The Women, Peace and Security Agenda in  EU Border Management

The Women, Peace and Security Agenda in EU Border Management

Working Paper 110 / June 2021
Lawreen Gyan-Addo, Madita Standke-Erdmann, Saskia Stachowitsch

Abstract/Executive Summary

The year 2020 commemorated the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Security Council’s landmark Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). Despite the notable advances achieved at a legislative and regulatory EU level, the implementation and integration processes still fail to ensure an effective protection of women’s rights. One important gap in this regard concerns borders and migration which are not fully recognised as WPS-related issues nor are they integrated into the appropriate policy frameworks. Against this background, this paper calls for a greater acknowledgement of the increased danger faced by women arriving at European borders including, but not limited to, sexual and gender based violence (SGBV), and for appropriate levels of protection.

The exposure of migrants to gendered violence and insecurity is connected to the risky nature of European borders. On one hand, women can encounter violence perpetrated by fellow travellers, human traffickers, or border guards. On the other hand, they are subject to discriminatory security practices, such as Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) assisted profiling and military style surveillance. This, in conjunction with the EU’s efforts to externalise and outsource tasks and responsibilities to non-EU actors has further reduced accountability and oversight on fundamental rights breaches. Such violations have already materialised into unjust practices such as illegal pushbacks and controversial third-country agreements aimed at circumventing non-refoulement provisions. The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), a powerful actor in EU border security, seems to be at the center of many of these issues.

While the EU has adopted several measures in the WPS context, from its first Comprehensive Approach on WPS in 2008 to the present-day EU Action Plan on WPS (2019-2024), migrant women’s experiences have been marginalised. Under the current EU WPS framework, out of the eighteen EU member states that have a National Action Plan (NAP) on UNSCR 1325, only nine countries acknowledge the relevance of conflict-affected migrant women’s experiences at and within European borders. We attribute this to the narrow adoption of the WPS agenda as a foreign policy tool as well as the persisting patterns of coloniality and unequal power balances between the EU and migrants’ countries of origin and transit. Hence, the EU tends to locate conflict and insecurity outside of its own borders and promotes a self-identity as a “safe haven”. However, European borders' reality is stridently different from this image. Failing to challenge problematic understandings of conflict, gender, and migration means perpetuating the very root causes of gendered insecurities.

In light of this, we argue for an expansion of the WPS Agenda to cover issues of migration and border management in the EU – an extension that follows a broad understanding of gender and takes into account Europe’s responsibility for historical injustices dating back to colonial times as well as contemporary structures of violence. Austria with its long-standing commitment to WPS is ideally placed to push for such a change and also implement this extension domestically. Due to the central role of Frontex in managing borders but also reproducing structures of violence, we propose a set of recommendations for policy-makers that are specifically geared at EU and Austrian actors and target Frontex as a main area of reform. These recommendations include: improving gender-sensitive knowledge, skills, and periodical training not only for border agents, but also management of national and EU border units; strengthening accountability in cases of misconduct; the inclusion of NGOs, civil society and research institutes in policy-making processes; and intensification of dialogue and harmonisation between the realms of foreign and interior affairs.

Keywords: UN WPS Agenda, Gender, Migration, Flucht, EU Grenzmanagement, Frontex