K4D Helpdesk Report

Progress Towards Meaningful Women’s Participation in Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Decision-making

Published on 3 December 2021

The Women, Peace and Security or Gender Peace and Security (WPS/GPS) agenda has expanded significantly over the 20+ years of concerted efforts at many levels to expand the role of women in conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

Yet many authors note that the expansion of international agreements and national plans to support greater women’s participation in decision-making have yet to translate into concrete changes.

This Knowledge, Evidence and Learning for Development (K4D) Programme report examines progress in promoting women’s meaningful participation in decision making processes in conflict prevention and peacebuilding, with a focus on changes since 2018. Evidence on women’s meaningful participation in decision-making tends to focus on a small range of measurable outcomes with some studies considering the outcomes of women’s involvement in those processes to determine the extent to which they might be ‘meaningful’.

Few studies examine differential outcomes of such initiatives for different groups of women, and most data does not allow for the disaggregation of intersecting identities between gender, ethnicity, race, disability, migration status and other key factors.

Evidence collected for this report suggests that policies and programmes seeking to support greater women’s participation in decision-making in conflict prevention and peacebuilding often struggle to address the broader structural factors that inhibit women’s empowerment. Tackling longstanding and often deeply embedded harmful social norms has proven challenging across sectors, and in conflict or post-conflict settings with highly complex social dynamics, this can be especially difficult.

Many of the issues highlighted in the literature as hindering progress on the WPS agenda relate to cross-cutting issues at the heart of gender inequality. Multiple authors from within women’s movements in conflict and post-conflict settings emphasise the need for policies and programmes that support women to act as agents of change in their own communities and which amplify their voices rather than speak on their behalf. Recent achievements in South Sudan and the Pacific region are indicative of the potential of women’s movements to affect change in conflict prevention and peacebuilding and suggest progress is being made in some areas, though gender equality in these processes may be a long way off.

Cite this publication

Lenhardt, A. (2021). Progress towards meaningful women’s participation in conflict prevention and peacebuilding decision-making. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies. DOI: 10.19088/K4D.2022.044


Amanda Lenhardt

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