Without women - no peace

Today, half of the world's population is excluded from peace processes. Women are excluded from both mediation and decisions on peace and security. To achieve lasting peace, women need to be included and have power in peace processes, write five representatives of Operation 1325.

After 15 years of work on UN Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, women are still excluded from peace processes. Mediation is a male-dominated activity despite the fact that Resolution 1325 calls for women to participate in peace work. According to UN Women, less than 4% of peace agreements between 1992 and 2011 were signed by women and not even 10% of mediators were women. This year investigation report on how resolution 1325 has worked in practice, the author of the report, Radhika Coomaraswamy, writes about the consequences of excluding women and the benefits of including women.

The argument for male mediators is that it is more effective to work with already established leaders to reach agreements. But efficiency at the expense of inclusion is a short-term, superficial and unsustainable solution, according to Coomaraswamy. Interrupted negotiations, broken peace agreements and a return to armed conflict are common. This leads to increased violence affecting civilian women and societies.

The international community is mainly concentrated on official peace talks between state or supranational representatives, with strategic geopolitical interests in focus. Residents' living conditions, security and self-determination are not on the agenda or in budget planning.

Women often raise root causes of conflict

According to the expert group behind Coomaraswara's report, women are negotiating peace continuously and actively, with perseverance and great risks. Their invisible and everyday peace work receives no media attention, but has proven results to highlight. Bianca Bauer, who wrote about the peace brigades in Colombia, testifies that women who participate in peace talks raise the root causes of conflicts and define peace in a holistic way - as concrete basic preconditions for a dignified life.

In Colombia, women actively and successfully participate in peace talks following pressure from both civil society organizations and also the Swedish embassy. Through the peace talks, eight basic preconditions with a clear connection between security and development have been defined. Some examples are access to good education for all children and the inclusion of the various population groups in decisions and in the reconstruction work.

Lack of future prospects that satisfy development to a good and dignified life is a root cause of conflict. Conflict resolution must therefore focus on creating the conditions for a good life, or the broader definition used in Latin America - Buen Vivir - which is about a harmonious and sustainable life and society.

Another success factor in the Colombian peace process is that peace should be borne by the whole of civil society. People in different communities, regions and cultures need to work together, feel confident and experience security. The peace agreement signed in Havana was a start. Then the peace process begins. And the implementation of peace and security on the ground continues until a holistic and sustainable coexistence is achieved.

Civil society must take part in peace negotiations

The report's author Coomaraswamy argues that more must be invested in local peace processes run by women and civil society. There is a 64 percent lower risk of interrupted peace negotiations if representatives of civil society participate. When women are included, the probability that peace will be maintained for at least 15 years increases by 35 percent.

The analysis of 40 peace processes since the end of the Cold War shows that peace agreements in which women have had a great deal of influence have almost always been reached. The more power women have in peace processes, the more sustainable peace is. Therefore, we should recognize and support women's peace work at local and international level with increased resources. We should pay attention to their proposed solutions and safety requirements. To the same extent as men, women must participate in and lead the work for peaceful, safe and sustainable societies.

Sustainable peace can only be achieved when the entire population is allowed to participate. Therefore, increased female political participation, a greater gender perspective in the security agenda and more women who are active mediators in conflict and post-conflict countries are needed. Including women does not automatically mean that issues concerning women in conflict will be discussed. But the chances increase markedly that another important perspective on peace and security will be highlighted and represented.

Women's and peace organizations need to be strengthened

By increasing the capacity and knowledge of women's and peace organizations, more opportunities are created for women's participation and inclusion. There will be better conditions for greater female political participation and a stronger gender perspective in the security agenda.

Work is currently underway to include more women as mediators, including through the Folke Bernadotte Academy's mediation network and Operation 1325's project Mediation Lab for capacity building and an increased number of women mediators in Colombia, the Middle East and North Africa. Operation 1325 collaborates with competent and experienced women who contribute to creating and maintaining peace, preventing and resolving conflicts. It is women who should be included in tomorrow's peace talks. We and other Swedish actors have access to mediation networks for women that can contribute to peace processes around the world, in collaboration with others.

As a civil society organization, we demand that qualified women participate in peace processes, as signatories, conversation leaders and decision-makers, and in the development of the concept of security. Then there are opportunities for sustainable peace and equal societies.

Eva Zetterberg, Anita Klum, Annika Schabbauer, Frida Wallander and Stina Larsson

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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