Vjollca Krasniqi: Lost in Gender Translation: UNSCR 1325 and the Kosova Protectorate


Vjollca Krasniqi lehrt als Soziologin und Philosophin an der Universität Prishtina und hat ihr Doktorat über Gender, Entwicklung und Globalisierung an der London School of Economics erworben. Ihre letzte Publikation ist „Imagery, Gender and Power: The Politics of Represen-tation in Post-War Kosova ( Feminist Review 2007). 

This text engages with the role of gender in the intersections of peace-keeping/peace building (2)  and state-building processes in Kosova. It examines the ‘peacekeeping cultural apparatus’ in Kosova, the dominant discourses on gender, with special emphasis on UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and its effects on gender roles.  The purpose is to show that gender mainstreaming—which has been associated with diverse groups of actors, governing Kosova, including international, local institutions and women’s groups—have mostly created and re-enacted binary gender relations and fortified hierarchical relations between men and women. 

The ‘international community’ and Kosova institutions have failed to apply and integrate Resolution 1325 into state-building processes. Thus, its transformative potential has not been fulfilled or been translated into transformative gender politics.  In Kosova, Resolution 1325 has faced both structural and discursive obstacles. Angela Raven-Roberts has identified three problems that hamper gender mainstreaming efforts in peacekeeping operations: first, the lack of conceptual coherence among the humanitarian, human rights, political and development approaches the United Nations is expected to balance in response to armed conflict; second, ‘the bias against gender equality’; finally, the absence of ‘effective systems of management’ (Raven-Roberts, 2005: 56-57). 

In the last two decades, Kosova has witnessed radical changes of gender roles. A variety of civil society actors and political formations as well as sections of the Kosova society have pointed to the importance of gender equality, justice, and women’s empowerment. Paradoxically, such claims for public recognition of gender equities have been met with contradictions in the post-war reconstruction process: on the one hand, through the ‘diffusal’ of women’s issues in practice and symbolic mimic in the political rhetoric; on the other, through the marginalization of women. While women have actively sought to have a share in political decision-making and women’s issues, they have been systematically pushed aside. 

Since its deployment in 1999, the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Kosova (UNMIK) (3),  Resolution 1325 has not been seen by international peacekeeping practitioners as a platform for managing peace and security after war.  It did not either have an impact in the UN-sponsored negotiations on the political status of Kosova – led by UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, Martti Ahtisaari (4). Indeed, women were not part of the Kosova final status talks, even though UNSCR 1325 seeks to bring women to peace talks, and despite pressure from the women‘s groups in Kosova and Serbia for participation in the status talks. Moreover, the peace settlement itself, the Ahtisaari Plan, completely sidetracked gender concerns. 

I contend that women’s participation and activism in state building processes, even if it has provided short-term emancipatory and liberatory potentials (e.g. introduction of a 30 percent gender quota), have not failed to challenge hierarchical power relationships but also reinforced traditional notions of femininity, and women’s roles. In Kosova, women have continued to be ‘second’ actors in political movements and systems. I am not downplaying the political role of women as actors without agency; rather, I am questioning and unmasking the ideologies and restrictions constructed and sustained by bureaucratic and political apparatuses that prevent women from taking part in formal politics and that make them susceptible to cooptation in male dominated political settings. To be sure, today, Kosova has a sound legal infrastructure promoting gender equality (5). But, as many feminist academics have pointed out, policy advances on gender equality, if not matched by concomitant cultural shifts in gender perceptions and expectations, contribute to the neutralization of gender hierarchies, albeit in the ‘name’ of institutionalization of gender ‘doings’. Thus, in the social, economic and political processes in Kosova, gender has not been seen part of the on-going social dialogue.  And the discourse on “gender issues” linked to women’s rights has produced hierarchically fixed and marginalized institutional responses. A case in point is the exclusion of women and gender issues in peace processes and the domination of men in key decision-making positions. 

The experience in Kosova suggests that those involved in peace processes have failed to take Resolution 1325 seriously, especially its core assumption that all actors involved in negotiating and implementing peace agreements adopt a gender perspective. Irrespective of whether UN structures claim that they apply gender balance or gender mainstreaming strategies, their commitment to gender equity still remains a discourse that has not been translated into action and policy. What it shows is a systemically embedded lack of awareness of gender dimensions and perspectives - a condition that is perfectly logical in view of unwillingness of the UN to make the provisions of Resolution 1325 legally binding or of its power structures in post-conflict settings to implement them. (7.12.2010)


[1] Kosova used to be a self-governing entity within the former Yugoslavia, but without all the rights of the other the republics (Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia). Following the nationalist revival in Serbia in the late 1980s, Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevič forcibly deprived the Kosova Albanians of self-government and turned Kosovo into a Serbian colony. The violent conflict of 1998-1999 between the Albanians and Serbs led to the military intervention of NATO in 1999, which put an end to Serbian rule. Kosova was under administration of the United Nations and other international institutions (the European Union, the OSCE and NATO) as a ‘protectorate’ from 1999 until 2008. The status talks that began in 2006 between the Albanians and Serbs as part of a UN-led negotiating process resulted in non-agreement between both parties. A UN plan ensued, calling for supervised Kosova’s independence.  The Kosovar Albanians declared independence on 17 February 2007 with the support of the major Western powers. The EU has assumed the role of ‘supervising’ Kosova towards full independence. 72 states have recognized Kosova as an independent state.

[2] I see the concepts of ‘peace-keeping’, ‘peace-building’ and ‘peace-making’ as interrelated.

[3] See unmik.online.org, (accessed 12 November 2010).

[4] The peace talks between Kosova and Serbia provided no results. The peace settlement for the Kosova political status known as the ‘Ahtisaari plan” called for a supervised independence in 2007. While the proposal was not approved by the UN Security Council because of Russian opposition, the Albanian majority bases its claim on statehood on it.

[5] The Constitution of the Republic of Kosova guarantees gender equality and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is directly applicable. Moreover, the Law on Gender Equality was adopted in February 2004 as well as the Anti-Discrimination Law, Law against Domestic Violence and a set of gender equality mechanisms at the local and national levels.