Non-Aligned Movement is committed to protecting the rights of women and children and ensuring their welfare. NAM Member States, in their individual capacity and as part of regional organisations, have also taken a host of measures to promote the empowerment of women. . Ever since its inception, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), all Member States of which are also the Member States of NAM, has been emphasising on gender equality and has taken a host of commendable initiatives in this respect such as reflected in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in the ASEAN Region adopted at the 37th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (2004), Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and Elimination of Violence Against Children (2013), Ha Noi Declaration on the Enhancement of the Welfare and Development of ASEAN Women and Children (2010) and the ASEAN Regional Plan of Action on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (2015).
ASEAN is currently developing the Regional Plan of Action on Women, Peace and Security in ASEAN (ASEAN RPA on WPS). This initiative moves forward the implementation of the Joint Statement on Promoting Women, Peace and Security in ASEAN that was adopted by the ASEAN Leaders in 2017 at the 31st ASEAN Summit. The Joint Statement acknowledged the efforts of ASEAN on peacebuilding, including the increasing public spending and investment on social services, such as those for education and health, which serve to reinforce peace in the region.
The Joint Statement recognised that the women, peace and security agenda recognises the disproportionate impact of armed conflict on women, the occurrence of sexual and gender-based violence during armed conflict, and emphasizes the importance of women’s equal, full and effective participation at all stages of peace processes given their necessary role in the prevention and resolution of conflict, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, as embodied in United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions 1325 (2000), 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), and 1889 (2009). These UNSC Resolutions have encouraged Member States in post-conflict situations, in consultation with civil society, including women’s organizations, to specify in detail women and girls’ needs and priorities and design concrete strategies, in accordance with their legal systems, to address those needs and priorities, which cover inter alia support for greater physical security and better socio-economic conditions, through education, income- generating activities, access to basic services, in particular health services, including sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights and mental health, gender-responsive law enforcement and access to justice, as well as enhancing capacity to engage in public decision-making at all levels. The ASEAN Joint Statement committed to continuing addressing the root causes of armed conflicts such as poverty, discrimination, gender inequality, social injustice, economic, and social exclusion of persons and communities vulnerable to and at risk of radicalisation, violent extremism, and terrorism and pledged to promote gender equality and reduce social inequalities between men and women in societies as a way to contribute as well to longstanding peace and prosperity. The ASEAN Joint Statement called for encouraging the inclusion of the women, peace and security agenda in policies and programmes for the protection of women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence before, during and after armed conflict, and the creation of greater and wider spaces for participation in peacebuilding and post-reconstruction processes. The ASEAN Joint Statement further called for leveraging the role of regional inter-governmental organisations and development partners to support the implementation of global obligations and commitments in advancing the women, peace and security agenda to better protect women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence, discrimination and social exclusion.
The First Meeting of the Expanded Advisory Group on Women, Peace and Security in ASEAN was held virtually on 28 January 2022 and members of the group shared updates on women, peace and security-related initiatives in their respective sectors and deliberated on linkages, gaps and opportunities. Ekkaphab Phanthavong, the Deputy Secretary-General for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, remarked: “The COVID-19 pandemic has reaffirmed a lesson known from other crisis situation – to seek and achieve sustainable solutions to intractable social issues, it is critical to apply a gender lens to understand the impact and create inclusive responses for recovery and resilience of communities and nations”.
The development of the ASEAN RPA on WPS is being supported by the U.S. government through the ASEAN-USAID PROSPECT project, UN Women, Canada and the ASEAN Secretariat. It is planned to be submitted for adoption by the ASEAN Leaders at the upcoming 40th ASEAN Summit in November 2022.
Photo Credit : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emblem_of_the_Association_of_Southeast_Asian_Nations#/media/File:Seal_of_ASEAN.svg