We need more women to help building peace

Por Florence de Vesvrotte

FUNPADEM has been working for years to bring peace to Central America and South America. It has done so by relentlessly advocating against violence, encouraging dialogue, and providing solutions to seemingly intractable problems.

I am by nature very much a conflict averse person, and it has always amazed me that there had to be a profession to bring people to peace and agreement. But of course a reason for that is that in too many places cultural practices just go against the possibility of peace. Which is not necessarily a bad news, because it means that with time, peace can be taught.

When I say ‘culture’ I do not refer to any country in particular. Rather I refer to practices that have long existed, thereby instituting a culture that hinders peace building. In Central America for instance, despite peace accords having been signed a while back, ‘democracy has not brought peace’ as Randall Arias, Funpadem director told a group of U.S. students last week at the Foundation.

I am thinking in particular about impunity, corruption, abuse of power, and gender discrimination.

All practices that exist everywhere and explain why there isn’t really peace anywhere.

We need women in peace building functions

If I were to use one magic bullet to eliminate the one cultural problem which impacts most peace building I would shoot at gender inequality, and most specifically gender inequality in the field of mediation and peace building.

It is worth saying that while there is a correlation between the participation of women in politics generally with peace – Nordic countries for instance, are among the most peaceful countries in the world and have a representation of 41.5 % women in parliament on average as opposed to Arab States which have only 18.1 % – more women in parliament doesn’t necessarily eradicate inequality or corruption. Nicaragua for instance has 39.1% women in parliament yet ranks 133 on Transparency International anti-corruption index[1].

However the presence of women does have an impact on substance and is a start towards better inclusion and representation which inevitably leads to more stability. And sadly, only 17% of the Defence portfolios[2] in most governments are given to women ministers. Which means that the very institutions in charge of peace building are still mostly male dominated.

To avoid a snowball effect …

And it matters, because the above might have led to the below:

  • From 1992 to 2011, fewer than 4 per cent of signatories to peace agreements and less than 10 per cent of negotiators at peace tables were women[3].

Which could have led to this:

  • In a sample of six post-conflict countries, less than eight per cent of spending was specifically budgeted to empower women or promote gender equality[4].

And eventually to another conflict.

And encourage solid and long lasting peace

So of course the above is only one aspect of a much more complicated picture. However while discrimination against women in society is only one element of instability, it is a major one. And it is also a major contributor for failing peace processes.

Funpadem in support of women participation in the prevention of violence

All of the above is why organisations such as Funpadem are so important. In Central America, violence and discrimination against women remains high as illustrated in my colleague Sarah’s blog last week and whether it is through mediation or prevention programs, here maybe more than anywhere else we need to repeat that working to bring peace must have a gender perspective.

Yes we can!

Whether locally or at the international level, gender inclusion in peace building is essential. We need more women in politics, more women mediators, and more women on the ground working for peace. And every little step such as this tiny modest blog is a step in the right direction.

[1] http://www.transparency.org/cpi2014/results

[2] See the Women in Politics Atlas Map http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/leadership-and-political-participation/facts-and-figures

[3] http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/peace-and-security/facts-and-figures#notes

[4] UN Women, 2012, “What Women Want: Planning and Financing for Gender-Responsive Peacebuilding” in UN Women Sourcebook on Women, Peace and Security. p. 5. – See more at: http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/peace-and-security/facts-and-figures#notes



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