Breaking barriers, stopping nuclear wars: Women's everlasting pursuit of peacebuilding

Breaking barriers, stopping nuclear wars: Women's everlasting pursuit of peacebuilding

Shafaq News / Although women's participation in international negotiations and global peacebuilding has achieved some notable successes, according to the United Nations, it remains below the desired level. 

Research indicates that the inclusion of women significantly enhances the success rates of negotiations. A prominent example of this is the critical role played by three women in salvaging the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group in 2015. 

In Iraq, the United Nations has observed an increase in women's involvement in civil society organizations following the decline of the ISIS threat, highlighting the positive impact of their participation in post-conflict recovery and community development.

Historical review

Historically, the first international gathering of women advocating for Peace took place at the International Women's Congress in The Hague on April 28, 1915. This conference aimed to address the causes of World War I and led to the founding of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, which remains active to this day. 

During World War II, the international women's peace movement continued to campaign for the cessation of conflict and global disarmament.

Following the establishment of the United Nations in 1945, the Commission on the Status of Women was formed in 1946 as the UN body dedicated to gender equality and the advancement of women.

During the Cold War, civil society shifted its focus to the promotion of international human rights standards and the adoption of treaties and conventions that affirm the right to gender equality. Among these treaties was the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979, which emphasized the importance of women's participation and leadership in all contexts—a fundamental concept in the Women, Peace, and Security agenda.

The Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, marked another pivotal moment for civil society regarding the Women's, Peace, and Security agenda. This UN conference, attended by representatives from 189 countries and 4,000 NGOs, focused on commitments to enhancing women's equality.

Resolution 1325

The importance of women's participation in peacebuilding was formally recognized in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security agenda, adopted on October 31, 2000. 

This resolution established the international framework for the Women, Peace, and Security agenda agenda, focusing on key pillars: participation, prevention, protection, relief, and recovery.

Resolution 1325 calls for the protection of women and girls during conflicts and emphasizes the significance of their participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding. It stands as the first official document issued by the UN Security Council, urging all parties to conflicts to respect women's rights and support their involvement in peace negotiations and post-conflict reconstruction efforts.

It was the first resolution to acknowledge the disproportionate impact of armed conflicts on women and girls while also recognizing their contributions to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding. 

Additional decisions

Following the adoption of Resolution 1325, eight subsequent resolutions on the Women, Peace, and Security agenda were adopted: Resolutions 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960, 2106, 2122, 2242, and 2467. 

These resolutions collectively emphasize the importance of empowering women for effective leadership and participation in conflict prevention and resolution efforts, addressing the impacts of sexual violence, promoting the development and use of measures and standards for monitoring authorities regarding the Women, Peace, and Security agenda, and enhancing training and capacity-building to achieve gender equality and empower women in peace and security operations.

Gender disparity in peace operations

Christine Lund, former commander of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus and a member of the Nordic Women Mediators network, along with her colleague Mitchell, senior advisor at the Norwegian Center for Conflict Resolution, highlighted in an article the continued exclusion of women from significant participation in peace operations and mediation processes, despite the immense role women play in promoting Peace, peaceful dialogue, and ending hostilities in many armed conflicts.

They pointed out that, nearly two decades after the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security agenda, women remain largely marginalized in peace and mediation efforts. 

Their analysis, based on a previous study by UN Women on 31 peace processes between 1992 and 2011, revealed stark statistics of gender disparity: only 4% of signatories, 2.4% of chief mediators, 3.7% of witnesses, and a mere 9% of negotiators were women.

Following the publication of this article, the UN Secretary-General appointed Christine Lund as the head of mission and Chief of Staff in the UN Truce Supervision Organization.

Global statistics

Previous statistics from UN Women found that women constitute less than 10% of negotiators globally and less than 3% of signatories to peace agreements.

A study conducted by Ulster University, analyzing 585 peace agreements over 20 years, revealed that only 16% of these agreements included any reference to women, and such references were often superficial in nature.

Recent statistics indicate that women comprised 13% of negotiators, 6% of mediators, and 6% of signatories in peace processes worldwide between 1992 and 2020, a 28-year period.

Research has shown that negotiations are 50% more likely to succeed when relevant civil society bodies focused on women are involved. 

Another study confirmed that the inclusion of women in peace negotiations increases the likelihood of peace agreements lasting by 20% and remaining in effect for at least 15 years by 35%.

Further findings from research between 1980 and 2016 revealed that 77% of peace agreements were reached after prolonged and arduous negotiations, while 16.4% concluded with one party achieving military victory.

Women's role in peace processes

In the recent peace process between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - People's Army (FARC-EP), women from civil society played a crucial role in mobilizing for this effort.

In Colombia, from 1958 to 2012, over 220,000 people were killed, with 80% being civilians. Five million people were forcibly displaced, and half of Colombia's territory was controlled by just 1% of the population.

During the Liberian Civil War in 1999, women led by Leymah Gbowee besieged the presidential palace, refusing to let the president leave until their demands were met. They formed a women's alliance that organized weekly protests across the country, wearing white as a symbol of Peace. 

Their actions prompted the Liberian president at the time to meet with the alliance leaders, which led to a meeting of the warring factions for negotiations.

When negotiations stalled, the women once again surrounded the palace, eventually leading to the president's resignation and exile and the formation of a transitional government. For her efforts, Gbowee was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.

Extinguish a nuclear war

One of the most celebrated diplomatic agreements of 2015, which received considerable acclaim, was not only aimed at ending a war but also preventing its outbreak. 

After numerous years of failed negotiations and decades of hostility, Iran and the P5+1 group reached a historic deal to limit Iran's nuclear program. 

A significant feature of this diplomatic achievement was the prominent leadership of three women: Federica Mogherini and Helga Schmid from the European side and Wendy Sherman from the United States. 

They continued the work initiated by another woman, Catherine Ashton, the former High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, until late 2014. 

Their colleagues credited them for their leadership in the Western bloc of the negotiations and ensuring the agreement was reached. However, such a scene is certainly rare.

In Iraq

The United Nations recognizes women as peacebuilders, acknowledging that they constitute half of society and that their representation is vital at decision-making tables. 

Partnerships with the Folke Bernadotte Academy and the International Civil Society Network have empowered women across Iraq to contribute to peacebuilding, prevent violent extremism, enhance social cohesion, and resolve conflicts.

Significant increases in the number of women engaged in civil society organizations compared to the pre-war period against ISIS and other previous crises have been noted. 

This has facilitated the development of women's skills and utilization of their potential in service delivery, thereby facilitating collaboration with women in awareness sessions about challenges and enhancing peace lines within society.

A project by a German organization targeted women activists in civil society, including women involved in political work, parliamentarians, and government officials in Iraq's governorates and Kurdistan region. 

It aims to convene decision-makers and state representatives at the subnational level across Iraq and Kurdistan through training workshops. These workshops are designed to educate tribal leaders, religious figures, officers, prosecutors, judges, and members of the armed forces—both men and women—on conflict transformation, dialogue, and gender equality.

The project is guided by key principles such as the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women's participation in peace processes, which celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 2020, and its subsequent ten resolutions. 

It also aligns with Iraq's National Action Plan (NAP2) for 2021-2024, which aims to mainstream gender perspectives in all political domains and operations to prevent conflict, resolve disputes, and build Peace in Iraq.

The main purpose of the program "Strengthening Women's Participation in Rehabilitation and Peacebuilding in Iraq" includes:

- Supporting and enhancing the capacities of governmental and non-governmental institutions to support women's participation under UNSC Resolution 1325.

- Improving gender mainstreaming efficiency among selected implementing partners of German development cooperation.

- Developing and utilizing digital curricula to achieve greater women's participation in peace and rehabilitation processes.

- Facilitating dialogue and promoting public relations campaigns to transform paternalistic relationships and stereotypes and improve living conditions for equal participation of Yazidi women in political, social, and economic processes.

Shafaq Live
Shafaq Live
Radio radio icon