Women’s participation in peace processes

Ensuring women's participation and that both women and men's rights are safeguarded in peace processes and peace agreements is a central objective for Norway's work.

Norway’s aim is for peace negotiations to be inclusive and peace agreements to safeguard both women and men's rights, needs and priorities. Norway works to ensure that more women participate at all levels in peace and reconciliation efforts, from the early phases of peace negotiations to the implementation of agreements.

Peace agreements often lay the political and institutional foundations for a country's future, stability and development. It is therefore crucial that peace agreements are not discriminatory, but safeguard the rights and needs of all citizens. In many cases, women continue to stand on the sidelines when peace agreements are negotiated, be it as members of the parties' delegations, as mediators or facilitators. This is confirmed by studies by e.g. the Council on Foreign Relations. Civil society has generally little access and influence on the negotiation processes. Few peace agreements satisfactorily integrate the gender perspective and women's rights.

Inclusive processes can strengthen a peace agreement's credibility and legitimacy, as well as the population's ownership to it. Such processes tend to lead to more complex agreements as more people are involved, but the probability that the agreements will be implemented is greater. Ensuring that peace processes are inclusive is therefore important for peace agreements to be implemented and for peace to last.

Norway's efforts

Norway aims to contribute to inclusive peace processes and peace agreements. In order to achieve this goal, Norway emphasizes ways of ensuring that everyone involved in a peace process has knowledge of how the gender perspective can be integrated into the engagement in question.

Norway is involved in a number of peace initiatives in various parts of the world – in formal peace processes such as in Colombia, Venezuela and the Philippines, and in dialogue initiatives in conflict zones where the purpose is to bring parties to the negotiating table. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs includes both women and men in its delegations to peace negotiations. In 2014, Norway got its first female special representative for a peace process (the Philippines). Gender balance in one's own team is important in itself, but also essential to be able to motivate others to do the same.

The parties are responsible for appointing their negotiating delegations. Often, few women are included, which is partly a reflection of the fact that women are underrepresented in political parties and armed groups. Norway therefore directs its efforts towards making the parties aware of the importance of having a certain gender distribution in their delegations. Norway further prioritizes providing support for the women who participate in the process.

The presence of women is still no guarantee for a gender sensitive peace agreement. Therefore, Norway works with both the men and women in the delegations to ensure an agreement that is not discriminatory and that takes care of the specific needs of both women and men.

Norway makes arrangements for various women's groups and civil society organizations to be heard and provide input into the negotiations. In the Colombia process, several innovative mechanisms were established to ensure that women's experiences and needs were taken seriously and women's rights safeguarded, eg. the Sub-Commission for Gender Issues. Read more about this in a report from NOREF. Innovations in the field of inclusion have also taken place in connection with the Geneva-based Syria talks.

In dialogue initiatives and unofficial preliminary negotiations, the space for action is different. It is challenging to involve numerous actors in confidential processes to which the parties have not yet publicly committed themselves. Experience shows that in this phase one can contribute to raising awareness and building capacity among those involved and, in parallel, with civil society. If the ground is not prepared already in the initial stages, civil society and local women will often be disregarded when a formal process is initiated.

There is still a way to go before women are involved in peace processes and peace negotiations on the same level as men. Few peace agreements take care of the gender perspective in a satisfactory manner. Norway will continue to work to get more women into negotiating delegations, increase the number of female mediators, strengthen women's influence in peace processes and integrate the gender perspective in peace agreements.

Network of Women Peacemakers

Inspired by a similar initiative taken by South Africa, a Nordic women mediators network was launched in Oslo in 2015. The network consists of women from the Nordic countries with experience from peace processes and peace building. The aim is to work together to strengthen women's participation and influence in peace processes. The network is an instrument for supporting Nordic women's work for inclusive peace processes that can lead to sustainable peace agreements that safeguard women and men's rights. As part of the Nordic initiative, a Norwegian network of female mediators was also established.

After the establishment of the Nordic network, other regional women mediators networks have been established: FemWise-Africa (African Union, 2017), Mediterranean Women Mediators Network (2017), Women Mediators across the Commonwealth (2018), Arab Women Mediators, and Southeast Women Mediators Network (2021). In 2018, Norway convened the existing networks in Oslo, together with significant participation from the UN and other multilateral actors. See the final document for this gathering. This was the first step towards the establishment of a global alliance of regional networks of women mediators which was launched in New York in 2019. Norway actively participates in the Global Alliance, in close cooperation with other members of the Nordic network.