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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2006, Vol, 6 No. 1 .


Inclusive Security, Sustainable Peace: A Toolkit for Advocacy and Action, and Gender Equality. Striving for Justice in an Unequal World, and Women in an Insecure World. Violence against Women. Facts, Figures and Analysis
International Alert and Women Waging Peace, and UNRISD, and Marie VlachovŠ and Lea Biason eds.

International Alert & Women Waging Peace, 2004, 204pp, £25, ISBN 1898702 5 9 4, and UNRISD: Geneva, 2005, 303pp, $US32, ISBN 92-9085-052-3, and
Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, 2005, 335pp, 25 Swiss francs, ISBN 92-9222-028-4


In October 2000, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) on Women, Peace and Security. This Resolution is of great importance. It is the first time the Security Council acknowledged women?s key role in peacebuilding. UNSCR 1325 calls for participation of women in peace processes, gender training in peacekeeping operations, protection of women and girls and respect for their rights; and gender mainstreaming in reporting and implementation systems of the United Nations, relating to conflict, peace and security. UNSCR 1325 is being used by women?s organisations and peace groups around the world as an advocacy tool to work to hold governments accountable for their commitments to this resolution. There is an urgency to recognise the active yet often informal peacebuilding work many women do as mediators, trauma-healing counsellors, bridge-builders across ethnic, religious and cultural divisions or as prime carers, struggling to maintain peaceful community bonds. In consultation with women peace actors from different conflict-affected regions and as a response to UNSCR 1325, significant books and toolkits have emerged and I am reviewing three.

Inclusive Security can be downloaded at www.womenwagingpeace.net/toolkit.asp. For practitioners or trainers it is available in a glossy hardback file with six separate booklets, each written by separate authors. Contributors to the writing of this report include Ancil Adrian-Paul, Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, Camille Pampell Conaway, Judy El-Bushra, Kelly Fish, Nicola Johnston, Lisa Kays, Gillian Lobo, Sarah Maguire, Elizabeth Powley, Jolynn Shoemaker, Guillermo Suarez Sebastian, Victoria Stanski and Mebrak Tareke who gained from insights from an extensive range of individuals and groups. Each section explains concepts clearly, utilises practical examples from a wide variety of global trouble spots, highlights boxed case studies, keeps explaining why it is necessary to examine issues specifically in terms of women and gender and is written in clear, accessible language. There is an excellent balance between attention to general issues, specific countries and international conventions. Each section of the booklet ends by asking, ?what can women peace builders do?? and provides extremely useful questions that are practical and have enough flexibility for cross-cultural comparative adaptability. Each section includes a short bibliography and endnotes.

The Introduction states the target audience as women peace actors, advocates and practitioners in conflict-affected and transitional countries. Policy-makers and NGOs also would find it valuable. The policy framework for the toolkit is one of human security, sustainable peace, accountability to prevent and resolve conflict, and the protection of human rights. Relevant international conventions are explained in their useful boxes and applied to practical case stories.

The second booklet is on ?Conflict Prevention, Resolution and Reconstruction? and looks also at peace negotiations and agreements, peace support operations and post-conflict reconstruction. Useful gender-based indicators of violence are given, and this is useful given that these are largely absent in conflict early warning efforts. Booklet three is on ?Security Issues?, particularly disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR), small arms, light weapons and landmines and security sector reform. Few women enter security debates; hence it is important for women to increase their engagement with issues of security, whether in security forces, government or civil society, particularly to broaden understandings beyond national security to include human security and welfare.

Booklet four focuses on ?Justice, Governments and Civil Society?. It examines the concepts and practices of transitional justice and reconciliation, reparations, amnesty, witnesses and perpetrators. It also looks at women?s contribution to Constitution-making and the importance of equal rights for men and women, like key legislative issues of family law, property in succession law, citizenship and nationalism, violence against women and equal rights. Issues of governance and democratic decision-making are outlined, as is the importance of an active civil society in promoting sustainable peace.

Booklet five examines ?Protecting Vulnerable Groups? like refugees and internally displaced persons. It also explores women?s sexual and reproductive health rights, gender-based violence, sufferers of HIV/AIDS and children?s security. The appendix ends with listing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and UNSCR 1325. This is an excellent toolkit. As a feminist academic researcher, I?ve referred to it frequently to clarify concepts and gain examples. However, its real benefit lies in being a wonderful guide for capacity-building workshops. There is enormous potential in this toolkit.

The background research for the UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) Report on Gender Equality was carried out by 70 different feminist scholars from diverse regions, particularly in the South. Chapters were written by Urvashi Butalia, Anne Marie Goetz, Maxine Molyneux, Donna Pankhurst, Nicola Piper, Shahra Razavi, Stephanie Seguinu and Ann Zammit. The report can be downloaded at www.unrisd.org.

The impetus for this report is the recognition that mainstream international policy debates on ?economic liberalisation, democratisation and government reforms, and identity and conflict - are not being systematically informed by the knowledge that is being generated through gender research and scholarship? (xv). The UNRISD is an autonomous research Institute within the United Nations, well-placed to evaluate gender equality and the challenges that remain ten years after the significant Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995). The Introductory chapter asks relevant questions as to the indicators for evaluating progress in gender equality in terms of income and well-being given that ?what counts as progress is often a contested field in which there are competing visions of ?the good society?, and of women?s place within? (1). There have been significant, positive changes in women?s status, education and rights, but persistent gender inequality is a real concern. The report provides very useful factual figures of regional country-specific comparisons of equality indicators on issues like educational enrolment, economic activity and presence in national parliament.

Section 1 addresses ?Macroeconomics, Well-being and Gender Equality?. Economic policies, inspired by neoliberal market thinking and the influence of the World Trade Organisation and International Financial Institutions reflect the surge for expansive globalisation. This report poses crucial questions as to how women fare in such a context and what sort of economic changes might improve women?s well-being and promote gender equality. Accordingly, the first chapter in this section provides background to the growth of the neoliberal agenda and questions whether neoliberal policies can generate social development in terms of health, education and human security. Women have differing starting points in their ability to generate income and privatisation of services may appear to promote economic efficiency, but result in user fees for essential goods like water, power, health and education that affect women as the main managers of household budgets. The authors strive for a method of evaluating gendered well-being to include fertility, secondary school enrolment, share of labour force, share of non-agricultural employment and the ratio of unemployment. The conclusion is that orthodox neoliberal approaches of tight monetary and fiscal policies along with free trade and capital flows have not encouraged widespread development or created gender equality. There is more need of development and social goals that contribute to equality.

Section 2 examines ?Women, Work and Social Policy? and builds on the critique of neoliberal economic policies. Women are more visible in the economic domain but employment has to accommodate prime nurturing ?in the unpaid domestic and care economy? (67). The first chapter in this section addresses the significant ?informal economy? that many women are involved in, where there is no security, contracts, worker benefits or legal protection. Collective action, with transnational alliances between trade unions and NGOs has been valuable in having a ripple effect on increasing workers? rights, particularly in the clothing, textile and footwear industries. For the vast majority of rural women, there is a need to earn non-farm incomes to survive, and this often leads to family conflict where men?s loss of breadwinning roles leads to increased domestic violence. Some families migrate in search of work. Typically, people?s livelihoods are subject to insecurities. There are gender-differentiated impacts on household resource allocation, market stratification and involvement in the unpaid care economy. Liberalisation policies leave little room for broad debates on what constitutes a healthy society and what are the state?s obligations to vulnerable citizens.

Section 3 focuses on ?Women in Politics and Public Life?. It begins with the rising tide of women in public office, even though in 2004, the average proportion of women in national assemblies is only 16%, with 16 countries having greater than 30%, with Rwanda in 2003 achieving a world record with 48.8% (147). The first chapter in this section looks at why women are absent from formal electoral politics, quotas and affirmative action. We should remember that many women understand political participation far more broadly than formal politics and many are active in political and civic associations. Women?s movements and explicitly feminist groups are crucial in mobilising women (and men) to reshape democracy in addressing women?s rights. For gender equality to be tackled strategically, it needs to be central to governance, policy reform, legal reforms and budgets. ?There is a long way to go before meeting the needs of women citizens is universally accepted as a measure against which the performance of leaders and officials is assessed? (191).

Finally, section four examines the similar area to the toolkit discussed above, namely ?Gender, Armed Conflict and the Search for Peace?. It begins by looking at the impact of conflict on women, particularly as victims of war where rape is used as a strategy of war to subvert community bonds and where young girls are forced into sexual slavery for soldiers. It looks also at women?s involvement in informal peace initiatives and in formal peace negotiations. A chapter looks at women?s involvement in peacebuilding once the guns seem to be quiet and notes the importance of being involved in land reform, economic activity, trauma counsel and seeking justice for war rape.

This report is a substantial, thorough and extremely useful document. Its statistics are very up-to-date, its analysis is insightful and it offers a much-needed critical perspective on the dangers of neoliberal markets and state reforms in eroding social cohesion and in avoiding issues of inequality. The report is of great interest to students, academics, policy-makers and practitioners interested in equality, justice, development and gender.

The third book under review, Women in an Insecure World is also an important publication. A 32pp executive summary of this handbook-type volume is available at www.dcaf.ch/women/pb_women_ex_sum.pdf. The volume is targeted at donors, policy-makers, academics, journalists, activists and practitioners and aims to provide insight into both the scope and magnitude of violent experiences by women in conflict and post-accord situations and also the active role of women in peace-making and post-conflict reconstruction. Again, this is a wonderful collaborative production of at least 44 experts from intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations, research institutes and academia. Again, the context of this production is UNSCR 1325. The context also is one where regardless of the evil - missing persons, persons forced into prostitution, victims of anti-personnel mines, victims of male violence and rape, a disproportionate number of victims are women and children, what Theodore Winkler, the Director of the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces calls ?the slaughter of Eve, a systematic gendercide of tragic proportions? (viii). Underlying the descriptive, analytical and illustrative elements of gender-based violence are three extensive agendas: human rights, development and peace studies.

Part one examines ?Violence Against Women in Daily Life? given that ?most of the violence against women is committed in everyday life, often in the private sphere of households? (13). This part examines seven issues. First, gendercidal institutions against women and girls include female infanticide, selective abortions, rape of girl infants and children and domestic killings. Second, community-based violence against women includes female genital mutilation, honour killings, acid attacks, dowry-killings and Sharia penalties. Third, with regard to gender-based violence and poverty (including issues addressed in the above report), the persistent gender inequalities and the statistics are startling. Hence, this volume addresses the importance of empowerment, of self-transformation of women?s agency. Fourth, it examines domestic violence and violation of women?s rights by their partners, a violation that often remains hidden. Fifth, prostitution as a violation of human dignity, and for some women as an act of desperation in search of survival is explored. Sixth, trafficking and the sexual exploitation of girls and women are examined. Successful approaches to combating trafficking will need to address the ?trafficking-poverty nexus? (88). Seventh, violence against women in custody is analysed.

Part two focuses on ?Women in War and Armed Conflicts?, a common theme in each publication under review. It begins by noting the particular vulnerability of women in armed conflicts and examines the horrors of rape and sexual violence ?as methods of warfare? (113) and pays attention to the United Nations peacekeepers code of conduct, given the complicity of some peacekeepers in the sexual exploitation of local women. The torture of women in armed conflict is also examined. Some women are combatants in opposition groups or in regular forces. There is a picture of the United States military policewoman taken in 2004 assaulting Iraqi detainees in the prison of Abu Ghraib. The statistics of women living with HIV/AIDS, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, South and South-East Asia and Latin America are startling.

Part three looks at ?Women in Post-Conflict Situations?. It explores what enables resilience in the face of the horrors of war and the impact of psycho-social trauma. ?Women and children comprise approximately 80% of the world?s 34.8 million uprooted people - refugees and internally displaced persons? (169). Strategies to provide meaningful protection and assistance are urgently needed. The impact of mourning given the loss of family members is addressed, as many women become widows through war. Landmines have appalling humanitarian costs. Disarmament, demobilisation and integration processes are normally agreed on during formal peace talks when women are absent or marginalised. Women in receiving communities may be harsh judges of women combatants returning. Other women are active in peace movements and reconciliation processes. Again, the significance of the Beijing Platform for Action, Beijing +5 and +10, the Women Building Peace Campaign and UNSCR 1325 are noted with divergent optimistic and critical views on women in post-war Iraq and Afghanistan.

Part four concludes usefully with ?Strategies and Solutions? looking specifically at UNSCR 1325 through the lens of human rights, feminist approaches to gender-based violence, gender mainstreaming of peace support operations, and legal protection of women. It concludes with the UNSCR 1325 as a watershed in the history of women?s defence of peace. The conclusions and recommendations relate to prevention, protection and empowerment. There are extensive reading lists after each section and lists of organisations dealing with women?s rights. The book is beautifully illustrated and includes many deeply disturbing harrowing pictures that provoke conscience and the need for further action.

I recommend these three publications extremely highly. They are of enormous use, in a scholarly sense to academics and students, but perhaps in this instance more importantly to policy-makers and practitioners, people who are consciously working toward encouraging the empowerment of women?s lives and struggling to facilitate capacities of local women peacebuilders to understand more of what might be possible in a world where there is gender equality, gender justice, equal human rights and sustainable peace. It is important that donors understand that their contributions have been put to meaningful use in the production of these three outstanding publications.


Dr Elisabeth Porter, INCORE Research Director, University of Ulster, Editor, ?Ethnic Conflict Research Digest?



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