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Intersections of violence against women and girls with state-building and peace-building: Lessons from Nepal, Sierra Leone and South Sudan

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Background

The United Nations (UN) has long highlighted the importance of addressing women’s rights concerns in relation to armed conflict and state-building and peace-building (SBPB) efforts.
However, the gendered nature of SBPB processes are often overlooked, despite the ways in which gender power relations are present in and can affect the success or failure of SBPB (Strickland and Duvvury, 2003).

Calls for the inclusion of women in peace processes have prompted a burgeoning response. This has included the adoption of related global policy instruments and international and local actors utilising humanitarian and post-conflict programming to provide services for the survivors of violence against women and girls (VAWG).
At the same time, a focus on securing stability and peace in the aftermath of armed conflicts has prompted a range of global policy initiatives. Key par ties involved in this work have been international governments and the UN system and its par tners.

It is evident that international and national approaches to prevent and respond to VAWG and SBPB processes often exist in parallel to one another; however, evidence shows that state-centric SBPB strategies consistently neglect issues of gender equality and VAWG (Castilejo, 2012; Handrahan, 2004; Zuckerman & Greenberg, 2004). This study aims to contribute a new set of evidence and an analysis of the intersections between VAWG and SBPB. It’s hoped these will inform future conflict and post-conflict SBPB to ensure they are more effective at addressing VAWG, and par ticularly forms of VAWG that act as barriers to peace and stability.

The research questions

This study has been conducted as par t of the What Works to What Works to Prevent VAWG in Conflict and Humanitarian Crises programme. It is funded by the UK government and focuses on two overarching research questions:

1) How have programmes and policies to prevent and respond to VAWG been integrated and addressed within post-conflict state-building policy and programming?

2) In a conflict-affected country, how is VAWG related to effor ts to achieve peace and stability?

A conceptual framework linking state-building and peace-building and violence against women and girls

In order to frame the research, two overarching analytical models were developed. First, an ecological model examining the risk factors related to VAWG in conflict settings. An analytical framework is often used in social and epidemiological research to understand multiple, interconnected levels of risks that contribute to health outcomes, for example, risks encountered at a societal, community and individual level. The new framework brings together the knowledge base from existing literature (both empirical and theoretical) of posited drivers of VAWG within and outside times of armed conflict. These drivers include endemic factors that lead to VAWG during conflict and peacetime, and drivers identified as distinctive to or associated with conflict.

After this ecological model was developed, a fur ther analytical model was created to bring together the divergent academic and practitioner spheres of VAWG and SBPB. This features:

• causal drivers of VAWG, including those specifically related to conflict and post-conflict dynamics

• critical components of state-building processes, and where and how VAWG might be addressed

• critical components of peace-building processes, and where and how VAWG might be addressed.

The analytical framework attempts to address the way SBPB strategies may affect VAWG and how VAWG may cause continued conflict and fragility. The framework draws on the Depar tment for International Development’s (DFID) Integrated Building Peaceful States and Societies model (DFID and UK Aid, 2016) as an overarching conceptual basis.

Case study development

The study aims to identify and explore the linkages and interconnections between VAWG and SBPB processes in different contexts and draw lessons from best practices and gaps. To achieve this, case studies were developed for South Sudan, Nepal and Sierra Leone. These countries were selected to ensure a breadth of experiences in terms of the nature of the conflict and patterns of violence, experiences of VAWG, geographic diversity (spanning West Africa, East Africa and Asia), length of time since the conflict ended, and progress in SBPB.

These case studies utilise the analytical framework as a conceptual basis for understanding connections between SBPB and VAWG. Following the completion of a country level literature review, primary data was collected. This involved interviews and focus group discussions with informants from key stakeholder groups, including representatives from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the United Nations (UN), the government and civil society. The findings of the three case studies were analysed and compared for common themes and trends. These were then organised according to the SBPB and VAWG analytical framework previously developed and key findings from each case study consolidated in this repor t.