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Why more women are needed in peace negotiations

The United Nations must practice what it preaches when it comes to protecting women from violence in conflict areas

Yara al-Wazir

Published: Updated:

Never underestimate the power of involving women in peacekeeping negotiations. The probability of a peace agreement lasting 15 years is 35% more likely if women are involved, according to a 2015 report by the International Peace Institute. Despite this, just two percent of chief mediators and nine percent of negotiators in peace processes are women between 1992 and 2011. So the question here is clear – why isn’t the United Nations involving more women in global peace keeping negotiations, and more importantly, why is gender equality and the protection of women’s rights in conflict areas not being given enough attention? Only 15 percent of agreements signed between 1990 and 2010 directly referenced women’s rights or gender equality.

Before these statistics came to light, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution in 2008 to end violence and abuse against women during war and to involve women into peace talks. Yet this resolution, in terms of its application, has failed greatly.

Several resolutions have been passed since then to protect women in conflict areas, the most recent of which is resolution 2242 passed last month. While this addresses many needs women have in conflict areas, it fails to set strategic and achievable goals to involving women in the negotiation process, which statistically has astounding affects.

The United Nations must practice what it preaches when it comes to protecting women from violence in conflict areas

Yara al-Wazir

Clause 8 of the resolution promises to double the number of women in military and police contingents of U.N. peacekeeping operations over the next five years, yet fails to set a goal when it comes to appointing women in senior positions that would allow them to take part in negotiations. Instead, it vaguely brushes on the need to “prioritize” the appointment of women. This is not to belittle the importance of female members of U.N. peacekeeping operations, as they also undoubtedly have the ability to protect women on the ground. However, in order for a long-term peace process to be achieved, I believe women need to be at the forefront of negotiations.

Without a set blueprint, in five years the Security Council will undoubtedly find itself in the same predicament that it is in today. Debates and resolutions will continue to be held until achievable goals are set.

Civil society involvement is key

I believe the threat of violence against women within conflict areas is one of the barriers that keeps women far from diplomacy and peace processes. The value of women from conflict areas, who are actively involved in the development of civil society, is priceless when it comes to involving them in negotiations.

The very same women who were involved in negotiating resolution 2242 must be involved in negotiating peace in their home countries. This includes Yanar Mohammad of Iraq and Alaa Murabit of Libya, both of whom made statements at the United Nations supporting this resolution.

The U.N. must practice what it preaches

In a conflict zone, women mostly bear the least responsibility over the destruction of their areas, yet are left to deal fully with the issues that arise. Whether it’s a civil war or foreign intervention, women in conflict areas are subject to harassment, rape, and physical abuse, as well as the emotional trauma they have to endure.

The United Nations must practice what it preaches when it comes to protecting women from violence in conflict areas. U.N. peacekeepers have been accused of rape in the Central African Republic, in Congo and in Kosovo, as well as Liberia, Haiti and South Sudan. This issue has been ongoing since the 1990s, and is seemingly yet to be controlled. So while it is helpful that Resolution 2242 “welcomes efforts” to introducing a zero-tolerance policy to misconduct, it is not enough to beat around the bush. The issue of sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers deserves its own resolution, as well as solid action to deal with gross misconduct, and not just leaving it to governments to prosecute.

Ultimately, resolution 2242 is a step in the right direction. The support it received at the Security Council was overwhelming, but then again, it would be difficult for any country to defend its position if it had voted against protecting women in conflict areas.


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Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.