Global peace has been in decline for four consecutive years, with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region having numerous high-intensity armed conflicts and regarded as the world’s least peaceful region. Despite significant efforts by the UN and others, including civil society and regional organizations, high-level peace processes in the region remain largely stalled and women’s meaningful participation limited, hampering the likelihood of reaching a durable agreement. Indeed, making strides towards women’s effective participation and gender-inclusive peace processes continues to be a persistent challenge with relatively little progress since the passing of the landmark Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security (WPS).
In November 2018, UN Women convened the conference ‘Women’s Meaningful Participation in Peace Processes: Modalities and Strategies Across Tracks’ with support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Discussions included over 60 practitioners, analysts, and advocates from around the globe, including the MENA region. It provided an opportunity to explore good practices on modalities and strategies to secure women’s meaningful participation in peace processes, with a strong emphasis on contributing toward new and existing peacemaking efforts in the MENA region. The primary focus was to explore innovations, trends and challenges in the interplay between official, high-level processes at the track 1 level and unofficial processes in which civil society often plays a leadership role at the track 2 level.
While no report can fully do justice to the extensive and varied discussions over the course of two days, this document highlights key thematic areas, ideas and issues raised, as well as recommendations for greater progress. Topics discussed ranged from the continued need to ensure women’s direct participation at track 1 level, the role of gender commissions and women’s advisory boards and the challenges associated with promoting genderinclusive peace agreements. Moreover, to share knowledge and experiences in under-explored and often critical areas in high-level peace processes, three comparative learning sessions were held in parallel on women’s meaningful participation and genderinclusivity in the pre-talks phase of mediation efforts, ceasefire arrangements and political power-sharing agreements. In addition to the recommendations developed from these three sessions, overarching recommendations have also been presented to guide future efforts. They are summarized as follows:
Foster formal and informal linkages across peace tracks
Explore all efforts to ensure women’s direct and meaningful participation in high-level peace processes
Develop and share gender-sensitive knowledge that addresses key gap areas
Promote gender inclusivity and expertise in peace agreements at all stages
Provide gender-responsive budgeting and core civil society funding
Building on the prior discussions and efforts of many others working to create feminist change in this space, the recommendations offered here are designed to reemphasize and/or suggest further opportunities for coordination, prioritization and strategic investment. The moment now brings renewed energy and momentum to address the gaps and obstacles for conflict prevention, management and resolution in the framework of the upcoming 20th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action (1995) in 2020. Transformative and deeply inclusive approaches to deliver positive peace are urgently needed, and there is no better time than now.