The findings from the Iraqi field study show that the US occupation increased secterian thinking within the country and severly crippled women's rights. Photo: Anna Lithander/The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.
Violence, corruption and unequal laws are some of the obstacles that keep women in conflict-torn regions from participating on equal terms with men in peace processes. Another big part of the problem is that the international community gives priority to men for senior positions in peace operations. This according to the new report Equal Power – Lasting Peace made by the Swedish women and peace organization The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.
Equal Power – Lasting Peace is based on field studies made in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, DR Congo and Liberia. Although the countries and conflicts differ, the patterns are strikingly similar.
In all the regions women and women’s organizations play important roles in resolving conflicts in local communities and in handling everyday life.
But when it comes to formal decision forums the doors are closed for women. This contrary to the statements of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which emphasizes that women must participate on the same terms as men in all parts of peace processes, for the peace to be sustainable.
The exclusion of women is present both within the international missions and negotiating team at national level. Equal Power – Lasting Peace shows that very little has happened, despite the fact that twelve years have passed since Resolution 1325 was adopted.
– Peace Processes that excludes half the population are imperfect. Women’s needs and experiences are made invisible, says Lena Ag, Secretary General at The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.
Equal Power – Lasting Peace’s survey shows that the most common obstacles for participation that women face are:
- Legislation and standards
- Rumours and threats
- Domestic violence, including sexual violence
- Poverty and corruption
- Ignorance of the international community
- As in other policy areas, the male dominance within the peace and security area needs to be broken. It is a question of democracy and a basic condition for sustainable peace processes. It is also important to push for the appointments of more women to key positions within the EU and the UN. How else can the international community credibly argue that equality is important? says Lena Ag.
No female UN Chief Mediator
Examples of the representation of women and men in key positions related to peace and security:
- At the 24 largest peace negotiations held between 1992 and 2010, only 7,6 percent of the negotiators and 2,5 percent of the mediators were women.
- The UN has never appointed a female Chief Mediator.
- 89 percent of the UN’s special representatives and envoys are men.
- 84 percent of the UN peacekeeping operations are led by men.84 percent of the UN member countries’ UN ambassadors are men.
- There are only men leading the EU’s CSDP operations (operations under the EU’s common security and defense policy).
- 2 of the EU’s 10 special representatives are women.
Equal Power – Lasting Peace, the report
Equal Power – Lasting Peace, summary
Statistics of women and men in key positions within the EU and the UN
Why is it so difficult to get the parties in peace negotiations to include women? This was the main focus of an informal round-table held in Geneva, Switzerland, on April 26th. Experts on mediation and peace processes and women from civil society with experience of peace work participated.
- The results of the discussions will now be passed on to international actors, donors and civil society as part of the efforts to make a change, says Therese Arnewing, field coordinator at the women’s rights and peace organization The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, which arranged the round table.
Among the participating experts were Monica McWilliams, Professor at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland and signatory to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, Paul Bremer, the US Presidential Envoy to Iraq, responsible for Coalition efforts to start rebuilding the country’s shattered political and economic structure and Joyce Neu, first team leader for the United Nations’ Standby Team of Mediation Experts, with over 20 years of experience in conflict analysis and mediation in sub-Saharan Africa, the Balkans and the Caucasus etc. The ten civil society representatives came from Bosnia and Hercegovina, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Liberia and the South Caucasus region.
Chatham House Rules used
The whole round table was held according to the Chatham House Rules, which means that the information shared is free to use, but the identity of the speaker is not to be revealed.
- We did it that way because we wanted to have as open a dialogue as possible. When people know that they won’t be quoted, they can speak more freely. And we kept the group small to make it easier for the discussions to actually end in fruitful, concrete, recommendations, Therese Arnewing explains.
Joyce Neu, Founder and Senior Associate of Facilitating Peace, USA, Annie Matundu Mbambi, president of WILPF in DR Congo, Khanim Latif from ASUDA, Iraq and Bineta Diop from Femme Africa Solidarité, DR Congo, at the round-table in Geneva. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.
Trust in one self
One of the participants from civil society was Annie Matundu Mbambi, president of Women’s International League For Peace and Freedom, WILPF, in DR Congo. She was very pleased with the meeting.
- I learned a lot about experienced mediation and how to promote women’s participation and gender perspectives in negotiations. It will help me to encourage all of us to trust in our own skills and start negotiating more to have seats in the process, she says.
So what was the outcome of the discussions? Clearly the role of the negotiating parties are crucial when it comes to deciding if women will be present or not. But since they are also the ones who, most likely, will be implementing the peace agreement, it is important that they don’t feel forced to include women, but do it on their own accord. Otherwise there is a greater risk that the decisions won’t be pushed through.
In the summary of the meeting four incentives were presented:
- The self interest incentive: Find ways to convince the negotiating parties that a gender balanced negotiation team is in their best interest. Arguments that can be used is that when the peace agreement is followed by democratic elections, women will make up 50 percent of the constituency, i e to ensure positions of power it could be strategically wise for them to make sure that they have women’s support. That research shows that a peace is likely to be more sustainable when civil society is included in the negotiations and a gender perspective in the agreement, can also be an important leverage.
- The financial incentive. Funding can be used to motivate the negotiating parties to include women and a gender perspective at the negotiating table.
- The public opinion incentive. By increasing public awareness on the issue, through both traditional and social media, public opinion can be used to pressure the negotiating parties to include women and a gender perspective. However, it is important to remember that media often is a part of the problem, reinforces stereotypes and spreading rumours about the reputation and moral of politically active women.
- The non-threatening incentive: With quite small measures including women and a gender perspective can be less threatening. Using other words than the sometimes sensitive ”gender” or ”women’s rights” can be a way to avoid the resistance. The discussion on women’s rights can become a discussion on economic development, constitutional reform and social justice for example. Another way is to insist that all mediators and their teams have knowledge on gender issues. Today the gender advisors in the UN Mediation Standby Team are not being deployed since the negotiating parties do not request their assistance.
Wants special agreement
Annie Matundu Mbambi has yet another idea of what is needed.
- In my point of view, the UN Resolution 1325 arguments aren’t enough to bring women to the negotiation tables. The international community must decide that women’s participation is so important that it needs to be protected by a special agreement to let them have seats in the peace process. In my country we will not reach sustainable peace as long as women are excluded.
You can find more about the findings of the meeting in Women’s Participation in Peace Negotiations: The role of the negotiating parties.