Nearly fifteen years ago, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 to recognize the importance of women’s participation in the prevention and resolution of conflicts. Last month, the Security Council reaffirmed its commitment to UNSCR 1325 by adopting Resolution 2242, which aims to improve implementation of the women, peace, and security agenda and double the number of women involved in peacekeeping missions by 2020. This concrete commitment is a welcome step: although UNSCR 1325 offers a clear roadmap for implementation, fifteen years after its adoption, women continue to be excluded from peacemaking, peacekeeping, and governance. The numbers are stark: Women constituted only 4 percent of all signatories, 2.7 percent of chief mediators, and less than 9 percent of negotiators in official peace processes over the past two decades. And according to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report, inequality in political participation remains the widest gender gap between men and women globally.
Why does this gap matter? To be sure, including women in peace and security processes is a matter of fairness, as the outcome of these proceedings affects both women and men. But a growing body of evidence suggests that increasing women’s participation in peace and security efforts is not only the right thing to do: it is also a strategic imperative. Studies show that women are more likely to raise issues like human rights, justice, health, and employment in peace negotiations—issues that are critical to long-term stability—and to collaborate across sectarian and cultural divides.
A new report by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security supports this theory and analyzes the difference that women’s participation has made in fostering and shaping peace negotiations in recent years. The study, Women Leading Peace, details how women overcame persistent gender barriers to influence high-level peace negotiations and help resolve conflicts in Northern Ireland, Guatemala, Kenya, and the Philippines. Drawing on over one hundred in-country interviews, the report finds that women were able to use their personal connections and leverage interpersonal and professional skills to advance stability and peace.
To celebrate the launch of the report, the Institute hosted a panel discussion on the importance of women’s involvement in peace processes. At the event, President Atifete Jahjaga of Kosovo highlighted the critical role women played in rebuilding Kosovo in the aftermath of over two decades of conflict. She also emphasized the importance of women’s participation in all aspects of society, noting that “when women are involved economically and politically, societies are more stable.”
As noted in the Georgetown study, the inclusion of women in peace negotiations neither guarantees that peace agreements will hold, as evidenced by ongoing difficulties in the Philippines, nor assures that issues of gender equality will be addressed. However, the report does conclude that women in civil society in all four countries tended to push for more than simply disarmament and cessation of hostilities, and postulates that a more expansive and inclusive definition of stability could bolster the durability of peace agreements. As ancient conflicts continue to rage around the world and new ones unfold, this report suggests that, fifteen years after the passage of UNSCR 1325, the benefits of greater inclusion of women in peace negotiations cannot—and should not—be overlooked.