This fall will mark 17 years since the adoption of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women and peace and security. This agenda includes specific provisions for peace negotiations and agreements, as does the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). While there have been achievements in women's access to and participation in peace processes, there is still much to be done. Unfortunately, women continue to be largely excluded from participating in and mediating peace processes. (1) As a result, gender perspectives are absent from emergent peace agreements. This occurs despite the tremendous role that women play in promoting peace, peaceful dialogue and ending hostilities in many armed conflicts. A 2012 UN Women study of 31 peace processes between 1992 and 2011 illustrates well this marginalization of women: only 4 per cent of signatories, 2.4 per cent of chief mediators, 3.7 per cent of witnesses and 9 per cent of negotiators were women. (2)
What can external actors and external regional networks contribute to addressing women's marginalization and even exclusion from participating in peace processes?
Instituting a ceasefire between belligerent parties is a critical dimension of peace processes. However, equally important, peace processes are also about devising and defining new political structures and institutions of governance and even, in some cases, creating new constitutions or constitution-like provisions. Peace processes, when they are successful, are defining moments in a country's history and trajectory, and women should not be left out. Secondly, peace processes offer a unique opportunity to promote the country's commitments to gender equality, implementing CEDAW provisions, as well as integrate these strategic objectives into defining agreements, institutions, mechanisms and processes.
Inspired and partly sparked by a similar South African initiative (the Gertrude Shope Annual Dialogue Forum), a regional Nordic Women Mediators (NWM) network was launched in Oslo, Norway, in November 2015, and since then, five national networks have also sprung up in each Nordic country. The NWM network was established to address the limited participation and access of women to peace processes by strengthening and supporting women's participation in negotiating peace at all levels and stages--be it by amplifying women's voices and concerns, advocating for more inclusive processes, undertaking joint projects, exchanging experiences or networking and building relationships with other women mediator networks. Hence, recognizing and actively promoting women's full participation in peace processes--as parties, participants and mediators--constitutes a critical part of implementing this agenda...