Twenty-six senior peace mediators from the United Nations, regional organisations, Member States and international non-governmental organizations involved in mediation met in Helsinki, Finland, earlier this month to discuss the effective inclusion of women, as well as a gendered perspective, in mediation processes. As the Security Council gets ready to discuss, on 27 October, its historic Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, this eighth High-level Seminar on Gender and Inclusive Mediation Processes served also as a timely reminder of how far we still need to go.
Promoting women’s effective participation in conflict mediation and addressing their specific needs in peacemaking efforts is a high priority for the Department of Political Affairs. The issue first made it on to the Security Council’s agenda in 2000, with the adoption on 31 October of that year of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. However, despite many global and regional commitments and initiatives, the number of women and gender experts involved in formal peacemaking processes remains low, while many peace agreements do not include gender-relevant provisions or harness the resources women can contribute to building more sustainable peace.
The overall objective of the High-level Seminar on Gender and Inclusive Mediation Processes is to generate more consultative processes by promoting women’s effective participation and building inclusive, gender-sensitive mediation capacity at international, regional and national levels. The Seminar series is rooted in the premise that women living through a conflict have strategic knowledge and networks to contribute to its resolution and can be critical actors in sustaining peace. Gender dynamics thus create unique opportunities and challenges for peacemaking and need to be understood, analyzed, and used for strategic advantage.
The Seminar invited senior mediators to contemplate practical, “how-to” strategies and tools for more inclusive mediation process design, as well as options for gender–relevant provisions, including specific language, for the key thematic areas of peace agreements. The goal is to increase the availability and quality of gender expertise in mediation processes, and support greater and more effective participation by women at all levels of conflict resolution and peacemaking.
The participants engaged in lively discussions over the topics covered in the seminar. Several UN officials and Standby Team Mediation Advisors also shared their knowledge and experience on the issues discussed. More than 210 envoys and senior mediators have participated in the Seminar series since its inception in 2013, and the seminar series is now a cornerstone of DPA’s efforts to secure more inclusive and gender mainstreamed mediation efforts.
Another outcome of the Seminar series and its high-level deliberations was the launch of the DPA Guidance on Gender and Inclusive Mediation Strategies in March 2017. The Guidance elaborates on the contents of the Seminar to inform mediators and their teams, as well as conflict parties, about the principles and strategies for the effective inclusion of women, as well as a gendered perspective, in mediation processes. The Guidance covers mediation preparedness, process design, and substantive issues, including security arrangements, addressing sexual violence in conflict, women’s political participation, power sharing and constitutional arrangements, as well as the language and the implementation of peace agreements through a gender lens. The Guidance is now available in all UN languages on the UN Peacemaker website.
The Seminar, held from 1- to 12 October, was the latest in a series that began in 2013 thanks to financial support provided by the Governments of Finland and Norway and their implementing partners, the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) and the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), respectively. The meeting heard opening statements by Peter Stenlund, Finnish State Secretary; Miroslav Jenča, DPA Assistant Secretary-General; Tuija Talvitie, Executive Director of CMI, and Henrik Urdal, Director of PRIO. Former Presidential Advisor on the peace process in the Philippines, and current Senior UN Mediation Advisor, Teresita Quintos-Deles, also shared experiences on ‘engendering” the Bangsamoro peace process.
Seminar participants included Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland and Member of the UN High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation; Special Representatives of the Secretary-General Sigrid Kaag (UNSCOL), Michael Keating (UNSOM), Jan Kubis (UNAMI), Modibo Touré (UNIOGBIS), former SRSG Ellen Løj (UNMISS) and DSRSG Pernille Kardel (UNAMA), along with Deputy Joint SRSG Bintou Keita (UNAMID). Other regional organizations high-level representatives included Dr. Specioza Wandira Kazibwe, member of the African Union Panel of the Wise, as well as the Head of the European Union delegation in Libya, Bettina Muscheidt. Representatives from the Organization of American States (OAS), and the Finish, German and Norwegian Ministries of Foreign Affairs were also among the participants.
DPA Gender/Women, Peace and Security Training
In addition to the Seminar series for senior officials, DPA also conducts, on a bi-annual basis, the Gender/Women, Peace and Security training for its staff. The curriculum for this training was designed around the 15 specific Women, Peace and Security commitments DPA took up in 2010. The staff training aims to enable political officers to integrate women’s empowerment and gender equality perspectives in their work, including women’s effective participation in peacemaking and electoral processes; while strengthening their skills by offering practical strategies and tools to implement the Women, Peace and Security commitments.