Four Ways To Advance Gender Equality and Peace and Security

As the international community celebrates Peace Day, countries around the world will seek to end conflict and crisis, uphold women’s rights and shape communities that are more equitable, just and inclusive.

This year the stakes have never been higher, and in some parts of the world, progress on gender equality has never looked so bleak.

In Afghanistan, the relationship between the need for women’s participation in all decision-making and the protection of women’s rights is devastatingly clear. In Tigray, rape and other forms of gender-based violence have been leveraged as weapons of war. In Haiti, a series of devastating earthquakes which have left thousands homeless, coupled with political instability and a deteriorating security situation, have placed women and girls at severe risk for human rights violations – exacerbating the already low numbers of women in decision making roles.

For too long, the work of governments, regional and civil society organizations, academic institutions and private sector donors has been siloed, hindering the full achievement of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and other landmark commitments to women, peace and security. Recognizing that we achieve more when we work together, here are four ways we can simultaneously advance gender equality and global peace and security:

1. Inclusive Approaches to Peacebuilding Ensure Sustainable Peace

From Libya to Colombia, evidence shows that women’s meaningful inclusion in peace processes leads to lasting, positive peace. However, parties to formal peace talks remain resistant to the inclusion of women.

Between 1992 and 2019, only 13 per cent of negotiators, 6 per cent of mediators, and 6 per cent of signatories in major peace processes worldwide were women. About seven out of every ten peace processes did not include women mediators or women signatories.

To advance women’s rights and foster sustainable peace, governments can appoint gender-balanced delegations to peace processes, and United Nations entities can support women’s full, meaningful, and direct participation in UN-led processes. Civil society organizations can promote the inclusion of gender-related provisions in all ceasefire and peace agreements, as well as humanitarian action plans. Private sector organizations can commit to ensuring protection of information and privacy of women human rights defenders, peacebuilders and activists.

2. Participation And Protection Are Inextricably Linked

In 2019, the UN documented 2,838 cases of conflict-related sexual violence, of which 96 per cent targeted women and girls. Additionally, the UN verified 102 killings of women human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists between 2015 to 2019 – a likely undercount.

In 2020, during the Libyan peace negotiations women delegates reported death threats and intimidating messages on social media. In Afghanistan, women have faced numerous risks to their safety, including targeted attacks against peacebuilders and human rights defenders.

Gender-based threats, coupled with inadequate protection measures silence women and prevent their full participation in political spaces. Often the lack of protection measures is structural, ranging from economic insecurity, lack of access to justice and legal protection, trauma services, etc.

Proper protection for women peacebuilders, human rights defenders and those facing conflict and crisis is desperately needed, such as through physical accompaniment, political advocacy and security arrangements for women leaders under threat, as well as financial support for women human right defenders and peacebuilders who face reprisals.

To learn more about actions signatories can take to support women peacebuilders, download the WPS-HA Compact Framework

3. Building Women’s Resilience to Crisis Promotes Stability

In 2020, displacement rose to nearly 82.4 million people, and close to one in every ninety-five people on earth has fled their home as a result of conflict or persecution.

Women often bear the brunt of conflict and crisis and are the most vulnerable to poverty, food insecurity, unemployment, health and climate crises.

Putting an end to violence is nearly impossible in the face of these challenges. Likewise, sustainable development, economic growth and durable solutions to displacement are not possible without peace. The humanitarian-development-peace nexus addresses the systemic causes of conflict and fosters women’s resilience to economic, climate and security shocks.

Governments can partner with multilateral development banks and humanitarian cash providers to implement adaptive social protection systems for crisis and conflict affected women. Regional organizations can encourage host countries to develop policies on women’s economic empowerment, and civil society organizations can support women by facilitating access to networks, services and information on economic opportunities and rights.

4. Intersectional Peace Processes Protect the Marginalized

In conflict and crisis, identity factors such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, class, disability and economic status can be sources of both oppression and resilience.

Women and girls with disabilities, as well as LGBTIQA+ individuals, experience higher rates of gender-based and other forms of violence, and are often invisible in peacebuilding processes.

Young women, refugees and stateless women are often excluded from post-conflict recovery and are viewed as passive victims, without leadership and agency.

Including all women in their full diversity in peace processes ensures that the most marginalized groups are protected from human rights violations which threaten security.

To ensure the needs of all affected women and girls are addressed, governments can advocate inclusive consultations, as well as the use of sex, age, and disability disaggregated data to better design response/recovery plans. Additionally, United Nations entities can conduct gender-age-and disability responsive conflict analysis to better inform political strategies and strategic planning processes, and civil society organizations can advocate the removal of structural barriers which bar refugees and stateless women from full inclusion in post-conflict recovery.

To learn more about joining an inclusive movement for bold action on gender equality download the WPS-HA Compact Framework