Parliamentary Assembly
Assemblée
parlementaire

Conflict prevention and resolution: the role of women

Doc. 10117 rev
5 May 2004

Report
Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men
Rapporteur: Mrs Menodora Cliveti, Romania, Socialist Group


Summary

Conflict is a gendered activity: women and men have different access to resources, power and decision-making before, during and after conflicts. The experience of women and men in situations of tension, war and post-conflict reconstruction is significantly different. Approximately 80% of today’s civilian casualties are women and 80% of all refugees and internally displaced people worldwide are women and children. As noted in the Platform for Action of the Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women, “while entire communities suffer the consequences of armed conflict and terrorism, women and girls are particularly affected because of their status in society as well as their sex”.

Women are thus caught in a vicious paradox: while, on the one hand, they are the main civilian victims of conflicts, they are, on the other hand, often powerless to prevent them, excluded from the negotiating tables when it comes to their resolution and marginalised in the post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation efforts. The general exclusion of women from decision-making positions prior to, during and following violent conflict, reinforces their victimisation.

The Parliamentary Assembly should break this vicious circle by calling on the governments and parliaments of member states to ensure that women are empowered and made part of conflict management initiatives and are involved in preventive diplomacy, conflict resolution, peace-making and post-conflict peace-building debates and activities at all levels.

I.         Draft resolution [Link to the adopted text]

1.       Conflict is a gendered activity: women and men have different access to resources, power and decision-making before, during and after conflicts. The experience of women and men in situations of tensions, war, and post-conflict reconstruction is significantly different. Approximately 80% of today’s civilian casualties are women and 80% of all refugees and internally displaced people worldwide are women and children. As noted in the Platform for Action of the Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women, “while entire communities suffer the consequences of armed conflict and terrorism, women and girls are particularly affected because of their status in society as well as their sex”.

2.       Women are thus caught in a vicious paradox: while, on the one hand, they are the main civilian victims of conflicts, they are, on the other hand, often powerless to prevent them, excluded from the negotiating tables when it comes to their resolution and marginalised in the post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation efforts. The general exclusion of women from decision-making positions prior to, during and following violent conflict, reinforces their victimisation.

3.       The Parliamentary Assembly considers that women can play a particularly important role in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and appreciates the positive contribution women can make in post-conflict reconstruction and peace consolidation. Empowering women in conflict situations would help prevent gender-based violence such as the abominable crimes of rape, forced pregnancy, sexual slavery and others. These crimes constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and their Protocols and should be prosecuted as such.

4.       The Assembly recalls the adoption in October 2000 by the United Nations Security Council of Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, in which it urges the member states to ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts.

5.       It also recalls the European Parliament Resolution on the participation of women in peaceful resolution of conflict and the Resolution on “the roles of women and men in conflict prevention, peace building and post-conflict democratic processes – a gender perspective”, adopted by the 5th European Ministerial Conference on Equality between Women and Men in January 2003, both of which encourage the integration of a gender perspective in all activities aimed at conflict prevention and resolution.

6.       Notwithstanding resolutions, appeals and recommendations of international fora and the pressure of non-governmental organisations, Europe has so far failed to ensure women’s full and equal participation in conflict prevention, peace operations and post-conflict peace-building. In particular, women are often marginalised or excluded from negotiation and diplomacy aimed at ending armed conflicts, as was the case in peace talks in Kosovo, the Southern Caucasus and recently in Afghanistan and Iraq.

7.       The maintenance and promotion of international peace and security cannot be realised without fully understanding the impact of armed conflict on women and without appropriate measures being taken to ensure their empowerment and security. Women’s equal participation in the peace process is an essential condition for establishing lasting peace. Women also bring alternative perspectives to conflict prevention at the grass-roots and community levels. Practical steps and initiatives should be taken by the European countries to advance the role of women in all aspects of conflict prevention and post conflict peace-building.

8.       Therefore, the Assembly calls on the government and parliaments of the member states of the Council of Europe to:

i.          general measures

a.         ensure that their national legislation is compatible with the Statute of the International Criminal Court as a matter of priority, with particular attention given to the substantive and procedural provisions regarding crimes against women;

b.         include in national legal systems, where it has not yet been done, provisions penalising all forms of violence against women in conflict and post-conflict situations;

c.         support women’s participation in peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction by strengthening women’s representation in local, national and international bodies for the regulation of conflicts;

d.         provide sustained funding to women’s non-governmental organisations dealing with peace issues;

e.         encourage research focused on women and their peace-building activities and the impact they have on peace processes and make the results widely known and used in designing domestic and regional policies;

f.          increase public awareness of the importance of gender mainstreaming in peace-support operations and provide gender training at an early stage in the training of military personnel so that respect for women becomes a matter of course and a female-friendly atmosphere prevails in the army; 

g.         introduce education on human rights, peace and gender equality in school curricula at all levels;

h.         increase the access of women to media and communication technologies so that gender perspectives, women’s expertise and women’s media can influence public discourse and decision-making on peace and security;

i.          support the training of editors and journalists to eliminate gender bias in reporting and investigative journalism before, during and after conflict situations and to promote gender equality and perspectives; 

j.          involve women and their organisations in peace negotiations at all levels (for example, round tables);

ii.     in the field of conflict prevention

a.         empower local women and women’s groups in situations where conflict is brewing and to support their strategies aimed at avoiding armed conflict;

b.         encourage the appointment of women to regional, national and international posts relating to conflict prevention;

c.         increase the percentage of women in delegations to national, regional and international meetings concerned with peace and security, as well as in formal peace negotiations;

d.         include “education in peace” in all curricula beginning from primary school level up to the level of professional training in order to develop a spirit of and respect for peace in society;

iii.      in the resolution of conflicts

a.         facilitate the input of women’s peace groups and organisations into key peace conferences at all levels through systematic consultation with them, ensuring that their problems and priorities are reflected in the official peace process;

b.         include gender experts and expertise in all levels and aspects of peace operations, including in technical surveys, the design of concepts of operation, training, staffing and programmes;

c.         take necessary measures to train women as mediators to be involved in peace missions, conflict resolution and peace support operations;

d.         provide safe personal security to women by police forces, protecting them from all forms of sexual and domestic violence;

e.         ensure that actions against trafficking in women in conflict affected areas form part of gender sensitive peace and security initiatives;

f.          give the opportunity to refugee and internally displaced women to play a key role in camp planning, management and decision-making so that women’s interests are taken into account in all aspects, especially resource distribution, security and protection;

g.         grant at least temporary refugee status to women who have been raped or have been subjected to other forms of sexual violence during armed conflict;

h.         involve civil society in the design and implementation of humanitarian assistance programmes;

iv.      in post-conflict situations

a.         establish macroeconomic policies in post-conflict reconstruction that prioritise the public provision of food, water, sanitation, health and energy, the key sectors of the life of people and communities in which women provide unpaid work;

b.         introduce measures that give local women priority in recruitment during emergencies and post-conflict reconstruction;

c.         adopt affirmative measures to guarantee women’s socio-economic rights including employment, property ownership and inheritance during post-conflict reconstruction;

d.         provide physical and mental health services for women recovering from war injuries and trauma, including specialist support for women who are caring for children conceived as a result of rape and for those who have been ostracised from communities and families as a consequence of rape; 

e.         ensure special legal and social support to women in order to aid their reporting and prosecuting of perpetrators of war crimes and human rights abuses committed during and after conflict;

f.          conduct a gender budget analysis of humanitarian assistance and post-conflict reconstruction to ensure that women benefit directly from resources mobilised through multilateral and bilateral donors;

g.         grant at least a temporary residence permit to women who have been raped or have been subjected to other forms of sexual violence following armed conflict.

II.        Draft recommendation [Link to the adopted text]

1.       The Parliamentary Assembly refers to its Resolution … (2004) on the role played by women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation. It considers that, given the effect of conflict on women who are the main civilian victims, they should be empowered and made part of conflict management initiatives and should be involved in preventive diplomacy, conflict resolution, peace-making and post-conflict peace-building debates and activities at all levels.

2.       The Assembly welcomes the Resolution on “the roles of women and men in conflict prevention, peace building and post-conflict democratic processes – a gender perspective”, adopted by the 5th European Ministerial Conference on Equality between Women and Men, which encourages the integration of a gender perspective in all activities aimed at conflict prevention and resolution.

3.       The Assembly considers that the Committee of Ministers should implement and build on this resolution, and therefore recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

i.       encourage and support multicultural, trans-border and regional women’s initiatives for preventing and resolving conflicts, including the creation of women-only political parties;

ii.       call upon the international community, the United States of America and Europe to ensure ample women’s leadership and participation in all discussions and activities regarding democratic transition and reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq;

iii.       recommend that the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe support women’s organisations and grassroots’ groups working at the local level on issues of peace and security and give the Congress the financial means of doing so;

iv.       include the issue of the promotion of women’s participation in decision-making, in particular in relation to conflict situations, as one of the topics of the Third Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe;

v.       take all necessary measures to ensure the personal security of applicants to the European Court of Human Rights, especially women applicants and their families.

III.      Explanatory memorandum by Mrs Cliveti, Rapporteuse

            Table of contents:

I.         Introduction

II.        Conflict prevention

III.      Women facing war

         Legal protection of women’s rights
         Violence against women
         Refugee women and internally displaced women
         Widowhood and missing persons issue
         Humanitarian assistance
         Participation of women in peace-keeping operations
         Media and women in war

IV.       Conflict resolution

         Participation of women in political and decision-making processes
         Peace-building activities of women organisations

V.        Post-conflict peace-building and reconstruction

VI.       Conclusions and Recommendations

         International efforts to promote women’s involvement in conflict solution
         Recommendations
         General conclusions


I.         Introduction

1.                 Despite the many United Nations and European Parliament resolutions, which called for women’s needs to be given more serious attention in policies relating to conflict and peace, women remain marginalized from peace-building activities.

2.                 Women are practically excluded from official negotiations and diplomacy aimed at peaceful regulation of conflicts as well as from the decision-making on the post-conflict reconstruction process.

3.                 Conflict is a gendered activity and women and men have different access to resources (including power and decision-making) during conflicts. The experience of women and men in situations of tensions, war, and post-conflict reconstruction is significantly different. Approximately 80% of today’s civilian casualties are women and 80% of all refugees and internally displaced people worldwide are women and children (UNHCR). As noted in the Platform for Action of the Fourth UN World Conference on Women, “while entire communities suffer the consequences of armed conflict and terrorism, women and girls are particularly affected because of their status in society as well as their sex”.

4.                 Despite a number of laws to protect women in conflict situations, including international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law, women continue to suffer, because these laws are frequently not respected or disregarded by the parties to the conflict.

5.                 Therefore, it is very important to develop a gender analysis of peace-building policy and implementation.

6.                 Peace-building looks beyond conflict regulation to the areas of social, economic and political life that constitute the original causes of conflict - and by extension the conditions underlying the many manifestations of violence and discrimination women face during the conflict and in post-conflict situations.

7.                 The peace-building process comprises several stages including conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict peace-building and reconstruction. Sustainable peace requires the full participation of women at each of the stages of the peace process.

8.                 The gender dimension of conflict resolution is a complex problem and can be divided into several components: legal protection of women’s rights; violence against women; humanitarian assistance; refugee women and internally displaced women; participation of women in political and decision-making processes; participation of women in war operations.

9.                 Each of these elements constitutes a separate problem of women’s rights, but in the context of the present report the task will be to find replies to the most urgent questions arising from these problems.

II.        Conflict prevention

10.             Conflict prevention comprises measures taken and efforts made to prevent the breakdown of peaceful conditions. It aims to prevent existing tensions escalating into violence and to contain the spread of conflict when it occurs. This may include measures to prevent the collapse of the social fabric and resulting fragmentation of the society. Preventive action is an area where women, in countries or regions with strong civil societies, could make a mark by expressing their views on conflict through their direct participation in the negotiations between the parties to the conflict.

11.             Women are often the first who detect the signs of potential conflict, but because they have no direct access to the decision-making positions, they have few opportunities to inform on the necessity of preventive actions.

12.             It is internationally recognised that deadly conflicts could be prevented by addressing the root causes and investing in development. Many women’s non-governmental organisations have taken concrete steps towards establishing systems of early warning and response. Those systems monitor potential crisis situations, collect information and generate analyses that can be used in generating conflict prevention actions.

13.             Gender-sensitive indicators should be regarded as an important part of early warning- system analyses. Recent research has shown that the status of women in a country is associated with the country’s level of stability. Those countries, where the percentage of women in parliament is low and the rates of violence against women are very high, are considered as countries at risk of conflict. Such violations of women’s rights as rape, trafficking, domestic violence and military-related prostitution could also be regarded as indicators in these early warning systems.

14.             The fact-finding missions of international organisations to areas of potential conflict should thus incorporate gender expertise and consultations with local women’s organisations. Such regional organisations as the European Platform for conflict Prevention and Transformation, which is a network of 150 European NGOs that are involved in the prevention and /or resolution of conflicts in the international arena could also be of great help to conflict prevention missions.

15.             The increase in military spending should also be considered as one of the major factors that influence the destabilisation of world security. According to the World Bank, the reduction of global military spending would significantly improve the world economy and environmental conditions. Just one quarter of the world’s approximately 839 billion dollars on military spending would allow nations to provide decent housing, health and education to their citizens.

16.             Women play a particular role in the prevention of conflicts, as they are the main bearers of tradition and carry a special responsibility as educators of the young generation. As educators, women should be aware of the positive and negative influence they may have on their children’s behaviour towards “the other” in the transmission of values and attitudes.

17.             Education for peace should be developed in the society as one of the major and permanent measures aimed at conflict prevention. The training of present and future generations of children as peacemakers should be considered as a very important task for the public education systems. The educational policies should be developed, both at the formal and non-formal levels, in order to integrate the respect for human rights, the practice of democracy, the promotion of peace and intercultural understanding into mainstream education. Those policies should include training programmes for professionals, involved in educational activities, mass- media and decision –making.

III.      Women facing war

Legal protection of women’s rights

18.             As it was stated in the Vienna declaration and Programme of Action “violations of the human rights of women in situations of armed conflict are violations of the fundamental principles of international human rights and humanitarian law”.

19.             International humanitarian law has accorded women general protection equal to that of men, but it also recognizes in the four Geneva Conventions (of 12 August 1949) for the Protection of War Victims and their two Additional Protocols (of 8 June 1977) the need to give women special protection according to their specific needs.  In fact, international humanitarian law addresses women in terms of their relationship with others and not as individuals in their own right. For example, half of the provisions of the Geneva Conventions focusing on women deal with women as mothers.

20.             Article 14, paragraph 2 of the Third Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War stipulates, “women shall be treated with all regard due to their sex”. This provision refers to the conditions of detention for women in prisoners of war camps, e.g. the obligation to provide for separate dormitories for women and men and for separate sanitary convenience.

21.             The Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and its Additional Protocol No. 1 state that “ women shall be especially protected against any attack on their honour, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution or any form of indecent assault”. The problem is that such provisions have only a protective nature and do not outlaw the acts of violence.

22.             Here, the main question is how can existing legal mechanisms protect women’s rights?

23.             The adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and its entry into force on 1 July 2002 is a step in that direction. It provides that rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilisation or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity are crimes against humanity when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population.

24.             One of the most severe possible consequences of war is the taking of women as hostages. In 1995 the Republic of Azerbaijan initiated the adoption of the resolution “Release of women and children taken hostages, including those subsequently imprisoned, during armed conflict” by the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Since 1995, this resolution has been adopted by consensus at each session of the Commission. But the measures undertaken by the international community regarding this issue remain ineffective.

Violence against women

25.            Sexual violence against women has become a weapon of war, harking back to the cruel acts of antiquity. The number of women raped in the former Yugoslavia is put at between 20 000 and 50 000. The statistics can only be approximate since not all the victims are still alive and most will never talk of their ordeal.

26.             In many conflicts women have been systematically targeted for sexual violence - sometimes with the broader objective of ethnic cleansing. A lot of women were killed, most often after rape or other forms of sexual abuse. There have been terrible cases of violence against women, including pregnant women having their foetus extracted before being murdered.

27.             Women are raped as a way to humiliate them and/or their male relatives, who are often forced to watch the assault. In societies where ethnicity is inherited through the male line, “enemy” women are raped and forced to bear children.

28.             Although progress has been made in broadening war crime definitions to include sexual violence committed against women, thereby increasing possibilities of prosecuting such crimes, the effective implementation of war crimes legislation is still limited.

29.             Women victims have limited access to real justice and local authorities including peace-building missions often do not care about the punishment of perpetrators of violence. The police, military and judiciary should be specially trained to protect women and guarantee their legal rights. In Bosnia and Herzegovina local police created special teams to ensure privacy and protection for women who bring charges of violence committed against them.

30.             Victims and survivors of sexual violence and rape are not being given adequate physical and psychological care. Many women are afraid of speaking of their experiences of violence for the simple fear of ostracism by their community.

31.             Violence during the conflict is inextricably linked to an increase in violence after the conflict, particularly in the form of domestic violence, when women are abused by their husbands, who return home after the war and are faced with a situation of disillusion and unemployment. Domestic violence is also considered to be prevalent in refugee camps.

32.             It is very important to combat gender bias within the judiciary- the very institution that determines how equality is achieved in society. Support services and programmes should be provided to ensure that legal aid is available and that women witnesses and complaints are treated fairly.

33.             The introduction of a quota system in the security sector would increase women’s presence in all areas of police work that challenge security priorities and would mean that crimes against women will be taken more seriously.

Refugee women and internally displaced women

34.             The forced displacement of civilians has became a direct objective of some conflicts. Many women who suffered from sexual violence, terror, or intimidation were forced to leave their homes and become refugees or internally displaced persons.

35.             Refugee and internally displaced women suffer from a lack of protection. In camps, sexual and gender-based violence is an every-day reality - and it is also a cause of the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and of HIV/AIDS.

36.             The specific needs of women are not taken into account in many camps for displaced persons. For example, pregnant women need greater access to health services and larger food rations. Women are also particularly concerned about their children’s education and often have to find means to pay for clothes and books.

37.             According to international law, the government of the country in which refugees or internally displaced persons are living should protect their human rights and provide them with humanitarian assistance. Some states refuse access to humanitarian agencies to their country under the pretext of the protection of state sovereignty. The Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Annan, has challenged the governments of the world to reject the narrow interpretation of sovereignty that has prevented the international community from providing assistance unless a government asks for it.

38.             The UNHCR has adopted guidelines on the protection of Refugee Women and on the Prevention of and Response to Sexual Violence against Refugees; nevertheless the norms provided in these documents are not respected by some states.

39.             Women often try to escape the life in refugee camps by asking for asylum in another country. The Geneva Convention established principles for asylum, such as not forcing someone to return to a territory where he or she can be persecuted. But the definition of persecution does not take into consideration gender-based persecution. Very often women and children are imprisoned while they go through the legal process of applying for asylum status.

40.             Many states make it harder for women and children to receive asylum status. The majority of staff working with asylum-seekers are men who have little understanding of the specific problems of women. Some countries do not provide an individual residence status to women and children, but only to the head of the family.

41.             Special gender training should be provided for those organisations which are dealing with refugees and asylum-seekers.

42.             However, this is a very difficult problem to tackle by state-by-state as the movement of refugees spreads out to other countries. The European community should try and find solution to the post-conflict regulation of the situation of returnees, in majority women and children.

Widowhood and missing persons issue

43.             War separates men from women and children. Many women continue to act as heads of the families after the conflicts have ended, as their husbands have died or disappeared.  They have to cope with the difficulty of providing for the immediate livelihood of their families, and at the same time they suffer from not knowing the destiny of their husbands, fathers or sons.

44.             Women often try to find out the fate of their missing male relatives. Humanitarian law recognizes the need and right of families to obtain information about missing persons. The International Committee of the Red Cross endeavours to find information about missing persons in relation to armed conflicts, but very often parties to an armed conflict do not provide the necessary information.

45.             However, the issue of “the missing persons” has mobilised a lot of women in order to present their concerns to the authorities in different countries. In February 2003, the ICRC convened a landmark international conference on this issue, which reaffirmed that the families of missing persons needed material, financial, psychological and legal support. It directed particular attention to women and children who may find themselves in the situation of acute destitution and distress.

46.             Governments, international and national non-governmental organisations should take measures to address the needs of these families and collect information on the fate of missing people.

Humanitarian assistance

47.             Women are rarely consulted or included in the management of humanitarian aid; therefore, very often they cannot even benefit from it.

48.             The Inter-Agency Standing Committee on Humanitarian Affairs (IASC) –the group of agencies that are involved in humanitarian situations- does not include UNIFEM. Currently the agencies most concerned with women’s issues have little input into many of the humanitarian policies developed by the United Nations.

49.             As an example, Human Rights Watch reported that in the former Yugoslavia, women had been deliberately excluded from the assistance donor governments and international agencies poured into reconstruction efforts. The focus on assistance to demobilised soldiers significantly decreased women’s opportunities for employment.

50.             Women need to be included in the planning, implementation and evaluation of the activities of humanitarian agencies and the distribution of assistance. Such involvement of women can afford them better protection and assistance as specific concerns related to women can be raised and addressed throughout the programme life cycle.

51.             In war and conflict situations the nutritional and health needs of women, including their reproductive and sexual health needs, and of pregnant and nursing mothers and their infants are often neglected. Reproductive health care is important for the physical and psychological well-being of men and women and should be available even in crisis situations.

52.             The work of humanitarian agencies in the field can promote gender-sensitive measures, which should include monitoring of all forms of violence against women and providing counselling, legal, medical and other forms of material support to the victims of violence; giving women more control over the design and distribution of food aid in order to ensure that food and other forms of assistance benefit the most vulnerable; ensuring vocational training, income–generating skills and access to educational institutions and ensuring that women have opportunities for involvement in development and reconstruction projects, and access to credit, particularly micro-credit.

Participation of women in peace-keeping operations

53.             From the middle of the nineties women have been participating in peacekeeping missions. The results of the UN study “Mainstreaming a Gender Perspective in Multidimensional Peace Operations” proved that women’s participation in UN missions empowered local women and inspired them to organise towards a democratic society in which they could exercise their rights equally with men.

54.             Despite these facts, women taking part in peace operations are still few. In general, women occupy lower-level positions in the peacekeeping arena. Professional women and female military officers are largely absent from senior peacekeeping management levels. Only 12,6% of staff involved in UN peace-keeping operations are women. Most of them participate only in civilian missions.

55.             The Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan recommended a 50% participation of women in field missions and a European Parliament resolution called for a 40% representation of women on all reconciliation, peacekeeping, peace-enforcement, peace-building, and conflict prevention posts, including fact-finding and observer missions.

56.             Women’s participation has the capacity to expand the debate a little further, so that it may encompass more diverse subjects, including those, which may be more relevant to what is happening to women, children and communities.

57.             Women are frequently less hierarchical in dealing with local communities and listen more, thereby having better insights into the root causes of conflict. Local women are more likely to confide in women peacekeepers about matters such as rape and sexual violence.

58.             Women’s participation in all aspects of the mission helps to break down traditional views and stereotypes of women in local communities, especially when women peacekeepers serve in a broad spectrum of activities of the mission. This has a spin off effect for the participation of local women in decision-making positions in the post-conflict phase.

59.             The increase in female peacekeepers will influence the behaviour of their male counterparts and could improve the image of the peacekeeping operations.

60.             Another contentious issue is the role women play as combatants. This phenomenon of “female combatants“ raises several problems. Is it a progressive gender development or it is an inevitable necessity? How can women’s interests be ensured during combat and the demobilisation and reintegration process? The Committee might want to draw up a motion for a resolution on this issue, as I cannot deal with it at length in this report.

Media and women in war

61.             The media coverage of the role of women in war is rather one-sided, women are often portrayed as victims rather than fighters against war. Journalists prefer to interview rape victims and rarely consider women newsworthy in their varied roles in the peacekeeping and conflict processes.

62.             The war coverage by female correspondents has changed significantly the accent of field reports. While male correspondents tend to focus on conflict and the positions of the parties of it, women look at the impact of the conflict on people’s lives.

63.             Women journalists have the courage to criticize the hate messages spread by the media as part of war propaganda.

64.             Women war correspondents face some threats that men do not, they are in danger of gender-based violence and often compromise their health in ways men never do.

65.             The appearance of women correspondents in the field pushes women to use the mass-media to document their human rights violations and to promote peace-building, like in Bosnia, where women are using talk-shows on Resolution Radio to teach conflict-resolution skills.

66.             Women should be present in the media both as producers of media information and as subjects of it. Only in this way the role of women in peace building will be known.

IV.       Conflict resolution

67.             Conflict resolution is the process of building bridges between hostile communities, working to clarify issues which represent points of confrontation between them and creating new opportunities for developing renewed relationships based upon a process of peaceful change and grassroots reconciliation. The focus of this is often on men, for example, as church or community leaders. However, creating initiatives to bring women together in discussion can bring greater vibrancy and legitimacy to a peace process.

Participation of women in political and decision-making processes

68.             Women are not innocent and some of them participate directly or indirectly in conflicts by backing military efforts. Once a war is over those women also pay no attention to the needs and interests of their sisters who suffered during the conflict. Men, however, are just as guilty of such behaviour, but are still virtually guaranteed seats at the negotiating tables.

69.             Women’s participation in formal peace negotiations has faced strong opposition. There were no women present at the Dayton Accords, which ended the conflict in Bosnia, and just one woman was at the negotiating table in Rambouillet, prior to the NATO bombing campaign. The “gender task force” initially set up within the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe has disappeared from the list of new future priorities despite achieving positive results, notably in Macedonia.

70.             They also are main victims of war and should have a right to voice their fears and concerns, their needs and demands.

71.             If women, who are 50 percent of the world’s population, made up 50 percent of any negotiating body, whether it be at the local, national, or international level, there would be a 50:50 chance of peaceful resolution of disputes and conflicts.[1] Excluding the majority population from decision-making structures counters all basic principles of democracy and human rights.

Peace-building activities of women organisations

72.             According to an inventory compiled by the Council of Europe Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men (CDEG), over 200 peace-building movements have emerged in recent years.

73.            Many are obviously in areas of conflict (Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan Macedonia, Croatia and so on) but there are others in border regions, for example in Italy, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Scandinavian countries and all Union member states.

74.             Women are socialized into wanting and supporting peace in a more concrete and conclusive framework. Due to their socialisation, women’s role in building conditions for peace has been proven in history and women have a wealth of experience still waiting to be utilised and legitimised, not only in Europe but worldwide.

75.             There are many different types of women’s organisations, which have contributed to peace-building. Some of them have developed the capacity to work openly to protect and extend human rights; others have concentrated their activities on humanitarian assistance and social care. Finally there are those women’s organisations that work to facilitate women’s participation in war-crimes tribunals and post-conflict reconciliation processes. Many of these organisations attempt to build bridges between groups of women who might be separated by their ethnic, regional or political identities.

76.             Women’s organisations could achieve many important goals in peace-building: to increase women’s participation in public, political processes and civil society in general, to increase the number of women who become leaders in peace-building, to reinforce efforts to challenge masculine cultures in institutions and society itself.

77.             In 1996, the women of Northern Ireland formed the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition and fought the elections for the right to be represented at peace negotiations. As a result, two of its representatives were at the negotiating table and signed the peace agreement of 10 April 1998. Although the agreement is proving difficult to implement at present, the women of Northern Ireland are not giving up hope and are working to overcome the obstacles. Two of them have been elected to the Northern Irish parliament and, thanks to the European programme supporting the peace process, many women have been able to become more involved and show their potential.

78.             In the mid-nineties a group of women representing both Turkish and Greek communities of Cyprus was formed to work towards resolving the conflict. Now, there are around sixty joint groups keen to break down the barriers through the exchange of personal histories and experiences. In 1998 the international Eco-Peace Village was created on their initiative in Psematismenos to train young people and women in conflict-prevention and conflict resolution.

79.             The Committee of mothers of Russian soldiers, founded by Valentina Melnikova, provides hope to thousands of Russian mothers trying to help their children who suffer ill-treatment or refuse to take part in the war in Chechnya, which makes them “war criminals” in the eyes of military justice.

80.             Many of these organisations face problems in their continuing survival. Such problems include a lack of funding, marginalisation and stigmatisation by powerful governmental and non-governmental organisations, and also direct physical harassment from security forces, which is especially likely in post-conflict situations.

81.             But the allocation of funds to women’s organisations will not be sufficient for the promotion of women’s role in development. It should be complemented by large-scale gender awareness policies.

V.        Post-conflict peace-building and reconstruction

82.             Post-conflict peace-building work is the employment of measures which consolidate peaceful relations and societal institutions in order to contribute to the creation of an environment which deters the emergence or the escalation of tensions which may lead to violent conflicts. To achieve this, the root causes of violence need to be identified and eradicated. This may involve a radical upheaval of existing structures. It is vital that this process is gendered. Sustainable, positive peace can only be achieved through democracy, egalitarianism and the protection of human rights. It is therefore essential that women’s rights are acknowledged and safe-guarded. In this way peace-building does more than simply returning a society to its pre-conflict state.

83.             Post-conflict reconstruction can be divided into three components: political reconstruction, which focuses on peace-building activities and the process of democratisation; economic reconstruction, which looks primarily at developments within agriculture and formal and informal economic sectors and social reconstruction, where the focus is shifted to the rehabilitation of the social sector and to social integration.

84.             Post-conflict reconstruction also involves dealing with the damage caused by war. Women have particular needs in this process which are different from those of men and therefore are often overlooked. For example, the provision of psychological or physical health services or legal support in order to prosecute in cases of rape or other war crimes, is often lacking.

85.             The political reconstruction of the country after the conflict usually includes free and fair elections, decentralisation of government institutions and mechanisms for increased participation of people in political decision-making.

86.             Women face many obstacles in exercising their right to vote. Women often have limited political experience and consider politics as a male domain. Many often women just ignore the participation in elections. Nevertheless, local women’s organisations encourage women to take part in elections, demanding equal representation in democratic institutions.

87.             It should be taken into account that during the war women assume the role and full responsibilities of heads–of–households, and maintain social order. In post-war situations, women act as peace activists and re-builders. But their interests are often ignored by men who develop and implement post-conflict reconstruction programmes.

88.             The most recent developments in Iraq have shown that women were significantly underrepresented in bilateral and multilateral efforts to structure and manage the transition to democracy and reconstruction, although they comprise 55% of the country’s population.

89.             As a result of over a decade of intermittent conflict, widows and women heading households have long assumed a great deal of responsibility for managing families and communities in Iraq. Their role and expertise ought to be recognised in fostering the transition to a pluralistic, democratic society.

90.             If women manage to find legal jobs, the terms and conditions are usually discriminatory, with less pay than men receive and longer working hours. They suffer employment discrimination and shoulder the double burden of caring for families while holding down a full-time job.

91.             Excluding women from post-conflict planning and decision-making in reconstruction is a loss of immense resources, and understanding of a society’s most critical social and economic capital and their needs.

92.             Women are generally marginalised in formal sector training and employment, either because they lack formal qualifications or because they lack social support to assist with domestic tasks. Another reason is that male employment is given a higher priority.

93.             Women generally put great emphasis on the rehabilitation and development of the social services sector, as this dimension of the post-war reconstruction task falls within their area of responsibility and authority. Therefore, they often take initiatives to improve existing facilities.  In difficult conditions they do the best to re-establish children’s education, to build up primary health care services, and to help the victims of violence and psycho-social distress.

94.             As an example, in Bosnia and Herzegovina Medica-Zenica has established an education centre for traumatised women and girls whose education was interrupted during the war. They are offered individual counselling and the opportunity to complete their high school education or a vocational skills-training course.

95.             Structural adjustment policies that reduce the government’s ability to provide health care, education, water, transportation, energy, housing and sanitation mostly affect women’s lives, since they influence the sectors in which women provide the majority of their unpaid labour.

96.             Regarding social integration after the conflict, women stress the importance of social networks and organisations that link individual women with others who share their experiences and position. Such networks may improve women’s situation in many respects, in terms of security, bargaining power, respect, self-confidence and so forth.

97.             As an example, on the initiative of the non-governmental organisation ”Transeuropéennes” a network of women’s and human rights protection organisations was created to implement “Peacemaking activities of women across borders”, which gave women the possibility to confront the reality of recent wars, to reflect on the question of responsibility and to work together against patriarchal and community pressures in order to build peace.

98.             Supporting women’s participation in reconstruction and reconciliation means giving women access to the rooms where decisionsare made. Only with local, regional, national and international political support women’s efforts can be accepted in the formal peace process.

99.             The mainstreaming of gender has to take place in all policy contexts associated with post-conflict rehabilitation, development and peace-building. Investing in women may be one of the most effective means for real, sustainable development and peace-building.

VI.       Conclusions and Recommendations

International efforts to promote women’s involvement in conflict solution

100.         The international community has started to recognise the positive contributions women can make in preventing conflicts and consolidating peace. Back in 1995 the United Nations 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing devoted an entire section of its Platform of Action to women and armed conflict. Six specific objectives were laid down to strengthen women’s participation in the resolution of conflicts and the decision-making process. The platform also emphasizes the protection of women in war zones and refugee camps.

101.         The role of women in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict peace-building has been emphasized in the final document of the 23rd Special Session of the UN General Assembly “Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-First Century”.

102.         In October 2000, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, which calls for: the participation of women in decision-making and peace processes; gender perspectives and training in peacekeeping; the protection of women; and gender mainstreaming in United Nations reporting systems and programmatic implementation mechanisms.

103.         Resolution 1325 provided a tool for women that called for gender sensitivity in all UN missions including peacekeeping. For women to participate equally at all negotiating tables and for the protection of women and girls during armed conflict. This resolution is binding international law that for the first time officially endorses the inclusion of civil society groups, notably women, in peace processes and the implementation of peace agreements.

104.         In order to ensure the implementation of this resolution, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Annan established a task force on women, peace and security which comprises representatives from 15 UN entities.

105.         In November 2000, the European Parliament adopted its resolution on the participation of women in peaceful resolution of conflict, in which it had invited European Union member states to ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels, by recruiting and training more women for diplomatic service.

106.         The Committee on Women’s Rights and Equal Opportunities of the European Parliament prepared the report on Gender related Aspects of the Prevention and Resolution of Armed Conflicts.

107.         In the conclusions of the G8 summit organised in July 2001 it had been stressed that “women brought alternative perspectives to conflict prevention at the grass-roots and community levels. Creative and innovative ways to better draw on the talents women brought to preventing conflict and sustaining peace should be encouraged and practical steps and strategies should be identified to advance the role of women in conflict and post conflict peace building.”

108.         A coalition of NGOs, headed by International Alert, launched an international campaign to promote women’s participation in peace-building.

109.         These instruments indicate a growing recognition that in conflict situations women are more than victims requiring the protection of the international community, but they can be equally present at the negotiation tables as peace-makers.

110.         The Council of Europe organised the 5th European Ministerial Conference on Equality between Women and Men in Skopje on 22 and 23 January 2003. The main theme of the conference was: “Democratisation, conflict prevention and peace building: the perspectives and the roles of women”.

111.         The ministers adopted a Resolution[2] that, among other things, calls on governments to promote the full participation of women at all levels of decision-making and to encourage the integration of a gender perspective in all activities aimed at conflict prevention and resolution. The ministers also adopted a Declaration and Programme of Action[3] outlining Council of Europe priorities in the field of equality for the coming years.

Recommendations

112.         In order to ensure the effectiveness of peace-support operations, the principles of gender equality must be mainstreamed at all levels, thus ensuring the participation of women and men as equal partners and beneficiaries in all aspects of the peace process - from peace keeping, reconciliation and peace-building, towards a situation of political stability in which women and men play an equal part in the political, economic and social development of their country.

113.         More focused research on women and their peace building activities and the impact women have on peace building and peace processes should be launched by each member state.

114.         The governments should give women the opportunity to participate in peace-building and post- conflict reconstruction by strengthening women’s representation in local, national and international bodies on the regulation of conflict.

115.         Special attention should be paid to women-victims of war conflicts. Physical and mental health services for women recovering from war injuries and trauma should be provided, including specialist’s support for women who are caring for children conceived as a result of rape and for those who have been ostracised from communities and families as a consequence of rape.

116.         The police force should provide safe personal security of women, protecting them from all forms of sexual and domestic violence.

117.         It is very important to give opportunity to refugee and internally displaced women to play a key role in camp planning, management and decision-making, so that women’s interests are taken into account in all aspects, especially resource distribution, security and protection. Women should also be involved in all aspects of repatriation and resettlement planning and implementation.

118.         The specific needs, including protection, health and assistance, of women and girls affected by armed conflict should be assessed and addressed by humanitarian organisations.

119.         It is important to create economic opportunities for women in post-conflict reconstruction.

120.         Gender–sensitive training programmes for participants in peacekeeping missions, including military staff, police and humanitarian assistance personnel should be financed by member-countries.

121.         Capacity building, training and the creation of women’s forums are essential to supporting women’s participation in post-conflict reconstruction.

122.         The relevant state institutions in co-operation with NGOs should develop special programmes to train women as mediators in order to prepare them to the work in peace building and conflict resolution missions and peace support operations.

123.         The governments should encourage research into gender issues, conflict prevention and mediation by women and make the results widely known and used in designing domestic and regional policies.

124.         It is important to encourage the appointment of women to national and international posts relating to the conflict-prevention sphere.

125.         Governments should provide support to women’s NGOs involved in peace-building,conflict prevention and related activities and facilitate the input of women’s organisations into key peace conferences and other decision-making bodies.

126.         All possible means should be employed to increase public awareness of the importance of gender mainstreaming in peace-support operations. In this connection, the media should play a significant role.

127.         The media should take measures to eradicated hate speech and violence messages in audiovisual programmes and press articles.

128.         It is important to increase the access for women to media and communication technologies, so that gender perspectives, women’s expertise and women’s media can influence public discourse and decision-making on peace and security.

129.         Non-governmental organisations working in peace building should try to share their practices with each other and to link with other strategic partners in order to maximise the effectiveness of their actions.

130.         Multicultural, trans-border and regional women’s initiatives for preventing and resolving conflicts should be promoted and disseminated by all possible means including through networking and information technology.

131.        Conflict-prevention approaches to peace-building work should be mainstreamed into development and humanitarian aid work and development actors should ensure that a strategy of strengthening local capacities does not increase gender injustice.

General conclusions

132.         Women are often exposed to a high risk of rape and associated violence during and immediately after conflict. They bear the main burden of the care for survivors, which includes both adults and children. Therefore, there is a strong need for peace-building to incorporate policies that address women’s specific health and economic needs.

133.         Given the effect of conflicts on women, it should be recognised that women should play a significant role in conflict management. Women should be properly empowered and should be in the centre of conflict management initiatives.

134.         Any peace-building process can only be effective embedded and sustained when there is a broad social involvement in this task. Society as a whole must be involved in peace-building, developing the relationships of trust, mutual respect and tolerance needed to cement the blocks of peace agreements together. Non-governmental organisations can support and sustain women’s efforts by pressing governments to increase the number of women at senior diplomatic positions, pressing for greater involvement and monitoring the actions of national and international negotiators in conflict zones, assuring that local civil society groups are integrated into all levels and aspects of conflict prevention, resolution and management.

135.         The most direct way to support women’s activity in peace-building is to support women’s organisations.  Peace-building and conflict-prevention are long-term processes that require follow-up. Thus, governments should provide sustainable support to women’s organisations giving them the opportunity to develop their activities.

136.         Keeping women’s movements together, along with encouraging women parliamentarians to co-operate more with women’s organisations is the only way to go if women wish to change politics, introduce new values such as peace, equality and justice and, finally, draw up a new political culture based on the principle of consensus and the refusal of all forms of exclusion.


Reporting committee: Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men

Reference to Committee: Doc 9429, reference N° 2720 of 29 May 2002

Draft resolution and draft recommendation unanimously adopted by the Committee on 11 March 2004.

Members of the Committee: Mrs Cliveti (Chairperson), Mrs Zapfl-Helbling (1st Vice-Chairperson), Mr Dalgaard (2nd Vice-Chairperson), Mrs Curdova (3rd Vice-Chairperson), Mrs Aguiar, (alternate: Ms Azevedo), Mr Baburin, Mrs Bauer, Mrs Biga-Friganovic, Mrs Bilgehan, Mrs Bousakla, Mrs Castro, Mrs Doktorowicz, Mrs Err, Mr Foulkes, Mr Gaburro, Mr Goldberg, Ms Hadjiyeva, Mrs Hägg, Mrs Katseli, Mrs Konglevoll, Mrs Kosa-Kovacs, Mrs Kryemadhi, Mrs Labucka, Mrs Lintonen, Ms Lucic, Mr Mahmood (alternate: Ms McCafferty), Mrs Mikutiene, Mr Mooney, Mrs Morganti, Mr Neimarlija, Mrs Paoletti Tangheroni (alternate: Mr Scherini), Mrs Patarkalishvili, Ms Patereu, Mr Pavlov, Mrs Pericleous-Papadopoulos, Mrs Petrova-Mitevska, Mr Pintat, Mr Platvoet, Mr Pullicino Orlando, Mrs Roth, Mrs Rupprecht, Mrs Schicker, Mr Skarphédinsson.

N.B. The names of the members who took part in the meeting are printed in italics.

Secretaries of the Committee: Mrs Kleinsorge, Ms Kostenko


[1] Inventory of initiatives and actions regarding women and peace building in Europe, EG/Sem/Peace (2001) 2.

[2] Resolution on the roles of women and men in conflict prevention, peace building and post-conflict democratic processes – a gender perspective, MEG-5 (2003) 4.

[3] Declaration and Programme of Action on gender equality: a core issue in changing societies, MEG-5 (2003) 3.