Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

How can we empower women in conflict prevention?

Maria Caspani
Journalist, Thomson Reuters Foundation
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Gender Inequality

In the clamour for women’s rights to everything from health, education and the right to marry who they choose to equal pay, access to credit and land, there is one area that is often overlooked.

And that is the role women can play in preventing conflicts, promoting peace and responding to humanitarian crises as outlined in U.N. Resolution 1325, which was adopted by the U.N. Security Council 15 years ago.

Policymakers, politicians and campaigners have once again been scrutinising progress in putting into action the spirit of the resolution at this year’s annual Commission on the Status of Women.

As ever, it’s a mixed picture with words barely matched by funds.

The good news is that aid to promote gender equality and women’s rights in fragile states has increased fourfold since the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were introduced in 2000.

While overall aid to fragile states has generally remained flat, funding for gender equality rose to an all time high of $10.3 billion in 2012-13, according to a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released this month.

The bad news is that gender equality is hardly ever a priority for donors, with only six percent of funds to fragile states specifically targeting gender equality initiatives.

This means that programmes that benefit women directly often remain underfunded where they are most needed. For example, programmes that encourage women to take part in peace talks and reconstruction efforts in countries emerging from conflict, OECD said.

The data-rich report, which evaluated OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members’ commitments to gender equality in their aid to some developing countries, found significant gaps in the allocation of funds.

Initiatives that give women a key role in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, or in maintaining lasting peace in countries – crucial aspects of Resolution 1325 – received little funding.

The bulk of aid went in support of gender equality in education and the health sector, the OECD report said.

For Nahla Valji, a policy specialist on rule of law and justice at UN Women, there is “very little to celebrate” as the amount of aid to gender equality in many of these countries is still “close to nothing.”

Valji stressed the importance of data collection to make an even stronger case for women’s inclusion and participation in all aspects of public life.

In a panel discussion in New York this week, she asked that U.N. member states adopt a 15 percent funding goal for gender equality in their development aid packages.

Another gap that needs to be closed to ensure women’s full participation in their country’s peace and security efforts is the one between civil society organisations and policy makers, said Harriette Williams Bright of Femmes Africa Solidarité, a group lobbying for women’s leadership in peace building.

It’s clear that that 15 years after Resolution 1325 was adopted, the international community is still struggling to effectively implement its recommendations.

In Afghanistan, a country marred by decades of conflict and one of the worst places in the world to be a woman, activists spoke of the difficulties of implementing existing legislation and policies that should protect women, at least on paper.

“We are working hard to put laws into action,” said Maryam  Rahmani of the Afghan Women’s Resource Center, an organisation that has been working to empower Afghan women at the grassroots level for the past 25 years.

This article is published in collaboration with Thomson Reuters Foundation. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Maria Caspani is a journalist at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, covering humanitarian crisis and women’s rights.

Image: A man looks at a screen outside a United Overseas Bank (UOB) branch in Singapore’s financial district. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash.

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