- International engagement in fragile and conflict-affected environments
- Gender and violent conflict
- Gendered impact of violent conflict
- Humanitarian interventions
- Peacekeeping and peace support operations
Fragility and conflict affect women, men, boys and girls differently. It is widely acknowledged that fragility most negatively affects the poorest and the most vulnerable groups in society, including women and children. This can be in terms of poverty, lack of access to justice and physical insecurity that often characterises fragile states. While state-society relations are weak in most fragile states, this is particularly pronounced for female citizens who have very limited access to state institutions.
It is also widely acknowledged that violent conflict affects men and women in different ways. The negative impact of conflict on gender relations and on women in particular has been well documented. Women and girls suffer disproportionately from violent conflict. They suffer not only from the by-products of war, but are also targeted as a strategy of war. Rape and sexual violence have been recognised as instruments of war, designed to weaken families and break down the social fabric of communities and societies. Women are also subjected to displacement, disrupted livelihoods, disrupted access to public services, additional workloads within and outside the home, and domestic violence.
Women are not only victims, however, in situations of conflict and fragility. Women and men can be combatants, victims, civilians, leaders and caretakers. Women may be active participants in the violence, directly as combatants, or indirectly, by facilitating violence through fundraising or inciting their male relatives to commit acts of violence. Women also often become heads of households during war; women and girls learn new skills and contribute to peacemaking and rebuilding local economies and communities. These changes in gender relations, however, are usually short-lived and societies often revert back to traditional gender roles after conflict. Reducing women to passive victims denies their agency and has resulted in the perpetuation of gender stereotypes that reinforces inequalities in fragile and post-conflict contexts. It has also resulted in sidelining women in peace talks and reconstruction processes, and as agents of change.
There has been growing recognition in recent years of the varying roles that women can play during and after violent conflict. There is also recognition that upheavals of conflict and fragility can provide new opportunities for transforming gender relations and promoting more inclusive, equitable social, economic and political structures and conditions. In practice, however, issues related to women’s rights, participation and relationship to the state and society are often overlooked or inadequately addressed in processes of statebuilding and peacebuilding. This is due to lack of political will and in some cases insufficient knowledge among policymakers on how to integrate gender issues into statebuilding and peacebuilding strategies. It is also due to the perception that gender is a nonpriority issue to address during, and in the aftermath of, conflict.
Harcourt, W. (2009) ‘Literature Review on Gender and Fragility,’ European Report on Development, European Commission
There is so far little literature that directly addresses the link between gender (in)equality and fragility, or gender equality in fragile states. The literature on gender and fragile states tends to focus on conflict and post-conflict reconstruction and not on the gendered dimensions and characteristics of fragile states. A more thorough, gendered understanding of state fragility is needed. Studies in Africa suggest the importance of promoting women’s citizenship in fragile states through a women’s rights agenda based on legal reform and increased participation in decisionmaking.
Puechguirbal, N. (2012). ‘The Cost of Ignoring Gender in Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations: A Feminist Perspective’, Amsterdam Law Forum, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 4-19
This articles discusses the biases in international relations which marginalise women’s contributions to peace and security. A gender lens reveals hidden power relations, and highlights the different impacts of conflict and security on men and women. Ceasing hostilities does not always mean peace for women. The article shows that conservative patriarchy often resurfaces after war.
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Koch, J. (2008). ‘Does Gender Matter in Fragile States?’, DIIS Policy Brief, Danish Institute for International Studies, København, Denmark
Does gender matter in fragile states? This brief looks at gender relations in conflict and post-conflict situations. It argues that gender relations often matter more in fragile state than in other states, but are all too often ignored by policymakers. While conflict affects women in different ways to men, reconstruction provides new opportunities for transforming gender relations in a positive direction.
Brück T., and Schindler K. (2008). ‘The Impact of Conflict and Fragility on Households: A Conceptual Framework with Reference to Widows’, UNU-WIDER Research Paper no. 83, United Nations University, Helsinki
How do mass violent conflict and a fragile environment affect households? How do poor households cope with such an environment? This paper analyses the channels through which mass violent conflict and post-conflict fragility affect households. It highlights how a fragile environment impairs a household’s core functions, boundaries and choice of income generating activities. Findings emphasise the need to analyse the impact of conflict and fragility at the household level.
Several international agreements acknowledge the importance of protecting women in situations of conflict and fragility, and the role that they can and should play in conflict resolution and statebuilding to ensure sustained peace. In particular:
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security addresses the impact of war on women. It mandates the protection of women and girls during and after conflict and the greater involvement of women in conflict resolution, peacekeeping and peacebuilding processes.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1820 (2008) extends SCR 1325 to explicitly recognise sexual violence as a security issue and tactic of war, demand parties to armed conflict to adopt concrete prevention and protection measures and assert the importance of women’s participation in peace processes.
These resolutions have been an important step in bringing women’s rights and gender equality to the peace and security agenda. More than a decade after the endorsement of SCR 1325, the importance of women’s participation and leadership in conflict-affected countries has been increasingly acknowledged within sectors of the international community. Thus, the resolution has been successful in terms of norm-building. There has been much less success, however, in terms of implementation and impact on the ground. In most societies and regions, women remain disproportionately affected by armed conflict. They also remain drastically under-represented in peace processes, one of the least well-implemented elements of the women, peace and security agenda.
In terms of guidelines for situations of fragility, the DAC Principles for good international engagement in fragile states and situations (2007) call for the promotion of non-discrimination, in particular gender equality. The Accra Agenda for Action (2008) also commits donors and partners ‘to help ensure the protection and participation of women’ in post-conflict countries and situations of fragility.
The OECD (2010) reports, however, that such a focus on gender equality in fragile situations is implemented only to a limited extent. While donors have developed various tools to promote gender equality in other arenas, they have yet to develop strategies to systemically incorporate gender equality considerations in fragile contexts. The gender initiatives that donors have implemented in fragile and conflict-affected contexts often involve discrete ‘gender’ projects, rather than genuine mainstreaming. These have had a technical rather than political focus and have not been linked to the broader statebuilding agenda.
In order to improve international engagement with gender in fragile and conflict-affected contexts, donors need to understand gender as a political issue and to incorporate gender issues into political, conflict, security and economic analysis. Existing programming tools for gender equality in other domains could also be reviewed and drawn upon in developing strategies and tools in these contexts.
OECD-DAC. (2010). ‘Aid in Support of Gender Equality in Fragile and Conflict-affected States’, OECD, Paris
This study provides an overview of DAC members’ funding targeted to gender equality in fragile and conflict-affected states.
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Baranyi, S., and Powell, K. (2005). ‘Fragile States, Gender Equality and Aid Effectiveness: A Review of Donor Perspectives’, Report prepared for CID, The North-South Institute, Ottawa
To what extent is gender a strong thread running through donor thinking on fragile states? What opportunities exist to enhance the systematic integration of gender equality in donors’ thinking on state fragility? This paper looks at how gender issues are integrated into the emerging policy on state fragility of six donor agencies/bodies. It argues that donors are only beginning to bring their learning about gender equality into their emerging work on fragile states.
Castillejo, C. (2011). ‘Building a State that Works for Women: Integrating Gender into Post-Conflict State Building’, FRIDE, Madrid
What role do women play in statebuilding? How do statebuilding processes affect women’s participation? Support for statebuilding has become the dominant model for international engagement in post-conflict contexts, yet donor approaches lack substantial gender analysis and are missing opportunities to promote gender equality. This paper presents findings from a research project on the impact of post-conflict statebuilding on women’s citizenship. It argues that gender inequalities are linked to the underlying political settlement, and that donors must therefore address gender as a fundamentally political issue.
Links between gender inequality and violent conflict
Gender inequality has been shown to be linked to violent conflict. Caprioli’s 2003 study found that extreme and systematic gender inequality is correlated with political violence, whereas higher levels of gender equality (measured by fertility rate) is associated with lower risks of intra-state conflict onset. A subsequent study by Melander (2005) supports this finding, demonstrating that gender equality (measured by the percentage of women in parliament and the ratio of female-to-male higher education attainment) is associated with lower levels of armed conflict within a country. These studies provide a strong argument that addressing gender inequality could contribute to more stable societies.
Another implication of these studies is that various aspects of gender (in)equality and gender relations in a country could serve as an early warning of the risk of violent conflict. For example, reduction in women’s status, increased discrimination against women and violations of women’s human rights and virulent attacks on women may be direct precursors of further repression and violent conflict (Schmeidl and Piza-Lopez, 2002).
Buvinic, M., Gupta, M. D., Casabonne, U., & Verwimp, P. (2013). Violent conflict and gender inequality: an overview. The World Bank Research Observer, 28(1), 110-138.
Beyond sexual violence, what are the gendered impacts of conflict? The authors suggest that a wider set of gender issues be considered. This paper organises the emerging evidence by both the differential impacts of violent conflict on males and females (first-round impacts) and the role of gender inequality in framing adaptive responses to conflict (second-round impacts). War’s mortality burden is disproportionately borne by males, whereas women and children constitute a majority of refugees and the displaced. Indirect war impacts on health are more equally distributed between the genders. Conflicts create households headed by widows who can be especially vulnerable to intergenerational poverty. Second-round impacts can provide opportunities for women in work and politics triggered by the absence of men. Households adapt to conflict with changes in marriage and fertility, migration, investments in children’s health and schooling, and the distribution of labour between the genders.
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Cockburn, C. (2010). Gender Relations as Causal in Militarization and War. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 12:2, 139 — 157.
Based on empirical research among women’s anti-war organizations worldwide, the article derives a feminist oppositional standpoint on militarization and war. From this standpoint, patriarchal gender relations are seen to be intersectional with economic and ethno-national power relations in perpetuating a tendency to armed conflict in human societies. The feminism generated in anti-war activism tends to be holistic, and understands gender in patriarchy as a relation of power underpinned by coercion and violence. The cultural features of militarization and war readily perceived by women positioned in or close to armed conflict, and their sense of war as systemic and as a continuum, make its gendered nature visible. There are implications in this perspective for anti-war movements. If gender relations are one of the root causes of war, a feminist programme of gender transformation is a necessary component of the pursuit of peace.
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Caprioli, M. (2003). ‘Gender Equality and Civil Wars’, World Bank Conflict Prevention and Reconstruction Unit, Working Paper No. 8., World Bank, Washington DC
What is the link between gender equality and civil war? This paper reports on a study measuring gender inequality against the occurrence of intrastate conflict. Applying a number of theories on gender inequality and violence, the study tested the hypothesis that the higher the fertility rate, the greater the likelihood that a state will experience intrastate conflict. Results indicate that states with high fertility rates are twice as likely to experience internal conflict as states with low fertility rates.
Melander, E. (2005). ‘Gender Equality and Intrastate Armed Conflict’, International Studies Quarterly, vol. 49, pp. 695–714
This study builds on Caprioli’s 2003 study and explores the extent to which gender equality is associated with lower levels of intrastate armed conflict. The study relies on three indicators: (1) a dichotomous indicator of whether the highest leader of a state is a woman; (2) the percentage of women in parliament; and (3) the female-to-male higher education attainment ratio. It concludes that gender equality, measured as the percentage women in parliament and the ratio of female-tomale higher education attainment, is associated with lower levels of armed conflict within a country. Achieving equality between men and women would thus mean rectifying a grave social injustice and would directly improve the lives of most women and girls.
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Schmeidl, S., with Piza-Lopez, E. (2002). ‘Gender and Conflict Early Warning: A Framework for Action’, International Alert, London
Despite increasing awareness of gender issues in most aspects of conflict processes, it remains largely absent in the pre-conflict context. The limited, speculative research that does exist suggests that the modelling and analysis of conflict early warning practices would be improved if genderbased perspectives were included. In response, this paper presents an initial framework on how to ‘engender’ conflict early warning.
Gender and conflict analysis
Conflict analysis is an essential yet tremendously challenging process. The aim is to gain a comprehensive and shared understanding of potential or ongoing violent conflicts. This usually involves an assessment of key conflict factors (sources of tension and root causes of conflict, including links and synergies), actors (interests, potential spoilers, capacities for violence and peace, incentives required to promote peace), and dynamics (triggers for violence, local capacities for peaceful and constructive conflict management, likely future scenarios). Analysis is undertaken at local, national, regional and international levels.
The inclusion of gender perspectives into conflict analysis can provide a more nuanced and effective understanding of conflict factors, actors and dynamics. In particular, it can identify the gendered nature of causes of conflict, the gendered impact of conflict and the gendered dimensions of peacebuilding. Gender variables are, however, often missing from conflict analysis and conflict assessment frameworks.
Moser, A. (2007). ‘The Peace and Conflict Gender Analysis: UNIFEM’s Research in the Solomon Islands’, Gender and Development, vol. 15, no. 2
How can the use of gender analysis help improve post-conflict peace processes? This paper discusses the research methodology and results of the 2005 Peace and Conflict Gender Analysis conducted by UNIFEM in the Solomon Islands. The use of gender analysis to shape peace processes would help solidify women’s gains in status and contribute to economic and civil society development.
Anderlini, S. N. (2006). ‘Mainstreaming Gender in Conflict Analysis: Issues and Recommendations’, Social Development Papers, no. 33, World Bank, Washington DC
How can the World Bank’s Conflict Analysis Framework (CAF) be more gender-sensitive? This desk review of eleven frameworks used by other development agencies concludes that gender variables are missing in most conflict analysis frameworks. Addressing this gap can help identify the gendered nature of causes of conflict, the gendered impact of conflict, and the gendered dimensions of peace building. Existing frameworks focus too much attention on the causes of conflict, and not enough on sources of peace or resilience to conflict. Recommendations include more systematic integration of gender variables in the CAF, as well as investment in strengthening the gender-awareness of those using the framework, through training and exposure to positive examples.
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Goetz, A-M. and Treiber, A-K. (2006). Gender and conflict analysis (Policy Briefing Paper). UNIFEM.
How can conflict monitoring and assessment frameworks integrate consideration of gender relations and gender inequality as triggers or dynamics of conflict? This briefing note outlines basic elements of gender-sensitive conflict analysis, based on findings from three pilot projects on gender-sensitive conflict monitoring in the Ferghana Valley (Uzbekistan / Kyrgyzstan / Tajikistan), Colombia, and the Solomon Islands. Participatory exercises show that different conflict-related indicators are emphasised by men (e.g. male youth unemployment) and women (e.g. gender based violence). Positive engagement by national authorities in gender-sensitive conflict monitoring is essential to ensure that the data collected influences policy and practice.
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Harris, C. (2011). What Can Applying a Gender Lens Contribute to Conflict Studies? A review of selected MICROCON working papers. MICROCON Research Working Paper 41, Brighton: MICROCON.
This paper uses a set of working papers to illustrate how gender can be used at different conceptual levels in conflict analysis, and aims to show what can be gained by the use of a gender lens.
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Violent conflict affects men and women in different ways. As men comprise the majority of combatants, they suffer to a greater degree from direct violence, injuries and killings from combat. Many experience random arrests and forced recruitment into militias or state armies. Women, however, suffer disproportionately from conflict in various ways: through systematic rape and sexual violence; greater levels of displacement and presence in refugee camps where mortality rates tend to be higher; and social and economic vulnerability, due in large part to loss of access to sources of livelihoods (in particular, agricultural systems) and to basic services. A study by Plümper and Neumayer (2005) also finds that armed conflict has a more adverse affect on women in terms of male relative to female life expectancy. Women tend to live longer than men in peacetime but conflict reduces the gap in life expectancy.
Plümper, T. and Neumayer, E. (2005). ‘The Unequal Burden of War: The Effect of Armed Conflict on the Gender Gap in Life Expectancy’, Government Department, University of Essex
Does conflict reduce the gap in life expectancy between men and women? Most direct victims of armed conflict tend to be men, because most combatants are men. However, there are a range of indirect effects of conflict which may affect women more than men. This paper analyses the impact of armed conflict on male relative to female life expectancy. Women tend to live longer than men in peacetime but the paper finds that conflict reduces the gap in life expectancy, suggesting that women are more adversely affected by armed conflict than men.
Mazurana, D. and Carlson, K. (2006). ‘The Girl Child and Armed Conflict: Recognising and Addressing Grave Violations of Girls’ Human Rights’, Background paper, prepared for Expert Group Meeting, Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination and Violence Against the Girl Child, 25-28 September, Florence, Italy
This paper documents and analyses the human rights violations girls endure during situations of armed conflict and offers recommendations on preventing and or addressing those harms. The paper offers an overview of current trends, existing international initiatives, and reviews the most pertinent international legal standards relating to these violations.
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Buscher, D. (2006). ‘Displaced Women and Girls at Risk: Risk Factors, Protection Solutions and Resource Tools’, Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, New York
Why do large numbers of displaced women and girls continue to be abused, raped and exploited? This paper explores risks facing displaced women and how to address them. Women and girls must be involved in their own protection. Their communities, including the men, must be similarly engaged. Yet only individual assessment can adequately address women’s unique protection concerns. Women and girls are not just victims but also survivors, caretakers, leaders, peacemakers and providers.
Women’s Refugee Commission. (2011). ‘Preventing Gender-based Violence, Building Livelihoods: Guidance and Tools for Improved Programming’, Women’s Refugee Commission, New York
Conflict, natural disasters and displacement destroy livelihoods and force people to adopt new strategies to support themselves. Displaced women adopt new strategies to provide for themselves and their families. These new strategies often place them at risk of gender-based violence (GBV). This guidance outlines promising practices on designing safe economic programmes throughout the project cycle.
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The literature on sexual violence in armed conflict indicates that rape and violence against women and girls prior to, during and after conflict is extensive in scope and magnitude throughout the world. Sexual violence is defined by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Task Force on Gender and Humanitarian Assistance as “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic a person’s sexuality, using coercion, threats of harm or physical force, by any person regardless of relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work”. Sexual violence, particularly rape, is often used as a weapon of war to destabilise families, groups and communities; to carry out ethnic cleansing and genocide; to instil fear in populations in order to dampen resistance and/or incite flight; as a form of punishment and torture; and to affirm aggression. The destabilisation of families and communities can contribute to other forms of violence, including domestic violence.
Sexual exploitation, trafficking and sexual slavery tend to increase in armed conflict. Women and girls who are recruited, often by abduction, into combat are in many cases forced to provide sexual services and/or are subjected to forced marriages. Refugee and internally displaced women and girls, separated from family members and traditional support mechanisms, are also particularly vulnerable. Government officials, civilian authorities, peacekeepers and aid workers have been reported to demand sexual favours in exchange for necessities – safe passage, food and shelter. Limited monitoring of camp security also renders women and girls vulnerable to sexual violence and forced combat.
Although women are the primary targets of sexual violence and exploitation in conflict-affected situations, men and boys are also subjected to sexual violence during armed conflict, often during military conscription or abduction into paramilitary forces. This receives much less attention, however, in part because male victims are much less likely to report incidents, resulting in limited documentation and statistical data. Gender stereotyping and notions of masculinity suggest that men cannot be (potential) targets or victims of sexual abuse, only perpetrators. A sense of emasculation may deter males from reporting experiences of such violence. A consequence of this lack of profile is that male victims are often neglected in gender-based violence programming. It is essential that male victims receive attention and are included in programming. In addition, consideration of the nature, scope and consequences of sexual violence against men and boys can contribute more generally to a better understanding of, and response to, sexual violence in conflict.
Ward, J. and Marsh, M. (2006). ‘Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in War and its Aftermath: Realities, Responses and Required Resources’, Briefing Paper, United Nations Population Fund
What is the extent and impact of gender-based violence during and after war? Statistics show that the sexual violation and torture of women and girls has become rife in conflict settings. Data also show that gender-based violence (GBV) does not subside post-conflict; certain types of GBV may even increase. This paper argues that while international prevention and response efforts have increased in recent years, much more must be done. A multi-sectoral model which demands holistic inter-organisational and inter-agency efforts across health, social services, legal and security sectors offers the best approach for GBV prevention.
Sivakumaran, S. (2007) ‘Sexual Violence Against Men in Armed Conflict’, European Journal of International Law, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 253-276
This article examines the extent and types of sexual violence committed against men in armed conflict. It notes that sexual violence against men involves dynamics of power, dominance and emasculation. Recognition of sexual violence against men has not translated into detailed consideration of the issue. In the longer term, things will only improve if definitions of rape are changed and all forms of sexual assault are more fully prosecuted.
Sivakumaran, S. (2010). ‘Lost in Translation: UN Responses to Sexual Violence against Men and Boys in Situations of Armed Conflict’ in International Review of the Red Cross, vol.92, no.877
This article considers the UN responses to sexual violence against men and boys in armed conflict – in particular, steps taken towards understanding this problem, measures of prevention and protection, and consequences for accused perpetrators. It assesses the state of knowledge and work in the field of male sexual violence and notes that although there have been many positive developments, the issue is not always moving in the right direction.
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DCAF. (2007). ‘Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict: Global Overview and Implications for the Security Sector’, Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces
The first part of the report, the global overview, profiles documented conflict-related sexual violence in 51 countries that have experienced armed conflict over the past twenty years. The second part of the report explores strategies for security and justice actors to prevent and respond to sexual violence in armed conflict and post-conflict situations.
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Nordås,R. (2011). ‘Sexual Violence in African Conflicts’, CSCW Policy Brief, Centre for the Study of Civil War, PRIO, Oslo
This policy brief summarises key findings from a pilot study of conflict-related sexual violence in conflicts in 20 African countries, encompassing 177 armed conflict actors – state armies, militias, and rebel groups. The study finds that, in Africa, sexual violence is: mostly indiscriminate; committed only by some conflict actors; often committed by state armies; often committed in years with low levels of killings; and often committed post-conflict.
Leatherman, J. (2011). Sexual violence and armed conflict. Cambridge: Polity.
This book offers a comprehensive analysis of the causes of, consequences of, and responses to sexual violence in contemporary armed conflict. It explores the function and effect of wartime sexual violence and examines the conditions that make women and girls most vulnerable to these acts before, during and after conflict. To understand the motivations of the men (and occasionally women) who perpetrate this violence, the book analyses the role played by systemic and situational factors such as patriarchy and militarised masculinity. The book concludes by looking at strategies of prevention and protection as well as new programmes being set up to support the rehabilitation of survivors and their communities.
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Tol, W. A., Stavrou, V., Greene, M. C., Mergenthaler, C., Van Ommeren, M., & Moreno, C. G. (2013). Sexual and gender-based violence in areas of armed conflict: a systematic review of mental health and psychosocial support interventions. Conflict and health, 7(1), 16.
Seven studies met inclusion criteria. Studies were conducted in West and Central Africa, Albania, UK and USA; included female participants; focused on individual and group counseling; and combined psychological, medical, social and economic interventions, and cognitive behavioral therapy. The seven studies, while very limited, tentatively suggest beneficial effects of mental health and psychosocial interventions for this population, and show feasibility of evaluation and implementation of such interventions in real-life settings through partnerships with humanitarian organisations. However, robust conclusions on the effectiveness of particular approaches are not possible on the basis of current evidence.
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Spangaro J, Adogu C, Ranmuthugala G, Powell Davies G, Steinacker L, et al. (2013) What Evidence Exists for Initiatives to Reduce Risk and Incidence of Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict and Other Humanitarian Crises? A Systematic Review. PLoS ONE, 8 (5): e62600.
The 40 included studies reported on seven strategy types: i) survivor care; ii) livelihood initiatives; iii) community mobilisation; iv) personnel initiatives; v) systems and security responses; vi) legal interventions and vii) multiple component interventions. Conducted in 26 countries, the majority of interventions were in African countries. Despite the extensive literature on sexual violence by combatants, most interventions addressed opportunistic forms of sexual violence committed in post-conflict settings. Only one study specifically addressed the disaster setting. Actual implementation of initiatives appeared to be limited as was the quality of outcome studies. Apparent increases to risk resulted from lack of protection, stigma and retaliation associated with interventions. Multiple-component interventions and sensitive community engagement appeared to contribute to positive outcomes. Significant obstacles prevent women seeking help following sexual violence, pointing to the need to protect anonymity and preventive strategies.
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MenEngage. (2012). Sexual Violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict: Engaging Men and Boys. MenEngage-UNFPA Advocacy Brief.
How can men and boys be engaged in preventing and responding to sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict settings? This review affirms that there is increasing data on men’s experiences and use of SGBV in conflict, and an emerging set of programme responses and examples to draw on. Long-term prevention requires taking the engagement of men seriously and holistic, inclusive programming.
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Shteir, S. (2014). Conflict Related Sexual and Gender-based Violence: An Introductory Overview to Support Prevention and Response Efforts. Australian Civil-Military Centre. Civil-Military Occasional Papers.
This paper provides an introductory overview of sexual violence as it applies to conflict and post-conflict environments. It provides a nuanced review of recent data, research and analysis which demonstrate considerable variation in the perpetration of sexual violence between and within conflicts. It examines a number of dominant patterns of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict-affected environments. It surveys a range of causes and motivations that can contribute to the perpetration of this form of violence, and explores persistent gaps and weaknesses in current efforts to deal with such violence. Throughout the report, where relevant, information is provided about what is being done to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence, with a sampling of efforts from the international, regional and domestic levels.
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Guidance and toolkits
UNIFEM. (2010). ‘Addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence – An Analytical Inventory of Peacekeeping Practice’. UNIFEM, United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict, UNIFEM, New York
Responding to sexual violence as part of the challenges of conflict is an emerging field in peacekeeping.This report captures best practices for a more effective response by peacekeepers to women’s security concerns in conflict situations. From implementing firewood patrols in Darfur, to establishing market escorts, night patrols and early-warning systems in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the inventory catalogues direct and indirect efforts to combat sexual violence during and in the wake of war.
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Otto, D. and Gronberg, H. (2009). ‘Confronting Sexual Violence in Conflict Situations, International Women’s Tribune Centre, New York
This handbook has been developed to support gender justice advocates and to bring to their attention the potential of international laws and policies in their efforts to seek justice and advance women’s rights during the peace-building process.
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Benjamin, J. A., and Murchison, L. (2004). ‘Gender-based Violence: Care and Protection of Children in Emergencies – A Field Guide’, Save the Children, London
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Access to services
Security issues hinder women’s and girl’s access to services as well. When schools are destroyed for example, and children have to travel long distances, girls are more likely to stay at home in order to avoid the increased risk of abduction, sexual violence and exploitation.
McDevitt, A. (2009). ‘The Impact of Conflict on Women’s Education, Employment and Health Care’, Helpdesk Research Report, GSDRC, Birmingham
The extent to which conflict restricts women’s freedom of movement depends on a number of factors including the stage of conflict, whether the women are displaced, whether they are directly or indirectly affected by the conflict, and the cultural norms of the conflict-affected area. Forced displacement, for example, may in some cases lead to greater mobility, where women assume additional responsibilities such as taking on the role of primary breadwinner. Nevertheless, it is generally accepted that the fear of violence usually restricts women’s freedom of movement. In times of political, economic and social uncertainty, there is a strong tendency to revert to traditional values which appear to offer protection for women and girls, but which restrict their mobility.
Chynoweth, S. K. (2008). ‘The Need for Priority Reproductive Health Services for Displaced Iraqi Women and Girls’, Reproductive Health Matters, vol. 16, no. 31, pp. 93-102
Disregarding reproductive health in situations of conflict or natural disaster has serious consequences, particularly for women and girls affected by the emergency. In an effort to protect the health and save the lives of women and girls in crises, international standards for five priority reproductive health activities that must be implemented at the onset of an emergency have been established for humanitarian actors: humanitarian coordination, prevention of and response to sexual violence, minimisation of HIV transmission, reduction of maternal and neonatal death and disability, and planning for comprehensive reproductive health services. Significant gaps in each of these areas exist in the context of refugees in Jordan fleeing the war in Iraq, particularly coordination, prevention of sexual violence, and care for survivors.
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Young women and girls as fighters
Just as it is important to recognise that males are subjected to violence, it is also important to acknowledge that women can be fighters and perpetrators of violence. It is essential to consider the particular needs of women in disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programmes. The issues associated with return and reintegration are often different for men and women. In addition, women who have remained in the community during war face specific challenges when combatants return. Reintegration programmes need to take such gender dynamics into consideration.
Coulter, C., Persson, M., and Utas, M. (2008). ‘Young Female Fighters in African Wars: Conflict and Its Consequences’, Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala
What role do young women play in contemporary African wars? Mainstream thinking on war and conflict sees women as passive and peaceful and men as active and aggressive. This report calls for a broader understanding of women’s roles and participation in armed conflict in Africa. Programmes to disarm, demobilise and reintegrate former fighters need to be adapted to local contexts and designed to meet the needs of female ex-fighters.
Denov, M. (2007). ‘Girls in Fighting Forces: Moving Beyond Victimhood’, Canadian International Development Agency, Ottawa
Girls within armed groups have generally been neglected by scholars, governments and policymakers. This paper traces the experiences of girls in armed conflict in Angola, Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Uganda. It finds that girls in fighting forces are rendered invisible and marginalised during and after conflict, although they are fundamentally important to armed groups. They experience victimisation, perpetration and insecurity, but are also active agents and resisters.
Maina, G. (2011). ‘The Complexity of Applying UN Resolution 1325 in Post Conflict Reintegration Processes: The Case of Northern Uganda’, African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), Durban
How effectively have the needs of women and girls been addressed during rehabilitation, reintegration and post-conflict reconstruction in Uganda? This study looks the reintegration experience of women and girls after the long war between the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army. The study analyses the situation in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls on all actors to address the special needs of women and girls during rehabilitation, reintegration and post-conflict reconstruction. The study concludes that, since the female populations in northern Uganda still struggle with deprivation, want and exclusion, it is difficult speak of meaningful and durable peace.
Hauge, W. (2007). ‘The Demobilisation and Political Participation of Female Fighters In Guatemala’, A report to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Peace Research Institute, Oslo
This report focuses on how the female fighters of the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG) in Guatemala fared in the demobilisation and reintegration process that began in 1997, and to what degree the women became socially and politically active afterwards. The report concludes that three types of factors were particularly decisive in shaping female fighters’ capability and capacity for post-conflict social and political activity: women’s educational and skills background; duration of participation in the guerrilla force and the new skills they learnt during this period; and the character of the demobilisation and reintegration process itself (in terms of socioeconomic assistance, possibilities to acquire new skills, access to family and social networks; assistance to single mothers and mothers with sick or disabled children; and collective reintegration versus individual reintegration).
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Worthen, M., Veale, A., McKay, S. and Wessells, M. (2010). ‘I Stand Like A Woman’: Empowerment and Human Rights in the Context of Community-Based Reintegration of Girl Mothers Formerly Associated with Fighting Forces and Armed Groups, Journal of Human Rights Practice, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 49-70
This article explores empowerment and reintegration of young mothers who were associated with armed groups in Sierra Leone, Liberia and northern Uganda. Empowerment and rights are mutually constitutive, iterative processes for these women.
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The term ‘gender’ is often used as another term for ‘women’. As such, gender analysis often fails to acknowledge that men also have gender identities. While the various roles of women in conflict and changes in gender relations are increasingly recognised, less attention has been placed on the various roles of men and the implications of changes to these roles. During extended periods of conflict, for example, men may lose their traditional roles as providers, which can result in a crisis of identity and threat of emasculation. This, in turn, could result in an increase in domestic violence and alcohol and drug abuse. In addition, the establishment of new social structures and authorities during conflict and the involvement of young men in fighting may establish new hierarchies, whereby young men brutally disempower older male authorities.
In order to engage in informed research strategies and more productive policy interventions, it is important to focus on both sides of the gender equation and to understand the relational quality and power dynamics between and among men and women. For example, post-conflict interventions should not reinforce stereotypical men’s roles as strong individuals and as providers, but should encourage flexible socioeconomic support and proper counselling mechanisms.
In addition, it is important to recognise that many ex-combatants, particularly male ex-combatants, were socialised with militaristic masculinity. Efforts need to be made to transform this masculine identity into a non-violent one, such that it does persist in the aftermath of violent conflict through domestic violence and sexual assaults.
Sudhakar, N. and Kuehnast, K. (2011). ‘The Other Side of Gender: Including Masculinity Concerns in Conflict and Peacebuilding’, United States Institute of Peace, Washington DC
Gender analysis often fails to acknowledge that men also possess gender identities: the term gender encompasses social, cultural and economic considerations and (changing) power dynamics between and among men and women. This brief highlights that taking a more inclusive view of gender roles in conflict, and recognising that these roles are dynamic, can lead to more informed research strategies and more productive policy interventions.
Haas, J-W., Schäfer, R. (2009). ‘Masculinity and Civil Wars in Africa – New Approaches to Overcoming Sexual Violence in War’, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) , Eschborn
How is it possible to ensure that violent warlike activity and the related ideas of masculinity and femininity are not simply carried over into post-war daily life? This document discusses the dangers of such ideas persisting and provides potential approaches and practical instruments to challenge them. It argues that reorientation can strengthen and network men who, as ‘change agents,’ reject violent conflict resolution and define their masculinity through criteria such as commitment to human dignity, human rights, justice, social fatherhood, and partnership. Additional recommendations include: men who reject violence need support and a network, as they are often harassed by other young men as ‘effeminate’ and marginalised; men who form activist alliances with women’s organisations must be offered culturally appropriate forums in which to discuss violent models of masculinity, socialisation to violence, and new life patterns.
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Special Issue: Rethinking masculinity and practices of violence in conflict settings. International feminist journal of politics, 14(4).
Why rethink masculinity and conflict? The collection of articles presented in this special issue addresses a number of nuanced questions around masculinity. First, how are masculinities and violences connected in specific locations of power? Second, how do these connections play out internationally, in the interactions between political communities, however understood? Third, just how related are gendered identities to fighting, killing and dying in conflict settings? And fourth, how do the complexities of violence situated in this way reflect back onto theorizing about gendered hierarchy and difference?
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When violent conflict erupts or a disaster strikes, humanitarian actors move quickly to save lives, meet basic needs and protect survivors. In such emergency contexts, attention to gender issues and gender mainstreaming is often considered a ‘luxury’ and unnecessary. However, ignoring the differential impact of crisis on women, men, boys and girls – and their varying needs and capacities – can have serious implications for the protection and survival of people in humanitarian crises.
Understanding differences, gender relations and inequalities can help to identify needs, target assistance and ensure that the needs of the vulnerable are met. It can also highlight opportunities to draw on women and men as resources based on their particular capacities. This can improve the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance. Adopting a gender perspective in humanitarian assistance can also provide a link between such assistance and longer-term development goals.
IASC (2006). ‘Women, Girls, Boys and Men: Different Needs – Equal Opportunities’, Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC)
This handbook aims to provide field-based actors with guidance on how to conduct gender analysis and to include gender issues in needs assessments; and how to engage in planning and actions to ensure that the needs, contributions and capacities of women, girls, boys and men are considered in all aspects of humanitarian response.
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O’Gorman, E. and Clifton-Everest, I. (2009). ‘Review of Gender Issues Including Strategies against Gender-Based Violence in Humanitarian Interventions’, European Commission Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid (DG ECHO) – European Commission
This report identifies lessons learned and good practices, based on a review of past and current policies and programme approaches for integrating gender into humanitarian interventions, including actions to prevent and respond to the incidence of sexual and gender based violence.
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Foran, S., Swaine, A., & Burns, K. (2012). Improving the effectiveness of humanitarian action: progress in implementing the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Gender Marker. Gender & Development, 20 (2), 233-247.
This article provides an overview of the development and implementation of the IASC Gender Marker. The use of the Gender Marker in humanitarian appeals and funding mechanisms is an important step in improving the way we think about gender in humanitarian action. The Gender Marker offers a means to measure current approaches and to hold actors accountable. Donors’ use of the Gender Marker to make decisions on which projects they fund is an important development and signifies some donors’ commitment to funding only interventions that address gender equality. The Gender Marker also facilitates further learning by humanitarian actors on gender mainstreaming to enhance the overall design and implementation of projects to address the priorities and interests of women, girls, boys, and men.
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During times of emergencies, weakening community structures, disruptions in law and order, economic hardship, migration and over-crowded living conditions in refugee/displacement camps are all factors that increase the risk of sexual and gender-based violence. In addition, women are often separated from male family members, increasing their risk of being subjected to such violence. This includes the risk not only of rape, but also of early/forced marriage, forced prostitution and trafficking.
Sexual and gender-based violence remains the most widespread and serious protection problem facing displaced and returnee women and girls. Increasingly lengthy stays in refugee/displacement camps, which are often located in insecure areas and may be subject to cross-border attacks, lack of privacy and livelihood opportunities, and declining international attention and resources, lead to various protection risks for women and girls. In addition, there are many reports of women being attacked after leaving camps to gather firewood and water. It is thus essential to ensure the adequate delivery of firewood, water and food on site.
Female refugees, displaced persons and asylum seekers in urban areas often live in squalid conditions and lack access to basic services, such as education and health care. Lacking money to pay their rent, women risk sexual exploitation by landlords. Women and girls employed as domestic workers frequently face violence and exploitation at the hands of their employers.
There is a pressing need to improve methods for the collection of data on sexual and gender-based violence in emergency situations. Key challenges include overcoming the lack of coordination between service providers that leads to double counting of cases, and multiple systems for classifying forms of violence. It is also important for humanitarian actors involved in protection activities to focus not only on working with women but also on engaging the active participation of men.
Global Protection Cluster. (2010). ‘Handbook for Coordinating Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings’, Gender-based Violence Area of Responsibility Working Group
This handbook provides comprehensive guidelines on how to establish coordination mechanisms to address gender-based violence in emergencies. Its purpose is to facilitate concrete action – from the earliest stages of humanitarian intervention – to safeguard survivors and protect those at risk, and to accelerate efforts aimed at ending gender-based violence.
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IASC. (2005). ‘Guidelines for Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings: Focusing on Prevention of and Response to Sexual Violence in Emergencies’, Inter-Agency Standing Committee
These guidelines provide practical advice on how to ensure that humanitarian protection and assistance programmes for displaced populations are safe and do not directly or indirectly increase women’s and girls’ risk to sexual violence. They also outline what response services should be in place to meet the need of survivors/victims of sexual violence.
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UNHCR. (2008). ‘UNHCR Handbook for the Protection of Women and Girls’, UNHCR, Geneva
This handbook is the guiding document for UNHCR’s approach to women and girl refugees. It describes some of the protection challenges faced by women and girls and outlines various strategies to tackle these challenges. It sets out the legal standards and principles that guide UNHCR’s work to protect women and girls and outlines the different roles and responsibilities of States and other actors. Suggestions for actions by UNHCR and partners to support women’s and girls’ enjoyment of their rights are also included. Examples of innovative practices from the field illustrate how these principles can be applied.
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Seelinger, K.T. and Freccero, J., with Stout, A. (2013). Safe Haven: Sheltering Displaced Persons from Sexual and Gender-Based Violence. Comparative Report. Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley.
This paper reviews safe shelter programmes, which provide temporary protection for refugees fleeing SGBV. The research had three main aims: to identify and describe models of temporary physical shelter available to displaced persons in humanitarian settings; to shed light on challenges and strategies relevant to the provision of safe shelter to members of displaced communities; and to?identify critical protection gaps. Interview data offered insights into safe shelter provision for displaced communities in Colombia, Haiti, Kenya and Thailand. The relationship and engagement of?shelters with the surrounding community proved to be critically important, particularly in refugee camp settings, where safe shelter locations are impossible to hide. Access to shelters remained a problem, as was security of the shelters themselves. Staff expressed a need for emotional and psychosocial support for themselves. There were varying degrees of success for helping residents move back into communities.
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Reports of peacekeeper involvement in sexual exploitation and abuse of local populations emerged in the 1990s. This resulted in the adoption of a zero-tolerance policy in UN peacekeeping operations. It also confirmed the need for a greater female presence in peacekeeping forces, which has been recognised as desirable for several reasons.
Studies have shown that, in addition to countering incidences of exploitation and abuse, the presence of women in peacekeeping missions broadens the range of skills and styles available within the mission and improves access and support for local women. Women in conflict/post-conflict environments are more comfortable approaching female officers to report and discuss incidents of sexual assault. Given the high levels of sexual violence in conflict, this access and support is essential. In addition, in more conservative societies such as Afghanistan and Sudan, the presence of female peacekeepers has been imperative, as women there may be reluctant to speak with male officers. The presence of female officers can also provide role models and incentives for other women to seek leadership positions.
Pillay, A. (2006). ‘Gender, Peace and Peacekeeping: Lessons from Southern Africa’, ISS Paper 128, Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria
Post-conflict conditions can create possibilities for the transformation of gender relations. This paper discusses the participation of women in post-conflict organisations. A comparison of the impact of women in peacekeeping missions in South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo illustrates that women help defuse post-conflict tensions and increase awareness of gender issues. The participation of women in peace processes indicates progress, but more transformative measures are needed to achieve gender equality.
Jennings, K. M. (2008). ‘Protecting Whom? Approaches to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in UN Peacekeeping Operations’, Fafo, Oslo
Is the zero-tolerance policy toward sexual exploitation and abuse having a positive impact on UN peacekeeping missions? This report reviews evidence from missions in Haiti and Liberia and concludes that the policy is yielding mixed results. It contends that the policy’s difficulties stem from implementation problems and contextual challenges that would be eased by better communication and clarity on the purposes of the zero-tolerance approach.
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Jennings, K. and Nikolic-Ristanovic, V. (2009). ‘UN Peacekeeping Economies and Local Sex Industries: Connections and Implications’, MICROCON Research Working Paper 17, Brighton
What are the economic or socio-cultural and political impacts of ‘peacekeeping economies’? This paper uses a gendered lens to explore some ramifications and lasting implications of peacekeeping economies, drawing on examples from four post-conflict countries with past or ongoing United Nations peacekeeping missions: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Liberia, and Haiti. The paper is particularly concerned with the interplay between the peacekeeping economy and the sex industry. It suggests that the existence and potential long-term perpetuation of a highly gendered peacekeeping economy threatens to undermine the gender goals and objectives that are a component of most peace operations.
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Boehme, J. (2008). ‘Human Rights and Gender Components of UN and EU Peace Operations: Putting Human Rights and Gender Mandates into Practice’, German Institute for Human Rights
This study attempts to map the implementation of human rights and gender mandates in various UN and EU peace operations, such as the missions in El Salvador, Cambodia, Haiti and the Balkans.
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Dharmapuri, S. (2013). Not Just a Numbers Game: Increasing Women’s Participation in UN Peacekeeping. Providing for Peacekeeping No. 4, New York: International Peace Institute.
The inclusion of female uniformed personnel in national contributions to UN peace operations has fallen short of expectations. By March 2013, women comprised less than 4 percent of UN peacekeepers globally, accounting for about 3 percent of UN military personnel and about 9.7 percent of UN police. The UN is unlikely to reach its goals for gender equality in peacekeeping missions. This paper suggests that this is due to three reasons: the lack of understanding among member states about Resolution 1325 and UN policy on gender equality; a gap in data and analysis about women’s participation in national security institutions globally and in UN peacekeeping; and the prevalence of social norms and biases that perpetuate gender inequality within the security sector. Further, the UN and member states’ focus on increasing the numbers of female uniformed personnel has obscured the equally important goal of integrating a gender perspective into the work of peace operations.
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Friesendorf, C. and Penksa, S. (2008). ‘Militarized Law Enforcement in Peace Operations: EUFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina’, International Peacekeeping, vol. 15, no. 5, pp. 677-694
What are the causes and problems of militarised law enforcement in peace operations? How can these be addressed? This paper examines the role of the European Union Force (EUFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina. While the military can contribute to law enforcement, such involvement is generally hindered by fear of ‘mission creep’ and lack of preparedness. Preferable alternatives to military involvement (such as international civil police forces collaborating with local officials) are obstructed by lack of political will. Law enforcement should be addressed early and systematically by the deployment of robust forces that avoid excessive use of force.
Bah, A.M.S., and Johnstone, I. (2007). ‘Peacekeeping in Sudan: The Dynamics of Protection, Partnerships and Inclusive Politics’, The Centre on International Cooperation, New York
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ICG. (2009). ‘China’s Growing Role in UN Peacekeeping’, Asia Report, no. 166, International Crisis Group, Brussels
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