By Alex Paul
Julie Arostegui, J.D. is Policy Director at Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) where she works to empower women to become political leaders on issues of conflict prevention, peacebuilding, and national security. A trained international human rights lawyer, Julie has devoted her professional life to gender equality through institutional change in post-conflict environments.
Most recently, she has worked in the Great Lakes region of Africa on integrating gender equality and women’s rights into post-conflict legal structures. Drawing on this USIP funded research, Julie published a toolkit with Women In International Security (Women, Peace and Security: Practical Guidance on Using Law to Empower Women in Post-Conflict Systems). It offers best practices and recommendations to ensure that legal frameworks respect the role of women in establishing peaceful and security communities.
Your toolkit uses the Great Lakes region in Africa as examples but its conclusions speak more broadly. What does the toolkit offer to practitioners and the peace and security agenda more broadly?
The main message of the toolkit is that it demystifies all these “legal concepts” that we have in the women, peace and security framework – UN Security Council Resolutions, international law, and obligations that nations have under these principles – and illustrates how practitioners and advocates can use them as leverage in their work.
How do you envision the toolkit’s recommendations being used by practitioners in the field? And what about in Western capitals, how is this toolkit relevant to governments in the global north?
I envision it as the basis for trainings and as a go-to guide for practitioners in the field. The toolkit not only lays out all the laws and principles included in the women, peace and security framework, but also gives concrete examples of how groups in conflict-affected countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan have approached the issues. Although the toolkit is focused on conflict-affected countries, the principles are really applicable to systems in any countries where gender issues need to be addressed, because its focus is on using law to empower women, and much of the international law and human rights principles discussed in the toolkit are universal.
What is the best way to ensure that we move from awareness of the problems facing women in international peace and security to actually seeing real change happen? And how does the toolkit help in this regard?
We now have the tools and frameworks in place that we need. The key is to tie them to direct obligations, to make governments respond, to enact effective laws and to make the direct link to what is happening in people’s lives on the ground. It needs to be both a top down and bottom up approach, bringing the two together. We need to make sure that there are effective laws that prevent impunity for abuses, promote equality in all spheres, and allow for women’s equal and full participation in public and private life. At the same time, we have to find ways to translate these laws into principles that different communities and cultures can understand in their own terms, in order to change discriminatory societal norms. And we have to empower women, men and youth to understand and advocate for these principles. The toolkit gives practical guidance on how to do this.
Alex Paul is a WIIS Program Assistant. He has just completed a Masters’ in International Relations at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, New York. His research focuses on security provision and reform in post-conflict states.