We need more women on negotiating teams

Women often left to cope with aftermath of war, but routinely excluded from peacemaking.

December 7, 2011 23:43
2 minute read.
Nobel prize winner Leymah Gbowee

Leymah Gbowee 311. (photo credit: Reuters)


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More than 50 percent of peace agreements fail within five years of being signed. This is partly due to the fact that peace negotiations and peace agreements do not address the underlying causes of the conflict.

Alongside the raw quest for power, issues such as poverty, unequal distribution of resources, exploitation and injustice are at the root of conflict. Societies that are fragmented, where internal fighting, prejudice and discrimination run rampant, and where social and economic inequality surge, lack the resilience necessary to support the transition from conflict to peace.

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Women are at the forefront of societies, waging war to change these conditions. It is women who care for the disentitled members of society. It is women who continue to be the primary caretakers of children, aging parents and individuals with special needs. Women uphold the home when men go to war and it is women and their children who are left to cope when men do not return from war. Women spearhead initiatives to fight inequality, discrimination, injustice and exploitation.

Despite their role in safeguarding societies, women are largely absent from the peace table. Moreover, issues that are at the root of conflict and critical for sustainable peace are rarely part of peace negotiation agendas. In 2010 the UN Development Fund for Women found that women comprise less than 10% of negotiators and less than 3% of the signatories to peace agreements. The UN itself has never appointed a woman chief negotiator.

On December 10 we will celebrate, together with women and men around the world, as Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their struggle to ensure “women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” The decision by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee to recognize these women for their work broadcasts a clear message: Women are at the forefront – making societies more just, more democratic and more peaceful for all people, men and women alike.

At a time when women’s presence in the public sphere threatens the future of Israeli democracy, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s recognition of women’s rights to full participation is a breath of fresh air. It is a message that calls for actions here at home – certainly in the realm of peace, yet no less critical in the realm of public transportation, the military, the religious establishment, government and more. The State of Israel will become stronger by taking measures to ensure that half of its population is on the front line in all domains of influence of society.

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