International Gender Equality Norms and the Local Peacemaking Political Settlement

Author: Catherine O’Rourke

Policy points:
• International interventions shaped by international gender norms commitment and expertise can re-structure local incentives and lead to local gender equality actors being taken seriously.
• External interventions based on gender equality norms can usefully challenge local civil society to address silences and exclusions in the local political settlement.

This working paper considers the relationship of international gender equality norms to the treatment of gender in local peacemaking political settlements through the case study of the recent Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Transitional Justice on Northern Ireland. The paper contends that the Report has impacted the local peacemaking political settlement by establishing an intrinsic connection between the two ostensibly separate objectives of, firstly, devising a process to deal with the past that meets the needs of victims (an objective which does have some elite buy-in) and, secondly, addresses gender (an objective currently without significant elite buy-in). The Working Paper elaborates on five shared grounds identified in the Report for both the specific failings on gender and the broader failings of efforts to date to deal with the past, namely: (1) the focus on deaths to the neglect of other harms; (2) the ‘events-based’ approach, which overlooks structural dynamics and patterns of violations; (3) the absence of baseline data on the violations that occurred and efforts at redress; (4) the fragmented nature of official efforts to deal with the past, that continually disaggregate criminal justice initiatives from truth, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrences; and (5) the striking failure to deliver on reparations to victims. These identified five deficiencies underpin both a failure to address gender and the broader structural limitations of efforts to date to deal with the past in Northern Ireland. Thus, the Report of the Special Rapporteur has made improvements on gender an essential element of overall improvements to official efforts to deal with the past.