No peace without women
The Generation Equality Forum, which kicked off in Mexico City and will culminate in Paris in June, is a unique opportunity to dismantle discriminatory barriers that prevent women’s equal participation in peace, security and humanitarian efforts. It is also a strategic moment to draw global attention to the continuing need to promote and protect women’s human rights, celebrate the work of women peacebuilders and women rights defenders, and promote women’s leadership in all peace and humanitarian decision-making processes.
Even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge, several parts of the world are reeling from serious conflict and war. While the role of negotiators to help restore and maintain peace in these regions remains vital, the participation of women in this process has been underscored for some time now. Back in 2000, the UN Security Council recognized for the first time the differentiated impact of conflict on women and girls and reaffirmed the importance of women’s participation in all efforts to achieve peace and security.
In fact, evidence around the world shows that ensuring women’s participation in peace and security efforts is not only a matter of women’s rights but contributes to making peace more durable and sustainable. For instance, reports suggest that when women participate in peace processes, the resulting agreement is more durable and better implemented. And the participation of civil society groups, including women’s organizations, makes a peace agreement 64 percent less likely to fail.
Limited women participation
Despite strong evidence of their positive impact on peacebuilding, women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution remains abysmal. Between 1992 and 2019, women constituted only 13 percent of negotiators and 6 percent of mediators in major peace processes worldwide. Recognizing the different impacts of crises, we have seen recent significant gains in global normative commitments, with at least 95 States translating the women, peace and security agenda to into national action plans, as of January 2021. However, much of the progress continues to be measured in ‘firsts’ rather than as a standard practice.
Though the participation of women in formal peace processes has been inching up, numbers show that few of them participated in leadership roles such as negotiators, guarantors, or witnesses. For example, seven out of every ten peace processes still did not include women mediators or women signatories. This is a clear indication that a lot more needs to be done to increase women’s position in peacebuilding.
Why women are needed for peacebuilding
There is a solid and logical reason why women should be included as peace builders and negotiators for conflict resolution. While the lives of everyone living in a conflict zone are affected, women and girls are the most vulnerable during a crisis. A cause of worry is that 40 percent of the planning processes reported no meaningful engagement with local women’s organizations in the planning and prioritization of humanitarian response plans. Including women negotiators will therefore avoid the risk of marginalizing the voices of crisis-affected women and girls in the development of strategic response plans. Another advantage of involving women’s organizations is their capability for initiating and mobilizing mass campaigns to champion the cause of peace talks, as seen in several countries such as Liberia and Guatemala.
Peacebuilding often requires a collaborative approach, wherein one must work with diverse groups involved in conflict. Women are socialized to exhibit such collaborative and relationship-building skills, which should be harnessed for peace-making. Moreover, generally perceived as honest or impartial mediators by the conflicting parties, bringing women to the peacebuilding table helps build credibility and increase confidence in the negotiations, thus accelerating the peace process.
Conflict resolution processes need to go beyond military action. Understanding the distinct needs, priorities and capacities of women and girls, as well as men and boys of different ages and backgrounds, is critical to effective humanitarian responses. Introducing political and legal reforms, social and economic recovery priorities, and transitional justice concerns helps societies reconcile and recover faster and can make peace agreements more durable. It has been noted that women are more likely to raise these important social issues in negotiations.
Greater involvement for conflict prevention
Raising the funding for programs and processes – which remains abysmally low with bilateral aid to women organisations stagnating at 0.2 percent of bilateral aid to conflict-affected contexts – can help increase the participation of women.
Recognizing the impact women have on strengthening and leading successful peace negotiations, a lot of proactive steps are being taken at the global level. The aim is to place women at the heart of conflict resolution by increasing their participation and ensuring protection of women peacebuilders. The Generation Equality Forum in Paris in June offers a strategic opportunity to underscore the important role that women can and should play in conflict prevention and early warning, peace-making, peacekeeping, and post conflict resolution and rebuilding. Continued failure to include them in peace processes ignores their demonstrated contributions and overlooks a potential strategy to respond more effectively to security threats around the world. More importantly, it puts the world, especially conflict zones at a greater risk of paying the price for excluding women from peacebuilding.