Women and Natural Resources Unlocking the Peacebuilding Potential

Citation:

United Nations Environment Programme, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office, and United Nations Development Programme. 2013. Women and Natural Resources Unlocking the Peacebuilding Potential. United Nations .

Authors: Adrienne Stork, Cassidy Travis, Silja Halle

Annotation:

Summary:

“Women’s diverse experiences in times of conflict have powerful implications for peacebuilding. Their capacity to recover from conflict and contribute to peace is influenced by their role in the conflict, whether directly engaged in armed groups, displaced, or forced to take on additional responsibilities to sustain their livelihoods and care for dependents. In spite of efforts by the international community to recognize and better address these multiple roles through agreements such as United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, the dominant perception of women as passive victims in conflict settings continues to constrain their ability to formally engage in political, economic and social recovery, and thereby contribute to better peacebuilding.

One of the unexplored entry points for strengthening women’s contributions to peacebuilding relates to the ways in which they use, manage, make decisions on and benefit from natural resources. Coupled with shifting gender norms in conflict-affected settings, women’s roles in natural resource management provide significant opportunities to enhance their participation in decisionmaking at all levels, and to enable them to engage more productively in economic revitalization activities.

As the primary providers of water, food and energy at the household and community levels, women in rural settings are often highly dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, and are therefore particularly susceptible to changes in the availability and quality of these resources during and after conflict. In particular, lack of access to land – which underpins rights to all other natural resources and is a key asset for securing productive inputs – can force them into increasingly vulnerable situations and expose them to higher levels of physical and livelihood risk, with trickle-down impacts on community welfare. The structural discrimination that women face regarding resource rights and access also limits their political participation and economic productivity.

At the same time, conflict often leads both women and men to adopt coping strategies that challenge traditional gender norms. To meet the needs of their households and compensate for loss of revenue usually provided by male family members, women may assume new natural resource management roles, either by taking up alternative income-generating activities or by moving into traditionally male sectors. In the aftermath of conflict, capitalizing on these shifting roles can contribute to breaking down barriers to women’s empowerment and enhancing women’s productivity in sectors that are often critical to economic revitalization.

Failure to recognize the challenges and opportunities awarded to women in conflict-affected settings by their various roles in natural resource management also risks perpetuating inequalities and deepening grievances linked to natural resource rights, access and control, which have proven to be powerful catalysts for violence. Addressing issues of inequality related to resource access and ownership, participation in decision-making and benefitsharing early on in the peacebuilding process is therefore a critical condition for lasting peace and development.

To strengthen peacebuilding outcomes by enhancing women’s engagement and empowerment in conflictaffected contexts through sustainable natural resource management, this report recommends that national
governments and the international community take the following action:

  1. Promote women’s participation in formal and informal decision-making structures and governance processes related to natural resource management in peacebuilding: Working with natural resource management authorities can help increase women’s participation in decision-making at the sub-national and national levels. However, targeted support is needed for overcoming the structural, social and cultural barriers to women’s formal and informal political participation in conflict-affected settings. This can be achieved by including women and gender specialists early on in peace negotiations in a variety of positions – as negotiators, as expert advisors and as civil society observers – and in mediation support teams, as well as supporting their capacity to engage effectively in these processes. It also requires ensuring that women are represented in relevant decision-making bodies, including through the use of quotas and soliciting inputs from a broad range of women’s groups and networks when elaborating natural resource management policies. In addition gender experts should be part of teams charged with developing policies and other governance tools around natural resource management in peacebuilding contexts, including in supply-chain certification mechanisms, benefit-sharing schemes, and transparency initiatives. Finally, it is essential to provide training and capacity-building and to support the advocacy efforts of women’s organizations and networks.
  2. Adopt proactive measures to protect women from resource-related physical violence and other security risks early in the peacebuilding period: Women in conflict-affected settings routinely experience physical insecurity, including sexual violence, when carrying out daily tasks linked to the collection and use of natural resources. Moreover, while the impacts of environmental contamination and pollution adversely affect all, women are particularly vulnerable, due to heightened exposure in their gendered roles and responsibilities. Protecting women from these risks is not only important to their health, but also key to ensuring that they are able to safely carry out economic and social activities linked to natural resource management. Among other measures, addressing these risks can involve: conducting assessments to identify specific resource and environment-related security and health threats for women in conflict-affected contexts; ensuring that women have safe access to key resources, such as fuel wood and water, in internally displaced persons and refugee camps; supporting the dissemination of innovative technologies, such as improved cook stoves, that protect women from adverse health impacts in carrying out their roles; increasing women’s participation in security sector institutions and conflict resolution  processes; and supporting awareness-raising and training on women’s rights among the staff of government institutions and the national security sector, as well as at the community level, in order to increase gender-sensitive operational effectiveness and security service delivery by the army and police.
  3. Remove barriers and create enabling conditions to build women’s capacity for productive and sustainable use of natural resources: Access to credit, technical support and benefits from natural resource exploitation is essential to improving women’s economic productivity, which in turn is key to their empowerment. Likewise, legal support for the enforcement of land rights and other resource rights underpins women’s ability to productively use natural resources for their recovery. Achieving this can include: identifying women’s specific roles in key natural resource sectors and how those roles may have been affected during conflict, establishing regular consultative mechanisms with a variety of women’s groups and networks on the development of basic service infrastructure in their communities, prioritizing land negotiation and reform processes that improve women’s rights to land. In addition, providing legal aid, conflict management, negotiation and mediation services to women can enable them to enforce their resource-related rights and access dispute resolution mechanisms. Prioritizing access to finance, inputs and skills training for women and men equally, upholding human rights and minimum labor standards for women’s involvement in the extractive sectors and ensuring private companies operating in the extractive sectors engage both men and women during environmental and social impact assessments, as well as throughout the project cycle can further improve women’s productive and sustainable use of natural resources. Finally, women’s representation on commissions established for wealth-sharing and national and sub-national level and the provision of gender expertise for such bodies, should be prioritized and efforts made to ensure that women are included in community based natural resource management initiatives in conflict-affected settings.
  4. Within the United Nations, increase inter-agency cooperation to pursue women’s empowerment and sustainable natural resource management together in support of more effective peacebuilding: Existing inter-agency mechanisms at the global and country levels should be tasked to address the risks and opportunities presented to women by natural resource management in peacebuilding contexts more systematically in their work, including by: conducting pilot programmes to learn lessons on how to integrate the linkages between women, natural resources and peacebuilding in joint assessments and country programming; ensuring that 15 percent of all funding towards UN-supported natural resource management programmes in peacebuilding is allocated to women’s empowerment and gender equality; requiring the collection of sex and agedisaggregated data on peacebuilding and recovery programmes that address and/or have an impact on natural resource management; developing specific targets related to the participation of women and gender experts in natural resource management in post-conflict countries, in line with the priorities and goals set in the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States and the goals for the post-2015 development agenda; supporting further research on the nexus of women, natural resources and peacebuilding, particularly in areas where significant knowledge gaps remain; and integrating gender equality and women’s empowerment issues in meetings of actors working on addressing the linkages between natural resources, conflict and peacebuilding.” (Stork, Travis, and Halle 2013, 7-8)

Topics: Conflict, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Households, International Organizations, Livelihoods, Peacebuilding, Peace and Security, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Rights, Land Rights, Security, UN Security Council Resolutions on WPS, UNSCR 1325, Violence

Year: 2013

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