Scope of the Issue
The changing nature of conflict in recent decades has altered the way it affects men and women. While women remain a minority of combatants and perpetrators of war, they increasingly suffer the greatest harm. In contemporary conflicts, more than 70 percent of casualties have been civilians — most of them women and children.Women face specific and devastating forms of gender-based violence, including widespread sexual violence, deployed systematically for military or political objectives. As women in war-torn societies struggle to keep families together and care for the wounded, they are the first to be affected by infrastructure breakdown, and may be forced into survival strategies that involve sexual exploitation.
Yet conflict resolution and peacebuilding are still an exclusive, male-dominated affair. Despite the fact that women have often been the most ardent advocates of peace, they have mostly remained on the sidelines of formal peace talks and reconstruction processes. Research by UN Women indicates that in ten major peace processes in the past decade, women were on average 6 percent of negotiators and under 3 percent of signatories. Women’s exclusion from negotiating tables and the lack of gender expertise among mediators leads to a failure to address women’s concerns. For instance, only five peace accords have referred to the use of sexual violence as a military and political tactic, despite its increase in both frequency and brutality.
In recent years, recognition has grown that women’s exclusion from peace processes not only contravenes their right to participate in decisions that affect their lives, but that for a sustainable peace to take hold, women must take an equal role in shaping it. Women’s perspectives and experiences are critical to stability and inclusive governance. Post-conflict reconstruction also provides a chance to strengthen gender justice through the reform of laws, judicial systems and political processes.
UN Women's Approach
UN Women's work on peace and security builds to a great extent on two resolutions of the UN Security Council. In its groundbreaking resolution 1325 (2000), the Security Council for the first time specifically addressed the impact of war on women, stressing the importance of women’s inclusion in conflict resolution and their essential role in peacebuilding. In resolution 1820 (2008), the Security Council acknowledged that as a means of pursuing military or political ends, sexual violence is a security issue and therefore requires a security response. UN Women is committed to supporting the full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions 1325 and 1820.
UN Women supports measures to end impunity for sexual and gender-based violence in conflict and to address a wider range of post-conflict gender justice, including truth-telling and reconciliation, as well as institutional reforms to ensure that police and other security services respond to women’s safety needs. UN Women's work on good governance in post-conflict contexts addresses long-term issues of building public sector accountability to women, emphasizing the need for women to take active roles in political and economic leadership and public administration.