Women’s Participation in Peace Processes

Evidence shows that peace processes overlook a strategy that could reduce conflict and advance stability: the inclusion of women.

Underrepresented in negotiations over Afghanistan's future, women are nonetheless critical to the country's stability.

Women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution can improve outcomes before, during, and after conflict. But women are often excluded from formal peace processes. Between 1992 and 2019, women constituted, on average, 13 percent of negotiators, 6 percent of mediators, and 6 percent of signatories in major peace processes around the world. While there has been some progress in women’s participation, about seven out of every ten peace processes still did not include women mediators or women signatories—the latter indicating that few women participated in leadership roles as negotiators, guarantors, or witnesses.

 

Peace efforts in 2020 have similarly struggled to include women. For example, women represented only around 10 percent of negotiators in the Afghan talks, just 20 percent of negotiators in Libya’s political discussions, and 0 percent of negotiators in Libya’s military talks and Yemen’s recent process. One current peace process is led by a woman chief mediator (Stephanie Williams, acting head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya)—marking the first time in six years that a woman holds this role.

Continued failure to include women in peace processes ignores their demonstrated contributions and overlooks a potential strategy to respond more effectively to security threats around the world.

The participation of civil society groups, including women’s organizations, makes a peace agreement 64% less likely to fail.
Source: Nilsson
When women participate in peace processes, the resulting agreement is more durable and better implemented.
Higher levels of gender equality are associated with a lower propensity for conflict, both between and within states.
Female security sector officials frequently have access to populations and venues that are closed to men, which allows them to gather intelligence about potential security risks.

A growing body of research and case studies of current and past peace processes reveal how women’s participation—whether in official negotiating roles or through grassroots efforts—contributes to reaching lasting peace agreements. The vast majority of peace agreements reached since 1990 fail to reference the conflict experience or postconflict contributions of half their countries’ population.

Listen to interviews with U.S. diplomats and global leaders on their contributions to peace and security processes around the world, from Iran to Liberia to Northern Ireland.

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