The presence of women in positions of leadership can greatly reduce the likelihood of violent conflict emerging as well as the prospects for the peaceful resolution of existing conflicts. Research has shown that countries with greater gender equality are more likely to resolve conflicts without violence and are less likely to use military force to resolve international disputes. Conversely, countries with more significant gender gaps are more likely to be involved in inter- and intrastate conflict.
Concerted efforts to increase the number of women in conflict prevention, mediation, and resolution efforts, include the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 in October 2000, which “urges Member States to ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict.”
UN Member States adopted this resolution because the evidence shows that higher levels of gender equality are directly related to increased levels of security and stability. In fact, women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution can improve outcomes before, during, and after conflict. For example, women’s participation increases the probability of a peace agreement lasting at least two years by 20 percent and a peace agreement lasting fifteen years by 35 percent.
Yet despite this evidence, women’s participation in formal peace processes remains low. Between 1992 and 2019, women constituted, on average, just 13 percent of negotiators, 6 percent of mediators, and 6 percent of signatories in major peace processes around the world. While there has been some progress in women’s participation, about seven out of every ten peace processes still did not include women mediators or women signatories—the latter indicating that few women participated in leadership roles as negotiators, guarantors, or witnesses.
Peace efforts in 2020 reflected this struggle to include women. For example, women represented only around 10 percent of negotiators in the Afghan talks, just 20 percent of negotiators in Libya’s political discussions, and 0 percent of negotiators in Libya’s military talks and Yemen’s recent process. In 2021, women did contribute as lead mediators in two of the five active UN-led or co-led processes (the Geneva International Discussions and the Libyan dialogue). Women accounted for 43 percent of the staff on United Nations mediation support teams in 2021.
Continued failure to include women in peace processes ignores their demonstrated contributions and overlooks a potential strategy to respond more effectively to security threats around the world.
A growing body of research and case studies of current and past peace processes reveal how women’s participation—whether in official negotiating roles or through grassroots efforts—contributes to reaching lasting peace agreements. The vast majority of peace agreements reached since 1990 fail to reference the conflict experience or postconflict contributions of half their countries’ population.
Listen to interviews with U.S. diplomats and global leaders on their contributions to peace and security processes around the world, from Iran to Liberia to Northern Ireland.