For real global security, put women in their place -- at the negotiating table
The usual approach to terror prevention and conflict resolution hasn't gotten results. It's time we start using our most underutilized, valuable security asset – women. From Northern Ireland to Liberia, women have helped broker peace where military efforts and traditional negotiations failed.
While the current global financial and economic crisis brings many nations to their public-spending knees, military spending continues to increase: 6 percent last year and 49 percent since 2000. In the United States military, expenditures now account for just under half the world total (46.5 percent). It seems fair to ask: What is our goal, and are we getting our money’s worth?Skip to next paragraph
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Approaching terror prevention, conflict resolution, and peacekeeping in the usual way hasn’t yielded much progress. If our objective is creating durable, livable security for citizens here and abroad, we need to start paying attention to our most valuable and underutilized asset: women.
This fall at the United Nations, governments commemorated the 10th anniversary of the first UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR 1325) that called for the inclusion of women in peace negotiations and post-conflict decisionmaking. Yet few who supported the resolution are calling for celebration. Women comprise over 50 percent of the population worldwide and often more than 75 percent of victims of insecurity. But they have made up only 2.5 percent of those signing peace agreements and 7 percent of those engaged in negotiations over the last 20 years.
Women working across boundaries
Wars in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Afghanistan exposed the fact that women are targets, and violence against them is a primary weapon in many conflicts. But those situations also revealed, that in the midst of conflicts, women were quietly working across boundaries to protect communities and overcome hostilities. Unfortunately, the four UN resolutions on women, peace, and security in the last 10 years have had little success in getting these women an official place at security decision-making tables.
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Critics against UNSCR 1325’s full implementation cite local resistance to include women at decision-making tables in deeply patriarchal societies. Even the United Nations was cowed into excluding women from negotiations in Afghanistan under pressure that women would jeopardize a potential peace agreement with the Taliban. But excluding the skills and voices of women under-represents their needs and the interests they represent, in itself jeopardizing a lasting peace.
Furthermore, investment in peace processes is undermined if the peace is not sustained. History has shown that the most sustainable peace is built with the widest stakeholder and community buy-in. In addition to making up 50 percent of the population, women frequently bring firsthand experience of exclusion and offer the perspective of caregivers of their communities. In peace negotiations leading to Northern Ireland’s 1998 Good Friday Agreement, women prioritized the constitutional inclusion of social services crucial to addressing the root causes of social inequality and discontent.