Women, Peace and Security

May 19, 2017

Women as a Force for Peace

Women and girls are uniquely and disproportionately affected by armed conflict. Women bear the brunt of war and are the vast majority of casualties resulting from war.

Rape and sexual violence targeting women and girls are routinely used not only to terrorize women, but as strategic tools of war and instruments of genocide.

Importantly, women and girls are not only victims of war; they are also powerful peace-builders whose efforts to prevent conflict and secure peace have been critical, yet largely unrecognized, under-resourced, and not integrated into formal peace processes.

“Women, Peace and Security” encapsulates three areas of women’s experience of war: protection, participation, and prevention.

Protection: Although numerous international protocols mandate the protection of civilians in conflict, women are specifically targeted for violence during war and need special protection. And though numerous international resolutions have outlined specific measures to prevent, monitor, and respond to violence against women in conflict, women continue to be targeted for rape and other violence. For instance, despite having the largest peacekeeping force in the world, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has continued to play the host to targeted rape campaigns by armed groups vying for control of mineral-rich turf. The peacekeeping force MONUSCO has been criticized for slow response to mass rapes, while perpetrators enjoy relative impunity for their crimes.

Participation: Despite demonstrated value as peace-builders from Liberia to Northern Ireland, to Uganda and Sudan, women are largely excluded from formal peace processes. Only 1 in 13 participants in peace negotiations since 1992 has been women. Women have served as only 6% of negotiators to formalized peace talks and have never been appointed as chief mediators in UN-brokered talks. Lack of women’s participation often means crimes against women go unaddressed and peace agreements do not ultimately reflect popular needs.

Prevention: Women also add value to measures that prevent conflict. They can be critical sources of intelligence, such as locations of weapons stores or plans for insurgent attacks. Yet global conflict prevention efforts still fail to adequately incorporate this resource: only slightly more than 3% of total military personnel in peacekeeping operations are women. Similarly, only 13 of 34 peacekeeping and political missions have gender advisors, compromising mission ability to incorporate a gender perspective in prevention efforts.