Seizing Opportunities to Sustain Peace: A Road Map

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By Sarah Douglas, Deputy Chief, Peace and Security, UN Women, and Tatyana Jiteneva, Policy Specialist, Peace and Security, UN Women


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Photo: MINUSMA\Harandane Dicko

From social media platforms to the streets of major cities worldwide, women organising for equality and justice has increasingly been grabbing attention and headlines. In the field of peace and security, women’s participation has long been recognised as a critical factor for stability and recovery. It is key at a time the world is grappling with a multitude of crises that threaten decades of development, undermine people’s confidence in multilateralism and worsen risks associated with disasters.

Time and again, women’s peacemaking and peacebuilding efforts have proven to be sustainable and effective. The 2015 Global Study on Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) compiled overwhelming evidence showing improved outcomes in all areas of peace and security when women are present.1 The newly released United Nations/World Bank Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict underscores the cost-effectiveness and resilience of women organising for peace, particularly in the context of State actors with low capacity and where  resources for recovery and development are scarce.2

Despite this knowledge, eight Security Council resolutions, and countless other policies and frameworks, investment in women, peace and security remains woefully low. Women’s access to and participation in peacebuilding and recovery processes are inconsistent and constantly under threat. The recently released OECD Development Policy Paper Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Fragile and Conflict Affected Situations: A Review of Donor Support3 and the 2018 Secretary-General’s Report to the General Assembly and Security Council on Sustaining Peace provide a road map — as follows — for addressing the chronic exclusion of women and gender-perspectives from peacebuilding and recovery efforts.

Joined up analysis and planning. Relevant, context-specific and coordinated action is required to improve responses in crises. Robust gender analysis is a critical yet often neglected component of any situational diagnosis. In addition to shedding light on the impacts of conflicts on women and girls, better gender analysis can reveal the capacities for peace and recovery that women will bring to the table as they work to address persistent barriers to peace. This is at the heart of the theory of change aiming at long-term impact. When gender is ignored in recovery assessments, strategic reviews and other planning processes, the resulting actions are gender-blind. Data and information sharing is crucial and bilateral and multilateral partnerships are key not only for inclusive and gender-responsive analysis, but also for translating analyses and priorities into programming that makes a difference in the lives of those on the ground.

Technical capacity on gender. As the OECD Development Policy Paper recognises, gender expertise is central to better programmatic outcomes. As multilateral budgets get slashed around the world, the tendency to cut gender expertise must be reversed. Gender advisers and strong UN Women offices are needed to do the technical work of gender mainstreaming and to engage different stakeholders and bring their capacities and networks to bear. Ministries of gender, women leaders and youth-led organisations can be better mobilised to support peacebuilding processes when they are engaged from the outset. And effectively mainstreaming gender in policy and programming needs dedicated sectoral expertise, focusing well beyond traditional gender fields and looking at security, infrastructure and financial management, and economy and enterprises as well.

Financing for women, peace and security. Only 5% of Official Development Assistance to fragile contexts in 2014-2015 targeted gender equality as a principal objective.4 Increasing financing for women, peace and security offers value for money that has not been sufficiently used for peacebuilding and stability. Given the ambitious agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the challenge of sustaining peace, women’s participation can create efficiencies and offer cost-effective solutions to peace and security challenges. That’s why the Secretary-General’s report on Sustaining Peace reaffirms the commitment of the UN system to allocate a minimum of 15% of peacebuilding funding to gender equality. Recognising some OECD members’ existing commitments, more bilateral partners should commit to specific allocations and improve tracking of funding to women, peace and security.

Closer collaboration with civil society. According to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, “an ecosystem of partners working in support of governments is critical for sustaining peace.”5 Women peacebuilders at the grassroots level are the front line of sustaining peace. Women in fragile settings know what solutions will work in their communities and can offer invaluable insights into addressing root causes and harnessing drivers of peace. For lasting peace, inclusivity must go well beyond the number of women represented. Rather, it should embrace the diversity of women, young people and all actors engaged in conflict and peace. More than mere implementing partners, civil society actors must be engaged in analysis, planning and advocacy to make sure their vital efforts are recognised and supported by the international community.



1. http://wps.unwomen.org/

2. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/28337

 3.This paper will help feed the discussion at the 14 March 2018 event to generate ideas on concrete steps that development partners, governments and civil society can take to strengthen the quality of support to women in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.

4. http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/development/gender-equality-and-women-s-empowerment-in-fragile-and-conflict-affected-situations_b75a1229-en

5. (A/72/707-S/2018/43)