This rapid literature review found no examples of the use of aid conditionality specifically to ensure inclusion of women’s rights provisions in peace process outcomes but did identify other
effective approaches, notably mobilisation of women, external pressure by mediators/international development partners, and funding and capacity building support for women’s groups. There are examples of peace processes where these various mechanisms have been used, and international development partners can play important roles in promoting these. In the context of the Afghanistan peace process with the Taliban, it is vital that women have a ‘place at the table’ and that their rights be safeguarded.
This review draws on a mixture of academic and grey literature. It found far greater focus in the literature on the participation of women in peace processes than on the inclusion of women’s rights
in peace process outcomes.
Aid conditionality refers to attempts by donor governments to induce recipient governments to change their policies and behaviour, as well as to influence the way aid itself is spent. Peace
conditionality is used as a lever to persuade conflicting parties to make peace, to implement a proposed peace accord, and to consolidate peace. Peace conditionality can potentially be used to ensure a gender perspective in peace agreements. The latter includes three layered components (Bell, 2015: 17):
a. the inclusion of women in peace process negotiations, and support to women to participate effectively;
b. the inclusion of provisions designed to address the particular needs of women;
c. an assessment of the implications for women and men of any provision in the peace agreement, including provision for legislation, policies or programmes in any area and at all levels, with a view to ensuring that men and women benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated.
In the past few decades, there has been greater recognition in the international community of the essential role women can play in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction, notably since the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (SCR 1325), approved in October 2000. Women’s involvement in peace processes brings significant benefits, including a long-term perspective on peace and stability (as opposed to just an absence of formal conflict) and durability of peace agreements. Women’s participation is also important to ensure women’s rights are addressed. The inclusion of gender provisions in peace agreements and newly established constitutions is critical to the emergence of equitable and more inclusive societies in the post-conflict phase.
While women have participated in negotiation processes in different ways (e.g. as mediators, witnesses, representatives of women’s groups) a recurrent finding in the literature is that women remain largely unrepresented at the peace table where key decisions about post-conflict recovery and governance are being made. There is some evidence that greater involvement of women in peace talks supports more effective peace agreements from a gender perspective, but participation alone does not ensure this. The literature does indicate a trend of an overall rise in references to women and gender in peace agreements since the passage of UNSCR 1325. However, there can be a huge variation in the scope and depth of those references: they are often merely in the form of anti-discrimination provisions or vague references to participation. Overall, the inclusion of women and gender concerns in peace agreements remains marginal and uneven.
The literature identifies diverse mechanisms that can and have been used to promote women’s role in peace processes. Aid conditionality is not referred to specifically as a means of promoting either women’s participation in peace processes or the inclusion of women’s rights in peace process outcomes. This review was unable to find any examples of peace processes in which conditionality had played this role.
The literature does identify a number of other mechanisms which have been effective: mobilisation by women themselves to apply pressure for their inclusion, pressure by external mediators and agencies, and funding and capacity building support for women’s inclusion. International development agencies can play important roles in supporting all of these.
- Mobilisation by women – The literature features lots of examples where women in affected countries have mobilised themselves to push for a ‘place at the table’ or at least to get their concerns and needs voiced and thereby bring about increased women’s participation and/or increased inclusion of gender concerns in peace agreements. In Somalia, women joined to form a ‘sixth clan’ which was then included in decision-making and helped bring about rights for women. In Northern Ireland, women formed a separate women’s political party which secured a seat at the negotiating table and was able to push for inclusion of gender rights. The 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian government and Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) featured extensive women’s participation on both sides and led to the inclusion of substantive women’s rights provisions.
- External pressure – International partners and the international legal framework can add significant leverage to women’s attempts to engage in peace processes. One study (Bell, 2015) found that peace agreements both before and after UNSCR 1325 were more likely to mention women where the UN was a party to the agreement. There is some evidence that international actors may be able to ensure robust provision for women to find their way into agreements. However, it is important to understand the limitations of agreements with internationally-placed provisions on women: there is a lack of implementation of these agreements as a whole and their gender provisions in particular. The peace processes in Kenya and Burundi provide powerful examples of how international pressure for local women’s advocacy messages, and building strong relationships between local and international efforts, can support and promote women’s participation.
- Funding – Funding is a means to facilitate action. Funding can support the preparedness of women, provide beneficial support structures, and allow them to act flexibly and independently. Funding is vital for the basic preconditions of women’s participation, e.g. physically reaching the locations of negotiations. There is a need for both targeted and sustained investment of resources to support women’s participation in peace processes. Examples of funding support making a difference are the Somali peace negotiations in the early 2000s, and the Liberian peace process.
- Capacity building support – Increasing the capacity of women to negotiate, inform and influence peace and transition processes is critical. It can entail helping women understand the issues [e.g. security sector reform (SSR), disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR)], training them in leadership and negotiation, explaining the technicalities of peace processes, and giving support in drafting documents As well as increasing the overall preparedness of women, such support often contributes to women pushing for more gender-specific goals. Current international practices suggest that including a gender advisor in mediation teams is useful and strategic, as it helps to ensure women’s perspectives get taken into account in the actual peace negotiations and to secure WPS provisions in peace agreement texts. Burundi, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo are all examples of peace processes in which capacity building support for women had an impact in terms of women’s participation/rights.
Women and the Afghanistan peace process: Since the fall of the Taliban in 2002, women in Afghanistan have made substantial progress, for example in access to healthcare and education,
political representation, and legislation protecting women’s rights. Nonetheless, the country ranks almost bottom on an index with measures for well-being, empowerment and rights. Since 2010
women have been included in informal peace processes for Afghanistan, but their representation in formal peace processes has been negligible. A dialogue in Moscow in February 2019 featured
the Taliban and Afghan (large opposition) political leaders: there were only two women included, and women’s rights barely featured on the talks’ agenda. Recent statements by the Taliban (and their record) raise fears that any political settlement with them could erode women’s rights in Afghanistan. There are calls for the international community to ensure women’s participation in current peace processes, protection and promotion of women’s rights, and enforcement of those. One lever available to the international community is to threaten the withdrawal of vital aid. The US Women, Peace and Security Act (2017) mandates the US government to take steps to protect the security of women in Afghanistan.