Women, peace and security: Preventing war and sustaining peace

The issue

When women lead and participate in peace processes, peace lasts longer. Since the groundbreaking UN Security Council resolution 1325, calling for women’s participation in peacebuilding was passed 17 years ago, there is mounting evidence that women are powerful actors in sustaining peace in their communities and nations. Research shows that achieving gender equality helps in preventing conflict, and high rates of violence against women correlates with outbreaks of conflict.

Despite the evidence, actions for women’s inclusion, leadership and protection remain inadequate. In some areas, there has even been a roll back on progress.

In 2016, the percentage of signed peace agreements containing gender-specific provisions declined to 50 per cent, as compared to 70 per cent in 2014.

As of June 2017, 141 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance. Gender gaps in humanitarian settings are glaringly evident. In conflict and post-conflict settings, maternal mortality rates are nearly twice the global ratio, while girls are two and a half times more likely to be out of school.

At the same time, violent extremism is on the rise. Terrorists and extremist groups manipulate prevailing gender norms and gender stereotypes to advance their agenda and drive recruitment. Women and girls are not only targets of their systematic sexual violence, but have become targets of recruiters—women make up at least 20 to 30 per cent of foreign terrorist fighters.

As the UN Security Council prepares to convene for its annual Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security on 27 October 2017, the UN Secretary-General’s 2017 report stresses that achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals requires full implementation of the women, peace and security agenda [1].

The report’s six recommendations provide a roadmap to achieve a shift from ad-hoc inclusion of women to making women’s leadership a norm—focus on transformative implementation; place gender firmly at the centre of UN’s prevention agenda; invest in quality gender and conflict analysis; protect civil society and women’s human rights defenders; ensure robust funding; and exercise greater leadership and political will.

UN Women continues to work around the world to engage women, including young women, as leaders in their communities to build peace and resilience. As the UN deliberates on the women, peace and security agenda, UN Women highlights the voices and experience of women building and sustaining peace, rebuilding their lives, communities and countries and mobilizing for justice and equality.

Justice now: an interactive experience

During times of instability, women and girls are disproportionately impacted by sexual and gender-based violence. These crimes can fall under war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and are considered especially grave violations of international law. Victims and survivors have a right to justice, but without evidence, impunity prevails. How can justice be achieved? This interactive infostory explores the various paths to justice, gives voice to survivors’ stories and looks at the critical role that investigators play in ending impunity for sexual and gender-based violence crimes. View more►


[1] All data from United Nations Security Council (2017), Report of the Secretary-General on women and peace and security, S/2017/861.

[2] All references to Kosovo on this website shall be understood to be in full compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).

Photo: UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein