The Role of Women and Girls:
RtoP and the Development-Humanitarian-Security Nexus
Emerging and protracted crises are causing unprecedented movements of people from their homes and into insecure situations, where they typically experience a lack of access to basic services including education, health, housing and economic opportunities. Development practitioners are now witnessing large-scale funding mechanisms shift their focus to the development-humanitarian-security nexus, with an increased focus on the women and girls who disproportionately experience the effects of forced migration and protracted crises. While the Responsibility to Protect has largely remained a set of principles, not yet enshrined in national or international legal frameworks, many governments are using their international assistance funding to push for development programming that addresses the root causes of conflict to prevent its occurrence. This shift towards the development-humanitarian-security nexus contributes to the normative framework around the Responsibility to Protect by using development funding mechanisms to encourage and assist States in their efforts to prevent and respond to mass atrocities of all kinds; to build their capacities to protect their populations from the effects of this violence; and to assist those already experiencing conflict.
While the RtoP has been affirmed in several Security Council resolutions, and many governments acknowledge the importance of the norm as indicated through its inclusion in the 2005 General Assembly World Summit Outcome Document, the domestication of the RtoP continues to face challenges. While the RtoP is not evoked explicitly by states in their foreign policies, funding frameworks for international assistance have begun to move towards an understanding that development and humanitarian efforts are inextricably linked to international security concerns. International assistance policies that prioritize the intersection between development, humanitarianism, and security serve the function of putting the RtoP’s principles into action, even if they are not implemented in the ways originally anticipated or imagined.
The G7 Charlevoix Declaration (2018) is an example of this shift, as this communique prioritizes educational opportunities for women and girls, particularly in emergency situations or in fragile states, through the signatories’ development assistance systems. This focus on education is explicitly linked to increasing security in these environments, and the G7 pledged to “ensure commitment to gender equality and prioritize improved access to quality education for girls and women in the early stages of humanitarian response and peacebuilding efforts.” This communique was supported by a funding announcement by Canada, the UK, Germany, the European Union, and Japan, alongside the World Bank, to put $3.8 billion entirely towards girls’ education in conflict and crisis situations. Canada, for example, allocated its $400 million contribution to this fund to its Feminist International Assistance Policy. This policy is based on the recognition by the Canadian government that “supporting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is the best way to build a more peaceful, more inclusive and more prosperous world.” As a Project Manager for a large international non-profit that regularly works with the Canadian government, I see firsthand how the ethos behind the Feminist International Assistance Policy now dictates how the Government of Canada decides which projects or interventions to fund. One of the six action areas of the Feminist International Assistance Policy is women’s involvement in peace and security efforts, because “when women are involved in peace and security efforts, solutions are more comprehensive […] This increases community buy-in and offers a better opportunity to address the root causes of conflict.” In the current global context, it is becoming clear that preventing and addressing security issues, particularly atrocities, is absolutely necessary for development projects to be sustainable in any way. The G7 Charlevoix Declaration is a strong indication of this recognition, particularly as it supports women and girls at the nexus of development, humanitarian, and peace and security agendas.
The rates of conflict and displacement of vulnerable groups of people continue to rise, increasing the importance of operationalizing the RtoP. As debates on the RtoP continue, states are putting these principles into action through the ways in which they allocate their funding for development and humanitarian projects. Women and girls are the anchors of these policies that support the implementation of the Responsibility to Protect, because when women and girls are supported and empowered to participate in their communities, they have shown to contribute meaningfully to both conflict prevention and resolution. Large-scale donor investment in women and girls at this development-humanitarian-security nexus simply makes sense for increased and continued peace and security efforts.
Shayna Halliwell is currently Senior Manager for Global Partnerships at Right to Play, a Toronto-based NGO working on child protection, education, and empowerment, where she manages international development projects across sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to her work in development, peace and security, she is interested and writes on indigenous and ethnic minority rights. Ms. Halliwell received her Master’s from Columbia University in New York.
 Luck & Bellamy article on ICRtoP blog.
 Paragraphs 138-139, http://responsibilitytoprotect.org/world%20summit%20outcome%20doc%202005(1).pdf. https://g7.gc.ca/en/official-documents/charlevoix-declaration-quality-education-girls-adolescent-girls-women-developing-countries/