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The Role of Women in Peace-Building and Conflict Prevention

By Maftuna Saidova

In 2000, the UN Security Council enacted Resolution 1325 (SCR 1325), a legally binding international agreement which promotes the inclusion of gender issues in all UN initiatives such as conflict prevention and peace-building processes.  SCR 1325 is also the accomplishment of NGOs mobilizing to raise the complexities of gender politics to the international level as a precursor to peace and security. In the years since SRC 1325 was enacted, additional resolutions with similar scopes have followed.  The core aims of the resolutions include in-depth analysis of gender based crimes, participation of women in all areas of peace-building, protection of women during and after conflicts, and relief and recovery.  However, there has been no effort made to implement any conflict prevention and peace-building provisions of SCR1325 in any international frameworks, including the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) framework.  Although many scholars have urged for the recognition and implementation of the functional similarities between the SCR 1325 and R2P in diversifying state prevention methods beyond military intervention in mass atrocities, they have not yet been widely adopted.

Following the resolutions, many studies carried out by various UN joint organizations have emerged.  These reports have confirmed the need to continue including gendered representation in processes concerning conflict prevention and peace-building; two of the main tenets of the R2P framework, which serves as the guideline for any interventions during armed conflict and crimes against humanity.

As a result, R2P framework stands as an ineffective and vague gender neutral framework, which is unsurprising given that the members of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) did not have extensive knowledge of human rights or of gender issues such as gender inequality when drafting their report. It was found that most of the members of the drafting committee did not have any expertise on gender crimes being used as a weapon of war.  As a result, the report only mentions women three times in total, and never raises the issue of gender based crimes or the unique ways in which women experience conflicts in mass atrocities.

Scholars like Ray Murphy and Roisin Burke have argued that the international community needs to proactively recognize that “Victimisation of women risks conceptualising them as solely vulnerable, as lacking agency and the capacity to participate in peace processes and state-building.” In other words, the failure to implement SCR guidelines in crucial international frameworks regarding international security further undermines peace-building and prevention by neglecting the much needed role and expertise of women in conflict areas.  Other studies have shown that institutionalized reduction in gender equality reduces the likelihood of armed conflict. Under the SCR 1325, addressing gender inequality requires tracking changes and issues on the national level to ensure that state institutions are inclusive and open to discussions regarding women’s rights. Such initiatives have the potential pave the way for other minorities who may feel marginalized in a state.

In other words, gender inequality policies should be regarded as one of the important safety nets for maintaining peace in a nation. SCR 1325 provides a specific framework to address state induced violence and can therefore serve as a preventative tool for mass atrocities.