Since Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) was adopted by the United Nations in 2000, there has been a slow uptake of improving the participation of women in conflict resolution and throughout peace process. Today we will discuss and summarize key components found within the International Peace Institute‘s publication ‘Reimagining Peacemaking: Women’s Roles in Peace Processes’ that was released in June 2015.
This report pinpoints the multiple barriers that continue to prevent the involvement of women throughout the decision making process regarding conflict resolution and peacebuilding. As this report suggests, the way in which a problem is represented plays a major role in defining the participation of women within the peacebuilding process. Where, “if the goal of a peace process is only to end violence, then women—who are rarely the belligerents—are unlikely to be considered legitimate participants. If the goal is to build peace, however, it makes sense to gain more diverse inputs from the rest of society” (p. 1). The underrepresentation of women within the peacebuilding process is exacerbated by a lack of research providing evidence that the involvement of women in the peace process does indeed provide positive results. Therefore, this report aims to present and compile evidence regarding the participation of women in all levels of decision making to provide recommendations for “reimagining the traditional approach to peacemaking” and improving the participation of women (p. 2).
The first section presents the multiple barriers to women’s participation:
- From a traditional standpoint, peace negotiations are discussed “behind closed doors” between governments largely comprised of male leaders, thus ignoring input from local organizations, the public and more specifically the participation of women.
- There is resistance of change from current decision makers to allow room at the table for “new constituencies”, including women.
- Many women’s organizations wishing to participate in the peacemaking process are repeatedly questioned regarding their “credibility, constituencies and qualifications” (p.4).
- While there are those committed to increasing women’s participation in the peace process, many mediation teams consider that time constraints do not always allow for this, implying that the benefits of involving women do not outweigh the proposed risks of not.
- “Women’s groups were only included when local and international organizations (as opposed to mediation teams or negotiating parties) lobbied strongly for their participation” (p. 8).
- During a panel discussion after the release of this report, co-author Marie O’Reilly stated “the short term goal of ending violence is emphasized at the expense of the longer vision of how to build peace, and this rationale feeds into the exclusion of women”. Again, this boils down to how the problem of conflict is represented by those at the negotiating table.
It is stressed within this report that women experience war and conflict in ways much different than men, as they bear the brunt of conflict’s secondary effects such as the “breakdown of social order, human rights abuses, economic devastation and the spread of infectious disease” as well as high accounts of domestic violence during and post conflict (p. 5). Therefore, the male and female representations of conflict and security are viewed through lenses that are vastly different from one another, and without the participation of women, this additional representation is often silenced leading to a “continuum of violence and insecurity” (p. 5).
To address these barriers, the report compiles new evidence from qualitative and quantitative research studies demonstrating the importance of the participation of women:
- Issues relating to the root causes of conflict are addressed when women are involved
- “Women’s physical security and gender equality in society correlate with broader peace and stability in states” (p. 6)
- When women’s organizations are asked to participate within the peace process, it was found that positive correlations occurred only when these groups had a strong level of influence. This demonstrates that “women’s inclusion does not hinder reaching agreements as it is sometimes argued” rather, it helps improve them (p. 11).
- When women’s organizations have a high level of influence within the negotiation process, they are frequently able to actively mobilize the process towards effectively reaching a peace agreement.
- “Peace agreements are 64% less likely to fail when civil society representatives participate” which also applies to the participation of women, as with their involvement, a peace agreement “is 35% more likely to last for 15 years if women participate in its creation” (p. 12).
Utilizing this evidence, this report then discusses strategies for meaningful participation, which include:
- Building coalitions using normative strategic arguments: as mentioned above, women’s participation in peace processes only occurred with strong lobbying from local organizations, this means that building strong women’s coalitions within the local context is extremely important regarding influence and inclusion.
- Establishing a credible selection process: since civil society organizations are frequently questioned regarding their credibility, it is important for the selection process for those participating in negotiations to be transparent and “carried out by constituents in conjunction with quotas” (p. 28).
- Creating the conditions to make women’s voices heard: this can be done by ensuring a greater number of female participants, as well as redefining the make-up of the authorization or “ultimate decision making power” given to the mostly male actors.
- Keeping power politics – and the public – in mind: by ensuring adequate use of political influence and considering the cultural context regarding gender roles, this will benefit and improve participation of women in the decision making process.
Participation of women in the peace process is crucial, and this document provides the evidence that demonstrates this importance.
We would like to hear feedback from you. What are some strategies that you think would improve the participation of women in peace processes? Comment below!
The blog series, Keeping 1325 Alive, was written by WPSN-C intern Michelle Grover.