Workshop 7:  New security policies, conflict and women’s human rights

Security and peace policies are moving towards protectionist surveillance states. This development is also visible in migration and refugee policies across Europe. The workshops aimed to understand the coincidence of these different strings of “security policies” and the threatening potential of undermining gender equality principles and human rights.

Listen the audio hier:


Annemarie Sancar senior program officer for gender in the Policy and Platform Program and at the Center for Peacebuilding (moderator)
Alexandra Bousiou, researcher completing a PHD on security issues concerning the movement of refugees (speaker)
Merle Gosewinkel, senior program officer at Women Peacemakers Program (speaker) @_WPP_
Rosabel Agirregomezkorta, director at Centro de estudios e Investigación sobre Mujeres (speaker)

Sancar, raised a number of questions to frame the session:

What does security mean at this moment in time? Is it gender responsive? Is it covering social security? Are we seeing the securitization of security?
What is a feminist concept and policy of security? And does WPS still address this?
What do you think of when you consider the term security?

The speakers addressed three different fields:

  • resolutions and normative instruments and their feminist value (Agirregomezkorta)
  • financing – how are approaches that try to stop violent extremism shifting CSO budgets (Gosewinkel)
  • Response of ‘refugee crisis’ – what’s happening on the ground and how is this reflected in policy (Bousiou)

Agirregomezkorta, focused on some key concerns.

Changes in three areas: development, human rights and peace and security, which traditionally worked separately, with different norms and ways of working, but were addressed in an increasingly interconnected way since the 90s.

90s – feminists contributed to build a comprehensive architecture based on human rights and women’s rights. Many hegemonic beliefs countered, such as the concept of conflict. Started promoting concepts like peacebuilding and positive peace.

Beijing and UNSCR 1325 examples of success.

Huge changes and loses after September 11. Security issues became central and war, actors of war, terrorism became reframed. Security industry gained power.

This has had huge impacts on WPS, which the following speakers will explore. WPS is now moving to securitisation and militarisation. Effects social and development processes on the ground. Logic brings new narratives, which we as feminists must challenge.

Dilemma – with this challenge to WPS, must we reinvent ourselves again? Are old truths still useful? E.g. it may be that conflicts are more complex than they were in the 90s and therefore old truths and ways of working are now longer applicable.

Huge risks of Resolution 2242 to women’s rights, which has been implemented in European countries. Example of securitization.

Gosewinkel, Civil society is under attack

FATF (Financial Action Task Force) – regulation of civil society in an effort to counter terrorism financing. Give out recommendations, which every country is evaluated by approx. every seven years. Good rating doesn’t mean had a good standing in terms of human rights. Regulations are being used by governments to clamp down on civil society.

Standards have had a significant impact on banks, who increasingly show risk adverse behaviour. Women’s organisations are almost always small, which means they have limited leverage if they need to negotiate with banks. Fall prey to banks approach of ‘better safe than sorry,’ where banks choose not to allow women’s organisations to open bank accounts from fear that may be somehow linked to terror-related activity. Delays of months if not years due to counter terrorism laws. Banks requesting additional information before money is realised. Sometimes directly from banks or governments to banks.

Donors focus on transparency – yet this can have issues related for those working with civil society in specific country contexts e.g. safety/fear of repercussions through affiliation with a CSO.

Small CSOs struggle with increasing admin requirements.

CSOs are coping in a range of ways e.g. wording work/specific programmes in different way; no longer working on specific areas; needing to find bigger organisations to partner with to help them access funds.


  • Engage in further research to document impact (this is an under-researched area).
  • Invest in awareness raising on counter-terrorism push and its impact. Organisations often feel like it’s their own personal issue, but this would draw attention to the issue as something structural.
  • Invest in advocacy.
  • Invest in movement building.
  • Engage with donors to challenge system.

Bousiou, Research on governance on asylum seekers across Greek-Turkey and reception conditions of refugees and.

European policies which we as European citizens have a say over, for human rights and women’s rights. Background knowledge to keep in mind for her talk. We can hold our governments and EU accountable.

On paper, what are the rules on asylum seekers and what is happening on the ground?

Material reception conditions are not even close to being sufficient. Regarding women, no separate safe spaces for women, sexual violence, places where no one is looking out for the safety of refugees.

Three directives – asylum seekers directive (decisions about how we should respond to refugees); Reception conditions directive (minimum conditions on what refugees should have when they arrive in Europe – whereas the reality right now is miles apart). Huge lack of facilities such as housing, not even available for those who are particularly vulnerable, such as many women, who may end up rough sleeping. Non minimum standards actually being implemented. Finally, question of whether granted refugee status.

Focus on security issues when it comes to refugees.

Two regulations on asylum about security: Dublin Convention – the responsible Member State will be the state through which the asylum seeker first entered the EU (which means some countries are going to have a much higher number of asylum seekers than others). Now some want to take a step further e.g. not first country in Europe but send refugees back to first ‘safe’ country outside of Europe.

Second regulation about finger printing. In the case of Lesbos, people who arrive have their finger prints taken or, if not capacity to that that at that moment, they would be told to register in Athens. Yet less than 1/3 doing this in Athens and there was recognition that this approach was not working. Let to ‘hotspot’ approach in Italy and Greece to make sure refugees registered and controlled.

There are serious inequalities in the system… e.g. refugees most likely to arrive at certain countries, which have a much higher likelihood of receiving refugees.

Local grass-roots people acting to set up camps and mount a response yet this was destroyed as did not fint with the hotspot approach where you want to know where everyone is at all times.

Final comment: terrible that EU-Turkey deal has been positioned as a success as people aren’t dying any more.


Bringing the three inputs together – they are about money, logic, narratives.

When you start shifting ODI money from the south to the north for securitisation – we need to challenge this.

How can we undermine negative narratives of threat? i.e. focus on securitisation against refugees.

How is EU is handling the ‘refugee crisis’? Are member states going rogue and handling it however they want? For example, France have openly announced that they are breaching many EU requirements. Poignant that today’s talk is on the day that the so-called Calais Jungle has been closed.

On refugees, there is potentially a lot to learn from Australian – as that may be the EU future – refugees placed on another island, out of sight and out of mind, dehumanised…

Reflections on financial flows are an important point of for feminist analysis – need for feminist financial flow analysis and gender responsive budgeting.

Need for solidarity and non-violent mobilisation.
Need to de securitise and re-humanise refugees.
Think about real between human rights and neoliberalism


  • Financial flows are a feminist issue! Reflections on financial flows are an important entry points for feminist analysis. Women Peacemakers Program gives the example of the way civil society space is being shrunk by the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) which, in a counter-terrorism strategy, requires increasing information on civil society financing and activity. Such demands make seemingly simple things such as getting an organisation bank account increasingly difficult and add further time and resource pressures on organisations and groups with limited funds. This can also be read in light of the increasing securitization and militarization of the women, peace and security agenda. Organisations may now be applying for WPS funding on discouraging extremism. What are the implications of this from a feminist perspective? How can we challenge this change in discourse and practice?

•           Invest in awareness raising on the current counter-terrorism push and its impact – in the case of WPS funding and other issues such as the ‘refugee crisis.’ How are counter-terrorism arguments framing and limiting the debate and how can we challenge these? We need to interrogate the link between money, logic and certain narratives.