Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Situations

On March 14th, IPI together with the Government of Sweden, the OECD Development Assistance Committee Network on Gender Equality (GENDERNET), the International Network on Conflict and Fragility (INCAF), and the Government of Switzerland cohosted a policy forum on “Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Situations.”

Sustainable peace, inclusive institutions, and gender equality are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Conflict, fragility, and gender equality erode people’s opportunities to fulfill their potential and undermine women’s empowerment and prospects for sustainable development. Violence, harmful gender norms, weak institutions, and other characteristics of fragile settings can compound burdens faced by women and girls, including through increased levels of gender-based violence, unpaid care and domestic work, lack of access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, and gaps in school enrollment and retention.

Women play important roles in peacebuilding and recovery at both the national and local levels, and their meaningful participation in peace negotiations and constitutional reform increases the likelihood that agreements are reached and implemented. Women’s economic empowerment similarly contributes to post-conflict recovery and reconstruction, and women’s important roles in natural resource management can help strengthen peacebuilding and development in these settings. Fragile and conflict-affected contexts can provide opportunities for women’s increased leadership in these areas and can also offer particular openings to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) policy paper “Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Fragile and Conflict-affected Situations: A Review of Donor Support” (October 2017) reveals how the development community often misses these opportunities. Development programs tend to include women affected by conflict and violence as passive beneficiaries, rather than as active agents in strengthening gender equality, peacebuilding, and sustainable development. Where development partners do support women’s agency in strengthening recovery and reconciliation in rural areas, they often fail to link these activities to wider processes of women’s mobilization, peacebuilding, and statebuilding. These gaps reflect a general neglect of the ways in which a gender perspective can strengthen wider responses to conflict and fragility.

This event aimed to generate ideas on concrete steps that development partners, governments, and civil society can take to strengthen the quality of support to women in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. To this end, the discussion brought together civil society, governments, and international actors working to support women’s contributions to peace processes and conflict resolution.

Opening Remarks:
H.E. Ms. Deqa Yasin Hagi Yusuf, Minister of Gender and Human Rights Development, Somalia

Ursula Keller, Chair, OECD Development Assistance Committee Network on Gender Equality (GENDERNET), Switzerland
Barbro Svedberg, Policy Specialist, Women, Peace and Security, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)
Mavic Cabrera Balleza, International Coordinator, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders
Sarah Douglas, Deputy Chief of Peace and Security, UN Women

Sarah Taylor, Research Fellow, International Peace Institute