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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

women. 59

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

Section 11

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. OSLO forum 2008 – The OSLO forum Network of Mediators

reintegration, for example. All these groups also have a bearing on the nature of post-conflict

security and police forces and other key institutions such as the judiciary. Traditionally such

issues and institutions have not included women or their specific needs, or recognised that

their ability to access their rights and services is frequently constrained by national law, culture

and practice, especially in less developed, war-torn societies.

To expand on one example, that of DDR, as an illustration: women may have been combatants

but not registered as such, and hence they are not eligible for DDR programmes. Even where

female ex-combatants are registered at national level, experience in El Salvador (where 30%

of the combatants were women), for example, has shown they are still barred from accessing

DDR-related benefits at local level because they are women. Women ex-combatants (or indeed

camp residents) have different health needs, in particular reproductive and sexual health, and

require separate provision for sanitation in, for example, cantonment situations. There is also

the question of skill loss, where valuable technical and leadership skills gained during conflict

are lost when women are required to return to solely traditional roles (which they themselves

may not want). Additionally, it is not uncommon for male fighters to ‘marry’ several times during


conflicts, creating legal and welfare issues about the status and support of multiple families.

Technical advocacy on these issues will be most useful if it can prioritise the extent to which

details need to be included a peace agreement, or can be developed under the implementation

phase, to avoid over-freighting an agreement with exhaustive detail. While several of the

mediators interviewed for this paper felt that there was still room for expressing some of the

critical concerns of women in peace agreements themselves (over and above their normal

inclusion in standard phrases relating to the care of vulnerable populations), no one argued Section

that the detailed substance of an actual peace agreement outweighed the process itself in its

importance for the eventual outcome. 2


There are, however, some positive examples of substantive advocacy on gendered issues.

Northern Ireland is often cited as an example of a peace process that had at least some

pretensions to gender sensitivity. This is not attributable, as it rarely is, to those in charge of

the process as either mediators or principal parties, but essentially to politically active women papers

themselves who famously formed a cross-party coalition (the NIWC) that was able to secure

through election two delegate seats at the talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement. Their

achievements, apart from mere survival in an atmosphere, which at the outset was clearly toxic

in its male chauvinism, included demonstrating that cross-party unity on key peace issues

was possible. The coalition also ensured the inclusion in the agreement of provisions related

to critical issues for reconciliation and peacebuilding, such as integrated social-service and

education provision.

12 Anderlini, Sanam and Conaway, Camille, The Initiative for

Inclusive Security ( contains a rich collection of discussions of this kind on the gendered aspects of

various key issues in peacemaking, such as conflict prevention and transformation, DDR, justice and truth commissions. 61

OSLO forum 2008 – The OSLO forum Network of Mediators

In El Salvador, Liberia and Sri Lanka, for example, women delegations (and in the case of

El Salvador women negotiators) have put forward specific recommendations on DDR, not

only from the point of view of reintegrating female combatants, but from those of the now

female-dominated communities to which former combatants return, and as relatives of former


combatants. These included, for example, ensuring that female ex-combatants had the same

level of technical and financial assistance as did their male counterparts, although skills training

may need to be adapted to suit gender norms and practicalities.

Benefits: laying the groundwork for longer-term transformation

If you agree that peace agreements should not give the detailed blueprint for a better future, but

create the space for a country to make plans for itself during the implementation period, then

one great achievement of almost all peace processes deserves to be singled out. This is the

imposition of constitutional quotas for female political participation, most recently in Nepal and

stretching back to Rwanda, which still has the highest percentage of female parliamentarians


in the world (48%). This is usually the result of pressure from women’s groups backed up

by support from the international community, and is one of the key arguments for how conflict

provides opportunities for transforming gender relations, equality and female emancipation.

The piece of the picture currently missing is a study evaluating the record of those legislative

bodies. What is the impact of the increased proportions of women on sustaining the peace?

Do they need more technical capacity building to be able to participate to their fullest potential

in these not necessarily friendly environments? Observers and mediators alike suggest that

the international community has a tendency, having pushed for increased female political

participation, to leave women politicians at the door of their parliament, to compete against or

papers collaborate with others with, generally, much longer political experience.

Background Benefits: message-bearing potential

There are multiple examples of women’s capacity for networking information, carrying

messages and keeping channels of communication alive. Women are often found acting as

informal mediators within the talks (leading in the Northern Irish case, as Monica McWilliams

2 told the recent European Mediation Conference in Belfast, to accusations at times that they

Section were ‘Sinn Fein in skirts’). In Uganda also, Betty Bigombe recalls using women in camps as

intermediaries between factions, a role they can play with more ease than men, making them

a valuable resource. Similarly in Somalia, women are able to move physically between clans

(especially due to intermarriage) with a freedom that men do not have, and hence have often

been used as first-line diplomats and message carriers.

13 Ibid: Chapter 3, ‘Getting to the Peace Table’, provides a series of other examples, including from lesser-studied conflicts such

as in Nagaland.

14 International Parliamentary Union.

62 OSLO forum 2008 – The OSLO forum Network of Mediators

In the Middle East, there is a long tradition of women trying to talk to ‘the other’ at the Track 2

level, which observers regard as vital for keeping the door open to the idea of dialogue being

at least possible. Anderlini and Conaway quote the Executive Director of the Jerusalem-based

Women’s Legal Aid and Counseling Service: “We want to explain to each other what it is like

to live in Israel and Palestine, to develop transparent procedures so that any peace will be one

between individuals and not politicians... If we leave it only to men we get Israeli generals and


Palestinians who will not be defeated and there is no room to negotiate.”

The problem is that, just as the intransigent Palestinian and the militant Israeli aren’t listening to

other realities, the women are too often talking only among themselves. At the Global Peace

Initiative of Women conference held in Jaipur, India, in March 2008, 450 such women gathered

and shared ideas for strategically influencing conflict resolution, much of which would ring

very familiar to mediators: talking to the other to ‘un-demonise’ them, trying to help people

identify their real problem. To give an example, Hala Al-Saraf, head of the Iraq Health Access

Program, described how the Shiite/Sunni divide splitting Iraq is in large part a religious cover

for underlying economic and political competition among those vying for power. She runs a

conflict-resolution programme for widows of husbands killed in sectarian violence, where the

message is often ‘your problem is not your Sunni neighbour; it’s not having a job’, a message


that she said needs to be broadcast more widely in the country.

This focus on reality and locally based problem solving is topical, because of the nature of

today’s conflicts. No longer are these usually the interstate wars for which many of our models

of conflict prevention and resolution were built. They are often civil conflicts where neighbours

may have to return, or simply remain, living next door to those who may have killed, raped Section

or stolen from them. Not only can those who are aware of how those ‘real’ lives are led add

critical observation to a peace table, they may also have a role in breaking down the paradigm 2

of a peace process that suggests it is essentially a dividing of the immediate spoils for those Background

who made it to the table.

Benefits: holding up the middle and reversing the slide back to conflict

Coming back to Northern Ireland, the process there also illustrates an interesting point about papers

the potential for women in politics to keep the middle ground alive. The NIWC – its job with

the agreement itself done – closed its doors in 2006 and the women returned to their parties,

or simply their lives. While the participation of women in Northern Irish politics has remained

greater than it was before the Coalition, it is still unimpressive (14% members of the 108-strong

Assembly are women). What has been lost over the previous ten years, analysts argue, despite

the obvious achievements in implementation of the agreement, is a true middle ground in

Northern Irish politics.

15 Maha Abu Dayeeh Shamas, Executive Director of the Jerusalem-based Women’s Legal Aid and Counseling Service, in a

speech to the UN Security Council, May 2007, quoted in Anderlini and Conaway, op. cit., p. 53.

16 11 March 2008.

Chicago Tribune, 63




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+1 anno fa


Dispensa al corso di Teorie e tecniche della trasformazione dei conflitti 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 si discutono le politiche di genere messe in atto dai mediatori all'interno delle operazioni di peacekeeping e peacebuilding.

Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea magistrale in relazioni internazionali
A.A.: 2010-2011

I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher Atreyu di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Teorie e tecniche della trasformazione dei conflitti 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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