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Current Peace Processes
As ongoing peace negotiations around the world stumble forward, women continue to organize and push for progress through their official roles on negotiating teams and their efforts in civil society. Syrian women, for example, just launched the Syrian Women’s Political Movement with the vision of establishing a democratic Syrian state that advances equal citizenship for all. Among their immediate goals is setting a 30 percent quota for women's representation in all delegations and negotiations on Syria—a target they hope will be met at the next round of UN-led talks in Geneva starting November 28. Meanwhile, more than 30,000 Israeli and Palestinian women joined forces to call for a renewed effort to reach a political agreement. Civil society groups—many bridging national, ethnic, and religious divides—have long played critical roles, leading nonviolent efforts to promote human security, equality, and access to services, and staging public demonstrations—like last month’s—to call for progress in the peace process. A new Council on Foreign Relations Interactive Report “Women’s Participation in Peace Processes” tracks women’s involvement in peace efforts and explores how women have contribute to major peace agreements from 1990 to the present, including ongoing efforts in Afghanistan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Myanmar, Syria, and Yemen.
More Women Mediators
New regional networks of women mediators aim to expand women’s involvement in peace negotiations and facilitate the appointment of more women mediators. The Mediterranean Women Mediators Network just launched, drawing on lessons from similar networks in Africa and among the five Nordic countries. A new UN High-level Advisory Board on Mediation is part of the UN’s efforts to invest more in conflict prevention and mediation: half of its members are female, including Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee, and the former Finnish President Tarja Halonen. Beyond increasing women’s representation, new UN guidance outlines how mediators can better design negotiation processes to systematically include women and civil society and to address their priorities, from ceasefire agreements to power sharing arrangements to constitutions.
Measuring Progress on Women’s Inclusion, Justice, and Security
Women around the world face constraints in their personal security, political and social inclusion, and legal protections that harm their well-being, destabilize societies, and weaken economies, according to a new index. The Women, Peace, and Security index, developed by Georgetown University's Institute for Women, Peace and Security and the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, is the first-ever index to analyze the relationship between gender equality and stability in nations around the world. It ranks 153 countries on the status of women in their homes, communities, and societies: Iceland and Norway have the highest marks for women’s well-being, while war-torn Afghanistan and Syria have the lowest. The index found a striking correlation between insecurity in the home and a lack of safety in the broader community: rates of intimate partner violence are more than one-third higher in conflict-affected countries than in non-conflict countries. Combining analysis of women’s inclusion, justice, and security reinforces the shared vision that countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women are accorded equal rights and opportunity.
Countering Violence against Women and Girls
The European Union and the United Nations launched a $500 million initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, which—affecting one in three women throughout their lifetime—is one of the most prevalent human rights violations around the world. The effort includes a focus on sexual violence, and will work to strengthen laws, preventive measures, and access to services. With a renewed focus on the rights and dignity of victims of sexual exploitation and abuse, the UN appointed Jane Connors as the first victims’ rights advocate and called for more funding for the trust fund in support of victims. A 2017 report found an estimated two thousand allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers and UN personnel around the world over the past 12 years. And a new interactive by UN Women explores how to end impunity for conflict-related sexual violence.
Leading by Example
Sixty-nine countries to date—including Brazil, Czech Republic, Palestine, Montenegro, Solomon Islands, South Africa, and Thailand this year —have issued strategies to increase women’s participation in peace and security processes and improve their protection from violence. Sweden and Canada are pursuing feminist foreign policies, while, in the United States, the newly passed Women, Peace, and Security Act improves accountability for U.S. efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts by increasing women’s participation in peace and security processes. To improve its own operations and to lead by example, the UN recently launched a gender parity strategy, drawing on evidence from the private sector that teams with diverse perspectives produce better results. Yet, as of December 2016, women made up only 23 percent of all senior-level staff in peace operations, 13 percent of Under-Secretaries-General, and even fewer special envoys.