Recovery and Peacebuilding

Countries recovering from conflict face enormous challenges in recovery and reconstruction. Despite a general recognition that women and men need to be equal partners in these processes, and that inclusiveness sustains peace, peacebuilding remains largely dominated by mostly male elites.

The 2010 UN Secretary-General’s report on women’s participation in peacebuilding provides a comprehensive 7-Point Action Plan that guides the UN system and its partners towards a better balance. The plan covers women’s full engagement, and commits the United Nations to allocating 15 per cent of post-conflict funds to projects principally aimed at addressing women’s specific needs, advancing gender equality or empowering women. All UN entities working on peacebuilding began implementing the plan in 2011, supported by UN Women and the Peacebuilding Support Office.

For UN Women, three key areas of intervention in recovery and peacebuilding are:

Post-conflict planning: our solutions

National and international planning documents serve as blueprints for post-conflict reconstruction and development. To enhance women’s well-being, planning must be attuned to the complexity of social relations and gender issues. For instance, women’s inability to access services after conflicts often stems both from physical insecurity and pervasive social norms depriving them of equal opportunities. All too often, however, plans fail to account for the array of women’s needs, whether in terms of policies, programmes or resources.

Post-conflict needs assessments are particular planning tools for funding reconstruction and development. The UN system, European Union, The World Bank and regional development banks undertake them at the request of national Governments. UN Women provides gender expertise—such as in the 2012 assessment in Yemen. It ensured that the national transition roadmap incorporated explicit targets for women in economic recovery, including for their employment as frontline service providers in education and health.

Economic recovery: our solutions

There is growing evidence that large-scale investment in women’s economic empowerment generates immediate and long-term social dividends, including in post-conflict situations. Compared to men, women tend to spend much more of their income on family and community well-being. Typically, however, they are marginalized from employment programmes and other recovery opportunities. This occurs despite the spike in female-headed households during and after conflict.

Under the 7-Point Action Plan, UN Women works with Government, UN and NGO partners to advocate for including women in local development and infrastructure programmes. This entails directly involving them in setting priorities, identifying beneficiaries and monitoring implementation. Employment programmes, for example, should specifically target women, and require that neither sex receives more than 60 per cent of employment days generated. This stipulation meant that after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the UN system collaborated with NGO partners to ensure that women had a 40-per-cent share of temporary employment days.

As Rwanda continues its long recovery from the 1994 genocide, UN Women has assisted national partners to improve agricultural services for women. Women have been supported to join agricultural cooperatives, where they can obtain loans and fertilizers to improve their productivity. Yields on some small farms have since tripled. Training on gender equality for co-op leaders and district authorities resulted in a drive to involve more women in the design of agricultural services and measures for greater gender balance. A new requirement that married couples co-sign vouchers for fertilizer has stopped the frequent practice of men selling the fertilizer instead of using it on the family plot. In addition, ensuring that couples co-sign co-op loans has led to dramatically higher repayment rates.

Restoring governance: our solutions

Transitions from conflict, political crisis or humanitarian disasters can present unprecedented chances to strengthen women’s leadership, empowerment and rights in new systems of governance, from service delivery to legal reforms to elections. UN Women partners with governments and civil society groups to promote women’s participation in post-conflict elections, including through electoral quotas. We help public institutions advance gender equality, and foster the abilities of women leaders and gender equality advocates to demand reforms responding to women’s rights and priorities.

In 2011, UN Women assisted the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission to establish a gender unit with nine gender advisers. To overcome rates of illiteracy among women that can top 90 per cent, we engaged 24 civil society groups to go door to door across 10 states, building citizen awareness of women’s rights and priorities, and encouraging them to register to vote. More than 40,000 people were involved. By the election, women made up 51 per cent of registered voters and turned out in record numbers.

Following a civil conflict in Tajikistan in the 1990s, UN Women has supported rural women to establish Women’s Watch Groups in local communities. The groups identify ways to improve the quality and design of public services, and liaise with local authorities to provide feedback on quality, especially related to civic registration and social protection programmes. This in turn helps service providers become more responsive to the needs of vulnerable women and households. The model has worked so well that local governments have begun replicating the groups in other districts.