Photo: UN Women/Ploy Phutpheng
Digital platforms and technologies have become cornerstones for positive civic engagement and innovative approaches to peacebuilding, particularly for women, young women and marginalized groups who have struggled to access traditional public platforms and decision-making spaces. Platforms can be useful tools for women to analyse and share their views on peace and security priorities with mediators, negotiators and decision-makers. Emerging technologies can help analyse conflict trends and counter disinformation through peaceful and inclusive narratives.
However, the digital world carries distinct gendered risks. Women, girls and persons with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) face significant online harassment and threats. This often leads to self-censorship and exclusion from digital spaces and hinders their equal participation and leadership in peacebuilding and other societal spheres. It is, therefore, essential to ensure that there are clear, rights-based legislative frameworks and platforms that provide opportunities for gender-sensitive, safe and constructive digital engagement.
Women have a fundamental right to participate in and lead all levels of decision-making processes. Further, women’s participation in peacebuilding processes has been shown to lead to more stable and longer-lasting outcomes. Nevertheless, women’s participation in peacebuilding processes is low. Moreover, their participation in cybersecurity policy- and decision-making is particularly low, and measures taken to mitigate the gendered implications of cyber-related insecurities are lagging behind.
Cybersecurity’s relevance to the Women, Peace and Security agenda
The Women, Peace and Security agenda recognizes the multiple roles that women have in conflict situations and in peace efforts. Since its adoption over two decades ago, the global playing field has shifted, with emerging security issues, including cybersecurity, increasingly developed into priority areas for national and international security policies and strategies. However, gender considerations tend to be largely overlooked in these discussions, rendering women less likely to benefit from decisions made and policies set.
The WPS agenda is a useful tool for ensuring that cybersecurity approaches are both conflict-sensitive and gender-responsive. The WPS agenda can be effectively used to:
Strengthen women’s leadership and meaningful participation in cyber-related legislation, cyberdiplomacy, decision-making and enforcement and in the development, audit and governance of contemporary and emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, in line with the women, peace and security principles.
Safeguard the human rights, physical safety and mental well-being of persons in all their diversity, giving specific attention to the disproportionate effects that technology-facilitated harms and crimes have on women (particularly women journalists, activists, human rights defenders, politicians and other public figures) face, especially in conflict and post-conflict societies.
Leverage conflict-sensitive and gender-responsive approaches to detect and prevent the gendered impacts of digital security threats, harms and crimes that are facilitated by information and communications technologies.
Relief and Recovery
Utilize the positive potential of deploying context-specific, rights-based and gender-responsive technological solutions in order to enhance and expand the reach of relief and recovery efforts in post-conflict and post-crisis contexts.
Promoting Women’s Peace and Security in the Digital World
Since 2021, UN Women has been implementing the programme Women, Peace and Cybersecurity: Promoting Women’s Peace and Security in the Digital World, with generous support from the Government of the Republic of Korea and the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade.
This programme is part of the UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific Regional Framework Towards Peaceful, Inclusive Societies: Advancing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda and Inclusive Governance in the Asia-Pacific Region. Cybersecurity is recognized as a key emerging issue under the framework, and the programme falls under both its pillars; Pillar 1 – Women, Peace and Security, and Pillar 2 – Inclusive Governance.
The programme aims to establish a Women, Peace and Cybersecurity agenda in order to ensure that women, young women and persons with diverse SOGIESC lead and participate in all levels of cybersecurity and technology-related policy- and decision-making.
To achieve these ends, the programme utilizes the following strategies:
- Designing strategic approaches for conflict-sensitive and gender-responsive digital security through evidence-based and consultative methods;
- Enhancing digital literacy, awareness and sound cybersecurity practices for women in all their diversity;
- Supporting multisectoral advocacy and leveraging governments’ and private-sector actors’ support for conflict-sensitive and gender-responsive digital security; and
- Engaging in whole-of-society legal and policy reforms that strive to harmonize cybersecurity, national security and international security frameworks.
To learn more about UN Women’s work, please see the Programme Brief on Women, Peace and Cybersecurity – Promoting Women’s Peace and Security in the Digital World (2021-2023).