Post-conflict developments: Why female peace negotiators might have to break the table and build a new one

Global trends are depicted in local conflicts. Issues of global scale are being fought within regions, between nations as well as among local groups. Also, war is proven to be experienced differently by different people in regard of various characteristics (Duncanson, 2016). “By the 1990s, 9 of 10 people who died in war from direct or indirect effects were civilians.” (Hynes, 2004) Furthermore, the number of civilian men equals the number of women, however many other aspects affect women in a disproportionate number. This includes: the social and economic destruction, various types of trauma, special vulnerability to poverty, prostitution, sex trafficking, higher risks for illnesses and domestic violence and the list could be continued further. (Hynes, 2004) Therefore, peace negotiations for post-conflict developments are a crucial step. As well as having female peace negotiators at the table in order to draw attention to women and girls’ specific impact by war is necessary as well as beneficial. If women are present as ‘witnesses, signatories, mediators, and/or negotiators it makes peace agreements 20 percent more likely to last at least two years and 35 percent more likely that it will last longer’ (Tickner; True, 2018).

However, the concept of Politically Motivated Reasoning offers an explanation how ‘an identity-defining affinity group’ prevents much needed action on a way to post-conflict developments despite evidence being presented. Firstly, let’s have a look at this identity-defining affinity group and how it seems to hold up the power of an academic discipline. The history of International Relations (IR) as an academic discipline dates back to the period of World War I, when scholars were desperate to understand the causes of this military conflict and preventions of future issues. Thereby, the field continues to represent the standpoint of white, Western males as one of the most elitist sectors, dominating all questions around security.

However, at the same time of WWI but rarely mentioned in IR, the 1915 The Hague Conference was held by 1500 women from twelve nations in order to draw peace plans on the end of WWI (Tickner; True, 2018).  These efforts continued by women activists throughout the 20th century and issues such as gender-based violence and women’s participation in peace processes were slowly acknowledged. However, “[…] many scholars still see feminist concerns as ‘women’s issues’ that lack significance for the wider discipline” (Tickner; True, 2018) which is therefore a representation of the strong stance for the initial beliefs even if evidence challenges this position. Especially during the recent rising of populism and authoritarianism around the globe, it remains questionable if progressive countries e.g. with specific feminist foreign policies such as Sweden, Canada or Mexico may continue to break this certain in-group loyalty.

This in-group loyalty and consistency remains within nations as well as far-reaching as the UN council and was described by Margot Wallström, former Swedish Foreign Minister, as followings: “[…] if you play the game of the Permanent 5, you are one of the boys, if you don’t, then you don’t get to play.” And in regard of the United Nations as the world’s largest peace organization this opens up further debates related to organizational reforms, past vs. current power-relations etc. The suggested questioning of the status quo and a more profound re-prioritizations of evidence-based inclusion of women, girls and the needs of some of the most underrepresented minorities in IR remains overdue. Therefore, the mentioned progressive countries have started writing new policies and built new women peace negotiator networks so that the years to come will show if the wider in-group identification(s) will be eliminated or replaced by new structures.

Duncanson, Claire: Gender & Peacebuilding. 2016. Polity Press.

Hynes, Patricia H.: On the battlefield of women’s bodies: An overview of the harm of war to women. 2004. Women’s Studies International Forum Vol. 27.

Tickner, J. Ann; True, Jaqui: A Century of International Relations Feminism: From World War I Women’s Peace Pragmatism to the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. 2018. International Studies Quarterly.

Rees, Madeleine: This is what a feminist foreign policy looks like. 2015. Washington Post.

Lunz, Kristina; Bernarding: Feminist foreign policy – imperative for a more secure and just world. 2019. Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung.

Williams, Kristen P.: Feminism in Foreign Policy. 2017. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics.

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