Rights of women rise in international peace agreements

Women’s rights are increasingly being incorporated into peace processes despite being historically overlooked in agreements, research from the University of Edinburgh has revealed.

Women take part in a Scottish running event. Picture: Alan Murray
Women take part in a Scottish running event. Picture: Alan Murray

Analysis of the more than 1,500 peace settlements signed between 1990 and 2015 found only one-fifth of them made any reference to women, girls or gender.

However, by 2015, nearly a half of the peace processes made some provisions for women.

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The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1,325 of 2000 stipulated that peace agreements should adopt a “gender perspective”.

Before the resolution passed only 12 per cent of agreements signed by the UN contained reference to women, compared with 42 per cent since.

Experts said including an explicit reference to women’s rights in peace agreements recognises the importance of women for social cohesion and ensures the process of rebuilding society is fully representative.

Researchers at the university’s political settlement research project developed an online tool to chart progress in peace agreements since the end of the Cold War.

The database – called PA-X, a Peace Agreement Access Tool – includes agreements related to conflicts that include Bosnia, Colombia Peace Agreement, Northern Ireland, Yemeni National Dialogue, Syria and Sudan.

Professor Christine Bell, director of the university’s political settlements research programme, who was involved in the report, said: “By tracking the growth – and assessing the significance – of including women in peace processes, this database can encourage those involved in resolving conflict to include a gender perspective in future agreements.

“By doing so, they could help improve the lives of women and girls in post-­conflict societies, to the benefit of 
all.”

The research findings included the finding that there was a “clear rise in peace agreement references to gender-based violence against women.”

Dr Kevin McNicholl, of the Edinburgh Law School, who co-wrote the research, said that whilst the situation was improving, different implementation rates applied to provisions within peace processes.

The research is published in [email protected] as part of a special collection on women and peace processes.