Highlights from Our Latest Peer Exchange on Gender-Sensitive Ceasefires with Women Peacebuilders from the MENA region

In this blog, you will find key highlights from a recent closed-door discussion among women peacebuilders from the MENA region on gender-sensitive ceasefires. 

Last week, Inclusive Peace and UN Women hosted a peer exchange that brought together women peacebuilders from across the Middle East and North Africa, including Syria, Palestine, Yemen, Sudan, and Libya. The peer exchange sought to draw on perspectives, experiences, and lessons learned concerning influencing and engaging in gender-sensitive ceasefires. Unfortunately, the reality of the region means that questions around pursuing and implementing ceasefire agreements are acutely relevant at the moment. By bringing women peacebuilders together from across country contexts, the exchange provided a space to share reflections and strategies towards addressing similar kinds of challenges, albeit while recognising contextual differences.

Several key insights emerged: 

  • Drawing on a range of recent experiences and examples from across the region, participants highlighted that comprehensive peace agreements often were limited in their ability to include meaningful gender-sensitive provisions. These agreements are typically negotiated by conflict parties, who either do not have an interest in advancing certain provisions, or where doing so would have negative implications for their influence and positioning going forward (for example in relation to accountability for sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated during a conflict). 
  • At the same time, several countries in the region have seen closed-door negotiations (or attempted negotiations) between conflict parties, which has limited the scope for meaningful inclusion of a wider set of stakeholders, including women. This has taken different forms, in Yemen it has seen talks between Saudi Arabia and Ansar Allah, and in Sudan, it has involved talks between the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Armed Forces. In Libya, a brokered agreement resulted in the creation of two national governments (one in Tripoli and one in Eastern Libya) which led to a decrease in violence, but also stopped a broader, more inclusive process in its tracks. In such circumstances, participants across country contexts were equally sceptical of inclusive outcomes emerging from non-inclusive processes.
  • In the wake of these trends and dynamics, and given the ongoing violence in Palestine, Sudan, and Yemen, many participants also called into question the efficacy and utility of the WPS agenda more broadly. The substantive focus and rationale for the WPS agenda are apparent when considering the ongoing violence across the region, but the political will and capacity to apply the agenda in the context of peacemaking efforts – whether from the UN Security Council member states through to those in the region engaged in peacemaking efforts – was seen to be largely absent. Women peacebuilders from Yemen, Sudan, and Libya shared examples of initiatives that have sought to fill this void – whether it be the Feminist Peace Roadmap in Yemen or a gender-sensitive shadow peace agreement in Sudan. 

The exchange highlighted the value of providing closed-door spaces for exchange and discussion amongst women peacebuilders from across the region, and many areas of interest were flagged by participants that would benefit from such spaces going forward, including in relation to negotiation strategies and trust-building measures, transitional justice, reconciliation, and security and military issues. 


Reaching an Inclusive Truce: Gendering Ceasefires

This paper serves as a guide to gender-responsive ceasefire agreements. It explores strategies to enhance women’s influence over ceasefire negotiations and provides both language and an approach to render ceasefire texts and their constituent provisions more gender responsive.

May 2023|Kaitlyn Hashem, Alexander Bramble,