Land and the Quest for Gender-Just Sustainable Peace

Land and the Quest for Gender-Just Sustainable Peace Workshop
The Consortium on Gender, Security, and Human Rights, in partnership with Universidad del Rosario School of Law, Bogotá, convened a workshop entitled “Land and the Quest for Gender-Just Sustainable Peace” in Bogotá, Colombia on December 15-19, 2019.
The workshop brought together fifteen experts from around the world for three days of presentations and intensive, cross-sectoral, collaborative knowledge building. The participants brought research, policy and practice-based knowledge in areas such as feminist peacebuilding, anthropology, economics, political ecology and law, as well as violent land dispossession, national land reform, and gender-equal and socially inclusive land and natural resource rights. The workshop explored the question of land in relation to gender-just sustainable peace: How do, and how could, different approaches to land –including land planning, land tenure regimes and land use – contribute to or diminish gender-just sustainable peacebuilding?
This question arose from our observation that many peace processes, peacebuilding reforms, and postwar National Action Plans on 1325 include more equitable land policies as a goal, but questions remain about what approach to land reform, land restitution and/or land rights can best achieve gender-just sustainable peace. Furthermore, within the context of the imminent threats of climate disruption and biodiversity collapse, achieving gender-just sustainable peace requires consideration of how different land tenure and land use systems might be more conducive to climate resilience and the regeneration of nature.
The workshop aimed to:
  • Identify and describe common post-war dynamics, processes and actors key in shaping the patterns of land ownership, use and tenure in the aftermath of war;
  • Analyze their impacts on gender relations and other structural inequalities;
  • Analyze where and how these processes are driven;
  • Map where decision making regarding these processes take place, identifying both critical leverage points and key actors to try to impact;
  • Provide policy recommendations which aim for transformative change.
Some of the findings include:
  • A common feature of post-war landscapes is large-scale land acquisitions by foreign states and transnational corporations, who buy up large swathes of land for industrial agriculture, natural resource extraction, large-scale infrastructure, and/or speculative investments. This has had devastating impacts on women and other marginalized groups. From oil palm in Indonesia and Liberia, to mining in South Africa, Colombia and Bolivia, to sugar and rubber plantations in Cambodia, we discussed how women, Indigenous peoples and local communities bear the brunt of land dispossession, land degradation and pollution, and the loss of livelihoods and security that follows.
  • Another feature is the militarization of the land. The destruction and degradation of land through warfare and its associated pollution, the impact of landmines, and the capture of land by military leaders, evident in post-war contexts such as Sri Lanka, all undermine the prospects for gender-just sustainable peace. Post-war intensification of natural resource extraction often brings with it a new layer of militarization.
  • Post-war landscapes are also affected by “green grabbing” and other claims to land for climate change mitigation or adaptation purposes, with huge swathes of land devoted to biofuel production in Sierra Leone, or wind farms in Mexico, demonstrating the dangers of top-down solutions to climate change.
  • Efforts to achieve gender-justice through land reform and/or land restitution policies and programs are often undermined by the adoption of a particular model of economic recovery which prioritizes the use of land as a source of GDP growth. This model reduces the land and resources available for sharing fairly between citizens in ways that enable them to achieve economic security.
  • The current model of economic recovery and land-use is driving climate breakdown, which in turn further reduces the amount of land required to support real recovery from war. Through both rapid onset disasters such as floods and slow impacts such as desertification, climate breakdown has degraded a third of the world’s land.
  • Familial and community power relations and norms contribute to the challenges faced by women in the aftermath of war, including their ability to benefit from land reforms, as do patriarchal pacts between elites negotiating the peace.
We identified many of the mechanisms through which the dominant model of economic recovery, with its concomitant land-use and tenure practices, are embedded in post-war states’ policy and practice, and we explored alternative approaches, which included:
  • Participatory land-use planning processes, to occur before foreign investors are able to buy land
  • Reform of a global trade system that privileges transnational corporations above states, (e.g.,  through Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions in international investment agreements)
  • Reform of bilateral investment agreement processes, insisting that the foreign actors’ investments in post-war states need to be clear and transparent, pro-poor, and oriented towards well-being and environmental sustainability
  • Recognizing and prioritizing the rights of nature
  • Enforcing the rights of Indigenous peoples and other marginalized communities to give Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) before their land can be sold or exploited
  • Holding a percentage of land in common, in recognition of the value of the commons for ensuring sustainable source of food and water, biodiversity regeneration, and inter-generational justice
  • Achieving women’s rights to secure land tenure, by i) enforcing the laws that already exist (e.g., CEDAW) and ii) advocating for a redistributive economic system to ensure the socio-economic conditions that enable rights to be realities
  • Conceptualizing land as a “space of belonging” with spiritual and ecological significance for the people that live on it.
Continuing work to translate these ideas into concrete policy recommendations in specific post-war contexts is critical. The workshop laid the groundwork by identifying the possibilities and potential of intersectional feminist analysis for post-war economic recovery. A forthcoming workshop report will explore these issues in depth.

Read the Workshop Concept Note here.

Read the Workshop Background Paper here.


This workshop is part of the Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights’ Feminist Roadmap for Sustainable Peace (FRSP) project. The FRSP starts with the perception that postwar transitions and the sustainability of peace itself are often undermined by transnational political economic actors and processes. Its goal is to provide: forward-looking expert knowledge of those processes; analyses of their impacts on gender relations and other structural inequalities underlying armed conflicts; and recommendations for how to engage and modify those processes to be more supportive of the societal transformations critical to building gender-equitable, sustainable peace. Topics addressed in the FRSP include, inter alia: the economic recovery policy prescriptions of international financial institutions; natural resource management and extraction; agricultural practices; land rights, land tenure systems, and large scale land acquisition and land grabbing; infrastructure reconstruction; and environmental and climate breakdown.

This workshop was funded with support from the Compton Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Workshop Participants:

Solange Bandiaky-Badji

Senior Director for Sub-Saharan Africa and Women-Peace-Security at PartnersGlobal, where she oversees donor-funded programs on access to justice, security sector reform, and peacebuilding. Prior to joining PartnersGlobal, Solange has directed the Africa Program at the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) and led its Gender Justice Program advocating for the forest and land rights of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and women.

Denise Humphreys Bebbington

Research Associate Professor in the Department of International Development, Community and Environment at Clark University in Massachusetts, USA, where she was also Director of Women and Gender Studies from 2012-2017. She recently co-led a global scoping study on Extractive Industries, Infrastructure Development, Forest Loss and Forest Community Rights for the Climate and Land Use Alliance in Amazonia, Central America, Mexico and Indonesia.

Lina Maria Cespedes-Baez

Colombian lawyer and Professor at Universidad del Rosario's law school. Her scholarship has explored the process of genderization of the Colombian armed conflict, the difficult encounter between private and public law in the context of transitional justice, and the challenges of the regulation of rural land tenure in the country, among others.

Carol Cohn

Founding Director of the Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights, University of Massachusetts Boston. Her research addresses a wide array of issues in gender, armed conflict and peacebuilding. Her current focus is on a collaborative international knowledge building project to create a “Feminist Roadmap for Sustainable Peace,” which brings feminist political economic perspectives to addressing the intertwined challenges of climate change and sustainable peacebuilding.

Malathi de Alwis

PhD in Socio-Cultural Anthropology from the University of Chicago and currently affiliated with the Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of Colombo. She has written extensively on nationalism and militarisation, war, displacement and humanitarianism, feminism and maternalism, social movements, ‘disappearance’, suffering and trauma, and memorialization.

Claire Duncanson

Senior Lecturer in International Relations, University of Edinburgh. She has published widely on issues relating to gender, peace and security, with a particular focus on and gender and peacebuilding and gender in militaries. Her current work aims to bring a feminist analysis to the political economy of building peace.

Rosalie Kingwill

Research associate at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), University of the Western Cape, Cape Town; and a member of a national land reform civil society platform, LandNNES (Land Network National Engagement Strategy), which seeks dialogue between community-based organisations, government and other stakeholders. She has over thirty years' experience in the land reform sector, specialising in land tenure and property rights. 

Donny Meertens

Anthropologist PhD retired as Associate Professor and continues as an associate researcher in the Institute for Human Rights and Peace Building at Javeriana University (Bogota, Colombia). She formerly worked in the Gender Studies School at Colombia's National University, and for UNHCR and UN Women in Colombia. She was the Rapporteur of the Historical Memory Report on violent land dispossession of women and men in Colombia's armed conflict (2010) and Fellow 2013-2014 at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars,Washington DC.

Evelyn Namubiru-Mwaura

Over twenty years of experience in International Development focused on Policy Analysis, Strategic Development, Land Tenure and Property Rights, Climate Change, Forestry, Gender and Agriculture. She has published on a wide variety of subjects including; land tenure, sustainable development, forestry, climate change and gender. 

Beth Roberts

Program Manager for the Landesa Center for Women’s Land Rights. She is a law, policy, and gender specialist who works to strengthen gender-equal and socially inclusive rights to land and productive assets. 

Caitlin Ryan

Assistant Professor at the Centre for International Relations at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. Her work focuses on the gendered political and economic dynamics of postwar recovery, and draws from feminist and postcolonial security studies. Most of her recent work has been with a geographic focus in West Africa. Her last project looked at large-scale land deals in Sierra Leone, and how these deals function from their inception through their implementation. 

Elisa Scalise

Founder and Managing Director of Resource Equity, a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance women's rights to land and natural resources around the world. She is a land tenure lawyer, with almost 15 years of experience working globally on land tenure, agriculture, infrastructure, women's empowerment, and access to justice projects, often in conflict or transitional settings.

Mia Siscawati

Lecturer at and Head of Gender Studies Graduate Program, School of Strategic and Global Studies, Universitas Indonesia. She also teaches at the Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Indonesia. Her expertise covers feminist anthropology, feminist ethnography, feminist political ecology, feminist agrarian studies, gender and land tenure, gender and natural resources, gender and forestry, gender and development, gender and human rights.

Mariama Williams

Senior Programme Officer at the South Centre and feminist economist with over 20 years of experience working on economic development and macroeconomic issues, with a focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment, social equity, international trade, external debt and finance and more recently, on climate change issues. She is also a director of the Institute of Law and Economics (ILE), Jamaica. 

Keina Yoshida

Research Officer in the Centre for Women, Peace, and Security and a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers where she also forms part of the Doughty Street International team. She is researching the links between the environment, nature, sustainable development goals, the gendered causes and impacts of violence against women, and structural inequalities in the context of international legal conceptions of peace and security.

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