Guide Peacebuilding: Women in International Perspective

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National Action Plans indicate affirmative proposals in decision-making, gender mainstreaming, and capacity-building training that, if activated, would increase women's political involvement. A close examin- ation of the replies from Croatia, Cyprus, Liberia, and Nigeria indicates that some countries have constructive responses to addressing both the impact of armed conflict on women and increasing the political participation of women.

A Preliminary Audit. As of 19 December, there were replies to the questionnaires and National Action Plans submitted. Countries' responses to the PFA repeatedly refer to the impossibility of considering gender matters during war when governments do not view it as a priority because other issues seem more pressing. Other replies from countries such as Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, and Tanzania are vague about armed conflict but positive in their intention to increase women's political participation. Some countries ignore the issue of armed conflict Mali, Palestine, Russian Federation, South Africa, Uganda while others have made practical suggestions to improve women's chances of participating in political decision-making Mali, South Africa, Uganda.

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No tidy summaries can be offered. Moreover, by virtue of the reports being by governments, responses given probably are not a true indication of action taken. Few conclusions can be drawn except that the absence of women in public decision-making is overwhelming. Later in the article, I posit a contrasting case provided by the dynamic role played by women as peace-builders in civil society. Further recognition of these roles by the UN, NGOs, and governments could assist the passage of women's inclusion in decision-making in conflict regions.

It might also influence a change in understandings of peace-building to encompass all processes that build peace. My argument is not to make peace-building so nebulous that it is impossible to define, but rather to demonstrate how it encompasses formal and informal processes at pre-conflict, conflict, and post-conflict stages.

The CSW's appraisal acknowledges the growth in civil war, armed conflict, and terrorism, with a concomitant abuse of the human rights of women and girls by state and non-state actors. The changing nature of conflict means that most wars are fought internally, often rooted in unresolved historical bitterness relating to ethnic conflict or disputes over diamonds, drugs, or minerals. The protagonists are not necessarily soldiers, but 'political ideologues, warlords, drug dealers, state actors, disenfranchised youth and young children.

Mercenaries and private armies fight alongside or agalnst rebel units, militias and often badly equipped national armies. I have not referred to them in depth. Significant barriers to women's inclusion are stereotypical attitudes, men's reluctance to share power, competing work and family responsibilities, and inadequate education and training. Consequently, 'the actual participation of women at the highest levels of national and international decision-making has not significantly changed' since ,t1 The gross under-representation of women hinders the inclusion of a meaningful gender perspective into peace and security decisions, for reasons elaborated in the next section.

Women as central agents for peacebuilding in Colombia

The lack of implementation of the PFA reflects both weak international machineries to promote implementation and the lack of political will. Non-governmental organization caucuses highlight unaddressed concerns like the veto- ing of peacekeepers and civilians in peace support operations, the need for tolerance education and training in conflict resolution, and the lack of progress on arms reduction or an explicit commitment to protect internally displaced people.

Non-governmental organiza- tions were disappointed that the 'Outcomes Document' falls to include concrete numerical goals, concrete benchmarks, or a specific timeframe for implementing goals and that even the target date of for the elimination of all discriminatory laws was contested. The paucity of political commit- ment is disturbing because it leaves a heavy responsibility on women's civil organizations, which, while buoyant, often lack the access to power to make key decisions and are desperately under-resourced, Women's Absence from Negotiating Tables As I elaborate shortly, women are active in community peace-building.

However, they are almost completely absent from political negotiating tables. The exclusions from peace tables are notable. The Northern Ireland Women's Coalition gained sufficient votes in to have two women elected to multi-party peace negotiations on the future of Northern Ireland. In there was only one Kosova woman at the Rambouillet negotiations. In Tajikistan there was one woman on a person National Reconciliation Commission.

Peacebuilding: Women in International Perspective

This is despite the fact that the war there left 25, widows to raise families and reconstruct communities. At the Arusha peace talks on Burundi, Concilie Nibigiri was the only woman present. The women's collective, comprising thirty organizations, negotiated the presence of six women 10 Later, I give evidence that women are present in peace processes, particularly as peace-builders, understood more broadly than the UN parameters that position peace-building as part of formal peace processes.

The Liberian Women's Initiative attended regional peace talks, and, while not official participants at the peace table, were influential monitors. In Colombia, the single woman in the government delegation was removed from the talks afier unfavourable media reports. The Consultative Council of Timorese Resistance had two women representatives out of In December , there were three Afghani women out of 36 delegates to the Bonn negotiations.

Does it really matter if women are not present at negotiating tables? In order to answer this question, I make three points. First, women are affected by conflict and thus by the consequences of a peace agreement, Second, and related to the first point, women's inclusion in all stages of peace processes is crucial for inclusive social justice.

Third, the presence of women makes a difference to the sorts of issues generally brought to formal peace processes. Obviously during conflict and immediately after, resources need to be prioritized. Concern about women's inclusion in political negotiations is viewed as irrelevant to the more immediate goal of security.

Against this view, I am arguing that the inclusion of women in political decision-making is not a luxury to be postponed until post-conflict reconstruction. Rather, inclusion of all social groups fosters the pluralism that is necessary to develop an inclusive, stable democratic polity. Without a voice, women's concerns are neither prioritized nor resourced.

I will explain now the above three points. First, inhibitive constraints upon women's involvement in decision-making are enor- mous in all regions but are particularly acute in conflict areas. While entire communities suffer disastrous consequences of armed conflict, women and girls are affected specifically because of their subordinate position. Men's patriarchal ownership of women's bodies positions women as 'property to be attacked','8 with a further violation occurring due to shame.

Moreover, given that the battlefield is likely to be villages and cities, women assume primary responsibility in coping with the pain and loss of killed or maimed loved ones, care for the wounded, and nurture of ill or old dependents and traumatized, fearful children. Many are left as female heads of households to deal with crises, especially inadequate food and income. Prolonged conflict affects development infrastructure and available funding for women's training in political capacity-building.

Women and Peace Building: Local Perspectives on Opportunities and Barriers

It also heightens the psychological effects of horror, trauma, and hopelessness in victims. Women are affected by armed conflict in unique ways that require specific attention. The consequence of a peace agreement that does not address these needs is that women's subordination is exacerbated.


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A peace settlement is not merely about ending a war, but also about establishing the conditions for a new just polity. My second point is that women's absence from negotiating tables minimizes the possibility of inclusive just politics arising in post-conflict times. What precedes the peace table are processes that begin in times of conflict, involving active involvement in conflict resolution.


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Many women participate in these processes. Those desiring a presence at the negotiating table, or to have their views 16 Elisabeth Porter, 'Political Representation of Women in Northern Ireland', Politics, 18,1 , p. Also, Anderlini et al. Coming to the peace table signals not merely a negotiation of the end of conflict, but also an opportunity to contribute to the foundations of a reconstructed society based on justice, rights, and equality. Central issues of concern to women like 'their participation in post-conflict political, social, civil, economic and judicial structures' do not always reach the negotiating table.

Women call attention to specific issues related to family needs of food, water, shelter, education, and health.

The Role of Women in Peace-building: a Sri Lankan Perspective - Sri Lanka | ReliefWeb

For example, the participation of women in the Guatemalan process resulted in specific commitments to women on housing, credit and land, health, attempts to locate children and orphans, penalizing sexual harassment, and the creation of the national Women's Forum. In South Africa, women across all parties agreed that each party should have a one-third female representation in each negotiating team for the constitution process. Accordingly, the South African Constitution includes a comprehensive Bill of Rights with relevant gains for women on matters of reproduction, property rights, healthcare, education, and culture.

In addition to issues of particular importance to women and girls, women 'raise issues that affect society as a whole, such as land reforms, access to loans and capacity- building'. There are two main kinds of reasons for this justification. On the one hand there are practical reasons—generally women lack experience in political leadership and in diplomatic settings, they are not culturally accepted authority figures able to represent constituents, and they lack funding to travel to meetings.

On the other hand, there are powerful voices setting the agendas of peace processes and deciding who to include—the agendas may be convened by foreign nationals, headed by foreign negotiators, funded by multilateral organizations like the United Nations or World Bank, and held outside the warring country.

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This approach might help to end violent hostilities, but it does not necessarily provide the best framework for reconstructing society. Swanee Hunt and Christina Posa write that 'allowing men who plan wars to plan peace is a bad habit' They suggest that while men come to the negotiating table directly from the war room or battlefield, women generally come from family care and civil activism.

Women have a huge stake in community stability and know the community because of their daily caretaking roles; thus they can assess the viability of peace agreements with regard to these everyday concerns. Undoubtedly peace that 'is supported and consolidated at the grassroots level' is more likely to be sustainable than one negotiated among elites.

Women, Political Decision-Making, and Peace-Building aim of corning to the negotiating table is not merely to end war but to create sustainable peace, inclusive security must incorporate not merely women's vulnerability as victims, but also their agency as potential contributors to all collaborative measures to achieve peace. Women's inclusion in post-conflict negotiations enhances the democratic legitimacy of the process by making it more responsive to the priorities of all affected citizens.

Cultural barriers to women's inclusion remain, particularly the confidence to take on leadership roles.

Women, Peace and Security: An International Perspective