Conflict Prevention and Resolution
Long-term conflict prevention requires investment in cultures of peace along with formal and informal institutions for non-violent conflict resolution. Women’s participation can provide a more comprehensive understanding of the causes of and alternative solutions to conflict, and bolster actions addressing varying needs and sustaining peace over time.
When conflict breaks out, both formal and informal negotiations and peace processes provide critical opportunities to reshape a country’s politics, security and broader socioeconomic landscape. By including women, they expand the constituency contributing to conflict resolution, and create broader social buy-in to peace deals. This helps ensure that peace agreements are not narrow, elite pacts, and are supported and sustained by nations as a whole.
UN Women works towards women’s full and equal participation in formal and informal conflict resolution dialogues and peace processes. We raise awareness, develop women’s negotiating and mediation abilities, and advocate for gender-sensitive policies and programmes.
For example, UN Women is contributing toward critical efforts to build sustainable peace in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This is being done through targeted interventions supporting women’s engagement and influence in peace processes. As a result, women in the region will have enhanced opportunities for political participation and influence in high-level peace and transition processes. This is being achieved through direct support to women and to key actors – including mediators and their teams - engaged in peace processes in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. One key example is a joint programme, led by UN Women in collaboration with the Inclusive Peace and Transition Initiative at the Graduate Institute, the Political Settlements Research Programme at the University of Edinburgh and Justice Rapid Response. Further information on this programme is available here.
Equipped by UN Women with peace-brokering skills and knowledge of international rights guarantees, and bringing along their own deep understanding of Islamic principles, Muslim women’s groups in Mindanao, Philippines, in 2011 for the first time met with representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. They discussed including provisions for women in draft peace agreements aimed at resolving one of the world’s most protracted conflicts, spanning nearly four decades. During the dialogue, the Front took the unprecedented step of appointing two women to its peace panel, which is engaged in talks with the Government of the Philippines. Two other Muslim women joined the government negotiating team, including one heading its legal unit. In late 2012, a historic agreement was signed. Among its provisions are guarantees of women’s right to meaningful political participation and protection from all forms of violence.
In Kyrgyzstan, UN Women is applying support from the UN Peacebuilding Fund to assist Women Peace Committees, networks of activists who use diplomacy, dialogue and mediation to engage women in peacebuilding and reconstruction in the country’s southern region. The committees regularly monitor violations of women’s rights and risks of conflict outbreaks. In one case, they reached out through local television stations to prevent the spread of rumours related to the distribution of housing that might have otherwise fuelled tensions. Dialogues like these promote tolerance and support the broader goal of national reconciliation.
As a result of mediation trainings sponsored by UN Women in West Africa, participants from Senegal created the Women’s Election Situation Room for the early 2012 presidential elections. They provided early warnings of election-related violence, and supported women’s protection in campaigning and voting. In the April 2012 crisis in Mali, women leaders trained by UN Women engaged in the Ouagadougou dialogue on political stabilization, and succeeded in ensuring that gender-based violence was mentioned in the resulting declaration.
For UN-led mediation processes, UN Women provides gender expertise to governments, UN organizations and civil society groups to foster women’s leadership. In 2011, training on mediation, negotiation and advocacy techniques was provided to more than 200 women peace and security experts from 25 countries. A partnership with the UN Department of Political Affairs resulted in an increased number of women on the UN’s roster of mediation experts—it is now 36-per-cent female. This ensured that gender expertise was available to mediators and negotiating parties for recent talks on Darfur and Somalia.
As part of the UN Inter-Agency Network on Preventive Action, UN Women joins UN country teams to cultivate understanding of women’s contributions to community and national conflict prevention, including by sharing knowledge to inform early warning mechanisms. When conflict threatened Malawi in 2011, UN Women supported improved social cohesion in communities and across different social groups through the use of dialogue and negotiation techniques.