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System Update: Towards a Women, Peace and Cybersecurity Agenda

By Lisa Sharland, Netta Goussac, Emilia Currey, Genevieve Feely and Sarah O'Connor

As the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda enters its third decade, it is crucial to ensure it is fit to address new and emerging security issues, such as cyberthreats and their gendered implications. To do so requires a shift in focus, moving beyond traditional conflict to encompass other settings where violence against women occurs, including cyberspace. 

The accessibility and unattributable nature of cyberspace has exposed women to a disproportionate amount of stalking and online harassment, as well as to targeted disinformation campaigns to dissuade their political participation. This has become even more pronounced in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the world took a digital turn and saw an increase in online violence, misogyny and hate speech directed at women. 

The relationship between cyber-enabled threats and cybersecurity has not been comprehensively explored as part of the development of the normative agenda on WPS. Advancing cybersecurity using the WPS agenda can ensure a gender-inclusive cyberspace that protects the rights of women and girls, and that lessons learned from traditional peace and security processes are incorporated for the benefit of a sustainable open, free and stable digital world. Furthermore, examination of cyberspace through the lens of the WPS agenda demonstrates that these incidents are inherently linked to international peace and security. 

This report - published by UNIDIR and authored by ASPI staff - provides further examination of cyber-related issues affecting the goals of the WPS agenda. It identifies six priority areas that need to be addressed to narrow the gap between WPS and cybersecurity.