International Gender Experts Convene in Norway to Develop Feminist Roadmap for Sustainable Peace

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The Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights held its inaugural workshop to develop a Feminist Roadmap for Sustainable Peace in Oslo, Norway from June 10-12, 2015. In partnership with the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF), the Consortium brought together seventeen prominent gender experts to explore how to address the unequal, deeply gendered political, economic and social power relations that underpin wars and undermine post-war efforts to build sustainable peace.

Participants came from countries including Guatemala, South Africa, Somalia, Pakistan, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Norway, and from organizations including the UN Development Programme and the UN Population Fund. Their expertise ranged from humanitarian assistance, disaster risk reduction, climate change and infrastructure, to dialogue, mediation and peace negotiations, post-war constitution-writing, development and economic policy. 

This workshop is part of the Consortium’s initiative to develop a more truly transformative “women, peace and security” (WPS) policy agenda. Since United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 was adopted in 2000, the WPS international policy agenda has largely focused on conflict-related sexual violence and “women’s participation,” especially in peacekeeping operations. Women’s civil society organizations have also emphasized the importance of women’s participation in peace processes, but the barriers have remained steep. As important as these issues are, however, the WPS agenda will not be successful without a critical assessment of the underlying causes of armed conflict and the global political economic relations within which peacebuilding and post-political settlement reconstruction take place. Furthermore, rather than simply adding “women’s issues” to peace processes, the WPS agenda needs to illuminate and address the gender dimensions of all issues addressed in the process of ending armed conflicts and rebuilding conflict-affected societies.

“When we think about women’s political participation in peace processes or in post-conflict governance, it is critical that we think about the wider set of political and economic relationships that will be the context within which women try to exercise their rights,” according to Consortium Director, Carol Cohn. “If, for example, concessions are given to rebuild roads or other infrastructure in ways that continue to disadvantage women, you are setting into cement, literally and figuratively, the very same unequal gendered power relations that existed prior to the conflict.”

There are significant bodies of feminist research on issues central to this vision of a more comprehensive and transformative WPS agenda, but they have, to date, been disconnected from WPS. This workshop therefore convened feminist activists, practitioners and scholars in fields outside WPS to explore how to integrate analysis of gendered political economies into peacebuilding theory and practice.

Over three days, participants developed ideas and recommendations for how to transform existing practices, processes and structures in order to foster more gender-equitable and sustainably peaceful societies in states emerging from violent conflict. These recommendations will be compiled into the forthcoming Feminist Roadmap for Sustainable Peace, which will be, in subsequent workshops, further refined for multiple audiences, including parties to a conflict, mediation teams, international agencies, and women’s activist organizations. One immediate use of the Roadmap will be in the form of policy advice to Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its engagement with international peace mediation teams and efforts.

This workshop builds on the Consortium's previous work on gendered political economies of war and peacebuilding, including at the Women in Public Service Conference at UMass Lowell (2013), the International Studies Association Conference (2013), the International Feminist Journal of Politics Conference (2014), WILPF’s Women’s Power to Stop War Conference (2015), as well as on the Consortium’s International Speaker Series at UMass Boston.

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