When UNSCR 1325 was adopted in 2000 it made clear the importance of women’s roles in ensuring peace, and it paved the way for the women, peace and security agenda internationally. Women’s engagement in peacebuilding is important and takes many forms, both formal and especially informal.

While all members of a society in conflict are affected by political violence, research has shown that women pay an especially high price. Yet, despite the efforts of women during conflict, at war’s end they are often left out of the formal peacebuilding process. Not including women threatens the long-term prospects for peace. There is strong evidence that women’s engagement in peace processes has a direct, positive impact on the sustainability of peace. Additionally, women are more aware of/susceptible to changes that might presage the outbreak of conflict. They can play an important role in conflict prevention, reduction and mitigation.

The Institute of World Affairs (IWA) Program on Women, Peace and Security is dedicated to exploring questions that relate to the role of women at various stages of a conflict cycle, and in helping bring about sustainable peace. The approach taken to address these questions is multi-faceted, ranging from workshops and conferences that bring together experts in the field for discussion and collective problem solving, to research projects that yield policy recommendations, to design and implementation of applied projects. The following are among the questions informing this program.

  • What accounts for women’s success bridging social and political divisions during conflict, but exclusion from the formal peacebuilding efforts that follow?
  • What happens to women after “peace,” or, more accurately, after the signing of an agreement that brings formal hostilities to an end?
  • How can women be better trained to mediate disputes prior to the outbreak of armed conflict? How can a cadre of women be established in conflict prone areas to participate actively in peace-making and peacebuilding?
  • How can DDR programs better meet the needs of women who are former combatants? How can women be better prepared for the reintegration process following the cessation of violent conflict, and how can women who have been though the process help other women?
  • How can women help advance healing and the building of trust necessary for a successful war-to-peace transition?
  • What work is currently underway in this area (in both the governmental and NGO arenas) and where are the gaps? And, most important, what can IWA do to help fill in those gaps?

The research agenda, policy analysis and applied field projects of the IWA Women, Peace and Security Program is intended to help advance the positive role of women in conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

Director: Dr. Joyce P. Kaufman