Middle East and North Africa

In the MENA region, we support inclusive process design and do strategy work with women’s groups to increase women’s influence. We also act as a connector and facilitator and work on research-policy and research-practice transfer.

Since 2015, we have provided support and advice to several stalled ongoing peace and political transition processes in the MENA region. A large degree of this support was provided in response to helpdesk requests received in the framework of the UN Women Enhancing Women’s Leadership in the MENA Region project. The requests came predominantly from UNW country offices, UN Special Envoys’ offices, and women groups and networks in the region, particularly in Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Iraq.

Our peace process support work in the MENA region can be divided into four categories: inclusive process design; strategy work with women’s groups for women’s influence; acting as a connector and facilitator; and research-policy and research-practice transfer.

We have provided a significant amount of advice and input on inclusive process design, particularly on how to ensure the meaningful participation and influence of women and civil society in Syria, Yemen, and Libya. Along with general advice on inclusion structures and mechanisms, on numerous occasions this involved providing a nuanced understanding of the differences between women’s representation, influence, and gender mainstreaming, as well as the strategies to attain such goals.

We also worked directly with women negotiators, advisors, and peacebuilders throughout the region, providing guidance to women representatives taking part in track I processes and helping women peacebuilders to develop options for women’s influence in different potential political settings.

In Syria, we carried out direct work with multiple Syrian women’s groups throughout the peace talks (the Women’s Advisory Body to the Envoy, the women’s advisory committee of the Syrian Opposition’s High Negotiating Committee, as well as various local women’s civil society networks). We also provided safe spaces for discussions.

In Yemen, we worked in conjunction with the Office of the UN Special Envoy in Yemen, the UN Women Yemen office, as well as women civil society networks for facilitating strategic plans.

In Libya, we worked with women leaders from the west, east, and south of the country both to empower them to find entry points for their track 1 work and in their work on violence reduction and inclusive peace in the field. We also facilitated connections and exchanges between the women in Libya and Women Mediators Networks to help realise this goal.

Working with this range of actors across the region allowed us to draw on our extensive knowledge base on how women in different roles can achieve more influence within or on the peace process to contribute towards empowering women and their supporters in the region in their peacemaking and peacebuilding efforts. We helped integrate these lessons into the UN Secretary General’s report on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) in 2018.