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

A CFR Discussion Paper

Authors: , Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy, and , Senior Fellow and Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program

How Women’s Participation in Conflict Prevention and Resolution Advances U.S. Interests - how-womens-participation-in-conflict-prevention-and-resolution-advances-us-interests  
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Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press

Release Date October 2016

Price $11.99 paper

47 pages
ISBN 978-0-87609-688-8


Recurrent and emerging armed conflicts, expanded terrorist and extremist networks, increased targeting of civilians, and record levels of mass displacement have defined global security in the twenty-first century. Data shows that standard peace-making methods have proven ineffective at addressing these trends: nearly half of the conflict-resolution agreements forged during the 1990s failed within five years. Recidivism for civil war is alarmingly high, with 90 percent of civil wars in the 2000s occurring in countries that had already experienced civil war during the previous thirty years. 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: the inclusion of women. Evidence indicates that women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution advances security interests. One study found that substantial inclusion of women and civil society groups in a peace negotiation makes the resulting agreement 64 percent less likely to fail and, ac-cording to another study, 35 percent more likely to last at least fifteen years. Several analyses suggest also that higher levels of gender equality are associated with a lower propensity for conflict, both between and within states. Despite growing international recognition of women’s role in security, their representation in peace and security processes has lagged.

Between 1992 and 2011, women represented fewer than 4 percent of signatories to peace agreements and 9 percent of negotiators.  In 2015, only 3 percent of UN military peacekeepers and 10 percent of UN police personnel were women, substantially lower than the UN target of 20 percent.  And despite the role that local women’s groups could play in preventing and resolving conflicts, they received just 0.4 percent of the aid to fragile states from major donor countries in 2012–2013. 

The next U.S. administration should require women’s representation and meaningful participation in conflict resolution and postconflict processes, increase investment in efforts that promote women’s inclusion, reform U.S. diplomatic and security practices to incorporate the experiences of women in conflict-affected countries, improve staffing and coordination to deliver on government commitments, strengthen training on incorporating women in security efforts, and promote accountability. These steps will help the United States respond effectively to security threats around the world, improve the sustainability of peace agreements, and advance U.S. interests.


Selected Figures From This Report

Women's role in major peace processes

References to women and gender-based violence

Countries with national action plansFY 2017 US Foreign operations budget request


More About This Publication

Rachel B. Vogelstein is a senior fellow and director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC. Her research focuses on the relationship between women's advancement and prosperity, stability, and security. She is also a professor of gender and U.S. foreign policy at Georgetown Law School.

Jamille Bigio is an adjunct senior fellow in the Women and Foreign Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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