Strengthen women in their efforts to prevent and sustain peace during elections.

Women play an integral role in preventing violence and sustaining peace pre, during and post elections. Although women are often the most impacted by crises and conflict, bearing the brunt of conflict and paying a higher price of the devastation – from increased gender discrimination and violence to the declining of gains for gender equality in institutions and societal structures – they remain largely excluded from participating in dialogues and conflict prevention mechanisms. This is despite overwhelming evidence which shows that women’s involvement in peacebuilding and mediation leads to long-lasting positive peace.

ACTIVITY

DESCRIPTION

As elections inherently lay bare differences and tensions within society, the electoral process requires mechanisms to be put in place for the effective management of such tensions. Some of these mechanisms will be legal and technical (think EDR but also the way in which the electoral system is designed) whilst others may be more informal spaces for dialogue and discussion. The role of women in such informal spaces, planting the seeds of peace in the pre-electoral period, while supporting post-election reconciliation to deal constructively with the grievances of the those who ‘lost’, is vital.
This programmatic option explores ways in which electoral programmes can strengthen women in their efforts to prevent and sustain peace during elections. Importantly, this approach looks at peacebuilding beyond the traditional understanding as a comprehensive process within a society that is inclusive, diverse, and reflective of the interests of the whole of society. This includes strengthening women in their various capacities as peacemakers in various stages, pre- during and post-elections and through various roles, including in their communities as leaders and change makers in peace processes; through strengthening networks and platforms where they can come together and foster collaboration.

ACTIVITY CONSIDERATIONS

  • Using digital and online tools to foster women’s participation

Digital technologies and online tools may facilitate the enhancement of women’s voices and bring together women from different backgrounds and segments of society, taking into account their specific needs and situations. While digital tools have created an unprecedented opportunity to democratize peace efforts, making them more inclusive, accessible and informal, the digital divide still needs to be considered. At the same time, some reports from programmes, such as from Syria, showing that women are participating in online discussions because they can do so anonymously and flexibly, balancing care burden that can otherwise hinder such participation. On the other hand, combining online and offline engagement is critical for relationship- and trust building which may be more easily achieved through face-to-face interaction.

  • Formalizing representation through the introduction of special temporary measures to increase women’s representation in peacebuilding.

The introduction of gender quotas and other temporary special measures can help foster more gender-inclusive peace processes by formalizing the representation of women in such process. Yet, while TSMs can have a strong transformational potential they need to be coupled with building a conducive environment for women’s continued participation and recognition as key actors in dialogues and peacebuilding and reconciliation processes. For example, a report from UN Women showed that in Nigeria, a 30 per cent quota for representation in political processes was introduced in the early 2000s, yet since then, women’s participation has been declining and, as conflict escalated, women’s voices have been increasingly ignored. This was reportedly due to the fact that TSMs also risk being used as bargaining chip by conflicting parties to appeal to women and minority groups. Careful monitoring of their effective implementation and whether they truly support advancement of meaningful political inclusion can help mitigate this. 

See programmatic option on “ Support affirmative action policies and Temporary Special Measures (TSMs), such as quota systems”

  • Bringing together grassroot women civil society actors and political representatives

Women have always participated in dialogues and reconciliation efforts, but oftentimes at the informal, less visible levels. Electoral programmes can facilitate partnerships and collaboration between civil society and political representatives, helping to “close the gap” between women’s grassroots initiatives for peacebuilding and decision-making spaces. This is critical to connect women’s grassroots movements with formal representatives who sit at the decision-making table and ensure women have a seat at the table in post-electoral reconciliation. 

Also see programmatic option on “Support the creation of intersectional spaces for women to engage among themselves and with other key actors”.

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WHO IS BEST PLACED TO CARRY OUT ANY OF THESE ACTIVITIES?

A number of different actors can be involved in implementing these activities, including civil society, local women leaders and grassroot organizations and movements. Given the importance placed on ensuring representation of women both at the local and informal levels as well as at the higher levels, collaboration with government, judiciary and parliaments will be very valuable.

New and emerging collaborations can also take place, including with community influencers and informal peacebuilding and alternative dispute resolution structures.

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COST CENTRES

It is difficult to advise upon costings without a clear vision of a particular project, however, notably, main cost to take into consideration would be related to logistics, such as venue, travels and other related payments to hosting meetings or ensuring in-person participation as relevant and necessary (in very few and exceptional instances, online participation would require costs since most platform such as Zoom are free of charge).

LIMITATIONS AND CHALLENGES

RESOURCES

EXAMPLES

INSIDE MEDIATION IN UGANDA

In the run-up to the 2016 elections, Ugandan women played an active role in contributing to violence-free elections. In mid-2015, a civil society women’s coalition convened the Women’s Situation Room (WSR), an early-warning and rapid response mechanism to address and mitigate any incidents or conflicts likely to lead to violence before, during and after the elections. This mechanism was first implemented during Liberia’s 2011 presidential election – based on the recognition that election-related violence was becoming common in African countries – with the objective to serve as a non-political, non-partisan advocate for peaceful and inclusive elections and was replicated in other countries in the region, including Uganda. 

During the election period, the Ugandan WSR responded to almost 1,500 reported incidents that could have led to violence or conflict. Post- election, some called for continuing the WSR as a peacebuilding mechanism. The WSR initiatives focused primarily on mediation among the rival parties, including negotiations with the principals of the two main political parties and, later, with technical teams of the two parties appointed by the principals. The negotiations focused on generating consensus on the objectives of a dialogue and agreement on the agenda, facilitation, funding, guarantors and a post-dialogue mechanism to implement the decisions emerging from the dialogue. It also sought to temper hostility between the two main political parties and organize a formal dialogue to address the underlying issues that threaten peace during elections – all with the aim to involve the parties to build and maintain a culture of peace, tolerance and work together in the interest of the nation. 

Through the post-election mediation efforts, the WSR have made new progress towards Uganda’s first political dialogue. Women’s participation has brought different perspectives, raising issues that might otherwise be ignored. With the skills gained, the participants have been able to manage negotiations that can help the parties enter into a political dialogue. Following the training, the WSR reviewed the stakeholder list, develop its code of conduct and established a strategy to support the dialogue process. In July 2016, the United Nations Security Council recognized the WSR as a best practice to promote women’s participation in peacebuilding at the national level, particularly during and after elections. This recognition has underscored the importance of the WSR and increased interest in the WSR Uganda peacebuilding efforts.

EXAMPLE: STRENGTHENING GOVERNANCE IN ZANZIBAR – Search for Common Ground (sfcg.org)

IMPLEMENTATION PROCESS

COUNTRY DEPLOYMENTS

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