From international norms to local relevance
: the effectiveness and suitability of the United Nations Women, Peace and Security Agenda in advancing women’s security and equality

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The United Nations Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda has become a well-known and internationally recognised framework within the field of peace and conflict studies over the past 20 years. Resolution 1325 and nine subsequent resolutions together form the ‘Women, Peace and Security Agenda’, which has played a significant role in bringing the discussion of women’s roles in conflict and post-conflict situations to the forefront of the international security agenda. However, many have argued that the Agenda has not proved to be as transformational for women’s rights as originally thought. Based on 20 qualitative semi-structured interviews with civil society members and individual experts, this thesis studies how the WPS Agenda is translated from an international level policy framework to local level application through two examples: South Africa and the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). Using feminist security theory and intersectionality as the lenses of analysis, the primary line of inquiry of this thesis is to understand whether and to what extent the UN WPS Agenda is a transformational and suitable framework for improving women’s security in South Africa and Palestine This thesis make two distinct, original theoretical contributions. Firstly, this thesis argues that, in order for the Agenda to be transformational, it needs to move towards a feminist approach to security, whereby security is seen in terms of the security of the individual rather than state security. This thesis argues that WPS Agenda’s current emphasis on armed and internationally recognised conflicts disregards the everyday violent realities women face and hinders the transformational potential of the Agenda. The findings of this thesis have specifically supported Cynthia Cockburn’s (2004) insight that we should understand violence as a continuum, and they also support the way that security is defined by feminist scholars such as Tickner (1992), Enloe (1990), and Cohn (2004). This thesis shares the understanding of how feminist theorising starts with women’s experiences of everyday life but also how these 8 experiences intersects with other identity markers, such as class, ethnicity and race (Wibben (2011). Drawing from this notion, this study also highlights the importance of linking the theoretical discussion on intersectionality and debates in the field of feminist security studies together as currently the theoretical discussions in these two fields happen in silos rather than in conversation with one another. Secondly, this research contributes to the theoretical discussion about intersectionality by developing the thinking around intersectionality by using it as a lens through which we can understand women’s experiences at the national level, gaining insights not only into how women experience security but also into how their own identities or social locations can affect the ways in which they are able to participate in decision-making and political processes. Most importantly, in addition to many of the categories already highlighted for intersectional analysis, this research emphasises the importance of including geographical location as a key factor in intersectional analysis in order to understand not only how this affects the lives of women but also how it reflects different power relations. This research demonstrates how, political, racial, and ethnic divisions are problematic when it comes to the implementation of the WPS Agenda and, if they are not taken into consideration, there is a danger of further division, as well as the exclusion and silencing of the different voices that need to be heard as part of the process. The findings of this study demonstrate the value of the WPS Agenda, and how it is perceived as a useful tool for improving women’s lives both in South Africa and Palestine. However, the data also shows how the Agenda could be developed further in order for it to serve better women in different contexts, situations, and places in the world, and this is where critique and findings of this study are essential. By conducting interviews with individual South African and Palestinian experts and civil society organisations and understanding how they see the linkages between security, intersectionality and the WPS Agenda, this study makes a positive contribution to enabling the voices of the people the WPS Agenda directly affects
Date of AwardAug 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorKristin Aune (Supervisor) & Michael Hardy (Supervisor)

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