Towards Gender-equal Peace: From ‘Counting Women’ to Meaningful Participation

Women’s meaningful participation in peace negotiations and implementing peace agreements is a key tenet of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2020. Beyond being a right – enshrined in the WPS agenda and other international laws – women’s participation has been shown to positively impact the likelihood of achieving a peace agreement between the parties, the durability of the agreement, and the quality of the provisions – in particular, the inclusion of gender-responsive provisions. Still, women remain largely excluded from official peace negotiations. Between 1991 and 2011, they constituted only 2% of chief mediators, 4% of witnesses and signatories, and 9% of negotiators. Women are routinely excluded from pre-negotiation stages of peace processes, where parameters and agendas for future negotiations are set. Similarly, even in contexts which boast high levels of women’s participation during peace negotiations – such as Colombia – women are often marginalised during implementation, which contributes to delays in the implementation, especially of those provisions designed to ensure a gender-equal peace. A range of challenges contributes to women’s exclusion from peace processes. Increasingly, researchers, activists and policymakers have also recognised that, even when women do participate in peace negotiations, they might not be able to exert influence. In 2018, the UN Secretary-General recognised both the ‘poor level of representation’ of women in peace negotiations and ‘corresponding challenges in measuring how women contribute their experience and ideas and assert influence amid consistently male-dominated processes. These findings paint the exclusion of women as a structural problem, which requires a structural solution – ‘redesigning’ the table, rather than merely having women at it.