More Peace with Women Part I
When there are only men around the negotiating table after a war, the peace agreement becomes more fragile. Nevertheless, there is not always a willingness to let women participate, neither in peace negotiations nor in peace operations.
- What is Security Council Resolution (SR) 1325?
- Why is it important for women to participate in peace work?
- What role do women have in peace negotiations and peace operations today?
2020 is a landmark year for international gender equality work: It is 25 years since 30,000 women and men gathered in Beijing to design an international standard for global gender equality work. It is also 20 years since the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security (Norwegian translation here ). The decision was binding on all 193 UN member states and has therefore had a major impact on how states and organizations have worked for women’s rights.
2: What is SR 1325?
UN Security Council Resolution (SR) 1325 states that women and men are affected by conflict in different ways, and that women must have a greater role in peacekeeping work. The resolution was groundbreaking because it was the first time the UN declared that women’s experiences of war are crucial to understanding international peace and security. In addition, it was the first time that the UN confirmed that women’s participation in peace processes is decisive for lasting peace. Since 2000, the UN has adopted nine more resolutions on women, peace and security.
With Resolution 1325 and the subsequent resolutions, the UN decided that their peace work should always include a gender perspective – whether it is about conflict prevention, participation in peace work or protection of victims of war. Promoting women’s rights in war and conflict is also important according to UN Sustainability Goal 5, on gender equality, and 16, on peace and justice.
3: Why is “women, peace and security” important?
The UN emphasizes two main reasons: protection and participation.
Despite the fact that entire societies are affected by conflict, women have a different need for protection in war than men and are more often exposed to sexual violence. Sexual abuse and rape are used as a deliberate war strategy to destroy families, exterminate ethnic groups and drive people into exile.
An example can be found during the civil war in Syria and Iraq, where the terrorist group IS used sexual violence as a weapon and kept women from the Yezidi people as slaves . Other examples can be found during the conflicts in Rwanda, Bosnia and South Sudan, countries located in Africa according to naturegnosis.com.
Despite the fact that sexual violence has always been used as a weapon in war, the perpetrators were rarely punished. In the 1990s, attitudes gradually changed. Civil society increasingly documented how sexual violence was used to commit genocide and ethnic cleansing in the conflicts in the Balkans and Rwanda. This put pressure on the UN and the international community to take action. Today, there are far more people working to combat sexual violence, both centrally in the UN system and on the ground in conflict-affected countries.
But women are not just victims of war . They are important players in peace mediation and in the reconstruction of society after a war. Nevertheless, women are severely underrepresented in peace work. The goal of strengthening women’s participation and influence is first and foremost about gender equality. Women, like men, have the right to be heard and to participate in processes that affect their lives. Professionals and decision makers have also shown that there are a number of other benefits to including more women in peace negotiations and international peace operations. We return to this below.
4: The role of women in peace negotiations and peace agreements
Peace negotiations, which often lead to a peace agreement, aim to stop conflicts and at the same time form a basis for the country’s future. In order to build a state after a conflict, one must, among other things, change the constitution or create a new one, plan and administer elections and change the judiciary and the security sector. In other words, there are many important decisions to be made when peace is negotiated.
Nevertheless, women are rarely included around the negotiating table: Between 1992 and 2018, women accounted for only 3 percent of the peace mediators and 13 percent of the peace negotiators (the negotiators debate on behalf of a party to the conflict, while the mediators are independent and facilitate negotiations). Most of the peace agreements that have been signed since 1990 until today have not been signed by a single woman. Only two women – Filipino Miriam Coronel Ferrer and Israeli Tzipi Livini – have led peace talks.
Between 1990 and 2017, 81 percent of the peace agreements had no reference to women, and 95 percent of the peace agreements did not mention gender-based and sexualized violence. We know this hinders the possibility of creating lasting peace. Studies have shown that the peace processes that include more women are better equipped to achieve their goals than peace processes that consist exclusively of men. In cases where women or women’s organizations have played a significant role in the negotiations, there is a greater chance that the parties will agree on and abide by a peace agreement.
But increasing the number of women in peace negotiations is not enough: in order to have an effect, women must also have an influence in the process. They must be able to bring forward and gain support for views and preferences – before, during and after the negotiations.
The participation of women is also important for strengthening the legitimacy and credibility of the peace agreement. Today, the vast majority of conflicts are recurring civil wars . This means that civil wars most often break out in states that have already been through civil wars before. Inclusive peace solutions that take into account the entire population are most effective in preventing recidivism. Strengthening the rights of women and girls, and taking into account their experiences and needs during peace negotiations, is therefore crucial to creating lasting peace.