The Nobel Peace Prize laureates in 2011 were three women peace activists: Tawakkol Karman, Yemen, the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee, also Liberia. Photo: Martin von Krogh.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureates in 2011 were three women peace activists: Tawakkol Karman, Yemen, the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee, also Liberia. Photo: Martin von Krogh.

More women in peace processes

Giving representatives from the entire community a voice in peace and reconciliation processes after an armed conflict, is essential for achieving long-term peace. In most cases, however, half of the population is routinely excluded from this process.

The traditional image of war, with enemy soldiers in opposing trenches, has not been a reality for a long time. War kills, cripples and destroys the lives of a large pro­portion of the civilian population – both men and women. That said, traditional divisions of gender roles within societies persist in conflict situations, meaning that men and women adopt different roles there too. Men often are the ones who fight on the battlefield, while women are left to ensure that society and its functions continue to operate.

Traditional gender models also play a crucial role when participants in peace negotiations are being selected:  men get a seat at the negotiating table and women have to stay at home. Statistics on peace processes illustrate this very clearly – 92.4 percent of participants in peace negotiations and 97.5 percent of signatories to peace agreements are men (Women’s Participation in Peace Negotiations: Connections between Presence and Influence, UNIFEM 2010). When women are excluded from peace processes, the experiences, knowledge and needs of half of the population are lost before the country’s efforts to rebuild have even begun.

Since the peace agreement often forms the basis of the new constitution in a post-war society, the exclusion of women risks women’s rights being overlooked in the constitution. Out of 585 peace agreements signed between 1990 and 2010, only 16 percent made any reference to women (Bell & O’Rourke, 2010, Peace Agreements or Pieces of Paper? The Impact of UNSC Resolution 1325 on Peace Processes and Their Agreements). More information on the negative effects that a peace agreement without a gender perspective can have on the development of women’s rights can be found in Engendering the Peace Process, a study of the Dayton Agreement that ended the Balkan war in 1995.

A society that does not respect the human rights of all its citizens, creates an inequality that is a powerful fuel for conflict in itself. The World Bank’s World Development Report 2011 lists attacks on human rights and inequalities between different groups in society as major risk factors for countries that have previously been affected by armed conflict to relapse into war. Ensuring women’s equal participation in peace work and decision-making is, in other words, a way to secure a more sustainable peace.

UN Security Council Resolution 1325

The international community has acknowledged the severe consequences of excluding women from peace processes, and has therefore begun to work for women’s full participation. The UN’s World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 resulted in the adoption of a Platform for Action against the discrimination of women. The Platform requires UN member states to take action and adopt legislation to remove all obstacles to gender equality. The Beijing Platform for Action was also a forbearer of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security. It deals specifically with women’s rights and their participation as actors in peace processes. Resolution 1325 was subsequently followed by resolutions 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960, 2106, 2122 and 2242. Resolution 1889, 2122 and 2242 further strengthens the articles of Resolution 1325, and the others primarily aim to combat sexual violence in conflict.

UNSC resolutions are binding for all UN member states, but as the statistics show, there is still a long way to go before they are universally implemented. The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation is actively engaged in this area – through our advocacy work, on national and international levels, to change the rules and regulations that hinder women’s equal participation in peace processes and to make sure that the rules that support equal participation are being followed; by collecting and disseminating knowledge concerning women’s rights and women’s peacework; and by supporting women’s organisations in conflict regions that are working for women’s rights and peace.

Updated in: 2016-01-18