Evolving threats and faceless enemies: Engendering human security in the United Nations

Date of Completion

January 2007


Women's Studies|Political Science, International Law and Relations




Today, many complex global problems are being located within the security logic. From the environment to HIV/AIDS, state and nonstate actors have made a practice out of securitizing issues that are not conventionally seen as such. As most prominently demonstrated by Security Council Resolution 1325 (2001), activists for women's rights have increasingly framed women's concerns and gender inequality as security issues in an attempt to gain access to the international security agenda, particularly in the context of the United Nations. In analyzing the use of the security language, this research sheds light on the nature and implications of the securitization process as a political framework for the world's women. Examining the relationship between women, gender and the international security agenda not only interrogates the meaning of international security in terms discourse and practice, but also the larger goals and strategies of the global women's movement. This research traces and analyzes the organizational dynamics of women's activism in the United Nations system and how women have come to embrace and been impacted by the security framework, globally and locally. From a feminist and human security perspective, this project finds that engendering the security discourse has had both broadening and limiting effects. Although the findings operationalize human security, they also highlight reasons to be skeptical of securitization as an inherently beneficial strategy. In this sense, the project provides insight into mechanism driven scholarship on international human rights norms and transnational advocacy. From a policy perspective, understanding the utility of mechanisms, such as the security discourse, stands to inform groups, especially nongovernmental organizations, advocating for women's rights as well as other marginalized sects of society. The implications of invoking specific gendered understandings of security affect the women's movement at all levels, the UN as a norm-influencing global governance institution, and the meaning of security as we move into the 21st century. ^