“I decided to do peacebuilding work to ensure no one else would ever need to go into exile.” 

Robinah Rubimbwa, Uganda 

“The compulsion for revenge may be high but the irrationality of an ‘eye for an eye’, which leaves everyone blind, directs the drive for justice towards an alternative path.” 

Peacebuilder, Palestine

 “A peacebuilder is a person who keeps the deep hope that despite all these difficulties, we can still be better as humans”

Rosa Emilia Salamanca, Colombia

In 2000 women peacebuilders were the inspiration and engine behind UN Security Council Resolution 1325 that for the first time in history called for the inclusion of women in matters of war prevention and peacemaking. Evidence proves that women’s inclusion increases the quality and sustainability of peace processes. But they are still overwhelmingly absent from track one negotiations. 

Acknowledging the existence, skills, influence, values and approaches of women peacebuilders is a necessary preliminary step to ensure their rightful and systematic place at the tables of negotiations and decision-making that end wars and foster future peace around the world. 

Drawing on two decades of desk and primary research and interviews, policy development, and experiences in advocacy and Track One mediation practices, “Recognizing Women Peacebuilders: Critical Actors in Effective Peacemaking”, delves into the motivations and factors that propel women to become peacebuilders in the face of violence and conflict; the activities they engage in that bridge the local and the global arenas; and how across time and geography, they willingly and strategically harness, reframe, and deploy existing traditions, cultural practices, religious teachings, and kinship structures, alongside national and international laws, in their pursuit of peace, justice, and the power to influence adversaries and belligerent forces.

The brief explores how the lexicon and labels in the policy arena hinder or help women’s greater inclusion in peace processes, and factors that capture the complexity and commonality of WPBs’ experiences in relation to and distinct from other forms of socio-political activism.

Produced as a part of the She Builds Peace campaign led by the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN)and members of the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL), the brief also provides a ten-point operational guidance and examples of precedence that guarantee the participation of women peacebuilders in track one peace processes.

Operational Guidance to Guarantee the Participation of Women Peacebuilders in Track One Peace Processes

1. Support independent women peacebuilder delegations to take part in peace talks

Precedence:  At the Somali National Peace Conference in Arta, Djibouti (2000), the UN invited Somali women peacebuilders to observe the peace talks among the five clans all represented by men. The women united across clans as the “Sixth Clan,” referencing the clan-based design of the conference. They negotiated with the men to secure their seat at the table as an independent delegation and signatories to the agreement.

2. Design inclusive processes where women and other marginalized groups have fair representation

Precedence: In facilitating the 2012-2014 Yemen National Dialogue Conference (NDC), the UN heeded the call for inclusivity and helped create a process that included political and tribal leaders alongside youth and women’s civil society movements. The NDC comprised 28% female participation. There was an all-woman delegation and a minimum 30% quota for women’s participation in the delegations of other parties. Women chaired three of the nine working groups and comprised 25% of the Consensus Committee.

3. Convene meetings early on encouraging systematic interactions from the start of the process so relations are built
  • Between women peacebuilders and the envoy/ mediator; and,
  • Between women peacebuilders and the negotiating parties.

Precedence: As common practice, Norwegian mediation teams meet with various stakeholders, including women, before an official process starts. Throughout the process they engage on issues like inclusion and rights, particularly with those that are likely to be the formal parties. A gendered conflict- and actor analysis is undertaken, and targeted support for relevant women’s peace organizations and WPS actors provided.

4. Invite women as official observers and convene the women to negotiate on the issues on the agenda,

come up with negotiated solutions to share with armed actors and encourage them to adopt solutions.

Precedence: In Burundi, in 1999 Nelson Mandela (mediator), UNIFEM, and the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation supported an all-party women’s peace conference bringing together more than 50 women representatives from the 19 Burundian groups involved in the peace negotiations. The women discussed and agreed on gender specific demands including inclusion of a women’s charter in the Constitution, measures to ensure women’s security, women’s rights to land, inheritance and education, and an end to impunity for gender-based war crimes and domestic violence. Mandela subsequently presented the negotiated recommendations to the 19 negotiating parties, who accepted all requests.

5. Invite women peacebuilders to regularly speak to delegations about issues on the negotiation agenda,

such as ceasefires, power/ responsibility sharing, security sector reform etc. and what they expect to see coming out of the process.

Precedence: In 2002, in advance of the Sun City talks, UNIFEM assisted Congolese women to meet with women from South Africa, Guatemala and Uganda who had experience in peace negotiations. The women were later able to contribute substantively to the agenda of defense and security, political and judiciary, financial and economic, humanitarian, social and cultural, peace and reconciliation commissions and provide technical assistance to the Facilitator’s office in the last round of negotiations.

6. Provide gendered briefing papers

on all thematic topics on the agenda, so delegates understand how women and men are affected by and respond to conflict, and what expertise they bring to the table.
Precedence: During the Colombia peace process, the UN’s Mediation Standby Team produced gendered briefing notes for the envoy on each of the topics on the agenda of the peace talks including land issues, victims’ rights, Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration (DDR).

7. Fund women peacebuilders early on and throughout the process and during implementation of agreements

This enables them to carry out consultations, draft statements and papers, and engage substantively in the process from the start and to engage in implementation and monitoring of accords. Refer to their outputs to inform and shape the agenda and the process, and in discussions with belligerent parties, as precedence in actions four and five show.

8. Allow flexibility for ongoing grants or provide new additional "rapid response" funding

to women peacebuilders to enable them to travel on short notice and participate in peace processes.

Precedence: In 2019 ICAN’s Innovative Peace Fund (IPF) and Better Peace Initiative (BPI) mobilized within 16 days mobilized to provide financial support (travel, accommodation, per diems) and strategic advising (messaging and statement input) to Cameroonian women to enable them to engage in the National Dialogue.

9. Assist with issuing and expediting visas to enable last minute travel to peace talks/ pre-talks

Provide other travel support (including transportation, accommodations and per diems) and assist in obtaining security clearance and access.

  • Precedence: In 2002, as Canada’s Special Envoy for Peace in Sudan, Senator Mobina Jaffer with the support of mediator Salim Salim (former President of Tanzania), was able to insist that 17 Darfuri women be brought to the peace talks. By building rapport with the Arab League and the African Union, Jaffer was able to change the dynamics of the process despite the initial refusal by male negotiators to include women.
  • Precedence: In 2019 the European Union included Yemeni and Syrian women peacebuilders in its delegation to the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), enabling them to secure visas to the United States that would otherwise not have been issued. The peacebuilders were able to address and engage with a wide array of UN, member state and US government officials, as well as the global NGO community.
10. Before committing funding or political support consult with women peacebuilders to determine viability and vulnerabilities of agreements.

Don’t commit support if agreements enable, validate or reinforce violence, corruption, discrimination and exclusion.

Precedence: In its May 2020 Conclusions on the Future of the Afghanistan Peace Process and the European Union’s Support (8223/20 COR 1), the Council stated that the EU “will condition its future political and financial support to ensure that the republican, democratic and values-based principles are protected and further promoted”(emphasis added). In reaffirming the EU’s support for a negotiated political settlementleading to lasting peace and reconciliation, which must build on the democratic and fundamental freedoms of all Afghans especially women, children, all persons belonging to minorities and groups at risk must be protected and further strengthened to benefit from and to further the economic, social, political and development achievements of the past 19 years.” It further states: “In line with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, the EU reiterates the importance of meaningful participation of women in all peace initiatives including formal and informal peace negotiations.”

“The inclusion of an individual or a small group of women into existing delegations is rarely transformative.”

“Women peacebuilders, by virtue of being ‘women’, face discrimination and unconscious bias.”

“But having women mediators or gender expertise within mediation teams, while necessary, is not a replacement for the representation, knowledge and action that women peacebuilders can bring.”

“Because they are of the community, they also have an understanding of the context and cultural nuances of their settings, and thus are able to adapt their messages and their activities to fit local needs and evolving changes.”

“There is also a distinction to be made and respected between local peacebuilders who are from war-affected communities and choose to engage in addressing the conflict non-violently, and international actors, who may be peacebuilders or diplomats by profession, but are not of the context where the conflict is impacting lives.”

“it is time to acknowledge and respect the unique combination of values, characteristics, strategies and tactics that together define women peacebuilders as critical actors working in conflict settings on conflicts.”

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