For women’s full participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding

An initiative from Kvinna till Kvinna

For policymakers

Carl Bildt meet women's organizations in Nablus

Sweden's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt, meets with representatives for Palestinian Centre for Peace and Democracy in Nablus, the West Bank. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sweden.

Politicians and international actors are vital in post-conflict rebuilding, conflict resolution and other peace building activities. One of the main goals of Equal power – Lasting peace is to inspire you as a decision-maker to take action for women’s right to participate in these processes. But how to contribute? And where to start?

Below are action points and recommendations on what you can advocate for, within your area of decision-making, so that the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 will become fully implemented. For more information see the Equal Power – Lasting Peace report.

1. Address all levels of violence against women

  • Violence against women is a major obstacle to women’s participation in peace and democracy processes. Violence takes many forms and is present at different levels and in all parts of society – from the domestic sphere to the national political arena. It includes domestic violence, sexual violence, threats and violations of human rights.
  • It is vital to put an end to impunity for gender-based violence, including sexual exploitation and sexual harassment. Customary law should not be accepted or used if it violates international standards and human rights. The international community should work with local women’s organizations to identify the best strategies for appropriate legal frameworks, to avoid laws being adopted under donor pressure that don’t respond to women’s analysis and demands.
  • In many societies, violence or threats of violence against women human rights defenders are not recognised as strategies to silence them but rather as part of a general problem of violence against women. The international community must recognise and identify the structures and reasons underlying the violence, and must offer protection in order to secure women’s participation.

2. Address gender inequality and power imbalances

  • The different actors within the international community, such as the EU and the UN, should lead by example and be role models for women’s participation and women’s human rights. They likewise have a key role to play in bringing the voices of women from conflict-affected regions into policy making, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
  • If the international community’s organizations are gender-equal and include women at all levels, this sends important signals to women in the local context. Today, the international community does not live up to the standards it has set when it comes to appointing senior women to its missions. The international community’s institutions need to be transparent, systematically collect sex-disaggregated data, employ quotas when necessary and use or create rosters of professional women.
  • A gender perspective needs to be included in all forms of reporting, where and when meetings were held, how many men/women participated, etc, in order to make sure that women participate in the peace and reconstruction processes.
  • Power analysis, of which gender is an integral part, should be required in all conflict analyses and assessments. It is an important tool for revealing layers of discrimination as well as the multiple identities of each actor (gender, clan, religion etc).
  • Improve communications with civil society through structured consultation and the exchange of information and analyses. The international community has an obligation to meet local women’s organizations. In doing so, the international community is accountable for not only listening but actively seek to incorporate the given information to their work and to the peace process.
  • Slander is a powerful suppression technique used against women everywhere to diminish them. Be observant, since what is said might not be true but simply a strategy to silence women politicians or activists. The international community should legitimise women human rights defenders when others are trying to de-legitimise them.

3. Recognise that building democracy takes time

  • Building democracy takes time and involves much more than free and fair elections. Funding is a long-term commitment, as is developing inclusive approaches to peacebuilding. In many ways, today’s focus on holding post-conflict elections very quickly has proven to be counterproductive for democracy and for women’s rights and participation. Supporting a variety of political parties and civil society organizations that can act as watchdogs is of utmost importance to rebuilding societies.
  • Studying corruption from a gender perspective would deepen the understanding of the effects that corruption has on the participation and inclusion of women in fragile societies. Targeting corruption may have the indirect consequence of opening up political space for women. The international community should support the work of civil society organizations to document, deconstruct and combat corruption and organized crime.

4. Increase funding for women’s organizations and make it more strategic

  • Women’s organizations are a key factor in implementing peace agreements, laws and regulations in a society. Women’s organizations have the best knowledge of local needs and problems. They are essential for democratic development, and should not be made into service providers for international institutes or the society.
  • In order to develop their potential to the benefit of the whole of society, women’s organizations need flexible and sustainable core funding.
  • The international community should be led by local women’s organizations in designing the best strategies for women’s empowerment. This is to ensure that the agenda is home-grown, appropriately paced and not open to be branded as “ideas imposed from the West”.
  • In order for women’s organizations to become stronger players in peacebuilding processes, they need to be able to meet and support each other and to create networks. Facilitating this is an important task for the international community, and can be achieved by offering and funding secure practical/ logistical support such as safe transport, safe spaces, communication technologies, etc.