6 ways to support gender inclusion in peace transitions

This post by Dr Sophia Close (Conciliation Resources) was first published by Conciliation Resources and is re-posted here with permission.
Participation of women and other excluded groups in peace talks and political bargaining is important for sustainable peace. Clear opportunities to support gender inclusion exist in all phases of a peace process – before, during and after a peace agreement.
However, the impact of inclusion risks being mainly symbolic if not complemented by other initiatives that encourage change in gender norms. There is no one ‘remedy’ or ‘moment’ to ensure greater inclusion. Including mechanisms for inclusion early on in peace negotiations, agreements and implementing institutions can imbed more meaningful change, providing leverage points for lobbying and other affirmative action.
Our new report analyses three different conflict contexts to better understand how gender inclusion is negotiated and how international and national actors can support it effectively.
Here’s 6 important things we learnt:
1. Deliberately building practical forms of inclusion into peace negotiations, agreements and implementing institutions are ways to seize the opportunities for inclusion during and immediately after the negotiation of a peace agreement. Change is iterative: there is no one ‘remedy’ or ‘moment’ to ensure greater inclusion in any peace process. Technical measures – including constitutional reform processes, quotas and reserved seats – negotiated in the immediate post-peace agreement period – have driven greater representation of women and other gender groups and greater inclusion of gender issues. However, while gains have been achieved, some have been rolled back. These measures do not necessarily enable widespread influence and have not fundamentally shifted gender inequalities.
2. Using an intersectional approach to peacebuilding can help identify patterns of multidimensional and persistent gender discrimination. This can be a basis for more targeted and systematic responses. Women and other excluded groups experience multiple forms of discrimination related to their diverse gender identities. These exacerbate social, legal, economic and cultural, as well as political marginalisation. And violent conflict compounds discrimination. Intersectional approaches help to understand the multiple ways that systems of power – such as ethnicity, class, ability, sexual identity, indigeneity and geographic location – interact with gender to determine who is included in peace processes and who faces persistent exclusion. Unless explicitly addressed, these forms of discrimination continue to be embedded in the new political settlement.
3. Longer timeframes and complementary initiatives at all levels of a peace process are needed to overcome resistance to change. Political settlements are shaped by formal and informal systems of power, which remain deeply contextual and take long periods of time to shift. In many instances, increases in participation have facilitated shifts in gender roles and norms but the underlying political settlement has proved resistant to change. Typically, decision-making continues to take place in informal institutions and structures (faith, customary and family), which tend to be dominated by older, elite men. Existing systems and institutions maintain the status quo gender norms and tend to uphold forms of political settlement that are not inclusive.
4. Women and other excluded groups working in civil society organisations often create and sustain spaces for inclusive change. During and after conflict women and other excluded gender groups have led and been strongly represented within non-state and civil society organisations, but nevertheless remain excluded from many formal institutions and processes of power. They have worked creatively to successfully influence the peace process and the political settlement but this work is difficult to sustain, risky to undertake, and requires support.
5. International frameworks and standards are useful to leverage for inclusion. However, they need to be complemented by homegrown, bottom-up perspectives, approaches and priorities. International standards have been leveraged by women and other excluded groups, both to gain influence in peace negotiations and guarantee gendered recommendations in agreements, as well as ensure constitutional and other legal and political frameworks support practical forms of inclusion. Yet implementation has been challenging: international standards are often perceived as external, top-down and threatening, and have been used to defend the status quo and challenge progressive agendas.
6. Support from international organisations to local activists in the form of solidarity, funding, capacity and network building is invaluable, but needs to be based on gender-sensitive analysis. International solidarity and support has been critical to achieving local forms of inclusion. However, the assistance has also been problematic, exacerbating community and national level tensions. International organisations rarely undertake gender-sensitive analysis. Yet this is essential to ensure an intersectional approach, to target programming and policy on inclusion and to avoid unintended negative impact.
Read, ‘Gendered political settlements: examining peace transistions in Bougainville, Nepal and Colombia’


Image from CR’s Colombia Gender Network. All rights reserved, CR.