NEW YORK CITY — In 2000, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. The resolution recognizes and affirms the role of women in peacebuilding processes and conflict prevention. Additionally, the resolution has also contributed to a growing recognition of how conflict affects men and women and the importance of including women in peace processes.
The U.N. Volunteer program is currently working to promote gender-responsive peacekeeping. The program is partnering with U.N. Women and the Peacebuilding Support Office to accelerate progress on globally implementing the U.N. Secretary-General’s Seven-Point Action Plan on Gender-Response Peacebuilding.
Lakshmi Puri, deputy executive director of U.N. Women, recognizes the importance of this initiative stating that “women’s engagement in the entire cycle of peacemaking, peacebuilding and conflict resolution is one of the best guarantees of sustaining peace.”
When women are included in peace processes, the probability of sustained peace is increased by 35 percent.
United Nations data shows that of 585 peace agreements signed between 1990 and 2010, only 92 even referenced women. However, the increased presence of women in preparing for and engaging in peace talks presents progress for gender equality. In recent years, women across Africa, Papua New Guinea and Colombia, among other examples, have taken significant roles in fostering peace. Further efforts to empower women will continue to progress post-conflict societies towards gender equality.
The African Union declared 2016 as the “Year of Human Rights,” with a specific focus on women’s rights. At the African Union’s Gender Pre-Summit in January 2016, leaders discussed how to better include women in peacebuilding processes. The Pre-Summit provided a space for women’s voices to be heard and advocate for female empowerment and involvement in peace processes.
Another regional network, the Women’s Situation Room, is working to better include women in conflict mitigation and peace processes. The initiative taps into the expertise of women and creates opportunities for them to engage in their national political processes.
The Women’s Situation Room started in Liberia in 2011 and has since been replicated in Senegal, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Nigeria, and is currently being implemented in Uganda.
“Women need to claim their space to influence peace, not just through numbers, but through strategic vision for maximum impact,” says Priscilla Joseph, founding member of South Sudan’s Women’s Peace Network. The importance of addressing women’s needs in conflict and their rights in peacebuilding is being voiced across the African continent and shows progress on the road to gender equality.
Bougainville, Papua New Guinea
Conflict erupted in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea in 1989 and lasted for almost 10 years. Nearly 20 years later, the region is still recovering.
Women have played a large role in Bougainville’s recovery. Additionally, international organizations are offering ongoing support, often with an emphasis on female inclusion and empowerment.
Two years ago, the U.N. Peacebuilding Fund began a project to help foster sustainable peace in Bougainville in the face of ongoing tensions. A focus of the effort is empowering women in peacebuilding efforts through supporting their political participation, establishing an Office for Women, and addressing violence against women through a prevention-based community dialogue.
USAID also recently launched a program to facilitate peace and female empowerment in Bougainville. The goal of the initiative is to enable women’s civil society organizations to address major social issues that resulted from the conflict. Women were among the most vulnerable and negatively affected during the conflict, and women effectively supported the peace movement that contributed to the end of the conflict.
Since the end of the civil war, female-led civil society organizations have played a key role in the recovery process. On the work of USAID, U.S. Ambassador Walter E. North expresses his satisfaction with working with organizations to promote women’s inclusion and “unlock(ing) the potential of women to serve as agents of change and inspire lasting developments in their communities.” Bougainville provides a promising example of greater inclusion and representation in peacebuilding efforts and post-conflict recovery.
Colombia provides a successful story of how women can shape a peace deal. After 52 years of civil conflict, the Colombian government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace deal on Sept. 26 2016.
In the midst of conflict, women helped negotiate ceasefires with local armed groups, won the release of hostages, pressured insurgents to lift roadblocks, documented human rights violations, protested the government’s budget priorities, and sought solutions to drug trafficking and other crimes.
Women participated in talks between the Colombian government and the FARC, and their role helped produce the negotiating agenda.
In efforts to institutionalize their role in the peace process, nearly 450 women held a National Summit of Women and Peace in October 2013 and demanded a place for women at the negotiating table. Consequently, President Juan Manuel Santos named two women to the government’s team, representing one-fifth of government negotiators. Women represented 10-20 percent of the FARC negotiators.
During the peace talks in Havana, both sides agreed to hold a gender-sub commission to assess how the accords would affect women and further discuss efforts towards gender equality.
The role of women in Colombia’s peace process is significant, especially when compared with many other efforts. The Colombian peace process provides a model to be replicated and improved upon for the inclusion of women in future peace accords.
The roles of women in peacebuilding efforts across Africa, in Papua New Guinea and in Colombia provide promising examples of greater representation in peace processes. When efforts are made to include women in peace talks, the outcome is often a more lasting, sustainable peace. An increased presence of women in peacebuilding efforts will not only ensure their needs are addressed but pave the foundation for sustained gender equality in post-conflict societies.
– McKenna Lux