New Institutions, New Gender Rules? A Feminist Institutionalist Lens on Women and Power-Sharing

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Abstract: This article examines the apparent tension between power-sharing as the dominant approach to conflict settlement and the inclusion of women and provisions for gender equality as promoted through the Women, Peace and Security agenda. We argue that applying a feminist institutionalist (FI) lens – which attends to the interactions between political and social institutions, and the interplay between formal and informal rules, norms and practices – provides a means of explaining the so-called ‘gendered paradox of power-sharing’, including the gap between the promise of formal frameworks and outcomes for women in practice. We draw upon extant feminist research on three post-conflict power-sharing cases: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Ireland, and Burundi. Using the concepts of: nested newness, formal and informal institutions, the gendered logic of appropriateness, and gendered actors, we illuminate why it has been so difficult for the gender progressive institutional innovations to be instantiated. In so doing, we answer the call of Byrne and McCulloch (2012) for more systematic analysis and theorising around the gendered paradox of power-sharing, and we also provide a basis for identifying what institutional mechanisms might be needed to embed the inclusion of women and the integration of the WPS norms in power-sharing frameworks in the future.

Keywords: gender, conflict, political settlements

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