Annika von Redwitz, certified Diversity Advisor and Coach and Chairwoman for the Diplomatic Council Diversity Program. The Diplomatic Council is a global think tank in consultive status with the United Nations joining the forces of diplomacy, business and society to make a contribution to society.
In so many parts of the world, millions of people are suffering from terrible circumstances due to war and conflicts. Every day in the news, you see armed soldiers and military equipment on one side and suffering and injured civilists , a majority of them being women and children, on the other. Pictures of horror, which seem unreal to those of us who are fortunate to live in a region without war. Why can’t we as a global community find a way to stop all this suffering, and start building peace instead?
There is no easy answer to this question, but there is something we could and should work on: To involve more women in peace negotiations. Therefore, for this International Women’s Day on March 8, I would like to #PressforProgress and briefly share som information on this topic.
In a recent interview on Swedish radio, the Swedish former ambassador Birgitta Holst-Alani stressed that it is very important that women are included in mediation and peace negotiations. Holst-Alani has over 40 years’ experience from working in the Middle East, and now that she is retired she brings in her vast experience in the „Swedish Women Mediation Network“. This network is part of the Folke Bernadotte Academy, a Swedish agency for peace, security and development.
So why is it important to involve women? Well, it is as simple as this: If women are involved, peace agreements are more likely to be reached, the agreements are more sustainable, and peace lasts longer according to Holst-Alani. Her statement is based on research and her year-long experience as a diplomat.
So if this is true, why does the statistics speak a totally different language? Here are some figures from the UN women review 2012:
From 1992 to 2011, less than 4% of signatories to peace agreements were women. Similarly, women represented less than 4% of participants and less than 10% of negotiators at peace talks. In peacekeeping missions and domestic security services, women have been similarly underrepresented in conflict-affected areas worldwide.
But what are the concrete benefits of including more women, and what could be the reasons for the positive effect? You may have some spontaneous thoughts around these questions, and here are some statements based on research:
If women are involved in peace agreements and peace keeping efforts:
- It increases the fulfillment of the needs and interests of the wider population.
- It contributes to the fulfillment of fundamental conventions with regard to human rights.
- It is likely to lead to more encompassing and inclusive peace agreements.
- It helps to prevent a relapse into conflict, e.g. since women have a significant experience and expertise in peacebuilding at the local level, for example through women’s organisations.
- Protection efforts are more effective.
- It leads to higher reporting of gender-based crimes and lower incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers.
So, don’t you think it is time to start trying harder to engage more women in peace making efforts?
UN Women has championed women’s participation in peace negotations for Syria, Myanmar, South Sudan and Mali, and supported the Colombia peace talks which led to significant numbers of women at the table and a gender perspective in all aspects of the final agreement. But there is still a lot to be done.
Therefore – to all decision makers out there: Make sure to include more women in critical negotiations at an early stage and let them contribute to a sustainable, productive and stable solution for all parties involved! And by the way – you don’t have to wait for an armed conflict to do so!