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Nonviolence News


Readings in Nonviolence

'Readings in Nonviolence' features extracts from our favourite books, pamphlets, articles or other material on nonviolence and related areas, or reviews of important works in the field (suggestions and contributions welcome)

Women and Peacemaking: The state of play

“Candid voices from the Field: Obstacles to a transformative Women, Peace and Security agenda and to women’s meaningful participation in building peace and security.”

Written by Karen McMinn and published by Women Peacemakers Program (WPP), Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, and Cordaid. October 2015, 76 pages A4.

To summarise a comprehensive, well researched and documented report of this nature in a few pages is impossible. What we have tried to do here is give a flavour of some principal points to whet your appetite for delving deeper into the report which is available online along with video interview material from prominent activists. We include page numbers here for ease of reference and “........” to indicate where material from a section is edited out before or after before the quoted part. References from the original are not included here except where referred to directly in the text; there is a comprehensive reference list in the publication itself. You can easily find the wording of UN Standing Committee Resolution 1325, and other related material, by doing a word search.

We include a certain amount from ‘Obstacles’ listed but not the thought-provoking and positive conclusions and recommendations of the report which are well worth reading - you will need to go to the original (p.59) to read them......

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1.2 Current Context of the WPS Agenda — Where are we now?
The prevailing context of the WPS [Women Peace and Security] agenda is a mixed one. Some actors feel a continued sense of optimism about the potential of the policy framework to deliver change and progress commitments to strengthen women’s participation and leadership. However, this is in contrast to the growing disillusionment and pessimism felt by other actors (including voices from women’s civil society), that current WPS mechanisms have not only failed to address the key needs of women and girls in conflict-affected areas but have also “boxed in” women’s civil society into work on WPS in a manner that has been damaging for the evolution of women’s peace networks and women’s participation in activism and advocacy regarding peace and security. Both perspectives are reflected ...... (p.14)

The WPS Agenda: A Catalyst for Women’s Empowerment and Social Change
 ........... It is important to acknowledge the benefits and results that the WPS agenda, and specifically UNSCR 1325, has delivered at local, national and international levels in terms of strengthening resources, and promoting action and awareness about the needs of women and girls in conflict-affected and post-conflict societies. UNSCR 1325 is regarded as being the first proactive policy to include women in peace and security policy making at the international policy level. The suite of WPS resolutions, along with the NAPs [National Action Plans] on UNSCR 1325, has delivered some very concrete results, particularly at the global and national levels. They have helped to focus attention on the needs of women and to increase the allocation of resources for women and girls in conflict and post-conflict settings at the national and international levels, and they have brought the issues of women’s participation and leadership to the forefront politically. Key benefits that can be attributed to UNSCR 1325 and its sister resolutions include:

- an increase in opportunities to bring together key actors and increase coherence and visibility on WPS actions

- a strengthened focus on WPS issues by activists, feminists, policy analysts and academics

- recognition and support for the protection of women and girls in conflict settings

- improved reporting and sanction mechanisms regarding the use of sexual violence in conflict as a crime

- greater awareness and understanding of the disproportionate impact of armed conflict on women and girls

- the appointment of gender crimes investigators

- the appointment of a number of women to positions of influence in the policy and operational arenas. (p.15-16) ............

2.3 The Limitations of UNSCR 1325: The Need to Reclaim the Agenda

The failures in the implementation of UNSCR 1325 as a tool for transformative change have been a key focus of the debate on WPS in recent years. The tenth anniversary of the introduction of UNSCR 1325 in 2010 provided a focal point for reflection on and an assessment of the effectiveness of the agenda for civil society and UN actors. From 2010 onwards, evidence of the significant gap between UNSCR 1325’s rhetoric on transformative change to enhance women’s roles in peace and security and its capacity to deliver a meaningful and impactful implementation of its commitments has mounted in literature and debates within policy, academic and civil society arenas.

In the last five years, a reservoir of knowledge and data has been building against which we can more accurately measure progress on UNSCR 1325. Findings from research at global and national levels, from evaluations of both first-generation National Action Plans (NAPs) and of the evolution of second-   generation NAPs at country levels have helped to focus on the need to build a more informed assessment of the extent of the progress on women’s participation in peace and security.

Particular weaknesses of the resolution identified include its ambiguous language, its lack of accountability mechanisms and the fact that “advocacy outweighs substance” (Barnes and Olonisakin 2011). Barnes further argues that the failure of the policy to challenge “entrenched notions of masculinity, militarised use of power and gender inequalities [...] can appear to reinforce the notion of women as peacemakers, with the implicit opposite of men as aggressors” and that the resolution fails to address the deep-seated issues at the root of gender inequality. She is somewhat critical of the approach of UNSCR 1325, arguing that “it tends to advocate for measurable, visible and quick impact results such as requiring that 30% of all parliamentary positions go to women”.

Cohn also argues for a more comprehensive analysis of drivers of conflict beyond the framework of UNSCR 1325 as well as for the need to reclaim the agenda by focusing on the broader causes of war and conflict. She argues further for the need to strengthen women’s participation not only in peace processes but also in the broader economic and political relations that impact the capacity of women to exercise their rights for political and economic empowerment in post-conflict settings. Citing the issues of women’s access to land rights and the practice of land acquisition (in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guatemala), Cohn advocates “taking on the issues that we have not addressed before that are not clearly associated with 1325” and cites the need to build feminist platforms for the building of sustainable peace. ................ (p.23-24)

3. Findings; Obstacles to transformative Change and Women’s Participation

3.1 Obstacle1: The Dynamics of Power: Patriarchal Attitudes and Norms in Peace and Security

Many of the informants stated that one of the most significant underlying obstacles to transformative change within the WPS agenda was its failure to challenge and change the patriarchal attitudes, behaviors and norms of key actors—a view that echoed the analysis of many feminist scholars and activists. Participants in the global consultation and in the one-on-one interviews felt that patriarchal attitudes were pervasive not only among peacekeeping and security actors, but also within UN institutions and bodies, representatives of member states, decision-making bodies at national and local levels of governance as well as civil society and religious institutions.

As a power system, patriarchy—“the social organization of men’s control of power”— operates on a hierarchical “power over” model of power, privileging those who have control over resources and authority in decision-making over those who do not. The exercise of patriarchal power has multiple devastating consequences for women and girls in conflict, fragile and non-conflict settings. Violence against women is recognized as one of the most widespread kinds of human rights abuse: an estimated 120 million girls and women under the age of 20 (about 1 out of 10) have been subjected to forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts. Women are underrepresented at all levels of political decision-making: worldwide, only about 1 out of 5 parliamentary seats is held by a woman; globally, three quarters of working-age men are in the labor force, compared to only half of working-age women; and women earn less than men across all sectors and occupations, with women’s earnings being 24% less than men’s. .............. (p.28)

3.2 Obstacle 2: The Lack of Political Commitment to Women’s Participation in Peace and Security

For many informants, the lack of political commitment as well as the low priority given to women’s participation in peace and security and to an effective policy implementation of UNSCR 1325 by UN institutions and member states have formed a significant obstacle to conflict transformation and are seen as a further consequence of patriarchal norms. Many of the informants saw this lack of political commitment as indicative of a broader failure at the global and national levels to support actions that would enable greater comprehensive social change and gender equality as part of the WPS agenda. There was a common concern among the research participants about the lack of political will within the UN Security Council itself to commit to the WPS agenda, with some informants arguing that this was linked to the protection of the broader strategic interests of the five permanent members of the UNSC. One participant in the global consultation expressed concerns about the capacity of the UNSC to be representative, with implications for the credibility of the Security Council as a legitimate actor for WPS. ........... (p.31)

3.3 Obstacle 3: A Security-First Approach to Peace and Conflict: Militarization

Militarization, like patriarchy, eliminates the possibility for a peaceful and constructive transformation of conflict systems, which is a key element within transformative change. Research informants identified the militarization of security and peace operations in conflict and non-conflict regions as a multiplier of violence that often served to undermine the safety and security of women and girls and exclude models of security based on the engagement of women in their local communities. Many informants regarded the use of patriarchal norms, the lack of political will to commit to WPS, and militarization as interlinking obstacles to transformative change and to women’s participation and leadership in peace and security.

Subsequent to 9/11, militarized responses to security and conflict concerns have increasingly become the default model for interventions in conflict, humanitarian and fragile settings. ............ (p.33)

3.4 Obstacle 4: Global Capitalism and Macroeconomics

esearch informants highlighted the growth of global capitalism, driven by a macroeconomic policy approach, as a key obstacle, not only as a significant driver of conflict but as a driver of the other deep-rooted obstacles to transformative change discussed in this report, notably: patriarchy, militarization and the embedded security-first response, and the proliferation of arms. The role of global capitalism as a driver of conflict is evident in the significant political and financial investment in militarized defense-and-security responses globally and in the international trade in arms and weapons. This is further reflected in the imbalance of investment and spending priorities of national governments on militarization and defense over critical drivers of equality such as health, education, and poverty reduction, which have been further eroded by the ongoing global economic crisis. This investment in a security-first approach is also based on protecting the political and economic interests of particular countries (most notably the five permanent members of the UNSC) and illustrates the paradoxical role that countries play in financing and fueling war and conflict to the exclusion of investments that would support a peace and security agenda including demilitarization, conflict prevention and nonviolence, and—critically—the empowerment and engagement of women in conflict resolution and peacebuilding. The economic crisis and the resulting austerity have had a particularly negative impact on the social and economic status of women, yet military spending is one of the few areas that have not been eroded by the austerity measures of national governments. ...... (p.37-38)

3.5 Obstacle 5: Ineffective Investment in and Funding of Women, Peace and Security

Chronic and persistent underinvestment in addressing gender equality and the absence of support for the participation of women’s civil society in nonviolent conflict resolution and conflict prevention has defined the funding landscape of the WPS agenda since its inception. The lack of adequate, targeted funding for WPS is indicative of the lack of political will to commit to gender equality and to women’s agency as drivers of transformative change in peace and security more generally. Programming at international, regional, national and grassroots levels has targeted some resources through NAPS on UNSCR 1325, but much of this has been focused on the protection of women as victims rather than on strengthening women’s participation and leadership in peace and security. As noted earlier, relative to the financial investments for militarized and securitized responses to peacebuilding and peacekeeping internationally and the resources spent by member states on investment in armaments and armed interventions in the territories of other member states, the funds targeted to support the building of a transformative approach to supporting peace and security are insignificant. Global military expenditure in 2014 was an estimated $1776bn, while Official Development Assistance (ODA) was $135bn, representing just 7.6% of military expenditure or a ratio of 14:1. ..... (p.41)

3.6 Obstacle 6:The Flawed Implementation of UNSCR 1325

Informants were candid about the weakness of the UNSCR 1325 and related resolutions to enable transformative change for women’s participation and leadership in peace and security. There was a high level of agreement among the research informants that the inadequacy of UNSCR 1325 as a policy instrument had itself had become a barrier to the delivery of transformative change for women’s participation and leadership in peace and security and that the current implementation of UNSCR 1325 had “depoliticized the broader WPS agenda. [...] There is a disconnect between the women’s civil society and the institutions in political dialogue on WPS.” (Research informant)......... (p.42)

3.7 Obstacle 7: Poor Policy Coherence between Peace, Security and Development Needs

Poor policy coherence between peace, security and development was regarded as a key obstacle to transformative change and women’s empowerment. This reiterates the need to reframe the WPS agenda in line with the principles of the BPfA [Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action], which recognizes gender equality and women’s participation as inseparable from peace, security and development. .... (p.46)

3.8 Obstacle 8: The Weak Institutional Implementation of WPS at Global and National Levels

Informants highlighted the need for effective leadership of the WPS agenda at the global institutional levels and were concerned about the response from a number of key UN institutions and agencies, including the UNSC, UN’s Department of Political Affairs (DPA), the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and UN Women. Poor implementation at the institutional level was felt to be aligned to the lack of political will to commit to WPS generally.

Other criticisms expressed by the informants were that the UN leadership has failed to properly champion UNSCR 1325 or support its implementation. Moreover, within the UN family, the bulk of the responsibility and commitment for the WPS agenda had been assigned to UN Women, which is recognized as being under resourced itself, rather than building effective engagement across a range of institutions tasked with peace and security such as the UNDP [UN Development Programme] and the DPKO. ..... (p.47)

3.9 Obstacle 9: The Exclusion of Women in Transitioning and Post-conflict Negotiations and Structures

Informants identified a number of ways in women were excluded from critical post-conflict negotiations and structures including: formal mediation and peace processes, processes for disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR), and security sector reform (SSR) structures. This is linked to the earlier discussions on the lack of political will to commit to gender equality, the lack of an inclusive security approach and the lack of investment for women’s economic empowerment in post-conflict settings. ............. (p.51)

3.10 Obstacle10: he Challenges for Coalition-Building and Engagement

The informants identified a number of impediments to coalition-building for WPS, most notably the shrinking and diluted space for WPS, the cultural barriers to women roles and contributions to peace and security, and the contested agendas for WPS. ...... (p.54)

4. Conclusions and Recommendations (p.59) See the report

The author of the report, Karen McMinn, works as a gender consultant and analyst on women, peace and security (WPS) issues and is based in Northern Ireland; she has been active in the field of women’s empowerment for over 35 years.

The full report and related videos are available at

Masculinities, Violence and (Post-)Conflict

Rob Fairmichael reports on a postgraduate conference in mid-January 2016 hosted by the Transitional Justice Institute (TJI), the International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE) and the Institute for Research in Social Sciences (IRISS) at Ulster University. The primary organisers were Seamus Campbell and Philipp Schulz. The event was attended by a total of 80 participants, including students, academics, practitioners, interested member of the public from a variety of different locations in Europe and further afield.

Photos of all the presenters, their institutional affiliation, and the title of their presentation are included on INNATE’s photo site. The Transitional Justice Institute website.

Text in inverted commas [ “ ........” ] is taken from the abstracts of the presentations or slides shown.

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This was certainly a litre in a half litre container – or in old money a quart in a pint pot. Having a couple of dozen presentations in one day made it very full, and on occasions my academese (knowledge of academic speak or jargon) was not up to understanding fully what people were on about. But there was a huge amount shared and the organisers are to be congratulated for spreading light on the issues concerned. In this piece I am not trying to summarise presentations – that would be too much – but to pick up some points which struck me particularly.

The first point I would make is the gender of most presenters – female. Positively, this would negate any impression that women are not taking masculinities and violence seriously. Negatively, it leads me to wonder why there were or are not more men involved in this research.

Many presentations clearly fitted a feminist analysis but went on to explore problematic constructions of masculinity or, more commonly, men as victims of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) and displacement, and the negative and difficult consequences for them.

In the keynote address Chris Dolan of the Refugee Law Project, who has done important work in highlighting men as victims, gave, among other things, a harrowing account of sexualised violence against men in conflict to degrade them and ‘show you are a woman’. He also questioned the extent to which men are constrained to act in certain ways (by various forces and institutions) and the extent to which young men are capable of rational decision making given that he said the age to make fully ‘rational’ decisions is not reached until 25 in males, and 23 in females.

A former colleague sitting beside me pointed out to me that Chris Dolan had not used the term ‘patriarchy’, and I agree and feel this was lacking in a keynote presentation. Using the term and concept of patriarchy is, for me, an essential part of understanding male violence – against women, other men, or children. It should of course be understood that patriarchy does not benefit most men overall and can act to constrain even those who wish to be a different kind of man. I feel that such a concept and background is an important framework before we go on to consider men as victims, both to put their victimhood in a wider context and to understand the particularities of why they became victims (they are likely, after all, to be the victims of men-on-men violence).

It also does not mean that the issue of men as victims is dealt with adequately, at any level, from the UN through to refugees on the ground. Heleen Touquet and Ellen Gorris made a very clear presentation which dealt with the fact that “While the visibility of male victims has increased, many of the used definitions still reflect limited understandings of conflict-related sexual violence. First emerging United Nations policy guidelines that do include men and boys frame them as secondary victims, diminishing their suffering and further perpetuating the idea that sexual violence is essentially a ‘women’s issue’.......Similarly, in international law, whilst definitions are more gender-neutral, the interpretation of these definitions is often left to the discretion of judges and the prosecution, where gender stereotypes and deeply entrenched cultural myths fail to take the experience of males fully into account.....” They also covered the variety of forms that SGBV violence can take for men and the fact that men are reluctant to seek help, less likely to disclose, and may not benefit from help as much as women.

In terms of social science arguments for taking male victims into account, they made three points: “1) Link between victimisation/exposure to (sexual) violence and perpetration (of violence against women) 2) Gender norms that underpin inequality contribute to violence (chicken and egg): hegemonic, militarized violence in particular makes societies predisposed to war, non-conforming men targeted 3) Sexual violence against men as a ritual in order to stimulate bonding/traumatic bonding (e.g. child soldiers, ISIS)” In terms of ways forward, in relation to policy they identified the 2013 UN Workshop on Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys, and, concerning law, the 2014 Policy Paper on Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes from the International Criminal Court.“

But there was also an important point made about not making assumptions about cultural contexts. Lewis Turner, in speaking about Syrian refugee communities in Jordan, spoke of the assumption that ‘Arab men’ would be unwilling to participate in programmes on gender and violence; “culturalist fears about participation are unfounded, programmes must nonetheless be culturally relevant, and willing to engage with frameworks other than those offered by universalist discourses of human rights.” He was told that ‘in Arab culture’ it was shameful for men to cry – but this was also unfounded. Carol Wrenn of Trócaire, in a round table (actually slightly curved line!) discussion emphasised the time scale necessary in working with men; there was no quick fix, she said, and decades of work is needed and a one to three year cycle is simply inadequate. She also made the useful point that, in working with men, phrasing gender in terms of power can be the most effective approach.

Different papers dealt with men in displacement and as refugees. Azadeh Sabout spoke about the situation of Afghan refugees in Iran of whom there are one million registered and possibly another million who enter and exit without documentation. She spoke of the physical and psychological effect on men who have ‘failed’ an idealised masculine construct, and the extent to which they may not be considered ‘victims’ – and it is ‘victims’ that humanitarian organisations see themselves as helping. The extent to which men are excluded from refugee quotas, or indeed from available work, was covered by different speakers. The gendered nature of victimhood was a point picked up by discussant Koen Slootmaeckers, along with the question as to who is a legitimate target for aid, particularly in the context of men who may not see themselves as victims.

The conference did deal in one presentation with men as perpetrators of violence against women, in a paper by Kate Rice on men in rural South Africa and their fears of false accusations of beating and rape. “Many men consider such accusations to be widespread and assert that false accusations are enabled by rights to gender equality, as the legislation of equality prohibits men from using violence to discipline women. While these fears are not well-grounded in lived experience of such accusations, men’s feelings of anguish are genuine....Analyzing men’s felt experience of abuse and manipulation by women can inform not only understandings of local gender politics in the deeply-politicized context of post-conflict South Africa, but also speaks of how human rights often trouble local notions of gender difference” Clearly there is a long road to travel here.

Karen De Villiers Graaff also dealt with South Africa and the very high level of interpersonal and gender based violence there. Even after the end of the struggle against apartheid, she said that militarised masculinity is closely tied to (concepts of) patriotism, nationalism, brotherhood and bravery. She spoke of some success with masculinities-focused workshops having an emphasis on gender equality, and the usefulness also of mentoring.

Another fascinating example of work being done related to Rwanda, as detailed in a paper by Stephanie Oula, and the extent to which a positive redefinition of masculinity, post the 1994 genocide, is part of rebuilding the state and society. RWAMREC, the Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre, “promotes ’positive’ masculinity, as defined as a masculine ideal who believes and practices gender equality, in contrast to traditional ‘negative’ Rwandan masculinities reliant on violence and gender equalities. .........the construction of positive masculinities by RWAMREC adds to the Rwandan government’s nation-building project by situating itself as progressing the national and international gender and development binds together development and nationalism, where gender – and masculinities in particular – signifies as a temporal marker of modern political and social progress in a larger reconciliation process.” However as the discussant Fionnuala Ní Aolain pointed out, this is in the context of the government being an authoritarian one.

Fidelma Ashe, who was a discussant for one of the panels, pointed to the need to move beyond gender and gender change as a zero sum game, and this is surely key to work in this area. Men need carrots to change (a point made by Callum Watson), the sticks of legislation can be important but are insufficient, and the concept of gender change being ‘win/win’ is something which needs emphasised. Dave Magee, in discussing his work with loyalist men in Northern Ireland, had spoken of their hopelessness but, when it came to the crunch, their very real but basic dreams; to have a son, a job, or a car. And hope for a better future must be a crucial part of change and willingness to change, but it has to be a real and achievable hope.

Brandon Hamber ended off the day not by reading his paper, given the time it then was at the end of a long day, but by summarising some questions which remain in this area. He illustrated an important point in relation to problematic and violent masculinities by detailing examples of men who fitted the violent mode and including the urbane western metrosexual who deals in arms shares on his mobile phone. In other words, problematic masculinities are not just ‘out there’ in poor societies or the margins in very visible forms of violence but close to us as well. This rightly exposes the falsity that we in ‘the west’ are not part of the problem.

Look out for further work in this area from the same people. Certainly a good day’s work. The conference was followed by a book launch for “Boys, Young men and Violence: Masculinities, education and practice” by Ken Harland and Sam McCready (Palgrave Macmillan).

Copyright INNATE 2016