Women’s participation in peace processes

Norway works to ensure that peace negotiations are inclusive, and that peace agreements safeguard the rights, needs and priorities of both women and men. We are seeking to increase the number of women participating at all levels and at all stages of peace and reconciliation efforts, from initial peace negotiations to the implementation of agreements.

Peace agreements often lay the political and institutional foundation for a country’s future, stability and development. It is crucial, therefore, that peace agreements do not discriminate against any groups, but safeguard the rights and needs of all citizens. In many cases, women are still left on the sidelines when peace agreements are negotiated. There are still few women facilitators and peace mediators, and few women at the negotiating table. This has been confirmed by studies carried out by the Council on Foreign Relations, among others. Civil society has little access or influence, and there are still very few peace agreements that integrate the gender perspective and address women’s rights in a satisfactory way.

Inclusive processes can strengthen the credibility and legitimacy of an agreement, as well as the population’s sense of ownership. Inclusive processes often lead to more complex agreements because more people are involved, but such agreements are more likely to be implemented. Inclusive processes thus prepare the ground for the successful implementation of a peace agreement and for lasting peace.

Norway’s peace efforts

Norway works actively to promote inclusive peace processes and agreements. To achieve this goal, Norway attaches importance to ensuring that all those involved in a peace process have the knowledge they need to be able to integrate the gender perspective into their work.

Norway is involved in a number of peace initiatives in various parts of the world. These include formal peace processes, for example in Colombia and the Philippines, as well as dialogues with one or more parties to a conflict, where the goal is to bring the parties to the negotiating table. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs ensures that its delegations to peace negotiations include both women and men. Our first female special representative to a peace process was appointed in 2014. While maintaining a gender balance in our own teams is important in itself, it also sets a good example for others to follow.

Parties to conflict appoint their own negotiating delegations. The fact that few women are included is partly because women are under-represented in political parties and in armed groups. Norway works to increase the parties' understanding of the importance of having a better gender balance in their delegations. Norway also seeks to support women who are participating in the process, where appropriate.

However, the presence of women in a peace process is in itself no guarantee that a peace agreement will be gender-sensitive. Norway therefore works with both the men and the women in peace delegations to achieve non-discriminatory agreements that meet their respective needs.

Norway seeks to ensure that the voices of different women’s groups and civil society organisations are heard and that women have the opportunity to provide input to negotiations. The Colombia process led to the development of several innovative mechanisms designed to ensure that women’s experiences and needs were taken seriously and their rights respected. These included a sub-commission on gender issues. More information on the Colombia process can be found at the website of the Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution. We have also seen innovative approaches in connection with the Geneva-based Syria talks.

In preliminary dialogues and unofficial negotiations, there is less room for manoeuvre. It is difficult to include other actors in processes to which the parties themselves are not yet formally committed. Experience shows, however, that it is possible in this early phase to raise awareness of the need for an inclusive process and enhance the capacity of the parties and of civil society to participate. Unless the ground is prepared at the preliminary stages, local women’s organisations and other civil society groups will often be overlooked if and when a formal process starts.

Despite all these efforts, there is still a long way to go before women are able to participate in peace processes and peace negotiations on an equal footing with men. Few peace agreements adequately incorporate a gender perspective. Norway will work to increase the number of women taking part in delegations to peace negotiations, to increase the number of women peace negotiators, to ensure that women are represented and consulted in peace processes, and to integrate the gender perspective into peace agreements.

Networks of women mediators

The Nordic Women Mediators network was launched in Oslo in November 2015, inspired by a similar South African initiative. It is made up of Nordic women who have experience of peace processes and peacebuilding. The network provides a forum for women to work together to increase their participation and influence in peace processes. It is also intended to be an instrument for strengthening Nordic women’s efforts to promote inclusive peace processes and sustainable peace agreements that safeguard the rights of women and men alike. A Norwegian network has been established in connection with the Nordic initiative.

Since the launch of the Nordic network, a number of other regional networks of women peace mediators have been established: FemWise-Africa under the auspices of the African Union (2017), the Mediterranean Women Mediators Network (2017), Women Mediators across the Commonwealth (2018), Arab Women Mediators Network and Southeast Asian Network of Women Peace Negotiators and Mediators (2019). Norway convened a meeting of regional women mediator networks in Oslo in March 2018, in which a wide range of representatives from the UN and other multilateral actors also participated. The outcome document from the meeting can be read here. This was the first step towards the launch of the Global Alliance of Regional Women Mediator Networks in New York in autumn 2019.  Norway plays an active role in the Global Alliance, working in close cooperation with other members of the Nordic network.