Law, negotiation and armed conflict: What role for gender equality?

April 15th, 2014

Guest Contributor: Dr. Aisling Swaine

I recently participated in a conference organized by Durham University Law School in the United Kingdom on Law and Negotiation in Conflict:  Theory, Policy and Practice which took place from March 20th and 21st. The aim of the conference was to explore the relationship between law and negotiation processes that take place in relation to situations of armed conflict.

Key issues arise when examining the role of law during mediation and negotiation processes.  The relationship between law and politics is a key consideration, particularly in ensuring the adoption of a peace agreement that holds legitimacy and which in the longer term post-conflict terrain, adequately addresses the diverse concerns and needs of the affected population.

(L-R) Aisling Swaine, ESIA; Dr. Sari Kuovo, Afghanistan Analysis Network; Dr. Anashri Pillay, Durham Law School (moderator); Ms. Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women

(L-R) Aisling Swaine, ESIA; Dr. Sari Kuovo, Afghanistan Analysis Network; Dr. Anashri Pillay, Durham Law School (moderator); Ms. Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women

A specific theme addressed by the conference was the status of women in conflict and post-conflict environments, and how considerations of gender are relevant to the role of law in negotiations.  I was privileged to share a panel with Ms. Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and Dr. Sari Kuovo, Afghanistan Analysis Network.  Ms. Manjoo provided a wonderful overview of the key international legal frameworks that provide for women’s rights and equality in the context of peace negotiations, and evolving norms such as those provided by the UN Security Council women peace and security resolutions.  Dr. Kuovo talked about the realities of the situations faced by women in such contexts as Afghanistan, and the barriers that present to women’s participation in negotiation processes, not just by national actors, but the failure on the part of international interlocutors such as the UN and international governments to take actions regarding women’s rights.  My contribution focused on the potential that the transitional moment offers to advancing women’s rights, and the relevance of the concept of ‘transformation’ which underpins gender equality policy norms, to considering whether negotiation processes work for women.  Key considerations are how issues such as ‘security’ are framed and conceived in negotiations, and whether both those broad negotiations at macro levels, as well as those that play out at micro (community) levels, take transformative approaches, and ensure that key factors affecting men and women are considered and addressed.  For example, ensuring that such processes capture and are based on gendered concepts of security in important, particularly in addressing the relevance of the constancy of gendered violence in women’s lives, both during and after conflict.

A really interesting angle tackled by the conference was the relationship between theory and practice.  A range of academic scholars and practitioners in the field of international law and conflict resolution were present.  Debate revolved around how the differing standpoints and experiences of scholars and practitioners contribute to advancing approaches to utilizing law in negotiation processes.  Evident was a set of differences as well as much complementarity that each set of actors brings to both understanding as well as practically advancing the relevance and application of legal norms in negotiation processes. A key point for me was considering how women’s rights norms can secure enhanced legitimacy in negotiation processes globally, and how scholarship and practice can work in tandem to concurrently critically examine as well as tackle the barriers that continue to exist.

AislingAisling Swaine is Associate Professor of Practice of International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs, GW.  Aisling has spent over 14 years working on issues of violence against women, women, peace and security and transitional justice at programming and policy levels internationally.  She teaches on gender and conflict and on global gender policy. 

Org Spotlight: Women in Black

April 14th, 2014

Women in Black

Women in Black is a global network of feminist women peacemakers adamantly opposed to all forms of war, violence, militarism and injustice. WiB is active in at least 18 countries worldwide and facilitates an open forum of support, communication and solidarity linking all locations. At least 10,000 members are estimated, though exact numbers are impossible to gauge. Vigils “against any manifestation of violence, militarism or war” are WiB’s primary actions. During a vigil, women dress in black and stand silently in a public space at regular intervals and hand out educational materials to passersby. Black is worn not as an expression of mourning, but as a “powerful refusal of the logic of war.” In addition to vigils, WiB conducts other direct nonviolent acts of civil disobedience such as sit-ins to block military vehicles and refusing to obey orders that legitimize/promote violence and oppression. Women in Black received the Millennium Peace Prize for Women by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and International Alert in 2001.

Event recap: re-thinking gender in peacekeeping

April 11th, 2014

By student contributor Andrew Elliott

Dr. Henri Myrttinen and Dr. Aisling Swaine discussing violence in post conflict societies.

Dr. Aisling Swaine (left) and Dr. Henri Myrttinen (right) discussing violence in post conflict societies.

Henri Myrttinen approaches post-conflict societies from a perspective that is gaining traction: peace building through a gender lens inclusive of the roles both women and men play in society. Traditionally, when working in post-conflict environments, governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) equate gender issues with women. Myrttinen’s organization, International Alert, seeks to broaden the approach to gender in peacekeeping by including men. He believes that to understand the persecution and violence women and other socially marginalized groups face in post-conflict societies, we must include men in the dialogue and understand the role of masculinity and how it contributes to violence.

Myrttinen began his presentation by describing his work as a Senior Research Officer at International Alert, an organization that conducts peace building in regions in post-conflict transition. Currently, the organization focuses primarily on Colombia, West Africa, the Great Lakes region in Sub-Saharan Africa, South and Southeast Asia and the South Caucasus. The organization’s work ranges from consultation for the United Nations to economic development in small villages in the Caucasus.

Next, Myrttinen described three methods used to examine the connection between gender and violence in regards to peace building; 1) gender blind peacekeeping, 2) women based security, and 3) gender-relational peacekeeping. Myrttinen’s research capitalizes on the third approach, focusing equally on men and women when studying societal based perceptions of peace building and violence. His most recent work looks at case studies in four states: Burundi, Colombia, Nepal and Uganda. His research explores how gender relational peace building can be practiced and whether it is effective. He found that violence perpetrated by females is often overlooked, and that males are vulnerable in many cases as well.

Myrttinen also highlighted four organizations that follow gender relational peacekeeping in post-conflict societies. In Uganda, an organization works with refugee groups to increase awareness of violence among men and boys. In Burundi, the Association des Femmes Repatriées (AFRABU) works to increase women’s economic empowerment and involvement in political issues while simultaneously bringing men into the discussion. In Nepal, SSKP was created – a radio talk show that discusses gender differences and violence. And lastly, in Colombia, Amore raises women’s social and political awareness and seeks male input.

During the concluding Q&A session, students asked Myrttinen about his previous experiences in East Timor and his success with gender-relational peacekeeping in comparison to female centric or gender blind security. Ultimately, he concluded, reducing societal violence, requires a gender-relational approach when engaging with different stakeholders in society. Combating violence towards women requires both genders to reconcile and progress towards equality.

Andrew Elliott is an Elliott School undergraduate student seeking a major in international affairs with concentrations in international development and a regional concentration in Asia. With interests in Southeast Asia and most of the developing world, he aspires to someday work and conduct research in these regions.

Org Spotlight: The Native Women’s Association of Canada

April 7th, 2014

The Native Women’s Association of Canada

sis_logoThe Native Women’s Association of Canada works to increase the well-being of First Nations and  Métis women in First Nation, Métis and Canadian society. NWAC, an aggregate of thirteen Native women’s organizations in the country, is one of Canada’s five officially recognized National Aboriginal Organizations (NAO’s).  In Canada, Native women still face discrimination and violence in many forms and from many sources. NWAC seeks to eliminate this injustice. In the vision that all women deserve a forum for their voices to be heard and recognized, NWAC works to empower Native women politically, culturally, socially and economically.

NWAC engages in activism, analysis and advocacy to advance Native women’s rights in Canada with a particular emphasis on the violence faced by indigenous women. Towards this goal, the Native Women’s Association of Canada works in six sectors; 1) Environment; 2) Violence Prevention and Safety; 3) Health; 4) International Affairs and Human Rights; 5) Labour Market Development; and 6) Youth.

CIGA Working Paper by GW graduate, Greyson Conant Brooks

April 4th, 2014


A CIGA working paper, The Lighthouse and the Landing Pad: Transnational Commodification of a Global Gay Identity and a Ugandan LGBTI Rights NGO, is now available.

The author of this paper, Greyson Conant Brooks, holds a B.A. in Anthropology from Colby College and an M.A. in Anthropology with a concentration in International Development from the George Washington University. He wishes to acknowledge and thank the following for financial, logistical, analytical, and personal support: the activists and advocates at SMUG, The Lewis N. Cotlow Fund at GW, Stephen Lubkemann, Barbara Miller, Attiya Ahmad, Ujala Dhaka-Kintgen, Erica Wortham, Melissa Minor Peters, Tina Levine, Steven Barry, Leslee Brooks, Stanley Brooks, and Michael Barry.

This paper reports on field research in 2012 about the perceptions of identity and development that frame the performative practice of members of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), an indigenous LGBTI rights advocacy NGO and the major voice of resistance to current anti-homosexual legislation in Uganda’s parliament. Within the context of NGO institutionality, I examine how SMUG appropriates and defines ‘gay identity’ in relation to anti-gay sociopolitical sentiment to effect development as a tool for achieving sociopolitical change. I conclude that SMUG’s modern, savvy employees publicly ally themselves and their organization with an identity of ‘gayness’ perceived to be universal and inalienable, which allows SMUG to organize its practice through the language of development and human rights on an international scale and accrue social capital to exchange with transnational partners for political and economic aegis. The performance of a global gay identity provides SMUG the standing to (inter)act politically on international and local scales. However, in demarcating themselves as ‘gay,’ SMUG’s membership assumes sociopolitical minority status within Uganda, limiting their ability to affect sociopolitical change on national and local scales. While more field research is necessary, this introductory analysis concludes SMUG may achieve greater success in Uganda by highlighting, rather than eschewing, local constructs of minority sexualities.

Org Spotlight: Indonesian Women’s Association for Justice and Legal Aid Institute (LBH-APIK)

March 31st, 2014

Indonesian Women’s Association for Justice & Legal Aid Institute(LBH-APIK)

English Resource: Indonesian Women’s Association for Justice & Legal Aid Institute (LBH-APIK)

The  Indonesian Women’s Association for Justice & Legal Aid Institute is an NGO that provides legal assistance to women who are campaigning for justice and legal rights in Indonesia. Established in 1995, LBH-APIK has advocated for equity of legal treatment for women and men through a combination of legal aid, research and advocacy. The NGO utilizes two avenues to achieve its goals. Primary is free legal aid for women who are “socially, economically and culturally marginal.” This includes coverage of legal costs ranging from court, consultation and lawyers. Second is campaign and advocacy work with the overarching goal of equitable legal treatment in Indonesia.

Women, Peace, Security, and Development Bibliography update

March 28th, 2014
Image source: United Nations Development Fund for Women

Image source: United Nations Development Fund for Women

By student intern Lena Krikorian

In March, the Global Gender Program’s Women, Peace, Security, and Development Bibliography grew to nearly 2,340 sources.

We continue to improve the quality of listing on the database by adding more relevant descriptors and identifying whether sources are open access (OA) or not open access (NOA.)

Please feel free to suggest additional sources by sending an email to:

DC event: African Diaspora and Development

March 25th, 2014

African Diaspora and Development

When: Saturday, April 12th, from 2:30 – 6 pm

Where: Embassy of Cote d’Ivoire (2424 Massachusetts Avenue, NW), Washington DC
Maison D’Oeuvres Pour Le Developpment Economique et Du Leadership Pour la Cote D’Ivoire and the Consortium of African Diaspora in the United States (CADUS) invites you and your colleagues to attend a forum on “African Diaspora and Development Partnerships.”  Ambassador Amina Salum Ali, the African Union’s Permanent Representative to Washington, will be the keynote speaker for this event.

Please RSVP to Janet Kah Le Guil at <>

Org Spotlight: Kachin Women’s Association Thailand

March 24th, 2014

Kachin Women’s Association Thailand

The Kachin Women’s Association Thailand formed in 1999 in response to the social, economic and military exploitation of the various minority ethnic groups, including the Kachin of northern Burma, at the hands of the Burmese military government. For decades, the Kachin’s resources have been extracted by the government without sharing the benefits back to the people. Due to aggravated mismanagement of the region, many Kachin people have left their country, often settling in Thailand. KWAT seeks to organize and unite Kachin women in Thailand in order to collectively achieve positive change and empowerment for Kachin women and children in Thailand and abroad. KWAT aims to eliminate discrimination, empower women’s decision-making and political participation from a local to international level, and provide opportunities for all Kachin children to reach their potential. Current projects include research, capacity-building, anti-trafficking, health, and migrant worker justice. Overall, KWAT envisions a world where Kachin women are empowered, educated and equal.

Interview with Aisling Swaine for International Women’s Day

March 21st, 2014

Professor Swaine discussed the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda, specifically UN Resolution 1325.

Professor Aisling Swaine was recently interviewed by the Elliott School of International Affairs in honor of International Women’s Day. Professor Swaine joined GW this January after working on issues of security and development for nearly 15 years, both at the international level and in conflict-affected states in Africa and South East Asia. At GW, Professor Swaine teaches and researches on gender and armed conflict; the women, peace and security agenda; global gender equality policy; violence against women related to armed conflict; and gender and humanitarian action.

In her interview, Professor Swaine discussed the Women, Peace and Security Agenda (WPS) at length. This discussion includes the evolution and expansion of the agenda through the passage of UN Resolution 1325 and subsequent resolutions, the significance of the agenda, and its impact thus far. She also discussed a variety of topics influencing gender equality globally, such as the importance of involving both men and women in gender equality policy and programs, practices for addressing gender-based violence after conflict, and the impact of gender equality on development.