Closing the Gender Gap in Peace Negotiations

By Angelina Kaneva

International Women's Initiative Staff Writer  

(Photo Credit)


On 31 October 2000, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 1325 (UNSCR1325) which is the first resolution to ever recognise the role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and post-conflict reconstruction.

UNSCR1325 not only emphasised the importance of ensuring women’s full involvement in the process of maintaining and promoting peace and security worldwide, but also urged actors to increase the participation of women and to incorporate gender perspectives in all UN efforts in this field.

These points have also been reiterated in subsequent Security Council’s resolutions, including 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1889 (2009), and 1960 (2010), as well as in several reports of the Secretary-General on Mediation and on Women, Peace and Security.

Fifteen years on, however, progress in fulfilling the UNSC’s agenda on women, peace and security seems extremely slow, if not non-existent. The UN Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women has stated that, judging by statistics, not much has changed since the adoption of UNSCR1325 – from 1992 to 2011, less than 4 percent of signatories to peace agreements and less than 10 percent of negotiators at peace talks were women.

This striking absence of women from the peace negotiations table reveals a disturbing gap between the spirit of the countless regional and global commitments and the reality of peace processes. As Shadia Marhaban comments, “despite recent international obligations to include women in peace processes, reality has not kept pace with rhetoric”. The reason for this, she continues, seems to stem from the general belief that women are not adequately prepared to tackle ‘tough’ issues like peace and security.

However, numerous reports and studies on the matter have indicated that women’s absence in the maintenance and promotion of peace and security cannot simply be justified by their alleged lack of experience in conflict resolution and negotiations.

Instead, there has been a much more apparent lack of sufficient efforts to integrate them into formal peace processes. This makes little sense.  If we take into consideration that although conflicts threaten everyone, they impose particular risks for women and girls, such as sexual violence, human trafficking or perpetuating gender inequalities.
Therefore, in light of the rising number of conflicts over the past few decades and the serious challenges they pose for the global community, unless women’s perspectives and meaningful contributions are properly integrated into efforts to prevent and recover from conflicts, all attempts to tackle such issues are bound to be self-limiting and to result in gender-blind agreements.
Changing the mindset of society toward accepting and recognising the pivotal role of women in conflict prevention, peace negotiations, post-conflict reconstruction, as well as increased government to improve the statistics of female participation in these processes, is critical in order to ensure that men and women’s roles and demands are equally and effectively integrated.