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Women’s Participation in Conflict Prevention and Resolution Advances U.S. Interests

Mehreen Shoukat

Recurrent and emerging armed conflicts, expanded terrorist and extremist networks, increased targeting of civilians, and record levels of mass displacement have the need global security in the 21st century. Standard peacemaking methods have proved effective at addressing these trends: nearly half of the conflict resolution agreements forged during the 1990s failed within five years. With 90 percent of civil wars in the 2000s occurring in countries that had already experienced civil war during the previous thirty years.2 New thinking on peace and security is needed.

A growing body of research suggests that standard peace and security processes routinely overlook a critical strategy that could reduce conflict and advance stability such as inclusion of women. Many evidences indicate that women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution advances security interests. Despite growing international recognition of women’s role in security, the representation of women in peace and security processes has lagged. Between 1992 and 2011, women represented less than 4 percent of signatories to peace agreements and 9 percent of negotiators. Given the rising number of security threats and growing evidence that women’s participation in peace and security processes improves stability, women’s inclusion merits a higher place on the U.S. foreign policy agenda. While the U.S. government has advanced a comprehensive policy framework to promote the role of women in security under successive Republican and Democratic administrations. women can improve the efficacy of conflict prevention and early warning strategies. Women’s central roles in many families and communities afford them a unique  point to recognise unusual patterns of behaviour and signs of impending conflict  such as arms mobilisation and weapons caching. In Kosovo, for example, women were the first in their communities to voice concerns when young men were amassing weapons, heading into the local hills, and training. Although Kosovar women reported signs of impending conflict well before violence broke out, no adequate reporting systems were in place to capture and make use of their insights.

Women’s participation in formal peace processes also contributes to the achievement and longevity of peace agreements. A qualitative review of forty peace and constitution-drafting negotiations since 1990 found that parties were significantly more likely to agree to talks and subsequently reach an agreement when women’s groups exercised strong influence on the negotiation process, as compared to when they had little or no influence. In recent years, as the evidence of women’s contributions to peacemaking and peacekeeping has grown, women’s role in conflict resolution and security has received greater international attention. In 2000, the United Nations adopted Security Council Resolution 1325 under the leadership of Namibia and with strong support from Bangladesh and other Security Council members. This was the first of eight resolutions to date through which the United Nations formally recognised the importance of women’s participation in conflict resolution and the post conflict reconciliation processes and committed to promoting their involvement. As of 2016, over sixty countries—from develop- ing nations like Afghanistan and Kenya to high-income countries like Japan and the UK—have developed National Action Plans on Women, Peace, and Security, a tool recommended by the UN Security Council to enable countries to advance national efforts to increase women’s participation in security processes and improve women’s protection from threats of violence.

 

The U.S. government has taken significant steps to advance the role of women in peace and security processes. At the United Nations, the United States led the adoption of critical Security Council resolutions aimed at combating sexual violence in conflict. During the George W. Bush administration, the U.S. government championed Security Council Resolution 1820, which declared that rape and other forms of sexual violence in conflict can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, or acts of genocide. Under Barack Obama, the United States led efforts to enact Security Council Resolution 1888, which established a special representative to the UN secretary-general on sexual violence in armed conflict to promote greater attention to this issue. The development of a strong policy framework on women, peace, and security at both the international and national levels has not significantly improved women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution. By 2015, which marked the fifteenth anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, only one woman Coronel- Ferrer had ever served as a chief negotiator for a peace agreement, and only one woman Mary Robinson had ever served as a UN chief mediator. International peace negotiations continue to proceed without the consistent inclusion of women in positions of influence, including in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

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