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Peace processes, gendered processes María Villellas Ariño

Peace processes, gendered processes. Obstacles, implications and modalities from a gender perspective María Villellas Ariño∗ Abstract Peace processes represent unique opportunities for those societies that have been affected by armed conflicts, not only to put an end to direct violence, but also, to act as the starting point for deeper transformative processes. In this sense, peace processes can be exceptional scenarios for the transformation of the structural causes that led to the armed conflict and for the designing of policies aimed at addressing issues such as exclusion, poverty or democratization. In spite of the fact that these processes are deeply gendered, they tend to be represented as gender-neutral, hiding the gender dynamics that take place during their course. These dynamics emanate directly form the features that characterise contemporary armed conflicts, in which gender ideologies play a fundamental role, both in the genesis and the development of wars. This paper aims to analyze peace processes from a gender perspective, in order to give visibility to some of those gender dynamics whose main consequence has been the exclusion of women in peace talks and the conformation of gender-blind peace agendas. With this aim, this paper will analyze in the first place the obstacles that women face for their inclusion in these processes; secondly, the implications of women’s participation and the incorporation of gender issues to the talks’ agendas; and thirdly, the different modalities that ‘gender friendly’ peace processes can adopt. The role that UNSC Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, that mandates the inclusion of women at all the peace processes stages, will be addressed transversally.

1. Introduction1 Peace processes 2 represent unique opportunities for putting an end to armed conflicts 3 and, furthermore, can be the starting point for profound transformations in the societies that have the

Researcher at the School for a Culture of Peace, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona Some portions of this research are the result of earlier research by the author. However, on the whole, the research is unpublished material. 2 A peace process is understood to mean the consolidation of a negotiation scheme, once the agenda, the procedures to be followed, the schedule and facilitation have been agreed. Negotiation is, therefore, just one of the stages in the process. Negotiation is understood to mean a process in which two or more opposing parties (whether they are in government or represent other internal agents in a particular country) agree to discuss their differences within an agreed framework in order to find a satisfactory solution. Negotiations may be held directly or with facilitation from third parties. Usually, formal negotiations include a prior or exploratory stage which is used to establish the framework (format, place, conditions, guarantees, etc.) for the future negotiating process (Escola de Cultura de Pau, 2008: 71). 3 An armed conflict is considered to be any confrontation involving armed groups of regular or irregular forces whose individual aims are seen as incompatible with one another, in which the continuous and organised use of violence: a) claims at least 100 lives per year and/or has a serious impact on the ground (the destruction of infrastructure or natural resources) and human security (e.g. the injury or displacement of civilians, sexual violence, a lack of food security, an impact on mental health and the social fabric or the disruption of basic services); and b) seeks to attain objectives that go beyond common criminality and are normally associated with: demands for self-government or questions of identity; opposition to the political, economic, social or ideological system in a particular state or the domestic or international ∗

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chance to make the transition from war to peace through a dialogued manner. Recent research on peace processes points to the fact that peace processes, and specifically, peace talks, seem to be the most frequent way for ending armed conflicts 4 (Fisas, 2008: 11), affirmation that can be backed by the fact that in three out of four armed conflicts there have been negotiation attempts by the warring parties (Escola de Cultura de Pau, 2008). Although peace processes are not always successful in putting an end to violence, they allow, at a minimum, certain glimpses of hope to be maintained, and keep the door open for possible negotiated ends to the violence. In fact, over the last few years, peace negotiations have ended some of the deadliest armed conflicts that have occurred, examples including Côte d’Ivoire, the southern region of Sudan and the Aceh region of Indonesia. Approaching the issue of peace processes from a gender perspective5 reveals that although armed conflicts are deeply gendered realities, peace processes tend to be presented as genderneutral ones, as if in the process of ending violence and transforming societies patriarchal power structures did not have a role. Feminist analysis, however, shows that peace processes are as gendered as armed conflicts, and therefore the gender dynamics that develop around them must be analysed if the aim of building more just and equitable societies is to remain a central one. With the exceptional case of women occupying high positions in government, peace processes and negotiations in armed conflicts and violent socio-political situations traditionally still suffer from a patriarchal vision that has left out the experience and knowledge of women. Even in these cases where have been elected or appointed to high positions, gender agendas have not necessarily been brought to the peace table, as not every women in politics develops gender consciousness. This has occurred despite the key contributions of women in the building of peace and in the many cases where their presence becomes a guarantee for the sustainability of agreements and peace processes. policies of an individual government, which in either case gives rise to a struggle to accede to or erode power; or control over resources or land (Escola de Cultura de Pau, 2008:19). 4 Around 92% of the armed conflicts that have ended in the last 15 years have finished through a negotiation (Fisas, 2008:11). 5 Gender refers to the “social attributes and opportunities associated with being male and female and the relationships between women and men and girls and boys, as well as the relations between women and those between men. These attributes, opportunities and relationships are socially constructed and are learned through socialization processes. They are context and time-specific and changeable. Gender determines what is expected, allowed and valued in a woman or a man in a given context. In most societies there are differences and inequalities between women and men in responsibilities assigned, activities undertaken, access to and control over resources, as well as decision-making opportunities. Gender is part of the broader socio-cultural context. Other important criteria for socio-cultural analysis include class, race, poverty level, ethnic group and age” (Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, 2007). 2


Peace processes, gendered processes María Villellas Ariño

On 2000, the UN Security Council passed the 1325 resolution on women, peace and security, that mandated the inclusion of women in all the stages of decision making in peace processes, and that acknowledged the critical role played by women in peacebuilding. 6 Since its approval, this issue has gained more attention in academic and practitioner circles, but the road ahead is still a long one. UNSC resolution 1325 was the result of a process led by women coming from civil society organizations that had the support from men and women at the UN and other international organizations. Since then it has been used as an advocacy tool for the promotion of a greater presence of women not only in peace talks, but in all the stages that conform a peace process. This paper argues that peaces processes, both at the moment of gathering the peace table and also as long term processes, are gendered processes that can perpetuate discriminatory societies by failing to address one of the key dimensions of social discrimination –the exclusion of women– at a critical moment in which structural transformations can be more easily promoted. Despite the open question of how to engender peace processes in order to put an end to discriminatory practices, the participation of women –especially, but not only, when they are gender aware– seems to be a contributing factor to more inclusive agreements and post-war rehabilitation processes. Women’s inclusion and peace agendas drafted from a gender perspective should be considered a way of promoting peace processes that could contribute to end patriarchal discrimination and that could, therefore, promote equity and inclusion. This paper wants be a contribution to the existent literature on gender and peace processes by addressing two main topics: the gendered impact of armed conflicts and the gendered nature of peace processes. Regarding the impact of armed conflict on women, it must be highlighted that both the exclusion of women from peace processes and the importance of their participation derive from the gendered nature of armed conflicts, which have different impacts on women and men and shape particular peace processes. In the second place, the issue of peace processes, which constitutes the core of this paper, is discussed more extensively, andis divided in different sections. In the first one, women’s experiences in dialogue are analysed, as women’s sound background in informal dialogue has been central to peacebuilding at the grassroots level. The second one refers to the main obstacles that women have to face to participate in peace talks. In the third place, the implications of the participation of women in peace processes ars addressed, with the aim of analyzing what happens when women have the opportunity to be 6

The complete text of UNSC resolution 1325 can be accessed at http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N00/720/18/PDF/N0072018.pdf?OpenElement 3


Peace processes, gendered processes María Villellas Ariño

present at the peace table. The fourth section tackles the different modalities of those processes in which women have had the chance to take part, pointing also to the main risks that should be taken into account in order to design ‘gender-friendly’ peace processes. In the fifth place, peace agreements that have been signed since the approval of UNSC 1325 on 2000 are analysed in order to point whether the gender perspective has been included, as this UN resolution mandates.

2. The Impact of Armed Conflict on Women The importance of women participation in a peace process does not only derive from a question of justice, that is, from the idea that merely by the fact of being citizens of a particular society they should have the right to take part in one way or another in all political and social processes of change in that society. The participation of women in peace processes and in negotiations attempting to end armed conflicts is crucial taking into account the particular characteristics of these conflicts and especially the specific impacts that they have on women, and consequently, on the people that they usually have to care for, particularly children and the elderly. Contexts of armed conflict are profoundly influenced by the gender structures present in any society. Gender divisions are usually exacerbated during armed conflicts. Ideologies legitimising the sexual division of labour in order to reinforce traditional roles for the tasks assigned to men and women are perfectly defined. However, the reality is quite more complex, and the social breakdown which usually accompanies armed conflicts means that social roles are interchangeable and changeable. It would therefore appear that in the analysis of armed conflicts and their consequences, it is important to adopt the gender perspective as a methodological tool in order not to render an important part of these consequences invisible. Armed conflicts affect entire populations. Violence has direct and indirect consequences in the short, medium and long term which lead to very profound social transformations and form part of collective thought and behaviour in the places affected by the violence. Armed conflicts undoubtedly affect the population as a whole that suffer from them. However, the patriarchal structures that organize the majority of societies, the different positions that men and women occupy in them, the roles that they play or their ability to access certain resources, influence the way in which armed conflicts affect one another. Since most combatants continue to be men, the direct effect of armed confrontation, in terms of deaths and injuries in war, falls primarily on men. 4


Peace processes, gendered processes María Villellas Ariño

Nevertheless, women are the primary recipients of the indirect consequences of these confrontations although, they also suffer direct ones, mainly concerning sexual violence as deliberate strategies of war by the combatants themselves.7 Among the indirect effects are the consequences that arise from the destruction of cropland or restricted access to certain goods and services such as public health, infrastructure and food. Given the fact that in the course of the armed conflicts women often become the means of holding communities and families together and provide for the basic needs of those in their care, the effects of disturbing vital sectors such as agriculture and healthcare fall mainly on women.

3. Peace processes, gendered processes Peace processes represent unique opportunities for those societies that have been affected by armed conflicts, not only to put an end to direct violence, but also, to act as the starting point for deeper transformative processes. In this sense, peace processes can be exceptional scenarios for the transformation of the structural causes that led to the armed conflict and for the designing of policies aimed at addressing issues such as exclusion, poverty or democratization. In spite of the fact that these processes are deeply gendered, they tend to be represented as gender-neutral, hiding the gender dynamics that take place during their course. These dynamics emanate directly form the features that characterise contemporary armed conflicts, in which gender ideologies play a fundamental role, both in the genesis and the development of wars. Sanam Anderlini points to the necessity of considering women’s right to participate in peace processes as a given, indicating three reasons: “First, supporting women’s full and active participation in decisionmaking, particularly in countries emerging from armed conflict, is a key indicator of a shift away from the status quo that, in many instances, catalyzed the conflict. Second, as 50 percent or more of the population, women are an important resource. Overlooking their capacities and commitment to peacebuilding is an indication of bad planning. Third, respect for and promotion of women’s rights are mandated by

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The case of sexual violence as tool of war, for example, has a direct effect on women since its use obeys to pre-meditated objectives of the armed parties. Through women’s bodies they try to humiliate an entire community as well as cause irreparable damage to those who are usually the primary supporters of the social and familial fabric and upon whom falls the maintenance of the minimal conditions of welfare for the population in times of armed conflict. 5


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international law. The problem is implementation of political will, and the lack thereof.” (Anderlini, 2007: 4) Nevertheless, the presence of women in negotiation processes has been quite scarce, virtually nonexistent. A preliminary study made by the School for a Culture of Peace on 33 negotiations undertaken in the past few years which comprise armed groups present in 20 countries, shows that of the 280 people who have intervened in them, only 11 were women, meaning 4% of the total. This percentage is somewhat higher on governmental negotiation teams (7%), especially due to the high percentage of women within the Philippine government’s negotiation teams. The presence of women in armed groups (0.3%) and on the facilitating teams (1.7%) is virtually non-existent (Fisas, 2008: 20). This is not to say that women’s presence per se is a guarantee that peace processes will be conducted in a different manner, but for the moment, women have been the main advocates of gender equality, and it has been through their demands, that gender issues have been included in the agendas. 3.1. Women’s experiences in dialogue As it has been stated, the absence of women in formal peace talks is notorious. Nevertheless, women have been soundly implicated in the cause of peace all over the world, and women’s movements have been critical in promoting a dialogued solution for many armed conflicts. Women in Sierra Leone, Colombia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Northern Ireland, Uganda, Somalia, Cyprus and many other places have been advocating for the end of the conflicts that affected their countries and made contributions that were significant and valuable in those contexts that began the transition from war to peace. Acknowledging these contributions and experiences in the field of peacebuilding –specially at the community and grassroots level– and taking into

account the role played by many women during armed conflicts, provides a

different perspective when approaching the issue of peace processes. How to transfer them into the peace table and the peace agreements remains a critical issue, as the cross community dialogue at the grassroots level, their peace initiatives and their first hand knowledge of the war impact and social post-war needs can provide with many valuable insights that should not be ignored by those in power positions. It is often argued that the absence of women in peace talks obeys to their lack of experience in the conflict-resolution field. The reality seems to be quite different, and all over the world women are practicing dialogue on a everyday basis, perhaps not in a sophisticated or formal manner, but surely, in a closer way to people’s reality on the ground.

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Women have been capable of building bridges of dialogue and empathy in polarized societies that go beyond the reasons for the armed confrontation and the deep rooted hatred and polarization, seeking points and positions in common from which to initiate a rapprochement and the search for new ways of living together. These coalitions can be found in contexts such as the Balkans, Israel and Palestine, Cyprus or Northern Ireland. These alliances established between women have empowered them to transcended core political, ethnic, or religious divisions. This constitutes a palpable demonstration that coexistence, reconciliation and dialogue are possible from recognizing the other as a legitimate interlocutor with whom common ground can be found. At times, however, women that have dared to cross the border and have dialogue with other women have been labeled as traitors to their community, homeland or identity. The most clear example of this can be perhaps found in the case of Serbian women that refused to take part in what Cockburn calls the ‘othering’ (2007: 79): “the project of the women living in Yugoslav space has been to hold together in the face of a violent late-twentieth-century movement differentiating ‘Serbs’, ‘Croats’ and ‘Muslims’ ”. Women, from their identity as such, and their own socio-symbolic order (from which it is feasible to transcend determined social divisions) have demonstrated that the building of emotional bonds and identification with women on the other side of the battle line is possible. Armed conflict contexts, specially those that have developed around social polarization and division, have been paradoxically particularly fertile scenarios for the upsurge of women groups that have worked and develop cross-community initiatives. It is well known that contemporary armed conflicts have an overwhelming impact in the lives of women and that some strategies as the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war are specially focused on harming women. It is therefore understandable that those that have suffered in a similar way the impact of violence are capable of identifying themselves more easily with the suffering of other victims without taking into account their community, ethnic, religious or political affiliations. These issues can become a secondary issue in these cases. Moreover, paradoxically, the invisibility that often characterises women movements has been quite useful as it has allowed rapprochements that would not have been that easy for their men colleagues. This is the case of women in the Basque country, where 200 women from all the political parties (except for the PP) came together to create a movement named Ahotsak (Voices, in Basque language), an expression of the willingness of all those involved to seek a negotiated way out of the conflict. Inspired by similar initiatives in other parts of the world that have

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endured conflict, this forum of women from different and even opposed political spaces and national identities broadened to include women from the trade unions and feminist movements and brought together as many as 2,000 women in public meetings. They specifically argue for dialogue without pre-conditions or exclusions, supporting a search for points of common agreement between the different political and social positions found in the Basque Country, and recognition of all sides. These are key points if a peace process is to move forwards and avoid becoming stalled in the differences that inevitably emerge in any negotiating process. Since its creation in April 2006, many women from both Basque Country and other parts of Spain adhered to this initiative, the origins of which can be traced back over a number of years. What other examples can we find of these alliances? Israeli and Palestinian women have worked together since the 80s. At that time, some Israeli women began public demonstrations with the aim of reporting the occupation of the Palestinian territories by its own government. Palestinian women living in Israel joined these protests. In Northern Ireland, catholic and protestant women created a political party, Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition (NIWC) that allowed them to participate in the peace talks. While the negotiations took place, the coalition worked hard to guarantee that at the table there were always present both republican and unionist women. They also promoted that the final peace agreement was the most inclusive possible one. In Sri Lanka, Tamil and Sinhalese women that participated in the gender subcommittee established during the peace talks in 2003 were capable of elaborating a common agenda that served as a base for the dialogue. This agenda had as a starting point the recognition of the devastating effects that the armed conflict had had on women’s lives from both sides. Other cases include the Somali women that created a clan integrated by women that belonged to the different clans that exist in the country. The aim was to take part in the peace talks that were taking place with the participation of only men leaders of those confronted clans. This mobilization led to the creation of the “sixth clan” and encouraged many women to affirm that they only belonged to the women’s clan (Anderson, 2005). And in Kosovo and Serbia, as another example, Serbian women peace activists from Women in Black and the Kosova Women Network (a women network comprising 80 organizations throughout Kosovo) created the Women Peace Coalition. It is a civic movement founded on women’s solidarity across ethnic and religious lines, and worked to promote the participation of women in Kosovo’s peace process, including the status negotiations (Villellas and Redondo, 2008).

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Transversal politics8 practices developed by many women organizations in contexts of serious social polarization imply in many cases swimming against the tide of the mainstream discourses promoted in many cases by the governing institutions. Armed violence inevitably accentuates social divisions and increases the rigidity of the parties’ positions in relation to the conflict. These difficulties are not alien to women movements that arise in this kind of contexts. The impossibility of creating a sustainable project by the NIWC or the enormous obstacles faced by the Cypriot women that integrate Hands Across the Divide9 to have an impact in the formal political circles of Cyprus are two examples of this reality. Nevertheless the mere existence of these groups serves to raise questions about the polarization as the unique possible scenario in these contexts and to delegitimize the patriarchal order that sustains these social divisions. Women from many conflict-affected societies have taken advantage of the particular opportunity that peace processes provide. This is happening regardless of the existence of formal peace talks, and their main aim is the creation of spaces where cross-community dialogue is possible and in which the work is done based in the recognition of common starting points acceptable for everyone without renouncing to one’s identity. Through relationships based on empathy, walls can be trespassed, and empathy is a value with which many women feel quite familiar. Acknowledging oneself in the other women, in spite of the fact that they are meant to be the “enemies”, becomes then an easier task when a common struggle is shared, the struggle against patriarchy and discrimination. This struggle provides a common ground in which other differences can be softened. As Monica McWilliams (member of the NIWC) states, women that have decided to work transcending the divisions have succeeded in creating spaces to work on issues that affect every women without regarding their community background and at the same time have agreed on disagreement about other issues (McWilliams, 1995: 32). Perhaps, assuming the possibility of disagreements is the most important starting point for ending violence and achieving more inclusive peace agreements.

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As Murtagh states, the term transversal politics was “first coined by Nira Yuval-Davis, and used synonymously with coalition and alliance politics, this term refers to the formation of alliances between women of diverse identities and distinct national communities. Cockburn identifies such alliances as based upon common principles and objectives rather than common identity […] The boundaries of these coalitions are therefore established, as Yuval-Davis articulates, “not in terms of ‘who’ are we but in terms of what we want to achieve.” It thus allows women of distinct national communities or contrary political beliefs to wok together for a shared purpose.” (Murtagh, 2007:5) 9 Hands Across the Divide is an organization whose main aim is to incorporate the gender perspective to the analysis of the Cypriot conflict and to the peace process. The organization is integrated by women both from the Greek and the Turkish communities, and defines itself as feminist. 9


Peace processes, gendered processes María Villellas Ariño

In their study of the Kosovo post-war rehabilitation process, Villellas and Redondo (2008: 18) acknowledge that the alliances forged by women in the informal sphere have served as a platform for the advocacy of women’s inclusion in the negotiating process of the final status for the former Serbian province, “Of special importance with regards to this peacebuilding dimension is the constitution of the Women’s Peace Coalition, as a joint platform established in march 2006 by Kosovar and Serbian women peace activists to monitor the status negotiations, to promote the participation of women in them and, more generally, to promote the mainstreaming of gender in the negotiations. It is a partnership promoted by Kosova Women’s Network and the Women in Black. […] Its strategy has been to lobby national and international actors to push for the presence of women in the Kosovar negotiation team”.

3.2. Obstacles to the participation of women in peace processes. The first answer to the question on the main obstacle that women face to participate in peace talks points to the patriarchal framework in which these processes take place since this continues to be the framework in which most societies are structured. However, beyond this general context, what specific aspects continue to make this participation so difficult? In the first place it should be emphasized that among the factors usually alluded to, it can be highlighted the fact that women's access to decision making positions continues to be restricted. The Secretary General of the UN stated this in its report on the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action agreements10 which was written with the purpose of revising the Platform ten years after its passing (Annan, 2004). Since most of the people that participate in peace negotiations come from backgrounds where they have the ability to exercise power and make decisions, the result is the exclusion of women. Sanam Anderlini states that the main reason that explains women’s absence at the peace table is “the paucity of women in leadership positions in political parties, the state, or nonstate groups” (2007:58). Nevertheless, Anderlini points that even in the cases that women have been able to reach these positions, they remain largely excluded from decisionmaking. Other authors refer to the scarcity of women in the field of diplomacy and also among the leadership of irregular armed groups: 10

The Beijing Platform for Action passed during the IV World Women's Conference and brings to fruition the international agreement to reach the goals of women's equality, growth, and peace from all over the World. It was the consolidation of the commitments gained during the United Nation's Decade of the Woman, 1976-1985. The Platform constitutes the international agenda for the empowerment of women.

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“There are a number of explanations for the immense imbalance between women’s visibility and role in virtually the entire cycle [of peace processes] yet their invisibility when in the negotiations. First, careers in diplomacy are still maledominated, although increasingly less so, which would partly explain women’s lower participation on government negotiating teams. As for the armed groups, even though in many of them women account for between 20% and 40% of their members, the power is in the hands of men, and these men are the same ones to sit at the negotiating table.” (Fisas, 2008: 20) Here it is necessary to add that this exclusion does not refer only to the parties directly involved in the conflict but can also refer to the third part of the triangle, the one occupied by people or institutions in their capacity as mediators or facilitators in these processes. In this area, masculinized work has also been discussed. Potter (2005) in her analysis of the profiles of Track One or Official Diplomacy mediators, as well as the characteristics required of these practitioners aimed to find out why these positions are hardly ever occupied by women. She states that there are two basic obstacles 11 that are impeding equitable participation of men and women in the role of mediation: on the one hand, the lack of political will and, on the other hand arguments such as the perception on the part of some mediators that the participation of women occupying this position disproportionately diverts the agenda of the negotiations towards so-called "women's issues". In addition, there are factors such as the difficulty of access to common interests which facilitate the establishment of informal relationships (of enormous importance in the peace process), where participants in the negotiation establish bonds of a personal nature and thus are open to greater trust. All this being in addition to the usual reticence of the warring parties to accept outside intervention and compounded by the fact that the intervention is led by a woman, as according to International Alert (2004), “In maledominated societies where women have not been involved in political affairs, often those who do not enter the space are viewed with scepticism and distrust by other women and men”. Finally it should be also noted that the leadership of some of the armed groups as well as the governments are distrustful of considering women’s participation or including gender issues on the agenda as something relevant or important for the course of the negotiations. Questions 11

The study We the women. Why conflict mediation is not just a job for men shows that despite the difficulties confronting women in achieving positions of responsibility usually occupied by men as mediators in current conflicts, those that manage to do so are able to thanks to their more sophisticated training and technical capabilities. In addition, arguments such as the difficulty in reconciling family life with this type of work would not be valid in this case since the average age of these individuals (from 55 to 75) implies they are not caring for small children (Potter, 2005).

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relative to the emancipation of women have been considered as secondary by many armed groups and always contingent on the attainment of other objectives such as national liberation. Rarely are these issues perceived as a path that can be covered at the same time. In fact, this is a position shared by some women who also give, or have given, preference to goals different from gender equality. Eidta Tahiri 12, the only women involved in the failed negotiations with Serbia that preceded the NATO bombardments, has stated that her role in the Albanian delegation at that time was driven by her Albanian nationalist agenda, and that only later her position became deeply gender-aware. She has also said that her position in a negotiation table would be different now in that regard (Escola de Cultura de Pau, 2008: 140-141) On the side of those that have the decision on who participates and who not, it is often stated that the peace table is not a venue for discussions of gender equality or women’s issues, as the priority should be the end of armed hostilities (Anderlini, 2007: 6; International Alert and Women Waging Peace, 2004). In this sense, the peace table is seldom considered to be the place to address ‘cultural norms’ and it is also argued that promoting the participation of women can alienate some leaders and put the peace process at risk (International Alert and Women Waging Peace, 2004). Nevertheless, as the agreements that result from peace talks are the basis for the future post-war societies, “gender issues” are as important as the alleged gender-neutral territorial and economic issues that are usually tackled if the aim is to build a society that intends to face the underlying causes of armed conflicts. So the challenge lies in the possibility of transferring to all of the parties involved the importance of taking advantage of a key moment such as the peace process in order to encourage room for change that will give way to more equitable structures and relationships. The exclusion from these processes customarily results from previous exclusion from the decision making sphere as well as the institutions that arise from the peace agreements and the consolidation of sexist and discriminatory societies. Women who participate in the negotiations confront a double challenge. The first being the one of participating in the previously established structures whose organization responds to the needs, interests, and way of doing things of those who initiated the peace process. And secondly, the one of transforming these negotiating structures that in all probability were constructed from patriarchal schemes that have not taken into account how difficult it is for 12

Edita Tahiri, was the Foreign Minister of the alternative Kosovan political institutions between 1991 and 2000, and the special representative of the Kosovan leader Ibrahim Rugova between 1998 and 2000. 12


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many women to participate in the negotiations. These can come from various sources. The lack of participation can be due to the direct exclusion of women but also it can result from other causes, such as the lack of available economic resources or other issues such as the difficulty of reconciling family life and the responsibilities of private and domestic life with active participation in the political sphere. As Bell points out, “to impact on the negotiation process, and on the resulting peace agreement and its implementation, women must simultaneously find ways of accessing the process as conceived of without them, while reframing the issues that are at the heart of the process” (Bell, 2004: 99). It has to be said also that sometimes women decide to remain in the informal sphere in spite of their success in raising public awareness and support, and therefore they do not focus their efforts on attaining representation at peace talks (Anderlini, 2007). 3.3. What are the Implications of Women’s Participation in the Peace Process? Having analyzed the obstacles which women must face in order to become active leading agents in peace negotiations it is necessary to answer the question: what can the participation of women bring to the peace process? Often, and with the intention of justifying the exclusion of women from these processes, the fact is put forward that men and women do not have any reason to act differently in the course of these peace negotiations, so that there is no reason for their presence leading to a different outcome. Furthermore, it is often argued that women who have the chance to intervene are not necessarily representative of the rest of the women in their societies. It can be added that these questions are never made in the other direction, are men negotiating peace representative of their fellow men? What would happen if there were no men at the peace table? As has been previously noted, in many societies affected by armed conflicts women are an important driving force behind a number of everyday initiatives of mediation and peace building, especially in deeply divided societies. This heritage that women have accumulated throughout history and through their everyday activities constitutes a highly valuable contribution to peace building that, unfortunately, in most occasions, remains hidden and undervalued. If women’s mediation activities played a major role in the development of the peace negotiations and bringing together parties in conflict, perhaps some of the difficulties faced by those involved in conflict resolution at the peace table (distrust, lack of empathy, disdain for the enemy, preventing their acceptance as a partner in dialogue, among others), would be more easily overcome. Rethinking how to incorporate this knowledge that leaves

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behind flawed dynamics and insurmountable obstacles represents a challenge that must be confronted if new avenues and tools are to be explored for ending armed violence. Incorporating the gender perspective in the mediation process of armed conflicts not only represents women’s greater participation but the incorporation of a whole series of values that, fortunately and despite all, have remained sheltered from patriarchal societies and its fascination for violence. This implies confronting the process that leads to the signing of peace accords not only from a new view and methodology, but incorporating issues in the negotiations that are perhaps not on the agenda of higher policy, but that form part of the daily life of the entire population that is affected by the armed conflict. Gender aware women are used to adopt a more inclusive focus with respect to security and to tackle key social and economic issues for the population affected by the conflict, so the participation of women can mean the inclusion of these issues in the discussions, that can be ignored if not included by them (International Crisis Group, 2006). In addition, most women that come to participate in the peace process have very different backgrounds and expertise from men, who whether members of the government or the opposition, generally come from the political or military sphere. Women usually have activist backgrounds in civilian society and often have experienced in first hand the consequences of the armed conflict (Anderlini, 2000). And yet, when the peace agreements are signed without their participation they must face the consequences of decisions that have been made that do not take into account their experiences and opinions. As Hanan Ashrawi, who was spokesperson for the Palestinian National Authority from 1991 to 1994, stated “Women come face to face with the realities that are created by decisions made at the peace table. […] They bear the brunt, they pay the price, they don't always reap the rewards. The rewards are for the men; the consequences are for the women” (Anderlini, 2000: 34) But when women have the opportunity to contribute, the chances that the agreements and supporting documents will be designed to achieve more equality and a less discriminatory and more inclusive society are much greater. This does not mean that the mere presence of women at the peace table is going to result in this, but indeed it is more likely that a perspective aimed at the transformation of a patriarchal society into another without these rigid values will be adopted. Perhaps one of the main contributions made by women the negotiations will be the vision of what peace and conflict are, as noted by Sanam N. Anderlin:

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“Given the stark realties faced by many women caught in the midst of the conflict, it is not surprising that women tend to articulate peace in terms of meeting basic security needs. Their vision may be based on a vision of the political, economic, personal, community, food, health and environmental issues that arise in their daily life experiences.” (Anderlini, 2000: 33)

3.4. Modalities for the inclusion of ‘gender friendly’ measures in peace processes. The participation of women in peace negotiations in the scarce number of peace processes that have been opened to their presence, is taking place in two basic ways. On one hand, they participate as members of the delegations of the negotiations in apparent equality with their male counterparts. That is, women that are involved do so as another member of the negotiating team. They often participate alone, in other words, there tends to be only one woman per delegation and often she is the only one woman in the whole negotiations. Some women that have been involved in these types of experiences talk about the difficulties they have undergone in order to speak and give their opinions. They talk about the extra effort entailed to be able to show that they are on the same level as their male counterparts. As occurs in other areas, women that participate in basically male oriented surroundings must prove their capabilities in order to deserve consideration and recognition since it is not taken for granted that they will be capable of carrying out their responsibilities and obligations in the same way as men. This is confirmed, for example, by Luz Méndezwho was the only woman that participated in the peace negotiations that ended the armed conflict in Guatemala in 1996 and formed part of the negotiating team of the then armed opposition group URNG.13 Nevertheless another possible scenario is that one of women being able to have a parallel table to the central negotiating one. The example that best illustrates this type of experience is that of the peace negotiations in Sri Lanka. In December 2002, within the framework of negotiations that were trying to end an armed conflict that had started in 1983, the creation of a table incorporating women in the peace negotiations was agreed to during the third meeting between the Government of Sri Lanka and the armed opposition group LTTE. Until then, in clear contradiction with UN Security Council Resolution 1325 approved two years earlier, women had not been participating in the conversations. The gender subcommittee (as the members called it) that began to work in March 2003 was formed by five women of the Government and 13

Speech by Luz Méndez in the symposium “Las Mediaciones Femeninas, una práctica de paz”, organized in April 2005 in Barcelona by the Institut Català de les Dones.

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five by the LTTE and facilitated by an advisor of the Norwegian Government, A. N. Heiberg, former President of the International Federation of the Red Cross. The committee decided that the subjects that would form part of its agenda would be the following: socio-economic development, political participation, reintegration, reconciliation, health and education. In addition, the subcommittee had to form guidelines for the incorporation of the gender perspective at the different negotiating tables and subcommittees established within the framework of the official process. Nevertheless, the breakdown of official peace negotiations impeded the gender subcommittee (organically linked to them) from continuing its work. They may have been able to continue their work had there not been a direct dependence on the official peace process. The Tamil and Sinhalese women had been able to devise a common agenda on what to discuss, established their own priorities, and with a common point of departure: the recognition of the devastating effects that the conflict had on the lives of women. Perhaps a space less tied to the official negotiations between the Government and LTTE would have allowed the women to continue with their own process of negotiations. The creation of parallel and unique women’s peace tables can be a successful formula for giving a voice to women that otherwise would be excluded. It addition it can create a climate of confidence in which women can express their opinions without being uncomfortable or inhibited by the presence of men. Nevertheless, it is necessary that these spaces be given authority and that they enjoy recognition by the part of those constituting the central core of the negotiations. Nevertheless, there is a risk that the setting up of gender committees or women’s committees will be a mere cosmetic treatment to only give the impression that a peace negotiation incorporates the gender perspective and women's opinions but which in fact is not doing so. The answer to the question on the best formula for guaranteeing the participation of women has not a clear answer. The creation of subcommittees parallel to those in which decisions are made is an important step, specially if the prior situation is one of complete absence of women. Nevertheless, advocacy efforts for an equal inclusion of women must persist and should be backed by an international community that has expressed, at least formally, its commitment with gender equality through UNSC resolution 1325 and other documents.

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3.5. Peace agreements from a gender perspective. At the end of 2007, the School for a Culture of Peace elaborated a preliminary analysis of peace agreements signed between 31st December 2004 and 31st December 2007 and the ceasefire agreement signed in 2002 in Sri Lanka14. This study was published in the Peace Processes Yearbook 2008. The aim of the research was to analyze whether the gender perspective had been included in the peace agreements signed after 2000, as set forth in the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1325. By analysing the content of the peace agreements signed since 2004, several conclusions were pointed about the role that the gender perspective is playing in today’s peace processes as a working tool and a political practice. First of all, it should be pointed out the absence of this perspective in most of the agreements analysed. The gender dimension is utterly absent in the agreements signed in Sri Lanka, Aceh (Indonesia), Chad (in both the 2006 and 2007 agreements) and the Ivory Coast. It is true that the lack of explicit content on gender matters does not necessarily imply that the implementation of an agreement is exclusive and that discriminatory practices persist in the post-war society; however, in practice the risk of this happening is quite high. Transforming excluding patriarchal structures is a vastly complex process that requires specific instruments and policies, in addition to the commitments signed by the governments and the social stakeholders. Hence, the importance of ensuring that this issue is explicitly included in the peace agreements. Secondly, there is indeed a significant number of agreements signed in which some references to gender are explicitly mentioned. These include the agreements in Sudan (South), Burundi (FNL), Sudan (East), Sudan (Darfur) and Nepal. The issues dealt within these agreements are quite diverse, but some of the most often recurring themes are about undertaking DDR processes that include the gender perspective (South Sudan, Burundi and Sudan-Darfur), drafting policies or institutional reforms aimed at ensuring women’s rights (East Sudan, SudanDarfur and Nepal); and including the end of the use of sexual violence as part of the ceasefire

14

The list of agreements that were analyzed includes the Agreement on a ceasefire between the Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and the LTTE; Agreement on permanent ceasefire and security arrangements implementation modalities during the pre-interim and the interim periods between the GOS and the SPLM/SPLA in Sudan (South); Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Republic of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement; Comprehensive ceasefire agreement between the Government of the Republic of Burundi and the PALIPEHUTU-FNL; Accord de paix entre la Republique du Tchad et le Front Uni pour le Changement Démocratique (FUC); Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement Sudan; Darfur Peace Agreement; Comprehensive Peace Agreement between Government of Nepal and Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist); Accord Politique de Ouagadougou (Côte d’Ivoire peace agreement); and the agreement signed in Chad in 2007. 17


Peace processes, gendered processes María Villellas Ariño

declarations (Burundi and Sudan-Darfur). With regard to the latter issue, it is worth highlighting that sexual violence has been mentioned as one of the war actions included in the contents of the ceasefire, as this implies formal recognition that it has been used as a weapon of warfare. The issues included in these agreements are major ones, given that they refer to some of the cornerstones of post-war reconciliation, such as institutional reforms and the realm of security. Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that the gender perspective in the peace agreements analysed does not appear transversally, that is, it does not permeate the entire content of the agreement, rather it is mentioned on its own via specific issues that mainly have to do with the status of women. Thus, it should also be noted that they are not, strictly speaking, agreements drafted following the gender perspective, rather they include occasional issues either on the effects of armed conflicts on women or on the guarantee of women’s rights in the post-war phase. Thus, it cannot be stated that these agreements contain the desire to deeply transform gender relationships in the post-war society, although the fact that certain issues are included (even if occasionally) is worth mentioning as it entails a prime point of departure towards this direction. Thus, there is still a long road ahead until implementation of Resolution 1325 is fully achieved in the realm of peace processes and in the agreements resulting from these processes, and for the foundations to be laid to ensure that the post-war rehabilitation processes are designed bearing in mind the gender perspective, so present in the course of the contemporary armed conflicts. Peace processes and peace agreements should be regarded as key instruments for promoting gender equality, which would unquestionably contribute to their sustainability over time, as the United Nations itself has acknowledged.

4. Conclusions. The privileged link between women and peace has been extensively addressed in the feminist peace and conflict literature. One widely extended vision has tended to present women throughout history as naturally peaceful and this argument has been often referred when advocating for a bigger presence of women in peace processes and other ambits of decisionmaking. Nevertheless, this paper has avoided an essencialist approach and has tried to acknowledge the contributions that women have made through a gender perspective, highlighting that although women have made important steps, their presence in peace processes does not guarantee that those would be ‘gender-friendly’ ones. 18


Peace processes, gendered processes María Villellas Ariño

A first reflection argued in this paper is that it is the very nature of armed conflicts that calls for the participation of women in their resolution. Armed conflicts generate deeply gendered impacts and therefore there is a need for peace processes to take into account this reality if they are to be sustainable in time and aimed at addressing the causes and the consequences of the violence. Nevertheless, the reality shows that peace processes are exclusive and quite often discriminatory for women, as most peace agreements that result from these negotiations do not take into account women’s needs, priorities and proposals. But in order to have a complete picture of the reality, it should be pointed out that women have a wide experience in the field of negotiations, specially in cross-community dialogue, an experience insufficiently valued. This knowledge and expertise could provide peace practitioners and mediators with highly valuable tools that could serve to open new paths and opportunities to peace processes. In any case, it should be taken into account that discriminatory practices are forbidden by international law, and that the international community has provided itself with tools such as UNSC resolution 1325 that mandates the inclusion of both women and the gender perspective in peace processes. When women have had the chance to take part at the peace table, some of them –mostly those who are gender aware– have brought different insights of what peace and security are, insights that refer to conceptions and visions more connected with the day-to-day reality of civilians that suffer from armed conflicts. Nevertheless, there is a long way ahead until peace agreements, as one of the main results of peace processes, and more specifically of peace talks, integrate a gender perspective and do so in a comprehensive and holistic manner. Understanding that the participation of women can be one of the ways to achieve sustainable peace agreements with greater guarantees of not returning to armed violence must be the first step in the transformation of societies marked by violence. To rebuild from this new inclusive and non–patriarchal view must be the goal.

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Peace Processes, Gendered Processes  

Peace processes, gendered processes María Villellas Ariño Abstract María Villellas Ariño ∗ 1 Peace processes, gendered processes María Ville...