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An International Peace Institute study of 182 signed peace agreements between 1989 and 2011 found that when women are included in peace processes, there is a 35 percent increase in the probability that a peace agreement will last 15 years or more.
Evidence indicates that women participants in peace processes are usually focused less on the spoils of the war and more on reconciliation, economic development, education and transitional justice – all critical elements of a sustained peace.
The inclusion of women can and must take many forms, especially in the effort to address rising global violent conflict that since the end of the Cold War has occurred within states, with armed insurgencies or civil wars tearing countries apart. The end to these conflicts cannot be forged through only a top down peace process, with only armed actors at the negotiating table. Instead, it requires a more inclusive process—one that includes women playing more pivotal roles in building a peace from the bottom up as well as from the top down, engaging multiple stakeholders
Before the passage of the U.N. Women, Peace and Security act, a review of 664 peace agreements from 1990-2000 by U.N. Women noted that only 11% of them included any reference to women’s security and inclusion. And from 1992-2011, only 4% of signatories and less than 10% of negotiators were women.
The good news is that progress is being made. In 2015, provisions designed to address women’s security and inclusion were included in 7 out of 10 peace agreements signed that year.
Systematic and representative inclusion of women in a broad range of peace and security issues is not only important to ensuring a successful negotiation, but also for ensuring that women’s interests are being addressed. Professor Valerie Hudson at Texas A&M University has used quantitative analysis to demonstrate that the security of women is integrally linked to the security of the nations in which they live. And security is linked to the ability of women to sustain peace through leadership roles and to build peace by being fully at the table. Gender equality is a stronger indicator of a state’s peacefulness than other indicators, such as GDP.
We still have a long way to go in fully unleashing the potential and power of women in building and sustaining peace, especially in those countries most affected by violent conflict. At a time of rising violent conflicts, at great global financial and human costs, this is a strategy that makes sense.