Make Room For Peace: A Guide to Women's Participation in Peace Processes

Thursday, June 23, 2011
Isabelle Nilsson, Kivinna till Kivinna

Women's inclusive participation in peace negotiations is not only a matter of equal rights but also a matter of making a peace process sustainable. Women's participation on an equal basis with men is vital at all levels and in all sectors. That said, this manual focuses on the participation of women organization acting for peace in conflict affected regions. Kvinna till Kvinna brings two decades of experience-based knowledge of supporting women's organisation in conflict regions. It would appear that civil society women's work for peace and security is still largely an untapped resource in the political decision-making of peace processes.

Peace agreements are crucial in peace processes be- cause they rubberstamp the framework for post-conflict rebuilding priorities. Anything not included in the initial peace agreement risks not being included in the political priorities for a long time afterwards and not without a great deal of effort from those whose needs and interests may have been overlooked in the peace negotiations.

Women's participation is one, although not the only, prerequisite for reaching peace agreements that respond to both men's and women's concerns. Women are very poorly represented in peace negotiations. In 2010 the UN Development Fund for Women (Unifem) noted that women make up less than ten per cent of negotiators and less than three per cent of the signatories to peace agreements. Not surprisingly, references to women in peace agreements are disproportionately low, according to the studies conducted on this subject. A study from the University of Ulster (2010), based on a screening of 585 peace agreements signed between 1990 and 2010, concluded that only 16 per cent of peace agreements contain references to women. Even when references to women are included, they tend to be rather weak in qualitative terms.

The right to participate is often the most commonly advocated by civil society organisations. The effectiveness of systematically including women's civil society groups in decision-making in peace processes as a whole tends to be undervalued, which could be one of the explanations for women's continued marginalisation in peace negotiations. This marginalisation is still evident even when the negotiations are supported, facilitated and mediated by international third parties representing governments and institutions with policies that are positive to democracy, gender equality and women's rights. This manual attempts to address this weakness by presenting concrete tools for third parties who are serious about including women's organisations in peace processes.

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