Women Mediators Networks: Why Now?
27 June 2018
© IPTI. Photo taken during an event organized by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NOREF, and PRIO.in Oslo. March 2018.
Despite numerous normative commitments to increasing the participation of women in peacemaking since 2000, and UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security, there has been little progress in practice. In his 2017 report on Women, Peace, and Security, the UN Secretary-General acknowledged that women continue to be underrepresented in negotiation delegations and as chief negotiators. Many women peacemakers are active at the grassroots and track two levels, but there seems to be a glass ceiling preventing them from reaching track one negotiation processes, where the larger decisions regarding the future of the country are made.
Perhaps prompted by these persistent blockages to their meaningful participation, recent years have seen the emergence of a number of national, regional, and international women mediators networks. These networks bring together women with a wealth of experience in peacemaking at the grassroots, as well as at track two and track three. Among them are FemWise, a pan-African network of women mediators established in 2017 under the auspices of the African Union Panel of the Wise; the Nordic Women Mediators Network, an umbrella formed in 2015 out of five national Nordic networks; and the Mediterranean Women Mediators Network, made up of 40 women from the Mediterranean region. A Commonwealth Women Mediators Networks is currently being set up.
But why now? Why do we observe something of a snowball effect with one emerging network inspiring the formation of even more?
Some have said that these networks are “a cry of desperation,” given the slow implementation of 1325 and persistent blockages to meaningful participation. Some see them as an alternative to the “old boys’ network”; a platform where women can exchange and share their contacts and entry points. We have also seen that women peacemakers have a strong desire to exchange knowledge and experiences: women in Yemen are eager to hear how their counterparts in Colombia and Liberia were able to influence peace processes, and how they were able to overcome the persistent obstacles to their meaningful participation, and the networks could potentially facilitate this exchange.
IPTI sees the networks’ recent emergence as an opportunity to explore how and why they were formed, and to examine more closely the assumptions upon which they are based. IPTI’s International Mediation Networks research project, funded by the Wihuri Foundation, has already begun. We have already learned that the existing women mediators networks vary substantially in mandate, objectives, structure, and membership, although they all generally aim to provide a platform for women mediators to be able to advance and facilitate an increase in women’s meaningful participation in peace processes, in particular at the track one level. The project will produce a mapping of international mediators’ networks, including all internationally operational women mediators’ networks. It will also produce a short documentary film, from interviews with women peacemakers about their experiences, for inspiration and learning.
International Mediation Networks
This research project seeks to create the first mapping of existing international mediation networks, and to outline their different mandates, composition, activity areas, and goals
Conference for a Global Women Mediators Network
Suzanne van Hooff, Thania Paffenholz, and Pauline Eluère took part in a conference bringing together various regional networks of women mediators