Please enable javascript to access the full functionality of this site

WDSN Banner

Dr Anu Mundkur

Dr Anu Mundkur has extensive practical experience in the fields of international relations (particular focus on human security), gender and development. Her areas of expertise include women peace and security; feminist approaches to international relations; gender and international aid. She has over fifteen years of professional experience, including nearly ten years working, in different roles, on gender projects funded by the Commonwealth of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australia Aid). Currently, Dr Mundkur is seconded from Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) to the Australian Civil-Military Centre (ACMC). Her role involves supporting the development of national capabilities to prevent, prepare for and respond more effectively to humanitarian crises overseas, by providing expert advice and facilitating NGO contributions to civil-military training, education, research, lessons management and preparedness. Dr Mundkur was interviewed for the WDSN in May, 2018. 

Thanks for chatting with us Anu! Can you start by telling us more about your interests and research areas? Specifically, your role as both an academic and an activist with expertise in women peace and security?

I see myself as an activist-academic. I don't see these roles as separate - my activism gives purpose to my research. My research and activism are grounded in my practical experience in the fields of gender and development, international relations (particular focus on human security). My areas of expertise include women peace and security; feminist approaches to international relations; gender and international aid. These last couple of years, I am grappling with better conceptualising conflict prevention - in answering the question 'if violence was not the option on the table, what would we do differently to prevent conflict?' So as an academic I use every opportunity I get to talk about feminist approaches to development peace and security. As an activist I use every space available to me to advocate for gender equality and women's substantive participation in all aspects of peace and security policy development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. I see it as my responsibility to ensure that diverse women's voices are heard on what constitutes peace and security and what Australian and the global community should be doing about ensuring sustainable peace. I am able to do this though my advocacy work. I represent the Australian Council for International Development on the Steering Group of Australian Civil Society Coalition on Women, Peace and Security (WPS Coalition) and I have been nominated to represent the WPS Coalition on the Australian Government's Interdepartmental Subcommittee on the National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security

You recently wrote several pieces for ASPI’s Strategist blog as part of their series on women peace and security (WPS). One of your pieces looked at the role of civil society in WPS governance in Australia. Why is this important and what measures can the Australian government put in place to ensure meaningful collaboration in this area?

Women’s activism for peace has a long history dating back to 1915 when a group of suffragettes convened the International Congress of Women at The Hague "to protest against war and to suggest steps which may lead to warfare becoming an impossibility”. At least 8 of the resolutions passed on this day have a direct link to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 passed in October 2000, 85 years later. According to Cynthia Cockburn (2007) “It (UNSCR 1325) may well be the only Security Council resolution for which the groundwork, the diplomacy and lobbying, the drafting and redrafting, was almost entirely the work of civil society, of non-governmental organizations. Certainly, it was the first in which the actors were almost all women”. I think this really sums up the role of CSOs and why they, with respect to the women peace and security agenda - we are its heart, its soul and very breath taken to sustain the agenda.

As far as what measures can the Australian government put in place to ensure meaningful collaboration - (a) Supporting a robust and vibrant civil society space (b) Dedicated fund to adequately resource a shadow reporting process for the WPS agenda in a similar manner to the Office for Women funding the shadow reporting process on the CEDAW (c) The WPS Coalition requires funding similar to what the government provides for the National Women's Alliances so that the Coalition Secretariat can function effectively, and its work is valued. (d) Adopting a collaborative model for WPS Governance where all stakeholders have an equal place at the table, are recognised as legitimate interlocutors, develop a sense of joint ownership and are committed to the collaborative process.

I am sure our readers would be interested to hear your thoughts regarding the importance of good domestic WPS governance in terms of national security. How would you describe the relationship between the two and what role, if any, do you see civil society organisations (CSOs) as playing?

The WPS agenda calls for a gendered approach to peace and security and in doing so challenges traditional approaches to national security. Traditionally the concept of security was (and for some continues to be) rooted in the notion of state sovereignty – exclusive rights to control and protect a territory. However, today, often instability is internal to states --- perpetrated by the state and/or non-state actors within their territory and arising from economic failure, violation of human rights, political discrimination. The concept of human security evolved as a means to find answers to questions such as “security from what?”, “whose security?”, and “security by what means?”

Drawing on this people-centred approach, the women peace and security agenda seeks to expand the scope of what constitutes a national security threat to include risks to women and girls arising from:

  1. Socio-economic threats – lack of employment, healthcare, housing, education, food and so forth.
  2. Personal security threats – vulnerability to violence, state use of torture, invasion by other states, international or cross-border terrorism, ethnic violence, domestic violence, violence against children, trafficking for sex and labour
  3. Environmental threats – impacts stemming from the destruction of natural resources and resulting vulnerability to, for example, a scarcity of food and fresh water
  4. Political threats - civil rights and human rights violations, poor judicial systems, lack of law enforcement etc.

As the Fifth Report of the Annual Civil Society Dialogue on Women Peace and Security, highlights, when it comes to national security on one hand, the women peace and security agenda is about "increasing women’s substantive participation in all aspects of peace and security policy development and implementation. On the other hand, women peace and security is equally about transforming structures contributing to violence, militarization, and armament to a focus on human rights, human security, and peace, at the national, regional and global levels.

Your other piece looked at Australia’s development of its second National Action Plan (NAP) on UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 to integrate gender perspectives into all areas of their peace and security policy-making and practices. In your opinion, what should be the main priorities in developing the second NAP?

The second National Action Plan (2nd NAP), needs to provide policy coherence. There are so many examples of the ever-widening gap between our domestic policy and our international commitments. To give just one example, sending increasing humanitarian aid to Yemen while selling arms to Saudi Arabia - makes little sense! Our aid program provides support to refugee camps in Jordan, but we send asylum seekers off shore to live in deplorable detention camps?

The 2nd NAP needs a clearly articulate vision for peace; what Australia will do to promote peace domestically and internationally; and how will Australia galvanise the passion and activism of diverse women and their organisations in building peace. The 2nd NAP must take as its founding principles conflict prevention and women's substantive participation and agency in conflict prevention, protection against gender-based violence and post conflict rebuilding/reconstruction.

The Fifth Report of the Annual Civil Society Dialogue on Women Peace and Security unequivocally states that the 2nd NAP should have a dual focus - a domestic agenda built around addressing inequality and peace based foreign policy grounded in principles of gender equality, promoting peace and stability, focusing on preventing conflict and reflective of our international commitments.

What advice do you have for women wanting to get into this particular area?

When I started working on gender and development issues there weren't many courses one could take. It was all about learning by doing (and making mistakes along the way and learning from them). Today, there are Masters degrees, Graduate Certificates, one-off courses that you can do to skill you up. These are useful in giving you foundational understanding of the issues we are dealing with. However, the greatest lessons are learned from working in the sector - make use of internships and opportunities to volunteer.

Make time to read, reflect on what you are reading and write about what you are reading! Be open to criticism. If you can’t take a critique of our ideas, you are in the wrong profession.

I am very lucky to have wonderful mentors - who are my ports of call when the world gets too much, and I need a good reality check.

What podcasts are you currently listening to?

LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security Podcast:

Our Secure Future:

Our Secure Future, Women in Diplomacy Podcast:

The Women, War & Peace Podcast Series:

The Center for Strategic and International Studies Podcast:

Finally, who inspires you?

All those amazing women (and a few men) who work tirelessly to make this world a better place.

Updated: 18 Dec 2018