Gender and peacebuilding

Authored by: Maria O'Reilly

Routledge Handbook of Peacebuilding

Print publication date:  January  2013
Online publication date:  February  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415690195
eBook ISBN: 9780203068175
Adobe ISBN: 9781135082130


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International intervention in conflicted and post-conflict societies in the post-Cold War era has been characterised by a growing international consensus regarding the aims and methods of managing, resolving and/or transforming contemporary conflict (Richmond 2004). Leading states, international organisations, international financial institutions and other key peacebuilding actors focus on (re)building a ‘liberal peace’ through the reconstruction of liberal polities, economies and societies (Bellamy and Williams 2004: 4–5; Paris 1997; 2004). This growing consensus on achieving peace through liberalisation has triggered major changes in the conduct of peace operations, and critical reflections in peace and conflict studies on the nature and quality of peace being (re)built in the aftermath of war. In parallel, a slow but positive shift can be detected in policymaking rhetoric regarding the gender-specific consequences of armed conflict and violence, coupled with a gradual acknowledgement of the importance of integrating a gender-perspective in the development and implementation of peacebuilding interventions. The need to undertake ‘gender mainstreaming’ has been articulated in international policy pronouncements and programme guidelines produced by major peacebuilding actors, most notably the UN whose adoption of Security Council Resolution 1325 called for the broad participation of women in peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction, acknowledged that conflict is a gendered experience, argued that sustainable peace entails the full and equal participation of women in decision-making, and affirmed a belief that women can play an important role in peace processes. Despite these developments, women often remain marginalised from official peace processes, the issue of gender equality is rarely prioritised in the design and implementation of peace agreements and post-conflict reconstruction programmes, and war crimes of gender violence are generally not adequately addressed in transitional justice processes. This situation points to the need to explore the ways in which (re)building peace may (re)construct gendered forms of domination, injustice and insecurity in transitional societies, rather than empowering women (and marginalised men) to achieve political, economic and social transformation in the aftermath of war. 1

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