Members of women in peace-building program hold signs as they stand on a street in Monrovia, Liberia in 2011. Photo by: Luc Gnago / Reuters

LONDON — The U.K. government has announced what it says is the first international guidance developed to protect female peace builders, as the world approaches the 20th anniversary of the landmark United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 — which stressed the importance of women in conflict prevention.

Though research has shown that peace talks involving women are more successful, 20 years on from Resolution 1325, many negotiations still lack a meaningful female presence. UN Women said there were “alarming gaps” in implementing the resolution. Between 1992 and 2019, women made up an average of just 13% of negotiators, 6% of mediators, and 6% of signatories in major peace processes. Attacks on female peace builders, meanwhile, have increased in the last two decades, according to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

The FCDO guidance, dubbed the Women Peacebuilders Protection Framework, provides a roadmap for countries to help women involved in peace building. Its suggestions include standardizing payment for women peace builders — many of whom work unpaid; training local authorities to better respond to the unique threats faced by women working on peace and security; and ensuring secure transport and communication for women who are involved in peace talks.

FCDO minister James Cleverly said the U.K. will encourage other governments to promote and protect women in peace building.

“We know that when women have a seat at the table, peace negotiations are less likely to fail, which is why 20 years ago, every country at the UN pledged to increase their participation,” Cleverly said in a statement ahead of the United Nations open debate on women, peace, and security that happened on Thursday.

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“Yet the proportion of women still hasn’t increased and when women are included, they increasingly suffer threats against their lives. World leaders must now put words into action and follow the UK’s lead of protecting women on the frontline and lobbying for greater inclusion,” Cleverly continued.

The framework also recommends there be worst case scenario planning focused on the unique risks faced by women, which would allow them to relocate fast, and provide flexible grants, transport, and accommodation, along with mental health support.

The announcement was welcomed by Diana Trimiño Mora, senior gender adviser at Saferworld, an NGO working to prevent violent conflict, but she urged the U.K. government to go further. “It’s important to see sustained commitment to the women’s peace and security agenda more broadly,” she told Devex.

This could be done by partnering with and funding women’s organizations in places affected by conflict, especially in remote areas, and ensuring the U.K. government’s conflict prevention policies and programs considered gender from start to finish, Mora suggested. “It’s really important to think about women’s participation in a really holistic way.”

Alongside the announcement of the guidance, FCDO also announced a £1m ($1.3 million) donation to the Women Mediators across the Commonwealth network, hosted by NGO Conciliation Resources. The funds will be used for training and mentoring to enhance women’s participation at peace talks and to lobby for greater gender inclusion in negotiations.

Welcoming the donation, Laura Aumeer, program director at Conciliation Resources, said: “Despite the challenges raised by the COVID-19 pandemic, the network continues to support members and their peace building work, responding to an increased need for conflict prevention and resolution globally.

“The WMC is unique in its diversity of membership, bringing together women peace builders working in all spaces, from community to national and international processes.”

About the author

  • William Worley

    William Worley is the U.K. Correspondent for Devex, covering DFID and British aid. Previously, he reported on international affairs, policy, and development. He also worked as a reporter for the U.K. national press, including the Times, Guardian, Independent, and i Paper. His reportage has included work on the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh, drought in Madagascar, the "migrant caravan" in Mexico, and Colombia’s peace process. He can be reached at william.worley@devex.com.