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How can the role of women in peace negotiations be supported and encouraged in a more substantial manner? How does inclusion contribute the sustainable peace and security? And how can the theoretical be married with practical applications to create longer-lasting peace and stability? These were some of the broader questions asked at the Institute for Security and Development’s seminar. The panel discussion included Emma Bjertén Günther, SIPRI, and Lena Sundh, a former Deputy SRSG to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Participation is one of the four core pillars of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (hereafter 1325), but how to define it is still debated. Emma Bjetén Günther discussed Catherine O’Rourke’s work on the different meanings of participation. Bjetén Günther said there is the ‘role model argument’, women in peace and security serve as role-models for other women and seeing these women can increase their self-esteem and encourage women to challenge gender norms that limit their participation. Second, the ‘justice argument’, or participation as representation. As women constitute roughly half the population the political system should reflect that. Third, ‘different agenda argument’, women have different experiences, and therefore bring a different perspective and expertise in other areas. Women’s needs have traditionally been less prioritized and this accounts for that. Finally, the ‘larger dream argument’, women’s greater participation as a radical democratic change that is more inclusive and reflective of women’s concerns.

On the more practical side of participation, Lena Sundh asked; how much can you load into a peace process? Drawing from her experience mediating two cease fires in the DRC, she said the right of women to participate is not as important as coming to an agreement. The need to come to an agreed cease-fire and end the violence can be separated from the broader peace process where women’s participation is still important. Sundh said that participation is the most important, especially the inclusion of local women. Local women can also be incorporated into monitoring and observing the terms of a ceasefire or peace agreement are adhered to. Therefore, Sundh said she prefers the utility argument over the rights based argument when it comes to participation.

Bjertén Günther was asked about gender quotas. When women are included in a peace process, the consideration of which women and how they are included is also important. She said the HIPPO Report (2015) illustrated that 1325 is still seen as a women’s issue and not mainstreamed.

Sundh also spoke about her work in Nepal, that there are other groups, that face greater discrimination in society and therefore the inclusion of women is not the only important goal but broader inclusion of other marginalized groups as well. Additionally, using the example of the Darfur rounds, where attention was given to the fact that women were included but they did not say anything. There were also men who did not speak but this was not discussed. The system in Darfur is highly hierarchical.

Bjertén Günther echoed this concern saying that research on the effectiveness of including women makes it difficult to show results and sets an unrealistically high expectation on those women that is a burden not placed on men in equal measure. This also essentializes women.

The seminar ended with remarks on the opportunities and challenges for the future in this area.

Bjertén Günther hopes that we stop seeing 1325 as a women’s issue. Over the last seven years of her research career she has seen changes in the language and that is important for how we talk about these issues broadly. She hopes this will continue. In addition, Sundh recommended that Sweden be more explicit on what they expect from international operations and peacekeeping missions. She encourages further analysis of reports and empirical data as well.

While there is much more work to be done to increase women’s participation and broader inclusion to bring about sustainable peace, both panelists seemed optimistic for the future of the Women, Peace and Security agenda.