Conflict Trends 2021/1 - Female Participation in Peacebuilding Efforts in Africa: A Review of Recent Academic Contributions


By Jenny Nortvedt

As we enter the next decade of the women, peace and security agenda examining relevant research and focusing on the participation of women in peacebuilding efforts is important


The year 2020 marked the 20th anniversary of the unanimous adoption of the United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security; 25 years since the World Conference on Women in Beijing; and the conclusion of the African Women’s Decade. Since 2000, the UN has adopted 10 subsequent resolutions and several strategies under the normative framework of the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda. On the African continent, the African Union (AU) and its member states have promoted the WPS agenda through several legal guidelines, training manuals and normative frameworks, including Aspiration 6 of Agenda 2063, the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (2004), The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (2003) and the AU Gender Policy (2009). Furthermore, in 2016, more than 19 AU member states adopted Resolution 1325 national action plans and, in 2018, the AU adopted the regional Strategy for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (2018–2028).[2]Still, despite progress in many areas, the advancement of women’s meaningful participation in peacebuilding efforts and the promotion of gender equality in peace and security has been slow.[3]

Since the adoption of Resolution 1325 and the resolutions that followed, which now constitute the WPS normative framework, a substantial body of literature has emerged. The literature has concentrated on some key thematic areas – participation, protection, prevention and gender perspectives – which, to a large degree, mirror the four main pillars in Resolution 1325. In 2018, The Oxford Handbook of Women, Peace and Securityexamined the growing academic and policy contributions to the WPS agenda over the past two decades and highlighted remaining challenges.[4] Therefore, the recent anniversary presents an opportunity to continue on this track and to take stock of recent and ongoing empirical studies and emerging topics within the WPS agenda. This review explores (1) recent academic and policy contributions to the WPS agenda on the African continent from 2017 onwards, with a special emphasis on participation; and (2) relevant new contributions regarding emerging challenges to female participation in peacebuilding efforts.

There have been several reviews regarding the operationalisation and implementation of the goals set out in Resolution 1325 by both the UN and the AU, and in academic communities – for example, the AU Commission Review; Implementation of the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda in Africa; the Continental Results Framework: Monitoring and Reporting on the Implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Africa (2018–2028);[5] the review Women, Peace and Security – Implementing the Maputo Protocol in Africa (2016),[6] the recent 10-year Review of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda of the AU Peace and Security Council (2020)[7] and the 2015 UN review, including the UN Global Study.[8] However, the main focus of this article is a review of the academic contributions in the past few years, to evaluate the empirical foundation for the next decade of the WPS agenda.