Women at the Peace Table: The Gender Dynamics of Peace Negotiations


McWilliams, Monica. 2015. "Women at the Peace Table: The Gender Dynamics of Peace Negotiations." In Gender and Peacebuilding, edited by Maureen Flaherty, 229-244. London: Lexington Press.

Author: Monica McWilliams


Where violence and conflict have become the norm, negotiating an agreement built on peace and justice can be a challenging prospect for those involved. Since 2000, with the introduction of Security Council Resolutions on women, peace, and security, the United Nations has asserted that the environment enabling peace agreements become more inclusive of women and that gender perspectives be taken into account throughout the peace building process. This chapter draws on examples from the Northern Ireland peace process to show the changes that took place when a group of women moved out of the political activism of civic society to become engaged in the more formal politics of peace negotiations. The women activists grasped the opportunities of the “constitutional moment” to frame gender-specific interests within the new constitutional framework of the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. They built on skills honed through years of activism to form the Women’s Coalition, a political party that was involved in the multi-party peace negotiations, and became signatories to the peace agreement. However, in the transitional space that opens up following a peace agreement, what gets resourced and implemented often falls short of what was promised. Despite its success in the negotiating process, enforcing the proposals on women’s interests in the aftermath proved to be the most difficult task. Where a democratic deficit exists, with women continuing to be excluded from political participation, those who have struggled to build a new society will ask for whom was the reconstruction meant. For a genuinely transformative process to take place, women’s interests must not be left in the “aspirational/to do” list but instead form a central part of the “constitutional” and legislative guarantees for the new society.

Keywords: women, gender, peace processes, peace agreements, Northern Ireland

Topics: Civil Society, Democracy / Democratization, Conflict, Gender, Women, International Organizations, Justice, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Political Participation, Peace Processes, UN Security Council Resolutions on WPS, Violence Regions: Europe, Western Europe Countries: United Kingdom

Year: 2015

© 2023 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at info@genderandsecurity.org.