Academic journal article Global Governance

Women and Gender Equality in Peace Processes: From Women at the Negotiating Table to Postwar Structural Reforms in Guatemala and Somalia

Academic journal article Global Governance

Women and Gender Equality in Peace Processes: From Women at the Negotiating Table to Postwar Structural Reforms in Guatemala and Somalia

Article excerpt

The role of women in conflict resolution and peacebuilding is increasingly emphasized in multilateral policy discourse. Following the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, which called for increased participation of women in conflict resolution at decisionmaking levels, (1) the UN Security Council adopted, in October 2000, its first resolution focusing on the role of women in the maintenance of international peace and security (SC/RES/1325/2000). (2) In November 2000, the European Parliament adopted a similar resolution encouraging women's participation in conflict resolution. (3)

Security Council Resolution 1325 calls for (1) an increased representation of women in decisionmaking related to peace and security, including UN peace operations; (2) the better protection of women and girls under international humanitarian and human rights law; and (3) special attention to women in the pursuit of postwar justice, disarmament and demobilization, and repatriation and reintegration of refugees. In the follow-up, two major studies are being prepared to enhance the understanding of critical issues facing women in conflict and postconflict situations. The UN Division for the Advancement of Women is leading the secretary-general's study on women, peace, and security, while the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) has commissioned independent experts' assessments of the impact of armed conflict on women and the role of women in peacebuilding. (4)

Statement of the Problem

The role of women in conflict resolution and peacebuilding is multidimensional. First, women's participation is conceived as an issue of equitable representation, for legitimate conflict resolution requires an inclusive and participatory process, (5) and thus is part of a reform process in which decisionmaking power is transferred to every citizen on the basis of equality. Second, it is frequently argued that women bring gender perspectives to the substance of negotiations. "Women's representation at the negotiating table is the sine qua non of gender equality and inclusion," says Graca Machel in the secretary-general's report on children in armed conflict. (6) According to Swanee Hunt of the Women Waging Peace program at Harvard University, "Common sense dictates that women should be central to peacemaking, where they can bring their experience in conflict resolution to bear." (7) As such, women are expected to articulate and negotiate favorable terms for women and gender equality based on their experiences as single heads of households, community leaders, humanitarian and social workers, and peace activists.

Some claim an even more substantial role for women. Noeleen Heyzer, executive director of UNIFEM, states, "Women's commitment to peace also remains critical to ensuring the sustainability of peace agreements signed by political and military factions." (8) It is thus no accident that Resolution 1325 places a strong emphasis on the increased representation of women in peace-related functions. One-third of the eighteen-article resolution is devoted to measures that increase women's participation in peacemaking, peace negotiations, and peacekeeping operations, and as special representatives and envoys of the secretary-general.

Yet the premise of women's participation as an introduction to gender equality and sustainable peace agreements has not been tested; it is not backed by empirical evidence. In fact, the short- to medium-term results of many peace processes point to the contrary: women continue to be discriminated against and marginalized in postwar society. In Kosovo, despite the introduction of 30 percent electoral quotas for women, only 8.2 percent of those elected to the Municipal Assemblies in the October 2000 elections were women. (9) In Burundi, despite the historic convention of the All-Party Women's Conference in July 2000 in which two women from each of nineteen political parties participating in peace negotiations, formulated women's recommendations, and managed to incorporate twenty-three of them into the final peace agreement, conference-goers could not agree on which one delegate would represent them at the accord signing. …

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