Advancing Women, Peace and Security in the UN Security Council: Critical Choices for Elected Member States

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Chang, Patty & Louise Olsson (2021) Advancing Women, Peace and Security in the UN Security Council: Critical Choices for Elected Member States, IPI Global Observatory, 7 October.

​While the permanent five members (P5) of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) receive the bulk of the attention, how the ten elected members (E10) act, and the issues they raise, can have a lasting effect. On June 11, 2021, at the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, five countries—Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—were elected to the UNSC for the 2022-2023 term, joining the five elected the previous year. All five referred to Women, Peace and Security (WPS) in their election promises. Yet, there is a limited understanding of E10 strategies and effects on the promotion of WPS in the Council.

​Building on research on states in the UNSC, we carried out a unique, systematic study of Sweden‘s efforts to mainstream WPS into the Security Council’s outcomes during its 2017-18 membership; it had the stated ambition to make WPS “core Council business,” meaning to promote the integration of WPS into the Security Council’s processes and decisions. The findings from the report highlight the strategic thinking that may be relevant to other E10 states, and to prospects for having an impact on the Council’s work. Advancing WPS in the UNSC has become a feature of many elected members’ strategic policy interests; from the critical initial efforts by Namibia (1999-2000) and Bangladesh (2000–01) to the recent examples of Spain (2015–16), Uruguay (2016–17), Sweden (2017-18), Peru (2018–19), Germany and South Africa (2019–20), and Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, and Norway (2021–22).

What is known is that the possibilities for an individual E10 to promote WPS in the UNSC have been assumed to be constrained by the dominance of the P5 members—the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China. By building on existing knowledge of states in the UNSC and analyzing the experiences of Sweden, three areas of critical choice an E10 state can make to realize its Council ambitions were identified: (1) opportunities and strengths; (2) strategic decisions; and (3) tactical maneuvers.

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