Gender sensitivity: nicety or necessity in peace-process management?
OSLO forum 2008 – The OSLO forum Network of Mediators
A practical approach to sensitising peace processes to gender
This paper offers examples of how issues in peace processes can be treated in a gender-
sensitive manner, an exercise that is surprisingly simple yet can yield rich analytical results.
Being aware of gender in conﬂict mediation is not a silver bullet to cure the ills of peacemaking,
but is an under-utilised practical tool that can open up opportunities and strengthen mediation’s
already strong interest in gathering and using good intelligence. This paper aims to explain:
what gender sensitivity really means; what roles the currently excluded sex has played or could
play in negotiations at and between different tracks; what substantive or process-enhancing
inputs women can provide; and the mediation-support functions they can play, such as
relaying messages to and from broader communities, helping to contain spoiling elements in
communities, keeping the political middle ground alive, helping to get buy-in for a process, and
preventing the dreaded slide back into conﬂict.
The arguments in this paper are based principally on the practical experience of professionals
currently or recently involved in the management of peace processes in Aceh, Kenya, Kosovo,
Liberia, the Middle East, Nepal, Northern Ireland, the Sudan/Darfur and Uganda, together
with some secondary academic research and analysis. This paper does not offer a discussion
about the need for equality or fulﬁlling the requirements of international norms and instruments
relating to gender, women, peace and security, although these issues are clearly important.
Rather, the paper is an attempt to come at the subject from a fresh perspective that recognises
the constraints under which peace-process actors work. It aims to help them ﬁnd their own
ways to internalise and operationalise these norms from a pragmatic perspective, rather than
ignoring them, reducing them to box-ticking exercises, or simply despairing about what they
should actually do about them in practice.
papers Thus, the paper explores what peace-process actors, including mediators, have done to make
Background peace processes more sensitive to gender, what else might be done, and the beneﬁts (and
costs, if any) of such strategies. While it focuses principally on the agreement-crafting phase,
the paper also touches on aspects of implementation in which gender sensitivity has played or
could play a useful role.
Section Managing contributors and spoilers
Almost without exception, formal peace processes have strikingly low female presence, among
both parties and mediators. Explanations for this, and suggestions on how to address it,
have been rehearsed exhaustively elsewhere. One exceptional case recently was in Kenya,
2 Hans Jacob Frydenlund, Ellen Margarethe Loej, Carla Koppell and Steve Krubiner (of the Hunt Alternatives Fund), John Paul
Lederach, Ian Martin, Brendan McAllister, Meredith Preston McGhie, Jolynn Shoemaker, Johan Vibe, Sherrill Whittington. If I
have misrepresented their ideas or arguments, the fault is entirely my own.
3 As readers will see, apart from discussions with practitioners, my key resource has been Sanam Naraghi Anderlini’s book,
Lynne Rhienner (2007). This book, which is concise, richly researched
Women Building Peace, What they Do, Why it Matters,
and well argued, is a quick must-read for anyone interested in this topic.
4 Key instruments include: UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, 2000; the Beijing Declaration
and Platform for Action 1995; Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women 1979.
5 To give a few examples, Potter, Antonia, HD Opinion,
We the Women: Why Conﬂict Mediation is not Just a Job for Men,
October 2005; (WIIS) is about to bring out a detailed report,
Women in International Security Women in Peace Operations:
with recommendations looking speciﬁcally at the UN; the UN’s Senior Leadership
Increasing Leadership Opportunities,
Appointments Section has initiatives on this, and various rosters are in operation (although the effectiveness of rosters is very
much in question).
56 OSLO forum 2008 – The OSLO forum Network of Mediators
where there was an eminent female adviser (Graça Machel), two lead female negotiators
(Martha Karua, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, and Sally Kosgei, a former High
Commissioner to the UK) and a female senior-level political adviser from the UN (Margaret
Vogt) to the mediator Koﬁ Annan, as well as a female adviser from the Centre for Humanitarian
Dialogue (Meredith Preston McGhie). In Nepal, by contrast, despite Maoist commitments to
equality and the existence of at least a handful of politically powerful women, no females were
seen around the table.
Although women rarely make it to peace tables, there are very few places with absolutely no
women in prominent roles in public and/or political life. Several of the mediators interviewed
for this paper argued strongly that mediation teams should invest more heavily in identifying
both individual powerful women political actors, and the looser networks and groups of women
which, again, tend to exist in almost all societies. Where possible, these women should have
accessed positions of power directly and not through their identity as wife/mother/widow, the
mediators felt. This status helps women to act as role models, and to make powerful cases on
the issues they see as important, including but not limited to those affecting women, without
vulnerability to accusations of illegitimacy. Just a few of the examples given include Nepal’s
Pampha Bhusal, Sudan’s Anne Ito, and the Philippines’ Teresita ‘Ging’ Deles.
Discussants felt that when such women did draw attention to issues speciﬁcally affecting
women their voices were immediately more powerful because these were not the only
issues to which they referred. Examples of these issues include, perhaps inevitably, how to
deal with sexual violence towards women both as an act of war and as an after-effect (as
part of security, justice and community rehabilitation/reintegration concerns), and looking at Section
disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) from the perspective not only of the men
and women who are being demobilised but also of the communities which must reabsorb 2
them. Both the communities and the demobilised individuals may have changed radically as Background
a result of conﬂict and traditional roles may no longer be available, acceptable or possible
for them. Another example is ensuring women’s access to beneﬁts that may ensue from any
conﬂict settlement, including access to land (a major issue, as women’s rights to own land
are still circumscribed in many cultures), resettlement assistance, and access to employment papers
and educational opportunities that are again frequently restricted by law and culture in some
6 Pampha Bhusal: Maoist politician, member of Central Committee, Minister for Women, Culture and Social Affairs; Anne Ito:
Deputy Secretary General SPLM, Minister of State for Agriculture and Forestry; Ging Deles: former Presidential Advisor on the
7 For a discussion on the transformative potential of conﬂict and post-conﬂict periods on gender relations and the emancipation
of women, see Potter, Antonia, ‘Women and gender in civil wars’, a chapter in Darby & MacGinty (eds) Contemporary
Macmillan, June 2008 (forthcoming).
OSLO forum 2008 – The OSLO forum Network of Mediators
It is also important to identify potentially powerful (even if not obviously visible) female spoilers.
Women can organise aggressively around their identities as wives or mothers of ﬁghters, or
simply around their political or religious afﬁliation, to support their cause in the conﬂict, not to
end it. A mediator in Northern Ireland recently recounted that some of the toughest negotiations
he had over bitterly contentious issues like marching were with hard-line female community
representatives. While on the one hand the renowned Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in
Argentina banded together in the 1980s to lobby against the junta who had ‘disappeared’
their offspring, militantly pro-conﬂict mothers and wives of Ugandan ﬁghters mobilised against
the peace talks in Juba in 2008. It is important to understand that while women may not be
spoilers in the classic, visible sense (like being an armed group which threatens violence if not
included at the table), by playing roles like this in society, they indeed qualify for the title, and
thus for being encompassed and hopefully neutralised by a mediation effort.
A gendered view of post-conﬂict stability
Kosovo mediator Martti Ahtisaari thinks it is beyond argument that more women should be
represented at peace tables and that the views of women, as different from those of men and
regularly unrepresented, should be sought. This is part of creating a vision for a post-conﬂict
society that is not hidebound by all the institutional and systemic problems that bred a conﬂict
in the ﬁrst place – a particular challenge when the agreement is usually made between an
established government and an established rebel force, neither of which want to give up power.
Women whose views have not been traditionally sought can play a part in letting fresh air into
such a vision.
In addition, as Ahtisaari and several others argue, the paramount short-term concern of
papers agreement brokers, to create a situation of stability in which real peace might begin to be built,
is undermined by a perception of that stability which is overly driven by male deﬁnitions. How
Background can a concept of stability be taken seriously if it does not include, for example, the prevention of
systematic rape (as in the Democratic Republic of Congo or Darfur)? This is a form of violence
which seriously destabilises society, and while it garners much media attention, it still does not
command much political space. A gendered perspective on what comprises stability might lead
2 to a more nuanced concept of how that stability might be achieved, even allowing for the fact
Section that not every issue and every nuance can possibly be ﬁtted into a single cessation of hostilities
or peace agreement.
A different gender lens for looking at stability focuses on the situation of young men, proven
to be the group most affected by armed violence both in and out of conﬂict. They may have
been militarised during the conﬂict, and in most cases excluded from normal educational
and employment opportunities during war. Experience has shown that such groups, lacking
employment and meaningful focus, more often than not turn to gang activity, criminality and
can be part of a slide back into conﬂict. Stopping that before it starts requires an understanding
58 OSLO forum 2008 – The OSLO forum Network of Mediators
of how those young men came to be in that situation, how they perceive themselves in regard
to their families and communities and what can practically be done through family, community,
government, or international intervention to assist them to ﬁnd a place in a peaceful society.
That too, is a gendered analysis.
The problem Ahtisaari sees is lack of foresight, or, less kindly, laziness: if a mediation team
and negotiation teams are pulled together in a hurry, and identifying critical women leaders
or groups has not already been considered, then the chances are it won’t be, or it will be
done badly. But, he argues, what is to prevent research and reconnaissance in advance,
in a period where dialogue seems imminent, about who might be the female leaders to
include, or groups to consult? There is no argument anymore, he says, for saying there’s not
enough time. It is true that women may be organised in different ways (not only, for example,
in accessible ‘women’s coalitions’ but in looser networks based on any number of shared
concerns), and thus slightly harder to track down; but there are very few places where for
the price of a few intelligent questions, formal or informal women leaders or groups cannot
be unearthed – alongside all sorts of other information which a mediation team might ﬁnd
valuable. For example, the women’s health network in Nepal has provided a valuable means of
communication with rural communities on issues ranging far beyond health concerns.
Fears expressed by other mediators that focusing on involving women might slow down a
process to the extent that more civilians (in particular women and children) might be put at
risk, can of course be applied to all arguments about broader inclusion. If the intelligence
gathering and foresight suggested by Ahtisaari could be brought to bear, this narrowly
utilitarian argument would have no signiﬁcant purchase. It also belies the current thinking that Section
the process is in many ways more important than the product. 2
Identity confusion and men’s gender identity in conﬂict Background
The discussion above on understanding stability hints at the interesting question of the identity
issues faced by men and women in conﬂict, challenging them to establish, often publicly,
whether their ﬁrst loyalty is to political party, ethnic group, religious group, or – though rarely in
the case of men – gender group. An understanding of this is not just interesting psychology for papers
the peace-process actor, but critical to working out how people are to ﬁt back into a society no
longer in conﬂict.
Even, or perhaps especially, in highly developed and sophisticated situations like the Middle
East, there can be confusion about whether women are lobbying to have women’s concerns
represented at talks, or to have their own organisation present. This is exempliﬁed by the
positions taken by the International Women’s Commission for a Just and Sustainable Israeli–
Palestinian Peace in their approach to the recent Annapolis talks. A Northern Irish community
mediator recently recounted, ‘I’ve always thought of myself as an Irish Catholic woman, in that
8 A body made up in principle of one-third Israeli women, one-third Palestinian women, and one-third high-level international
OSLO forum 2008 – The OSLO forum Network of Mediators 9
order, and I now realise that has deﬁned how I have approached my life and my work’ . By
contrast, the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition (NIWC) deﬁnes itself by nationality ﬁrst, then
gender, but not, of course, by religion. This identity conundrum is a problem of human nature,
and of politics. Men share the same problems around ethnicity, religious and political afﬁliation,
and nationality, but have not been burdened by the need to place their gender in that list as
well, or, therefore, have their loyalty or competence questioned on those grounds.
The problem men face is that, while their gender does not necessarily bar them from having
a say in peace negotiations (although all sorts of other political and socio-economic factors
may do so), very few peace-process actors give psychology the weight they accord to politics.
There is a growing literature about masculine identities and linkages with conﬂict and
violence, suggesting that men need more assistance in adapting from a war psychology to
one of peace. This is true for both leaders and others, especially given the roles that societies
at war can ascribe to ﬁghters and leaders. No one is surprised, while everyone is appalled, by
the apparently inevitable spike in domestic violence in a post-conﬂict period. In today’s Liberia,
10–15 rapes of women and children are reported every week, which is strongly suggestive of
signiﬁcantly higher actual rates. Peace brokers and implementers need to ensure space to care
for the victims, to protect them and others from future attack, and to ensure accountability, but
also to address the problems of identity confusion, shame, marginalisation, trauma or post-
traumatic stress, misdirected pride and aggression which lead the perpetrators to act violently.
And, as just demonstrated, a gender-sensitive analysis is required to spell this out.
Walking the walk: how women contribute substantive issues
The greater problem here is whether those women who do get access to live negotiations are
papers well organised, focused and trained or supported enough to bring the right issues to bear at
the right time in a process. An individual closely engaged in the recent Kenya talks expressed
Background frustration that, while the consultations with women’s groups were extensive, prioritised
precisely because of the presence of high-level women on the advisory panel, and while their
early contributions were rich and valuable, the quality of their inputs declined at the later stage
in the talks when detailed, technical inputs were required. At this point they seemed to focus
2 disappointingly on the one goal of female presence at the talks. A recent study on justice issues
in Liberia suggested that the advocacy of some women’s groups centred on keeping talks
alive, without speciﬁc platform or purpose.
Much more valuable, discussants suggested, is speciﬁc, substantive advocacy on critical
issues relevant to the peace process, and all of which have interesting and important gender
dimensions. Regular female civilians, women ex-combatants, prisoners or ex-prisoners, victims
of sexual violence, displaced and refugee women, and the single-female-headed households,
which are one of the most common and poignant products, especially of prolonged conﬂicts,
have particular needs relating to DDR, land rights, employment opportunities and community
9 Workshop participant at European Mediation Conference, Belfast, April 2008.
10 Barker, Gary, Routledge, 2005; ‘Hitting the Target: Men and Guns’,
Dying to be Men: Youth, Masculinity and Social Exclusion,
Review Conference Policy Brief, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, June 2006 (for The United Nations Conference to Review
Progress Made in the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small
Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects).
11 Hayner, Priscilla, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, 2007.
Negotiating Peace in Liberia: Preserving the Possibility for Justice,
However, this paper also describes examples of women’s ability to bring the reality – and urgency – of the conﬂict to peace-
60 table delegates.
+1 anno fa
Dispensa per il corso di Teorie dei conflitti e dei processi di pace della Prof.ssa Maria Luisa Maniscalco. Trattasi del saggio di Antonia Potter dal titolo "Gender sensitivity: nicety or necessity in peace-process management?" all'interno del quale viene affrontato il tema del potenziale ruolo stabilizzante della donna nelle situazioni di conflitto.
I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher Atreyu di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Teorie dei conflitti e processi di pace e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Roma Tre - Uniroma3 o del prof Maniscalco Maria Luisa.
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