver any results in terms of gender issues? Without a deeper knowledge of the answers to this year’s survey we can only assume two possible reasons: either there are failures in the sample’s composition or the sample is correct but gender is not part of its core interests.

Besides, we would need to know how many women there are among the respondents to the 2018 survey, and how many of them are focused on issues outside the more classic ones in international relations.

The main links of the gender cluster with the rest of the network are HRW and Kenneth Roth (HRW’s Executive Director), who help disseminate both information and influence from this sub-network to the rest.

Other actors in that segment are Open Society, the International Peace Institute and The Institute of Development Studies, together with UN Women; among experts, Helen Clark also plays that role. The profile of institutions and individuals reinforces the assumption of the link between gender and development. These are the influencers who attract the greatest activity within the network (retweets and mentions) too.

Among the 103 influencers in gender studies or policies, Leyla Hussein (FRSA) has the largest ‘betweenness centrality’ (interconnection), only behind UN Women but in front of Joanna Maycock, of the European Women’s Lobby and Katja Iversen, of Women Deliver. Hussein is thus one of the few activists in gender issues that have some influenceover the rest of the network. She brings distant influencers throughout the network closer thanks to her relations with significant think tanks, such as HRW and Women Deliver, and with UN Women.

Her dominant position within the gender cluster increases her global influence beyond that module. Added to that, the content shared by the rest of the global network reaches other gender influencers in a faster way if it reaches Leyla Hussein beforehand, which specially benefits the development and the international relations clusters (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Influencers with largest ‘betweenness centrality’ (interconnection) within the gender cluster
Figure 7. Influencers with largest ‘betweenness centrality’ (interconnection) within the gender cluster
Source: Information & Documentation Service, Elcano Royal Institute.

Influence in Spanish

Unlike in the rest of the network, where English is the undisputable leader, in this cluster Spanish is the main language. It includes 108 nodes (13.52% of the total network) with three standing out amongst them: the Real Instituto Elcano (RIE), CIDOB and the Pew Research Center (PRC) –which does not tweet in Spanish but maintains interesting relationships with the cluster–. The main Latin American influencers are also part of this sub-network (see Figure 8).

As for experts, Charles Powell (RIE), Eduard Soler (CIDOB) and Conrad Hackett (PRC) are the most significant nodes in this very institutionalised cluster.

Figure 8. Network of political influencers in Spanish, on Development and ECFR
Figure 8. Network of political influencers in Spanish, on Development and ECFR
Source: Information & Documentation Service, Elcano Royal Institute.

CIDOB and RIE, along with Conrad Hacket (PRC) provide the interconnectivity with the rest of the global network. Women account for a mere 17% of it whereas the gender focus becomes diluted amidst other political issues. In that regard Latin America has traditionally been a nest for projects linking gender and development. There is also a small link with Turkey, due to the regular activity of IEMed, Eduard Soler and Haizam Amirah-Fernández (RIE)

On development

This sub-network (81 nodes, 10% of the global network) includes by and large institutions devoted to research on development in its most classical economic approach, with some also working on global ethics and human rights (Figure 8). The most important node is The International Development Research Center, while the Overseas Development Institute (ODI, London) and the Center for Global Development (Washington) play the role with the rest of the network. Very few women are part of this cluster (14.81% vs 29.63% for men). The most active female expert is Isabelle Ramdoo, of the International Institute for Trade & Sustainable Development, who, however, does not have a significant position in the global network.

Despite the traditional relation between gender and development, as mentioned above, there are no influencers specialised and working on the subject in this group. Most of the institutions, however, include gender with a transversal approach in their research, and some of them have specific departments or specialists among their researchers (although they may not have a significant activity on Twitter).

A network of its own: ECFR

The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) constitutes a network on its own in the offline world and in Twitterland too (Figure 8). Devoted to EU foreign policy, it has offices in a good number of European capitals. Most of its researchers and heads of office are very active on Twitter, feeding their relationships as individuals, those of their respective offices and also those of the ECFR network. Other European influencers are interconnected with this module as well.

At the same time, it interconnects –thanks also to the role of Mark Leonard, Director of ECFR– with the larger module of international relations on the one hand, and with the module in Spanish on the other.

This sub-network shows a lack of women –despite ECFR having several significant female researchers– and of gender specialists.


With a few exceptions, female think-tank experts have less influence in Twitter than their male counterparts. One very simple reason may be that the number of women in our data base (comprised by individuals and institutions) includes fewer women than men. Also, that those who have been included generate less interconnections, which, in turn, might be somehow related to the smaller number of women in executive –and therefore more visible– positions in think tanks.

Nevertheless, it can be said that we have feminised our classic global network of political influencers by introducing the small gender network we have identified, despite the continuing existence of gaps in the influence of gender and women in politics even after including the gender presence into our representation of reality.

As the analysis of the weighted indegree shows, except for a very limited number of women at the top of the influencers list, female experts have less influence in the digital world than their male counterparts. Even if Twitter lives as a parallel universe, in this case its patterns seem similar to that of the ‘real’ world.

Another conclusion is that gender studies generate a conversation in Twitter which is almost isolated from the mainstream. Gender issues seem to be of interest mostly to women experts, which, again, follows the same trend as the offline world. The area with which gender specialists are more interconnected is development, reinforcing the common assumption of the traditional links between both fields (aspects such as gender equality and women’s rights being key elements of development policies).

On the other hand, our map shows that gender is not an area of work within the classical analysis of international relations; the gender approach, via gender influencers, only reaches the network through global institutions working on development and human rights.

There is clear room for improvement here for the gender agenda to become part of the global conversation, which may also explain why gender, as a field of study, has not been able to reach larger parts of the expert world or society at large. A more recent trend points to the need to include a gender approach in all other fields of research and disciplines, in a more transversal way.

Cristina Manzano
Director of esglobal | @ManzanoCr

Juan A. Sánchez-Giménez
Head of the Information Service at the Elcano Royal Institute | @Elcano_Juan

1 Mary Beard (2017), Women & Power: A Manifiesto, Liveright Nort (EPub), London.

2 Michelle L. Dion, Jane Lawrence Sumner & Sara McLaughlin Mitchell (2018), ‘Gendered citation patterns across political science and social science methodology fields’, Political Analysis, vol. 26, p. 312–327, doi:10.7910/DVN/R7AQT1.

3 Daniel Maliniak, Ryan Powers & Barbara F. Walter (2013), ‘The gender citation gap in international relations’, International Organization, nr 67, p 889-922, doi:10.1017/S0020818313000209.

4 Juan Luis Manfredi-Sánchez, Juan Antonio Sánchez-Giménez & Juan Pizarro-Miranda (2015), “Structural analysis to measure the influence of think tanks’ networks in the digital era”, The Hague Journal of Democracy, nr 10, p. 363-395, doi 10.1163/1871191X-12341320.

<![CDATA[ Gender equality in Trump’s America ]]> 2018-03-16T06:51:21Z

What has been the impact of Donald Trump’s decisions and public policies on the rights and liberties of women during the first year of his Presidency?

Original version in Spanish: La igualdad de género en la América de Trump.


What has been the impact of Donald Trump’s decisions and public policies on the rights and liberties of women during the first year of his Presidency?


During his first year, President Trump overturned a number of measures approved by his predecessor for fighting against gender inequality, a significant problem in the US. His government has suspended numerous measures against labour and salary discrimination, sexual harassment in the workplace and sexual abuse in schools and universities, along with other policies guaranteeing sexual and reproductive rights to women (including US government support for the UN Population Fund). The intense social and political mobilisation of women (in particular) that has responded to this rollback of protections could translate, via the midterm elections in November, into a much stronger presence of women in the institutions of a country currently falling far short of gender equality in politics and whose society appears intensely divided on this issue.


The gender gap, even larger in 2017

Although no country in the world has yet managed to completely close the gender gap, the US does not belong to the small group of countries that have come the closest to achieving this goal. The Davos World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Report on the Gender Gap,1 ranks the US as 49th of 144 countries included in the study (Spain occupies position number 24). Although this 2017 position is like that of the 2016 report (which ranked the US 45th of 144 countries),2 dit is a significant retreat compared with the 2015 edition of the report, in which the US was ranked 28th out of the 145 countries analysed.3In only two years the US has dropped 21 positions in the ranking.

Figure 1. Global gender gap ranking, 2017-15

  2017 2016 2015


 49  45  28


 24  29  25

Source: the author based on data from the Global Gender Gap Report 2015, 2016 y 2017.

The results of the ‘political empowerment’ sub-index were even worse: the U.S. dropped to number 96 in this ranking (Spain is 22nd), falling 20 places from the previous year. The scant presence of women in this regard is a common feature of both the legislative (the House of Representatives and Senate) and executive (Federal and state) branches.

Figure 2. Global gender gap report: US ‘political empowerment’ sub-index ranking, 2017-15

  2017 2016 2015

Political empowerment

96 73 72

Source: the author based on data from the Global Gender Gap Report 2015, 2016 y 2017.

Although the US has closed the gender gap in education (as have 26 other countries, including Canada, France, Israel, the Netherlands, Brazil, Ireland, Australia, Belgium, Cuba and Finland, among others) and now ranks 19th in the economic opportunities sub-index (which measures the percentage of women in the working population, salary equality and professional position), the poor ranking in political empowerment suggests that despite achieving the equality of men and women in education, persistent barriers continue to block women from political power.

With respect to the legislative power, there has barely been any progress at all in recent years. The presence of women in the US Congress is far from gender parity. There are only 104 congresswomen –20 Senators (or 20% of the total) and 84 Representatives (19%)– and the number has not changed since 2015. Progress has been relatively limited, rising from 3% in 1971 to only 19% today.

Figure 3. Women in the US Senate (% of total)
Figure 4. Women in the US House of Representatives (% of total)

Women are even less present in the executive branches of the 50 state governments: only four governors are women, a mere 8% at this level of political responsibility.

Figure 5. Female US State Governors (% of total)

The gap is also notable in President Trump’s cabinet and administration: there are only three female Secretaries (of the Interior, Transportation and Education) compared with 13 men (occupying posts like Defence, State, Treasury and Justice).

Figure 6. Women in ministerial-level positions (%)

According to the most recent data available,4of the 410 positions requiring Senate approval for which Trump has made nominations, only 21% are women (while 79% have been men). Although Obama did not achieve parity in the appointments of Administration officials, he appointed women to 43% of the positions (and men to 57%). It is worth remembering in this regard that the US labour force, according to World Bank data, is 46% female and 54% male.

Given that the gender gap in political participation is already significant, any deterioration in female presence has a major impact. Furthermore, the gap in this realm requires proactive measures, sustained over time, to achieve and consolidate the presence of women in positions of political responsibility.

Dismantling the Obama agenda: the rollback of women’s rights and liberties

Key issues –like wage and salary equality, paid maternity leave (only 25% of women enjoy this right in the US, the only developed country that does not guarantee it), sexual health and reproductive rights, and gender violence– remain unresolved in the US.5

President Trump has proceeded, step by step, to dismantle the progress made by his predecessor on women’s rights and liberties, not only with respect to sexual and reproductive health (which directly conflicts with the ultraconservative ideology of his agenda) but also in the areas of labour discrimination and workplace sexual harassment, and in education (especially the universities) –objectives which should not conflict with any religious or moral beliefs (particularly sexual and reproductive rights)–. The decisions taken by the current Administration during 2017 have been in line with the treatment of women’s rights characteristic of Trump’s election campaign, during which he ostentatiously displayed his disdain for women with his sexist and chauvinist statements on many occasions.

Consistent with all of this, one of the first executive orders6the President signed was the prohibition of federal funds to organisations that advise other countries on voluntary pregnancy termination, applying the so-called ‘Global Gag Rule’ which stipulates that any NGO that receives federal funds should not promote abortion internationally, or provide any related services.

Applied by each Republican Administration since President Reagan first adopted it in 1984, and reversed by the Democratic Administrations of Presidents Clinton (in 1993 and 2003) and Obama (from January 2009 until January 2017), this rule imposes a financial block on any organisation that supports voluntary pregnancy termination in any part of the world.7Planned Parenthood, one of the most well-known organisations –with family planning and prenatal care programmes in many countries (in addition to providing such health services to more than two and half million patients in the US)– has been one of the NGOs most affected by the re-instatement of this rule.

In this same vein, alleging that activities of the UN Population Agency violated US abortion policy, in April President Trump suspended government funding8to this agency (which provides family planning and reproductive health services in more than 150 countries). As the UN agency pointed out, in 2017 the Population Fund contributed to saving the lives of thousands of women during childbirth and early child-rearing, and to preventing nearly a million pregnancies and 300,000 unsafe abortions. Due to the loss of the US contribution, the spokesperson for the Secretary General of the United Nations (who has claimed that the US decision could have devastating effects on the most vulnerable women and children and their families around the world) has appealed to other donors to increase their contributions.

In addition, the decision to eliminate the obligation of employers to include coverage for birth control in their employee health care insurance (guaranteed by Obamacare) has limited access to contraceptives for hundreds of thousands of women. The decision allows any company (as well as any university), justifying itself on ‘sincere religious beliefs or moral conviction’ to decline to provide coverage for contraceptives, a privileged exception previously only granted to churches and houses of worship.

Last August, the government eliminated one of the Obama Administration’s labour initiatives designed to fight against gender and minority discrimination in the labour market and workplace. The rule was finalised in September 2016 –after six years of research9on workplace discrimination, and consultations with business people, payroll management companies, academics and focus groups– and would have come into effect in March 2017. The rule would have obliged companies to detail their employee salaries in terms of ethnic group, race and gender, and to report the information to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The objective was to discover where the largest gaps were produced, and to help correct them. By eliminating this measure (considered by the current Administration as a regulatory drag on companies and of doubtful usefulness), the public administrations will continue to be deprived of the data that would identify the sources of gender inequality and, therefore, of the possibility of fighting against it.

According to a recent survey, 42% of women claim to have experienced gender discrimination in the workplace.

Figure 7. Women who claim to have experienced workplace gender discrimination

Furthermore, the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rules,10–adopted by the Obama Administration to forbid companies with federal contracts from keeping secret incidents of sexual harassment and workplace discrimination– was also overturned. This 2014 executive order stopped companies with federal contracts –which collectively employ 26 million people– from forcing their employees to resolve harassment cases by means of arbitration (a typical practice to prevent cases and details from becoming public). The rules put in place by Obama’s executive order protected women in two ways: (1) it made their salaries transparent; and (2) it expressly prohibited employers from forcing arbitration on sexual harassment cases. It is worth remembering that a woman earns, on average, 83 cents per dollar earned by a man.

Other measures of the previous Administration to protect victims of sexual harassment and abuse in schools and universities were also rescinded. The document in question, approved in 2011, defined sexual abuse and established a new paradigm for school policy on sexual abuse cases. With these measures in place, any evidence was sufficient to begin an investigation. The new norm approved by the Trump Administration toughens the conditions for launching an investigation (requiring ‘clear and convincing evidence’),11Women’s rights organisations claim that this will produce a ‘chilling effect’ upon the reporting of sexual aggression and make campuses less safe. The problem of campus violence is not insignificant.12

One in five women and one in every 16 men are sexually assaulted on university campuses. More than 90% do not press charges.

However, it is also true that the ‘checks and balances’ of the US model have played a key role in protecting women’s rights. Some states, like California, Delaware, Maryland, New York and Virginia, have launched legal suits against the federal decision to suppress access to contraceptives; other states, like Hawaii, Maine and Nevada, have guaranteed access to birth-control methods for a year. Nevertheless, the impact of these federal decisions will be difficult to reverse, and they will certainly have a significant impact on the life of women, especially the most vulnerable with the fewest resources.

Finally, it should be noted that the first federal budget presented by President Trump13 did not contain –literally, at all, and for the first time in many years– a single reference to women. This is in stark contrast with the budgets from previous fiscal years. To cite just the most recent examples, the last three Obama budgets included significant mention of and support for women’s rights:

  • The FY2017 budget recognised the contribution of women to the labour force and the promotion of women’s rights in the world.
  • The FY2016 budget included investment in health, education and security for girls and teenagers, migrant women, the Nutrition Programme for women and children, and support measures for pregnant women.
  • The FY2015 budget included support for the promotion of women in the STEM fields –science, technology and mathematics– and an important package of investments and other efforts in the fight against gender violence..

One final point: many positions created by the previous Administration to promote women’s rights remain vacant, including the Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues in the Department of State14and the Director of the Office on Violence against Women in the Department of Justice. The White House Council on Women and Girls –an institution created by President Obama with the object of assuring coordination between all the agencies and units of the Administration on issues affecting women and girls– also remains inactive.

Women: leading role in the November 2018 midterm elections?

The election of President Trump has generated greater interest in politics –especially among Democrats, and particularly among women–. Indeed, the Trump victory has served a catalyst for the social mobilisation of women and feminist organisations.

Figure 8. Greater interest in politics among women

The largest recent demonstrations in the US took place on 20 January 2017 in many cities across the country (as well as in many other countries) to protest President Trump’s gender policies, reminding people that women’s rights ‘are human rights’. More demonstrations were convoked in many US cities on 20 and 21 January 2018 (and again in other countries), this time carrying the motto ‘power to the polls’. Therefore, the Trump Presidency could have a direct effect on the political participation of women, one of the areas, as mentioned above, where the gender gap is the widest.

The midterm elections coming up in November 2018 –which will elect 33 senators, all 435 members of the House of Representatives and 19 state governors– could bring to the fore this effect and result in greater female political participation. The fielding of female candidates by the Democratic Party is beginning to reach unprecedented proportions. Organisations like EMILY’s list,15a political action committee (PAC) dedicated to supporting female Democratic candidates, and other similar formations are playing an active role in providing training and consulting to women candidates at the state and local levels. Since the election of President Trump, more than 26,000 women have contacted EMILY’s list to ask for support for their possible candidacies.

According to the most recent data from the Center for American Women and Politics of the Eagleton Institute for Politics at the Rutgers University,16 the number of female candidates for the House of Representatives has grown exponentially to 397 candidates (217 Democrats and 80 Republicans), in contrast with the actual number of 84 current female officeholders (62 Democrats and 22 Republicans).

There will also be gubernatorial elections in 33 states in which there are projections for more women candidates. According to the most recent data17 upwards of 79 women (48 Democrats and 31 Republicans) will run for state-level executive office in a wide range of states.

It will not be possible to undertake a deeper evaluation of the importance of this political mobilisation –and to know just how significant a percentage of women will ultimately be running in the 6 November elections– until the results of the upcoming primary elections (which begin in a few weeks) can be factored in. But without any doubt the number of female pre-candidates has already reach a historic high which could, if translated into definitive candidates and into votes on 6 November, contribute to an historic expansion of the presence of women at the federal legislative and state executive levels of government.

Perceptions of gender equality in the US

Public opinion on matters of gender equality reflect a deep division in the country, according to recent studies by the Pew Research Center. This division is explained by, among other reasons, ‘the partisan rupture that impregnates American values and culture in these times’. The deep polarisation of US society, made plain by the last presidential election, is also reflected in the public’s perception of the current gender equality situation and of the need (or lack of it) to use public policy to advance gender equality.

Although the majority of Americans agree that women should have the same rights as men (82%), only half believe that the country needs to advance further, and 39% believe ‘things should stay as they are’.

In addition, the division between Democrats and Republicans is notable. While Democrats are very unsatisfied with the country’s progress on this issue (69% believe the country has not progressed enough to guarantee equal rights for women), only 26% of Republicans consider that there is more to do, and 54% believe the situation is good as it is.

Figure 9. On the need for further progress on gender equality

The differences between men and women are also important. While 57% of women believe the country has not progressed enough (versus 33% who believe it has), only 42% of men do not believe the country has made enough progress on gender equality, and as many as 44% feel this situation is good as it is. If we combine the gender and political positioning variables, then 74% of female Democrats and 64% of male Democrats believe the country still has work to do to achieve gender equality. On the other hand, the percentage of female Republicans that feel that not enough has been done only comes to 33% (along with only 20% of Republican men). Furthermore, 22% of Republican men and 14% of Republican women believe the country has gone ‘too far’.

Figure 10. Six of 10 women believe not enough has been done to achieve gender equality

US public opinion of the progress of women’s rights and gender equality reflects a clear polarisation in the country, but it also points to the difficulties inherent in overcoming stereotypes. This is clear from the fact that 44% of men describe the situation as good and 22% of Republican men and 14% of Republican woman believe that the country ‘has gone too far’ with regard to gender equality.


There is no doubt that President Trump is treating gender equality and related issues with a deeply conservative (and anti-feminist) ideological slant, without accounting for the consequences that this inequality between men and women has for social and economic stability. His openly sexist and chauvinist electoral campaign presaged restrictions on rights and liberties already gained by women, and he has already begun to implement such an agenda during the first year of this term.

All of the initiatives underway will have an impact, to a larger or lesser degree, on the lives of women and their families, especially the most underprivileged. The lack of female role models in positions of political responsibility, the culture of silence surrounding cases of gender violence, the salary gap and the lack of free access to family planning, all imply barriers to real and effective equality –in addition to perpetuating the gender stereotypes which impede the cultural change still pending in most countries– as well as significant related economic losses.

Nevertheless, gender inequality in the US cannot be attributed to the current President or Administration. For a long-consolidated democracy like the US, and as the leading economic power of the world, the county has long had a very wide gap and only in recent years were some concrete measures adopted to combat gender inequality.

The ultimate impact on women’s rights of the Trump Presidency is still difficult to assess, but it is likely that the tendency recently begun will continue, and possibly broaden in scope. In any case, given that closing the gap requires permanent, sustained measures, the new policies will contribute to further widening the inequalities, making the achievement of real gender equality more difficult and distant.

Another effect of President Trump’s first year –unforeseeable and certainly unwelcomed by the current Administration– has been the mobilisation of women and feminist organisations through many large demonstrations over the past year. These unprecedented political demonstrations, along with the hundreds of female candidates slated to run in the upcoming mid-term elections, represent a firm rejection of the presumed ‘new normality’ of an openly chauvinist and sexist president. Should the primaries confirm these women candidates –and then convert themselves into electoral victories– a change in the balance of power between the parties could occur, along with a significant increase in the presence of women in the Senate, the House of Representatives and in State-level executive offices.

Finally, one should not underestimate the global impact of President Trump’s position on gender equality, not only in terms of budget appropriations to UN organisations working in favour of gender equality but also in terms of influence over other countries. The commitment of the US to Goal Number Five of the Sustainable Development Goals –gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls by 2030– is now seriously in doubt.

María Solanas Cardín
Project Manager, Elcano Royal Institute
| @Maria_SolanasC

5 María Solanas (2016), “Género y Elecciones Presidenciales en EEUU 2016”, ARI nº 67/2016, Real Instituto Elcano.

<![CDATA[ Eight recommendations for the II National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security ]]> 2016-12-20T01:07:11Z

The II National Action Plan for the implementation of Resolution 1325, currently being prepared by the Spanish Government, should build on lessons learnt and include specific measures and best practices if it aims to achieve any advancement in the women, peace and security agenda.

Original version in Spanish: Ocho recomendaciones para el II Plan de Acción Nacional sobre Mujeres, Paz y Seguridad


The II National Action Plan for the implementation of Resolution 1325, currently being prepared by the Spanish Government, should build on lessons learnt and include specific measures and best practices if it aims to achieve any advancement in the women, peace and security agenda.


Nine years after the approval of the I National Action Plan for the implementation of Resolution 1325 –and mainly driven by its participation, as a non-permanent member, in the United Nations Security Council during the 2015-16 biennium–, the Spanish Government has marked the women, peace and security agenda as a priority, undertaking to draft a II National Action Plan. The number of challenges outstanding, almost 16 years after the approval of Resolution 1325, calls for a global commitment that is sustained over time and for actions and measures in field operations supported by sufficient funding (the most serious and persistent impediment for implementation of Resolution 1325). The alliance with local organisations and agents, mainly women’s organisations, has proved to be the most efficient way to promote and ensure a significant participation by women in the prevention of conflicts and in peace-building. Only a Plan based on such premises will effectively contribute towards the implementation of Resolution 1325.


An essential political agenda, the agenda of international peace and security

Resolution 1325 (and the seven subsequent resolutions which complement it) on women, peace and security constitutes a solid regulatory framework for the United Nations organisation addressing the main responsibility of the Security Council: to keep international peace and security. In order to achieve this goal, gender equality is an essential condition which has also proven to be indispensable for the consolidation and sustainability of peace.

This is a political agenda –and not only and intrinsically a technical agenda based on expertise– sustained on the rights/efficiency binomial: on the one hand, the right of women to participate, with an equal footing to men, in the achievement and consolidation of peace; and, on the other, the close link between women’s leadership and participation in building sustainable peace.1 Its direct interdependence with the agenda of gender equality and empowerment of women –and, therefore, with one of the  essential goals to achieve the Sustainable Development Objectives for 2030– underlines its priority nature and its need to occupy a position of preference in the political agenda.

The agenda in terms of women, peace and security mainly affects the area of foreign action and policy, but also requires policies regarding gender equality, as well as justice, home affairs, defence, healthcare, cooperation and education, among others.

It is a good example of the synergy that exists between the domestic and foreign dimensions of policies, but can also reveal, as the case may be, any inconsistencies that exist between ambitious objectives abroad which are not matched by domestic policies.2 The complexity of the challenges it addresses renders a multidimensional agenda which requires a political will that is permanent and sustained over time, the provision of human and financial resources in the short and medium term, measurable goals and objectives and continuous monitoring and assessment. The political nature of the agenda lends relevance to the participation of Parliament in the follow-up of its achievements, as well as of civil society, a key player in the observance and implementation of the objectives of Resolution 1325.

The I National Action Plan: good intentions but few results

Spain was among the first 10 countries in the world that drew up national action plans for the implementation of Resolution 1325.3 Approved on 30 November 2007 by Agreement of the Cabinet of Ministers, this first Plan continues to be in force. At that time, only Denmark, the UK, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Ivory Coast, Austria and the Netherlands,4 as well as Spain, had approved national plans.

The main purpose of the National Action Plans is none other than to include the objectives of Resolution 1325 in the national planning, thus ensuring that the gender perspective and the significant participation of women becomes an objective of all national agencies involved in the prevention of conflicts and in the achievement and consolidation of peace. National plans are therefore of an instrumental nature (they do not constitute objectives in and of themselves) designed to achieve the objectives of Resolution 1325 in field operations. A number of the 60 countries worldwide which have approved national action plans to date5 are either currently preparing a II Plan or –as is the case of Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK– are currently implementing their III National Action Plan.

The commitments undertaken in the 2007 Spanish plan,6 despite reflecting Spain’s political intention to promote and commit to this agenda, lacked specific measures to achieve the objectives set; they did not have sufficient human and financial means; there was an evident imbalance between the greater involvement of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and Defence and those of Equality, Justice, Education, Health, Employment or the Interior; and they failed to include outcome indicators or rigorous assessment and accountability mechanisms. Among the more positive aspects are the coordination role of the female Ambassador on Special Mission for the Promotion of Gender Equality (a post eliminated in 2011) responsible for chairing the monitoring group formed by the Ministers involved; and the commitment to establish coordination mechanisms with civil society with a view to exchanging information on actions carried out in connection with Resolution 1325 and presenting an annual follow-up report.

After almost nine years since its approval, and in view of the follow-up reports presented by both the administration7 and civil society,8 and the limited real impact achieved by the plan, the need to consider the preparation of a new National Action Plan –and not just an update of the existing one–9 has become evident. The participation of Spain as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council during the biennium 2015-16, and the fact that it was Spain’s turn to preside the UNSC during the month of October 2015, coinciding with the XV anniversary of Resolution 1325, has undoubtedly contributed to this realisation. These international obligations have acted as an incentive to revitalise an agenda which had lost some momentum at a national level over the last few years.

Learning from lessons and incorporating best practices

The implementation of Resolution 1325 has been –and continues to be– a long road fraught with obstacles (beginning with the marked inequality of gender, of a structural nature, and particularly in the realms of political participation and empowerment of women).10 It has also been a course filled with trial and error, of lessons learnt, both in the United Nations, the EU and other regional organisations, and in countries that have undertaken to promote its objectives. Translating the resolutions into actual solutions continues to be an outstanding challenge in most cases. However, there are some specific examples of success, such as the Colombia peace process,11 where effective policies can be identified and efforts are focused in the right direction.

A new Plan is, without a doubt, a valuable opportunity. But it can also become a lost opportunity if the experience accumulated so far cannot be exploited, posing feasible initiatives and specific proposals to be applied in the field, well beyond the theory, the rhetoric and the good intentions that have plagued many of the national plans. First, it should take into account, with a critical and pragmatic approach, the recommendations contained in the Spanish follow-up reports, as well as lessons learnt in other national experiences, and incorporate, by way of a guideline, the specific proposals of the assessment report of the Global Study.12 The examples set by the three countries which have already implemented their III National Action Plan –the UK13 (2014-17), Sweden14 (2016-20) and the Netherlands15 (2016-19)–, whose best practices to an extent have been contained in this work, may also prove useful.

  1. Inclusive participation in the preparation, implementation, monitoring and assessment of the Plan. The joint preparation of the Plan (in close cooperation with civil society) has been considered one of the best practices to achieve effective plans that can be implemented in the field, in a concrete and realistic manner. In most cases, it is the civilian organisations of countries in conflict and post-conflict which are best placed to implement the objectives of Resolution 1325. Their significant participation in the design of the Plan ensures expertise on the context, as well as on the needs and desires of women. Both the Dutch III Plan16 and the Swedish one have been drawn up by reference groups comprised of representatives from the government and of civil society organisations, who will also contribute to their implementation and follow-up.
  2. Impact indicators, annual assessment and accountability. As mentioned above, the absence of outcome indicators renders practically impossible the measurement of the progress achieved by the plan, as well as a rigorous and useful assessment of the adequacy of the measures implemented. Impact indicators must include baselines (as in the case of the British III NAP, for instance) as benchmarks to indicate the starting point and therefore allow the effort and the real measureable impact of the plan to be evaluated. Both the United Nations and the EU have designed quantitative (number of women, but also percentages) and qualitative impact indicators which can be added to the Plan, making any necessary adjustments for the case of Spain. An annual assessment, as has been undertaken by the British, Dutch and Swedish plans, seems to be an optimal solution, as it enables precise monitoring to be carried out and the suggestion of appropriate rectification or necessary reinforcement, as the case may be, of some measures. The national Parliament must be involved in the follow-up of the Plan and as an accountability mechanism. The presentation in Parliament and the debate on the follow-up reports are some of the best practices to guarantee efficacy and accountability.
  3. A proper institutional framework in each unit of the administration involved, as well as a coordinating body.17 The existence of a focal point in each of the Ministries and units involved (Defence, Interior, Education, Culture and Sports, Health, Social Affairs and Equality, Institute for Women and Equal Opportunities, and the Spanish International Cooperation and Development Agency, as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation) is essential to drive the Plan in sustained and permanent manner and to monitor and, as the case may be, correct any measures that need to be changed or reinforced. In addition, the existence of a figure to coordinate all of the administration agencies involved, to provide coherence to all of the actions implemented and to help maintain the political momentum of this agenda, also acting as the interlocutor with civil society organisations, is also essential. A good example of this is the Embassy for gender equality (in existence in Sweden since 2015, and which also coordinates the government’s feminist policies; as the Swedish Plan rightly points out, this role serves to strengthen Sweden’s profile in the Women, Peace and Security dossier).
  4. Local action, in the field, is absolutely essential. The consideration of local players and women’s organisations in the field as partners is critical to achieve the objectives of Resolution 1325. The support of women’s organisations in the field is the most positive lesson learnt, the most reiterated recommendation and the measure that has proved to be the most efficient of all those evaluated over the past 16 years. Permanent contact with women’s organisations is essential in the prevention of conflict, as it enables the outlook and views of women to be taken into consideration when designing early warning systems and mechanisms in conflictive areas, and the gender perspective to be included in their analysis. As the II Dutch Plan underlines, local women’s organisations are ‘well placed to act in the field, are able to interact and exchange information, lobby and exercise political influence; they document human rights violations and sexual violence incidents and pressure governments and the United Nations to improve policies and frameworks for the efficient implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda’. Acting locally has proved efficient even at the preparation stage of the Plan. Consultations in the field (as were carried out by the Swedish government both to embassies and local civilian peace-building organisations and national authorities at ground level) are essential when seeking to design the most efficient specific measures.
  5. Funding, indispensable to achieve the objectives. Identified by the Global Study as the ‘most serious and constant obstacle’ to meet the commitments, the allocation of resources is one of the keys to ensure the influence and significant participation of women in peace process and prevention of conflicts. The Global Study stresses that ‘accessible, flexible and foreseeable funding for civilian women’s organisations is indispensable to achieve specific results’, and proposes that member states, regional organisations and the United Nations system should undertake to allocate at least 15% of the funds assigned to the peace and security agenda to programmes whose main objective is to respond to the specific needs of women and to promote gender equality. Resolution 2242, approved in October 2015 under the Spanish Presidency of the UNSC, highlights the critical nature of the financing gap of women’s organisations, identifying the Global Acceleration Instrument on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action as a channel to attract funding, coordinate responses and accelerate implementation.

Thinking globally, but acting locally: eight specific measures for the II National Action Plan

Direct contact with reality and the local players in countries which are fragile, in conflict or post-conflict, has proved indispensable for the prevention and the implementation of peace process leading to sustainable agreements. In this regard, permanent contact in the field –via national diplomatic representations– with local women’s organisations and other civilian organisations and NGOs is essential to enhance the leadership and visibility of women and their significant participation in peace-building process. By way of recommendation of specific measures which will help to boost the objectives of Resolution 1325, below are some which, based on best practices, could be included in the II National Action Plan:

  1. Promotion of leadership of more women at decision-making levels, both domestically and in international organisations. The British II Plan has undertaken to encourage the appointment of more women in senior decision-making positions in areas addressing conflict, stability and security abroad (United Nations and other regional organisations), but also to increase women’s participation in the domestic sphere in senior positions so that, by the end of the term of the Plan (2017), 50% of new appointments are women.
  2. Support to civilian organisations in the field in countries at risk, in conflict and post-conflict involved in peace-building process, particularly to women’s rights organisations, through dialogue, enhanced visibility, dialogue and regular interchange with Embassies and other national agencies in the field, as well as technical support and mediation training.
  3. Financial support, sustained over time, to women’s organisations promoting equality, women’s empowerment, conflict prevention and peace process, with a specific budgetary allocation and establishment of a minimum amount of the overall peace and security budget. This priority would likewise go hand in hand with the reinforcement of feminist and women’s organisation in civil society as reflected in the Spanish Cooperation Master Plan.18 In addition to public funding, which is essential, public-private alliances might be an option worth considering. The international peace and security and gender equality cause might arouse the interest and support of the private sector, shoring up the effort of the administration and boosted by it.
  4. Support to women mediators in peace process, creating a women mediation network similar to that established in Sweden in cooperation with the Folke Bernadotte Academy,19 or the network of Nordic Women Mediators (NOREF),20 to help identify women mediators, enhancing their visibility and training.
  5. Priority implementation of the National Action Plan in those countries which can benefit from added value and which provide the best circumstances for the promotion of the Resolution 1325 objectives. Following the model proposed by the Dutch III NAP, these would be the countries in the foreign policy spotlight and where there is room for manoeuvre, local partners, national non-governmental organisations working in field operations and participation in civilian and/or military multilateral missions, among others. In Spain’s case, the combination of diplomatic efforts, ODA and other development contribution mechanisms, the presence of Spanish NGOs in the field and the necessary support to women’s organisations could be provided, for instance, in Mali, Colombia and the Palestinian territories, all countries in conflict or post-conflict situations where Spain could implement specific measures to support women’s participation, in the medium and long term, in peace-building process.
  6. Annual evaluation carried out by civilian organisations, providing the public administration with an independent assessment which enables the least effective measures to be corrected and those yielding better results to be strengthened.
  7. Presentation and debate in the Parliament of the Plan and evaluation reports, so that the Parliament participates in the follow-up of action implemented and the accountability of the legislative power is guaranteed.
  8. Permanent encouragement and promotion at an international level and in all organisations of which Spain is a member (United Nations, EU, OSCE, NATO, United Nations Human Rights Council in the event its candidacy is successful, etc.) included in the women, peace and security agenda, thus consolidating Spain’s leading position in the promotion of gender equality. The active participation in the recently created Network of Focal Points of Women, Peace and Security21 –presented in the United Nations on 23 September– must be consolidated, along with the active participation in the EU Women, Peace and Security Task Force. In addition, Spain should actively support and propose the measures promoted by the Principal Adviser on Gender and on the Implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325 on European External Action Service, Mara Marinaki.

What profile should define Spain in the United Nations?

In its candidacy to the UNSC for the 2015-16 biennium, the Spanish government defined gender equality as ‘one of the main objectives of Spanish foreign policy and diplomacy’ and included, among the 10 reasons underpinning its application, that of ‘giving human rights and gender equality and women’s participation in peace-building their rightful place in ensuring security and stability’.22 Upon gaining its membership, Spain identified gender equality as one of the priorities during the biennium, having assumed the presidency of the Security Council during the month of October last year, coinciding with the XV anniversary of Resolution 1325. During its presidency Spain promoted the approval of a new Women, Peace and Security Resolution: Resolution 2242.

The biennium in the United Nations has given Spain the chance to assume a leadership role which, following this momentum, should help to consolidate gender equality as a priority objective of foreign policy (and not only as a tool serving foreign policy goals). To remain active in the Women, Peace and Security agenda should be an objective of the whole of the administration, headed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, helping to consolidate a leading position in the long term. The identification and recognition of Spain as one of the leading countries in the promotion of gender equality –which, after several years of setback, the membership of the UNSC has helped to restore– is an asset which must be preserved and consolidated one of the hallmarks of Spain’s foreign action in the world. It would also become part of the footprint left by Spain during its time in the Security Council, of the profile which would identify it for future candidacies and an area in which its contribution and added value in a medium term agenda such as that of Sustainable Development Objectives would be widely acknowledged.


The Women, Peace and Security agenda (which entails the promotion of global objectives such as international peace and security and gender equality, and local action in field operations to achieve its objectives) must be viewed as a priority objective of foreign action and policy, involving the whole of the administration, and helping to create synergies between the reals of foreign and domestic policies.

The drafting of a II National Action Plan is a valuable opportunity to make a significant contribution to the implementation of Resolution 1325, incorporating some of the new and more ambitious goals of Resolution 2242, such as that of having more women leaders at decision-making levels or the training of mediators. However, if the necessary human and financial resources in line with the level of its aspirations are not provided, it runs the risk of becoming a lost opportunity.

Therefore it is paramount that the Plan contains a balanced commitment of all units of the administration, establishes institutional coordination mechanisms to enable the agenda to be promoted, involves dialogue with civil society, incorporates impact measurement, assessment and monitoring mechanisms and, particularly, includes specific measures in the field to provide support –mainly financial and political– to women’s organisations, and the leadership and participation of women in the prevention of conflicts and in peace-building and consolidation processes.

María Solanas Cardín
Project Manager at the Elcano Royal Institute
| @Maria_SolanasC

1 María Solanas (2016), ‘Aplicando la Resolución 1325: más mujeres en posición de liderazgo, más paz’, Elcano Blog, Elcano Royal Institute.

2 Manuela Mesa (2015), ‘XV Aniversario de la Resolución 1325: luces y sombras en la Agenda de Mujeres, Paz y Seguridad’, Anuario CEIPAZ 2015-1016.

4 Denmark was the first country to approve a national action plan, in 2005. The UK, Norway and Sweden approved them in 2006; 2007 saw their approval by Ivory Coast (January), Switzerland (February), Austria (August), Spain (November) and the Netherlands (December).

6 To promote the participation of women in peace missions and in decision-making bodies; to promote the inclusion of gender perspective in all peace-building activities; to disseminate resolution 1325 and ensure specific training in matters of equality; to promote the empowerment and participation of women in the processes of negotiation and implementation of peace agreements; and to promote the participation of Spanish civil society in relation to Resolution 1325.

9 María Solanas (2015), ‘Mujeres, Paz y Seguridad: lejos de las aspiraciones de la Resolución 1325’, ARI nr 44, Elcano Royal Institute.

11 María Villellas Ariño (2016), ‘Mujeres, Paz y Seguridad: la igualdad de género en las políticas de paz y seguridad’, ARI nr 66, Elcano Royal Institute.

16 In the Dutch case, the plan was prepared by a platform of cooperation between the government and 50 civil society organisations, including study organisations.

17 There are several formulae: in the case of the US, this is carried out by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee on women, peace and security, created and chaired by the national security team of the White House to implement the NAP, which also coordinates interaction with civil society, in charge of overseeing the Plan implementation. In the I Spanish NAP, the coordination role was assumed by female ambassador on Special Mission for the Promotion of Gender Equality Policies.

<![CDATA[ Women, peace and security: a long way from fulfilling the aspirations of Resolution 1325 ]]> 2015-10-27T02:07:51Z

The reality facing women and girls in conflict scenarios and their role in peace-building will not improve unless firmer and more decisive action as well as a clear political impetus and funding for the goals agreed in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) are forthcoming.

Original version in Spanish: Mujeres, paz y seguridad: lejos de las aspiraciones de la Resolución 1325


The reality facing women and girls in conflict scenarios and their role in peace-building will not improve unless firmer and more decisive action as well as a clear political impetus and funding for the goals agreed in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) are forthcoming.


October 31st this year marks the 15th anniversary of the historic UN Resolution 1325 (2000), which acknowledges the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women and girls (different from that suffered by men and boys), and the key role of women in preventing and resolving conflict, and in constructing and consolidating peace. In the light of the limited and uneven progress made, only a redoubled and permanent commitment to the ‘Women, peace and security’ agenda –one that contributes to overcoming the obstacles to progress that still exist, that embraces new challenges and emerging threats and drives concrete measures– can ensure the protection of women’s rights in conflicts, their full presence in the prevention and resolution of armed conflicts and their participation in the building of peace. Spain, which will chair the Security Council this coming October, and which has pinpointed gender equality as one of its priorities during its two-year term, has the chance, in alliance with other member states, to play a leadership role in the United Nations, which should also translate into a new National Action Plan featuring new commitments and greater coherence.


Resolution 1325, an historic landmark

Preceded by thorough and ongoing work on the part of women’s organisations, peace campaigners and civil society organisations supportive of equality and women’s rights from various parts of the world, and by the significant commitments agreed in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, in the year 2000 the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) recognised, for the first time, the distinct impact of armed conflict on women and girls, and the effects of this for the prevention and resolution of conflicts, as well as for lasting peace and reconciliation, and consequently for advancing international peace and security. Taking this as its basis, Resolution 1325 called for the following measures to be taken:

  • That Member States should ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management and resolution of conflict, and increase their voluntary financial, technical and logistical support for gender-sensitive training efforts.
  • That the United Nations Organisation itself should appoint more women as special representatives and envoys to pursue good offices, and expand the role and contribution of women in United Nations field-based operations, and especially among military observers, human rights and humanitarian personnel.
  • That all actors involved, when negotiating and implementing peace agreements, should adopt a gender perspective, including, inter alia: (a) the special needs of women and girls during repatriation and resettlement and for rehabilitation, reintegration and post-conflict reconstruction; (b) measures that support local women’s peace initiatives and indigenous processes for conflict resolution and that involve women in all of the implementation mechanisms of the peace agreements; and (c) measures that ensure the protection of and respect for human rights of women and girls, particularly as they relate to the constitution, the electoral system, the police and the judiciary.
  • That all parties to an armed conflict should fully respect international law applicable to the rights and protection of women and girls, especially as civilians, and take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse.
  • That all States should put an end to impunity and prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, including those relating to sexual and other violence against women and girls, drawing special attention to the need to exclude these crimes, where feasible, from amnesty provisions.

As the UN Women organisation states, ‘Resolution 1325 represents a significant change in the way the international community approaches the prevention and resolution of conflict, and makes the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment an international peace and security concern’. As the organisation rightly reminds us, the justice and rights-based argument (women, like men, have a right to participate in the promotion of peace) is accompanied by that of efficiency: the exclusion of half the constituency for peace-building is inefficient, and the marginalisation of women undermines every step of the process, since in many contexts women are a resource for building socially relevant and effective peace accords, and for ensuring social inclusion and a fair distribution of peace dividends.1

Bolstered by six additional resolutions chiefly addressing sexual violence in armed conflict as a weapon of war (Resolution 1820 of 2008, Resolution 1888 of 2009, Resolution 1960 of 2010 and Resolution 2106 of 2013) and the need to actively encourage and oversee compliance with the goals laid down in the year 2000 (Resolution 1889 of 2009 and Resolution 2122 of 2013), Resolution 1325 has succeeded in raising general awareness of the gender perspective as an essential element for contributing to international peace and security.

A disappointing balance sheet, with more debits than credits

There can be no question that Resolution 1325 has led to progress over the last 15 years, essentially of a normative character, both at the heart of the United Nations and in the Member States: as of June 2015, 50 States had adopted a National Action Plan2 in support of Resolution 1325, which shows that notable headway has been made (half-way through 2012, 37 countries had drawn up plans, and by November 2013 more than 80 had committed themselves to drafting them).

Resolution 1325 has led to changes in the work the United Nations conducts in peace and security, although not it all domains. Field-based operations and peace-keeping missions are supplying more and more detailed information in their reports3 on women, peace and security. Of the 47 resolutions passed by the UNSC in 2013, 76.5% contained references to women, peace and security.4 In eight of the 11 peace processes directed or co-directed by the United Nations in 2013, at least one of the negotiators was a woman, and 88% of the negotiation processes had specialist expertise in gender issues at their disposal. Considerable challenges remain, however: as of March 2014, 97% of peacekeeping military staff and 90% of the police officers were men, percentages that have not changed since 2011.5 Civil society organisations such as Human Rights Watch have also frequently pointed out the failure of the UNSC to apply the women, peace and security agenda to the ground in crisis situations, as well as the infrequent use of sanctions and other instruments at the disposal of the UNSC as a means of furthering this agenda.6

As far as the situation of women and girls is concerned, the track record for the way the Resolution 1325 goals have been pursued continues to be ethically unacceptable, clearly insufficient and reveals highly uneven progress when comparing countries: women continue to suffer, in a systematic and recurrent way, sexual violence in armed conflicts (such as in Ivory Coast, Mali, Syria, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo),7 and are victims of new forms of violence (such as that carried out by Boko Haram in Nigeria), as well as being underrepresented in peace-building and in conflict prevention and resolution. Some figures by way of illustration: out of a total of 585 peace accords signed between 1990 and 2010, barely 92 include any reference to women.8 Between 1992 and 2011, only 9% of the negotiators at peace talks were women.9 Women head only 19% of the UN’s missions on the ground.10

In addition to the challenges mentioned above there is the goal of ensuring that women account for 20% of the police officers and military personnel in peacekeeping missions, a level that is still a long way from being achieved. And although 134 countries have classified sexual slavery as a crime, the number of convictions continues to be extremely low.11 Crimes of sexual violence in conflicts are not always reported. And new forms of violence and threats against women’s rights have emerged.

Many challenges remain, not only in the field of prevention but also in terms of participation, protection and consolidation of peace; these require greater political will, which in turn needs to be translated into sufficient funding in order to produce tangible results. The United Nations denounces the ‘the alarmingly low levels of spending on consolidating peace’, but also on prevention and on reparations, which are still being systematically excluded from peace talks, and consequently from funding priorities. An appropriate and sufficient funding framework is critical for making progress.12 The mustering of resources is one of the keys to overcoming the challenges, and it will be necessary to seek formulas to ensure that, as well as being sufficient, they are sustained over time. Public-private partnerships, with the involvement of the business sector, are one option that needs to be considered. This is not to overlook the commitment of governments, international organisations and the cooperation of civil society, especially in terms of human resources and expertise.

One of the main obstacles underlying the challenges outlined above is the persistence of inequalities in the political, economic and social sphere, a factor that hampers the bridging of the gulf between men and women, even in advanced countries.13 Unless progress is made in the structural causes of gender inequality (unequal participation in public and private decision-making, lack of equal opportunities, resources and responsibilities and the violence committed against women)14 it will not be possible to improve the situation of women and girls in the domains of security and peace.

Spain’s priorities at the Security Council in the ‘Women, peace and security’ agenda

In its bid to become a member of the UNSC for the 2015-16 period, the Spanish government cited gender equality as ‘one of the main goals of Spanish foreign policy and diplomacy’, including among the 10 reasons underpinning its aspiration to become a non-permanent member of the United Nations that of ‘giving human rights, gender equality and the full participation of women in peace-building the high profile they deserve to ensure security and stability’.15

Spain will preside over the UNSC in October, coinciding with a high-level assessment to evaluate the progress made in implementing Resolution 1325. This represents a unique chance to give impetus, with tangible measures, to the priority that Spain has vowed to place on the women, peace and security agenda. The Spanish government has indicated that the review process should lead to more solid institutional architecture and leadership on the part of the United Nations in order to drive through implementation of its resolutions in this domain. It has also underscored the importance of incorporating more substantive language in this area into the UNSC’s documents, particularly those referring to the imposition of sanction regimes.

In the first few months of its biennium, Spain has taken such initiatives as convening a debate in the Security Council, using the ‘Arria-formula’ format,16 on women, peace and security with the presidents of the three panels preparing reviews on peace and security for 2015: (a) a Global Study on Resolution 1325; (b) architecture for the consolidation of peace; and (c) peace operations, with the intention of strengthening synergies and contributing to the design of an integrated focus on the themes of peace and security, ensuring the inclusion of the gender perspective.

Within the framework of an Open Debate, Spain has also proposed certain measures on sexual violence in conflict. In conflicts where no Peacekeeping Operation (PKO) has been deployed, it has requested that all the information needed to investigate suspicions of sexual violence be sent to the prosecutors at the International Criminal Court and that sexual violence be introduced, without exception, in as many of the transitional justice procedures as possible, underlining the importance of compensating the victims. In cases where a PKO has been deployed, it has proposed bolstering the PKO’s mandate with regard to women, peace and security; the requirement of a specific duration and content in the prior training of military peacekeeping personnel; the strengthening of human resources in terms of gender experts in the gender unit of the UN’s PKO Department; and an obligation on the Secretary General’s special representatives to report on this topic, in an analytical and strategic way, at every briefingto the Council.

Lastly, the Spanish government has announced its intention to propose that the Security Council adopt a new resolution that ‘defines the UNSC’s responsibility in this area, that requires results of the United Nations system and that addresses threats that are not included in Resolution 1325 and its successors, such as the role of women in the fight against violent extremism’.

This new resolution, which undoubtedly has the potential to be a good opportunity to muster greater political will on the part of the UN Member States, and to focus on the need to accelerate initiatives, will have no effect on the lives of women and girls if it does not incorporate adequate funding commitments that are sustained over time. The new resolution particularly needs to link up with the Sustainable Development Goals agenda, in which equality, as well as being fully integrated into the other 16 goals, is represented, with a series of targets, in Goal 5 of the SDGs: ‘To achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’. The priorities for the results should focus on those areas where least progress has been made, such as prevention, protection and the participation of women in peace processes, where the record to date, as indicated above, has been clearly inadequate and disappointing.

To accompany its leadership in promoting the new resolution, the Spanish government should also offer a commitment to a thorough overhaul of the National Plan, with the drawing up of a new National Action Plan, appropriately equipped with human resources and materials and the active participation of civil society organisations throughout the process. This commitment to draw up a second plan (as other countries among Spain’s regional neighbours, such as Ireland, have already done), would help to lend coherence to the initiative that is being fostered in the UN, and would address the need to have an improved Plan to accelerate and ensure the implementation of Resolution 1325.

A new more effective National Action Plan

Resolution 1325 calls on the Member States of the United Nations to incorporate its targets into national planning relating to security, defence, foreign policy, justice and the consolidation of peace with the endorsement of National Action Plans.

Spain was one of the first countries to approve a National Action Plan for implementing Resolution 1325. At that time, only the UK, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Canada, Austria and the Netherlands, apart from Spain, had adopted national plans (nine countries in the entire world, six of them members of the EU).17

Approved in November 2007, the Plan has six goals: (1) the promotion of women’s participation in peace missions, and in their decision-making bodies; (2) the inclusion of the gender perspective in all peace-building activities; (3) the specific training of personnel taking part in peace operations; (4) the protection of women’s and girls’ human rights in conflict and post-conflict zones (including refugee and displaced person camps) and the empowerment and participation of women in the processes of negotiating and applying peace accords; (5) the principle of equal opportunities and treatment for men and women in the planning and execution of activities involving disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR), as well as the special training of all the personnel who participate in such processes; and (6) the fostering of Spanish civil society’s participation with regard to Resolution 1325.

For each of these goals the Plan contains measures at the level of Spain, the EU and international organisations such as NATO, the OSCE and the United Nations. Lastly, in the chapter on monitoring and evaluation, the Plan sets out the functions of the monitoring group, made up of the ministries involved,18 and presided over by the Spanish Foreign Ministry’s Equality Policy Promotion unit (an entity that was abolished in 2011), such as setting up coordination mechanisms with civil society for exchanging information on initiatives carried out in relation to Resolution 1325, and submitting an annual follow-up report.

Eight years after it was set up, and in light of the evaluation reports drawn up by both the government itself19 and by the civil society organisations20 –which mention, among other recommendations, the need for greater coherence, and an appropriate institutional framework in each of the units involved, the need for impact-measurement mechanisms and the more active inclusion of civil society in following up on the action plan– the time has come to go beyond a mere update of the existing Plan and to contemplate drawing up a new National Action Plan.

This new Plan, which should be designed in close cooperation with civil society organisations, needs to: be adequately provisioned with human and other resources; overhaul any measures in need of being brought up to date; recalibrate the greater involvement of the Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and Defence Ministries with that of other key Ministries such as Justice, Education, Health, Employment and Interior; include impact-measurement benchmarks (already introduced both by the EU, which has a group of 17 indicators, and the United Nations);21 incorporate a post of coordinator22 to lend coherence to the ensemble of actions set in motion by each of the arms of the administration; and ensure that the evaluation process, whose follow-up report should be published annually, is carried out by civil society organisations, thereby providing the public administration with independent assessment. This ensemble of goals, incorporating some of the best available practice,23 would provide the Plan with substantially greater efficiency and scope than it has had up to now, helping to speed up the implementation of Resolution 1325.


As we celebrate the 15th anniversary of the historic United Nations Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, only the introduction of tangible measures, backed by adequate and enduring resources, can cause the situation of women and children to improve. Its participation in the Security Council in the 2015-16 biennium represents a unique opportunity for Spain to drive the gender equality agenda and contribute with its commitment to speeding up the rate of progress. Steering initiatives aimed at securing effective equality in those international arenas where she has a presence is essential if Spain is to be viewed as a country that is active and committed to the cause of equality between men and women.24

The stimulus that Spain wishes to give to the review of Resolution 1325, sponsoring a new resolution at the UNSC, should help to mobilise sufficient political will and financial resources to guarantee action and to speed up the pace of change towards progress. The Spanish government’s commitment should be reflected in the National Plan, with the drawing up of a new, more ambitious Plan, equipped with human resources and funding, incorporating impact-measurement mechanisms and accountability to civil society and with its active involvement in the implementation of the Plan. Public-private partnerships could provide a formula to complement the funding that this Plan needs.

The review of Resolution 1325 needs to be comprehensively linked to the sustainable development agenda and the implementation review of the Beijing Platform for Action, Beijing +20, which aspires to achieving equality between men and women (a 50-50 planet) by 2030. Only a 50-50 planet will be capable of securing greater rates of prosperity, wellbeing, rights and liberties and peace and security. In a world as complex as ours, it would be a potent stabilising factor to add to those of economic competitiveness and fairness, demonstrating that gender equality constitutes a goal of the utmost importance in the 21st century.25

María Solanas
Project Manager at Elcano Royal Institute
| @Maria_SolanasC

1 UN Women (2012), ‘Women and Peace and Security: Guidelines for National Implementation’, October.

2 Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

3 According to the United Nations Secretary General’s Report on women, peace and security dated 24/IX/2014, 96% of the periodic reports submitted include references to women, peace and security.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 Our rights are fundamental to peace (HRW). Includes concrete examples of opportunities squandered by the United Nations in the Great Lakes region in 2013 and of the sexual violence committed against women in Darfur in 2014 by the Sudanese forces.

7 Secretary General’s report, op. cit.

8 Christine Bell & C. O’Rourke (2010), ‘Peace Agreements or Pieces of Paper? The Impact of UNSC Resolution 1325 on Peace Processes and their Agreements’, International and Comparative Law Quarterly.

9 Data from UN Women.

10 Secretary General’s report, op. cit.

11 Ibid.

13 According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2014, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden, which occupy the first five places, have managed to close 84% of the gender gap.

14 Cristina Gallach (2015), ‘Mujeres y poder en el escenario internacional’, Política Exterior, September-October.

15 María Solanas (2014), ‘Igualdad de género y política exterior española’, EEE, nº 21/2014.

16 The Arria formula enables a member of the Security Council to invite other members to an informal debate and chair the debate so as to be able to take information from experts in an area of concern for the Security Council.

17 María Solanas (2014), op. cit.

18 At that time the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Defence, Employment and Social Affairs, Interior Affairs, Justice, Education and Science and Health and Consumer Affairs.

19 Follow-up Reports III and IV, dated February 2014, on the implementation of the National Action Plan for Resolution 1325.

20 ‘Plan de Acción español de la Resolución 1325. Informe Seguimiento III y IV. Una valoración independiente’, May 2014, drawn up by Coordinadora ONG para el Desarrollo España, CEIM (Centro de Estudios e Investigación Mujeres), WIDE España, WILPF España and CEIPAZ.

21 Annex 3 of the UN Women manual, ‘Women and Peace and Security: Guidelines for National Implementation’, October 2012.

22 There are various formulas: in the case of the US, the Women, Peace and Security Interagency Policy Committee, created and directed by the White House national security team to implement the NAP, is the body that coordinates interaction with civil society, charged with overseeing implementation of the Plan.

23 Belgium, Liberia and the Netherlands officially submit reports to civil society organisations. Other formulas include reports to parliament. In Austria, civil society organisations have the chance to comment in an annual report.

24 María Solanas, (2014), op. cit.