For women’s full participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding

An initiative from Kvinna till Kvinna


Women's organization FADI, Kiliba, DR Congo.

Women's rights activists from the organization FADI at an information meeting about gender equality, in the village of Kiliba, DR Congo. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.

Everyone should be able to live their lives without being subjected to violence and repression. Free to make their own decisions. But as we all know, that is not the state of the world today. Women are disproportionately affected by armed conflicts, but are consequently excluded from peace and re-building processes. Their voices don’t count. And in the long run that makes sustainable peace impossible. Equal Power – Lasting Peace spreads information and calls for action. Whether you are a decision-maker or a civilian – help us make a change!

Why a campaign for women’s right to total participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding?

The most common form of armed conflicts today are conflicts within states. A majority of war casualties are civilian. War are no longer men fighting in trenches, it kills, maims and destroys the lives of both men and women. Equally.

But when it comes to sitting down negotiating an end to the violence and deciding how to govern the country in the future, women are not welcome.

Of 24 major peace negotiations that were started between 1992 and 2009, only 7,6 percent had women participants (Women’s Participation in Peace Negotiations: Connections between Presence and Influence, UNIFEM 2010).

Only 2,5 per cent of the peace signatories were women (Women’s Participation in Peace Negotiations: Connections between Presence and Influence, UNIFEM 2010).

Of the 585 peace agreements signed between 1990 and 2010 only 16 per cent contained references to women (Peace Agreements or Pieces of Paper? The Impact of UNSC Resolution 1325 on Peace Processes and their Agreements, Bell, Christine and O’Rourke, Catherine, 2010).

And when the Yearbook of Peace Processes 2008 studied 33 peace negotiations, they found that only 4 percent of the participants were women.

It goes on and on. These are the facts, although more than ten years have passed since the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 was adopted. 1325 clearly states the importance of women’s equal and full participation as active agents in peace and security, and is binding upon ALL UN member states. Its key provisions are:

• Increased participation and representation of women at all levels of decision-making.

• Attention to specific protection needs of women and girls in conflict.

• Gender perspective in post-conflict processes.

• Gender perspective in UN programming, reporting and in SC missions.

• Gender perspective and training in UN peace support operations.

So the international community has decided that women’s participation is so important that it needs to be protected by a special agreement. But, as statistics clearly shows, that agreement is far from being implemented. The only way to support women getting their voice, is to raise ours.


Why does it matter if women are included or not?

If the equal justice and UN Resolution arguments aren’t enough for you, there is another one impossible to ignore: Women´s equal participation is crucial in achieving lasting peace.

After an armed conflict, the peace agreement is often used as framework when forming the country’s new constitution. Tradition and patriarchal values cast women and men in different kinds of roles – both during peace and in war time. This leads them to have different types of experiences and knowledge of their societies. So excluding women from peace negotiations and the writing of a new constitution, means excluding the experiences, knowledge and needs of half the country’s population. Anything not included in the initial peace agreement risks not being included in the political priorities for a long time afterwards (see for example Bosnia-Herzegovina, Engendering the Peace Process, The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation 2000). This is not only a huge waste of invaluable resources, but also often leads to one of two things:

1. A gender-blind constitution, where women’s political, economical and legal rights are being restricted.

2. A gender-neutral constitution, that doesn’t restrict women’s rights, but also doesn’t clearly state for example how women’s participation in political life and decision-making is supposed to be increased (as UNSCR 1325 dictates). The outcome has proven to be a society where that participation is continously low.

Besides from countries missing out on valuable knowledge this way, women’s lack of access to power is also intimately tied to war and peace. Research shows that violent conflicts are more common in countries with a low representation of women in parliament (Progress of the World’s Women, Vol. 1. Women, War and Peace, Rehn, Elisabeth and Johnson Sirleaf, Ellen, 2002).

Many peace treaties are fragile. 90 percent of civil wars in the 21st century occured in countries that had experienced a civil war in the previous 30 years (the Worldbank’s World Development Report 2011). Democracy has proven to be a key factor for peace – democratic states seldom wage war against each other. But being a democracy doesn’t in itself protect a country from civil war. A deeper analysis shows that the quality of democracy is important (Rethink! A Handbook for Sustainable Peace, The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation 2009).

Being a democracy entails more than having democratic institutions and fair and free elections. When women are denied access to decision-making bodies, democracy ceases to function. The needs of the civilian population, needs that women often have more knowledge of due to their roles in society, are more easily neglected which creates an unbalanced society. And, as the Worldbank’s World Development Report 2011 states, that kind of human rights abuse and inequality between different groups of society, is a powerful fuel when it comes to armed conflicts re-appearing.

To sum this up: You simply cannot reach sustainable peace as long as 50 percent of the population is excluded.