Afghan Women's Network
AWN

Afghan Women's Network

Policy Brief: Why women as peace negotiators/ peace builder?

Introduction

Women ‘wage conflict nonviolently’ by pursuing democracy and human rights.  As peacekeepers and relief aid workers, women contribute to “reducing direct violence.” As mediators, trauma healing counselors, and policymakers, women work to “transform relationships” and address the roots of violence.  As educators and participants in the development process, women contribute to “building the capacity” of their communities and nations to prevent violent conflict. Socialization processes and the historical experience of unequal relations contribute to the unique insights and values that women bring to the process of peace building.  Research indicates that Afghan women score high on conceptual skills that include the ability to analyze a situation and distinguish cause and effect. This skill set is required for the planning, organization, and long-term vision needed by senior level managers. The study concluded that Afghan women bring diverse views and perspectives with an orientation toward top management positions[1].

Afghan Women’s Network would like to mark “International Peace Day” with a strong message on inclusion and role of Afghan women as peace builders/ peace negotiators. Despite of the fact that women have struggled over years for their inclusion and impactful representation, they yet remain underrepresented. Through this Policy Brief, AWN would like to highlight the findings of desk review on examples of women peace builders internationally. AWN also will share the outcome of it is round table discussions with over 50 women from Kabul and provinces on “why women as peace negotiators/ peace builders”. As set of key solutions, AWN is proposing Five Strategies for women’s inclusion in peace negotiations in this brief.

Women and Peace Negotiations: A long history of exclusion

In spite of the fact that equality between women and men is guaranteed in Afghanistan Constitution, the country launched it is first National Action Plan on Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, the obligations and remarks the National Unity Government (NUG) have made during national and international Afghanistan related events, the most striking features of past as well as current peace discussion in Afghanistan is the inequality, characterized by over representation of men and the almost total absence of women.

There is very limited data accessible to measure the progress of the contribution of High Peace Council and Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Process. There are also no concrete examples and lessons learned to find out how women in High Peace Council (HPC) and Provincial Peace Councils (PPC) are contributing and raising women’s needs. It is also believed that women in HPC and PPCs hardly have negotiations, consultation, information sharing and lobbying skills to push and continue their representations.

Even where policies explicitly call for more equal representation, underlying attitudes toward women prevent implementation of the policies, and rhetoric remains removed from reality. On 7 July 2015, an official delegate of National Unity Government met Taliban in Pakistan which was called the first formal peace negotiation. There were seven men delegate members introduced by NUG. No women members from HPC, PPCs and women leaders were invited.[2]

The security situation unfortunately is deteriorating in Afghanistan. Years 2014 and 2015 to date are considered deadliest years for the people of Afghanistan. In 2014, UNAMA recorded the highest number of women’s deaths and injuries from conflict-related violence since 2009, when UNAMA began systematically documenting civilian casualties. Five hundred and fifty-six (556) incidents were recorded which caused 909 women casualties (298 deaths and 611 injured), a 21 per cent increase from 2013[3]. Similarly UNAMA Mid Year Report on Protection of Civilian in Armed Conflict has documented 23 per cent increase in women casualties (559 women casualties, comprising 164 deaths and 395 injuries)[4].

Afghan women remain victims of insecurity, more vulnerable and less supported due to the fact that NUG hardly consult them for their needs, the challenges they face and their contribution to   directly or indirectly address increased insecurity and culture of extremism. After Shah Shahid shocking attack that resulted in killings and injuries of over 450 civilians, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani had number of consultations and discussion on stand of NUG however women were hugely absent from these important discussions[5].

Lessons Learned: Women Impact on Peace Process

In a male dominant and culturally diverse country like Afghanistan, lobbying and pursuing for women’s meaningful participation in the peace process, it is perceived as a miracle and impossible step. There are local and international examples of formal and informal mediation, peace building and peace negotiation roles women have played. AWN would like to share number of these examples and call on NUG and it is international allies to reconsider their strategy towards peace process in Afghanistan.

  1. A woman peace builder, not member of provincial peace council in Wardak voluntarily supports local peace building. When in this province, two girls schools were closed down by insurgents, she and other local women reached out to insurgents and demanded the re-opening of these schools. While women members of HPC and PPC in formal structures hardly find ways for consultations and informal negotiations, women outside these structures are practicing this on daily basis.[6]
  2. Another woman, hardly educated in Nimroz province, continuously follow up the security situation of the province, identify the insurgents and try to meet them and negotiate for a peaceful environment in the province.[7]  
  3. In the Republic of Guatemala, women significantly influenced the talks that led to the 1996 peace accord, in spite of the fact that only two women were included in the negotiating teams of the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity and the Government of Guatemala. Civil society participation, including by women’s groups, was strongly supported by the United Nations and the Group of Friends that sponsored the talks. Jean Arnault, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Guatemala and mediator of the negotiations, endorsed the formal tabling of women’s concerns and recommendations for the parties’ consideration. Despite the underrepresentation of women at the peace table, the agreement contained a number of important provisions regarding gender equality[8].
  4. In Liberia, a delegation of eight women from the Liberia chapter of the Mano River Women’s Peace Network, led by Ruth Sando Perry and Theresa Leigh-Sherman, participated in the peace talks in 2003 as official observers without the power to speak or vote. At a later stage, in Accra, Ghana, the Liberian Women in Peace building Program (WIPNET) was also granted observer status, but they had a greater impact as agitators for peace, both during many months of restless social mobilization, sit-ins, vigils and demonstrations, and by physically impeding the delegates from leaving the site of the talks without signing the peace agreement[9]

Key Solutions: Five Strategies for Women Inclusion in Peace Negotiations

Afghan Women’s Network calls on NUG and International Community for a thorough review of current formal structures addressing peace, evaluate the performance of the current members of HPC and PPCs both men and women, bring necessary changes to the structure and members of these formal structures to make the process transparent, inclusive and gender balanced. In order to increase women peace negotiators, expand consultation and information sharing and include women as equally as men in discussions and decisions relevant to peace, AWN would like to propose five strategies for women inclusion in peace negotiations. These include:

  1. Direct participation at the negotiation table

It’s time for commitments to be actualized and for words on paper and in speeches to be turned into action. We would like to discourage the culture of tokenism, nepotism, or elitism. We call on NUG to select female participants in the upcoming peace negotiations on the basis of their knowledge of the issues, their speaking skills, and their decision-making, negotiation, mediation, and consensus building skills. 33 percent of the peace negotiators should be women. We call on NUG to consider working closely with Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Afghanistan independent Human Rights Commission, women leaders, and women focused organizations in identifying experienced and skilled women in the field of women, peace and security to form a shadow negotiators roster of women peace builders for easy engagement of women in peace negotiations. 

2.  Observer status

Broadening participation in peace negotiations through observer status can allow women to

Influence the negotiating parties through a more informal mechanism. It also creates a mechanism for selected groups to communicate information about the process to a wider audience. In the next peace negotiations NUG should also guarantee women observer role for women leaders outside formal structures, for inclusiveness and transparency of the process. International community should support this action as women’s finding could help them in underlining the gaps and challenges that might put women’s rights into challenge.  

 

      3. Consultations

To make the peace process people led and inclusive, to enable an acceptable environment for women as 50% population of Afghanistan[10], NUG needs to establish a consultation mechanism with a sustainable implementation plan. The consultation can be in the form of a peace forum, people dialogue and women’s voices where the peace process is discussed at the grass root level, the root causes of extremism is identified by communities and women particularly are encouraged to join local efforts to access insurgents and their families and negotiate for peace locally.[11]

 

       4. Problem-solving workshops

The women should be armed with relevant facts, figures, statistics and examples etc. to back up their arguments. The women will have well developed conceptual skills that strengthen their ability to distinguish cause and effect. Problem solving, skills building workshops and exchange sessions for women peace negotiators outside HPC and PPC should be funded and supported by International Community.  Once women peace negotiators are identified, ongoing mentorship and technical support by international organizations and donors particularly the UN Women as part of their mandate should be designed and supported.

 

      5.  Mass action

Women representatives from any sector, group and community should mobilize themselves and join inclusive actions related to peace negotiations where women peace negotiators are missing or need support. Women led CSOs should design campaign and awareness raising sessions for women at the grass root level. Women organizations and movement is encouraged to develop a long term implementation plan, design campaigns to address peace and reach out to women members of HPC and PPC to assess their contribution and jointly take necessary actions where need be. Women organizations are also encouraged to use all means of media (TV, Radio, Facebook, and Twitter, Online petitions) to speak out about women’s role as peace builders, the need for women’s representation and the impact.[12]

 

 

 

 


[1] Kaifi, B. A., & Mujtaba, B. G. (2011). Eastern Indian and Afghan women in management: A quantitative inquiry on their leadership proficiencies and propensities. International Journal of Business and Management, 6(3), 3-11.

 

[3]U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict 2014 Annual Report, 2014 https://publicintelligence.net/unama-civilian-casualties-2014/

[6] AWN Round Table, 7 September 2015

[7] Ibid 6

[8] Strategies for Policy Makers: Bringing Women into Peace Negotation, 2009, http://www.inclusivesecurity.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Negotiations_FINAL.pdf

[9] UN Women, Women’s Participation in Peace Negotiations: Connections between Presence and Influence, 2010, http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/03AWomenPeaceNeg.pdf

[11] AWN Round Table, 7 September 2015

[12] AWN Round Table, 7 September 2015