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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Including women in peace talks is the smart and right thing to do

Conflict resolution involving women in the decision-making process lasts longer

UAE women in the frontline attend the Gender Dimensions of International Peace and Security conference in Abu Dhabi / Christopher Pike / The National
UAE women in the frontline attend the Gender Dimensions of International Peace and Security conference in Abu Dhabi / Christopher Pike / The National

Including women at the table in peace talks is not just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do. That was the message emerging from a conference in Abu Dhabi this week looking at the role of gender in security and conflict resolution. There is reams of evidence showing women are disproportionately affected by conflict, whether through sexual violence or by wars bulldozing through education and health services and basic infrastructure. Yet despite the role women play in preventing and resolving conflicts, they are often excluded from negotiations for peace – a factor likely to contribute to 50 per cent of resolutions collapsing entirely within five years. United Nations figures show 35 per cent of peace pacts are more likely to last at least 15 years when women are included in the process, while greater gender equality leads to a lower likelihood of conflict between and within states. A more even gender balance is directly proportionate to lower levels of violence in society and yet staggeringly, women worldwide only accounted for two per cent of chief mediators in peace processes between 1992 and 2011 and made up just nine per cent of negotiators.

Time and again we have seen women left out of the equation when it comes to the issues that affect them and their families most. As we have highlighted in these pages, female leadership played a crucial role in the first Palestinian intifada in 1987 but their voices were nowhere to be heard in the Oslo Accords which followed. Yet where women do play an intrinsic part in any peace process, the impact is huge and long-lasting. A third of those bringing an eventual end to violence between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia last year were women. A female coalition ensured the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland included clauses on affected youth, education, housing and tolerance. Wherever women have played key roles in conflict resolution, they have succeeded in achieving sustainable peace – yet they are rarely included in subsequent security or peacekeeping bodies. Even the United Nations, whose Security Council has introduced two resolutions since 2000 calling for more women to be involved in peace-building missions, admits it falls short on gender equality quotas on that front, while in the past its own peacekeepers have been culpable of perpetuating some of that violence.

Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, the UAE’s permanent representative to the UN, told the conference gender equality and women’s involvement in conflict resolution were “crucial to establish prosperous and stable societies”. That can only be to the benefit of all members of society, male and female alike.