Increasing the participation of women as peace mediators is essential for achieving gender equality and inclusive peace

Peace is more likely to last when it is inclusive. Yet, mediation efforts in the Arab States region and around the world are still largely led by men. Gender parity amongst mediators is not only essential to tap into the skills and experience of women, but also contributes to building lasting peace, according to a new report by PSRP and UN Women.

To resolve conflict, peace envoys are usually sent by third parties such as the United Nations, Member States and regional organizations to mediate between the conflict parties and broker a peace deal. These envoys tend to be men drawn from a narrow pool of high-ranking politicians, such as former heads of state, foreign ministers or diplomats.

While the United Nations has made great strides towards gender parity, including through the appointment of women to senior leadership positions, women are still underrepresented as chief mediators, in both UN- and non-UN-led processes. The low number of women mediators in peace processes is often linked to a gender stereotype that men are more apt to deal with male-dominated armed groups.

To increase the number of women in high-level mediation positions, which in turn ensures more inclusive peace agreements, PSRP has collaborated with UN Women and the University of Durham to produce a new paper: “Increasing the Representation of Women Peace Mediators: Collaborative Leadership Models for Ensuring Equality. The report looks at co-mediation as a temporary special measure to ensure the appointment of equal numbers of men and women in leading mediation roles until gender parity is fully realized. Over time, co-mediation can address the historically male-dominated nature of the field and lead to more inclusive peace processes.

The paper was authored by Catherine Turner, Associate Professor, Deputy Director Global Security Institute at Durham University, and Christine Bell, Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Edinburgh Law School and Director of the Political Settlements Research Programme.

“International organizations must recognize and increase the visibility of the work that women are already doing in mediation and conflict prevention,” said Catherine Turner. “It is crucial that organizations consider who is being appointed and who is not being appointed and take steps to ensure that opportunities are created for those who are missing.”

The paper looks at two models of co-mediation. The first is composed of one man and one woman who are appointed on an equal basis to lead a mediation process. The second is co-mediation by a panel of men and women to increase both women’s representation and the mediation team’s skills. Whereas co-mediation between two people prioritizes the need for gender parity, the appointment of a panel of mediators offers the opportunity to combine a more diverse range of backgrounds, skills and expertise of all genders. The paper also makes recommendations for increasing women’s representation in senior mediation that go beyond the co-mediation model.

“While co-mediation would increase the symbolic representation of women, it would not necessarily increase the gender responsiveness of mediation efforts” said Christine Bell, Director of PSRP. “Counting the number of women envoys should not become a tick-box exercise that enhances inclusivity in peace mediation without addressing the hurdles to women’s inclusion in peace efforts more broadly. For that, we also need the envoys’ commitment to gender equality values and standards regardless of their gender.”

Read the full report: Increasing the Representation of Women Peace Mediators: Collaborative Leadership Models for Ensuring Equality