Today, on International Women's Day, I would like to highlight the importance of women's participation in successful peace and democratization processes. It is precisely in conflict-affected societies that the need for equal development cooperation and strengthened local democratization processes is greatest, writes Professor Annika Björkdahl.
A prerequisite for achieving stability, democracy and development is to allow representatives from the entire society to participate in peace and reconciliation work. Unfortunately, half the population - women - are often excluded from this work. All too often, issues concerning women's security and rights end up on the side of peace negotiations.
Clearly positive connection
The research shows a clear positive connection between women's participation and successful peace and democratization processes. A lasting and equal peace requires a long-term gender perspective on local democracy and development cooperation.
Democracy, peace and gender equality are important tools for combating poverty and creating development, but at the same time these abstract ideas must be concretized in society and in everyday life. Based on research, we can see that women's security can not be distinguished from state security. Talking about an equal peace and putting a gender perspective on development cooperation does not mean that we shift the focus from hard issues such as security to soft issues. It is about an equal peace being a lasting peace that provides stability and security.
This is particularly important as 7 out of 10 of Sweden's largest aid recipients - for example Afghanistan, Somalia and Mozambique - are conflict-affected communities.
The UN adopted Resolution 1325 almost 20 years ago, precisely to strengthen women's participation in the reconstruction of war-torn societies - and to increase women's participation in decision-making processes and conflict resolution. Yet there is still a vanishingly small proportion of women in peace negotiations - and democratization processes do not always benefit women.
Greater risk of war when the differences are large
In conflict-affected societies, development is declining - poverty and differences in society are increasing. Research also shows that the greater the differences between women and men in a society - the greater the risk that the country will be involved in civil wars or intergovernmental wars. So, the greater the differences between women and men in a society - the greater the risk that the state will use force to resolve conflicts and that the level of violence in society is high.
In our research, we compare peace processes in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sri Lanka and Rwanda from a gender perspective. We analyze, among other things, how various peace negotiations, democratization processes and power-sharing arrangements can promote or limit women's participation in conflict-affected societies.
Women's rights and participation are a fundamental and strategically important issue for local democracy and for development cooperation. This is based on a solid scientific foundation that shows that a gender perspective and women's participation increase the efficiency of the work to achieve peace and democracy. An equal peace is a lasting peace!