Research boosts role of women in peace processes 

Edinburgh researchers have developed a new resource to help embed women’s rights in peace negotiations in the Arab world and beyond.

A report launched to mark International Women’s Day offers new guidance for women working in peace keeping processes in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. The work is the result of a partnership between Edinburgh Law School’s Political Settlements Research Programme (PSRP) and UN Women – the body within the United Nations that globally champions gender equality, and the idea that all parts of an affected society should be included in its peace process.

Women are largely underrepresented in peace processes across the world, but there are a number of examples where women have successfully taken a seat at peace negotiations and influenced measures to ensure women’s inclusion in peace processes. UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States and the Political Settlements Research Programme (PSRP) have drawn on these case studies to publish the paper Models for Women’s Inclusion in Track One Mediation in Peace and Transition Processes, setting out modalities that women and gender advocates in the region can adopt in order to access official peace and transition talks. These strategies can also be used by decision-makers and peace-mediators to include women and broaden the representative participation in the talks.

UN Women representatives say that while women in the Arab States region have managed to contribute to unofficial forms of peace activities and dialogues, their involvement in formal negotiations and talks has been limited, hindering prospects for inclusive and sustainable peace.

The report draws on various case studies of women who have exerted influence to have a seat at the official table and taken measures to ensure women’s inclusion in peace processes.

Susanne Mikhail, UN Women Regional Director for the Arab States, said: “Twenty years since the adoption of the Women, Peace and Security agenda, women in the Arab States region still struggle to make their voices heard at formal peace talks. But women in the region can learn from women’s experiences in other parts of the world who managed to make their voices heard and contribute to peace efforts.

The guide explores four main strategies for achieving a role in peace processes. This includes having representation in working groups, having a women’s delegation present at talks, having a role in groups that advise mediators, and working with civil society such as non-governmental groups.The paper also examines the advantages and disadvantages of each approach with a view to improving the practice of gender inclusion and women’s political participation more broadly.

Professor Christine Bell, Director of Political Settlements Research Programme and one of the report’s co-authors, said: “Inclusion of women in official talks requires mediators to have a clear set of options in front of them.  We hope that by providing these options, with the evidence-base for their relative merits, our research will help international organisations and conflict parties to ensure that official talks include women and are better able to deliver meaningful change and sustainable peace.”

The report is available in English and Arabic. Read the report on the UN Women website.

Further Reading

Join PSRP and special guests on 16 March 2021 for a roundtable event on women’s rights in armed conflict: Roundtable on Women’s Rights in Armed Conflict under International Law

View PSRP’s key findings from our research into gender perspectives in peace processes.