This semester I’m interested in exploring the role of the women in postconflict societies because after 60 years of conflict, my country –Colombia has started the post-conflict stage but so far it has no been clear what role is playing the women in the reconstruction. In this paper, Goetz and Jenkins(2016) from the framework of agency and accountability provide an analysis about the participation of the women in peacebuilding in three areas: conflict resolution, post-conflict elections and economic reconstruction and they make a critical assessment of the role played by the United Nations as facilitators of this process.
The authors start from the concept of agency developed by Naila Keeber(1999) who see Agency as “the ability to define one’s goals and act upon them.” In this approach , Agency can be exercised by individuals as well as by collectivities. This perspective in turn connects with the concept of “empowerment,” defined as the process of increasing people’s ability to make choices. According to the authors, for the excercise of agency it’s necessary two preconditions: one of them are the resources such as education, health, livelihood security, and physical security among others. The other precondition are the opportunities for decision making. In the context of gender-responsive peacebuilding, these are best conceived of as “associational resources,” which improve the organizational substance of local and national women’s groups, and “agenda-shaping opportunities,” which allow gender-equality advocates to influence norms and institutions. Goetz and Jenkins (p. 214).
There are three scenarios in which the excercise of women’s agency is key: conflict resolution, post conflict elections and economic reconstruction. In relation to conflict resolution Goetz and Jenkins point out that it’s necessary that women participate actively in peace dialogues and agreements because this is a way of ensuring that their voices are heard especially in what has to do with the restoration of their rights and that their issues are included in the post-conflict agenda. The authors cite different researches that have shown that in countries where the women have participated in the peace process, the chance of achieving a more durable peace rose. Unfortunately in many countries the women are not perceived as legitimate actors capable of building peace and they have not been included in the negotiations . In Colombia for example, representatives of women were linked to the peace negotiations only two years after having initiated peace talks with the guerrillas.(p.219).
In terms of the post- conflict elections, electoral quotas are essential instruments for achieving international commitments on women’s political representation and used as a measure of women’s empowerment. According to empirical studies cited by Goetz and Jenkins, in post-conflict countries that implemented gender quotas, women held roughly 30 percent of legislative seats while countries without quotas, women on average accounted for just 10 percent of seats. Notwithstanding the importance of women’s participation in the post-conflict legislative agenda, in this case as well as in the participation of peace dialogues in many countries, women continue to be stigmatized as unable to advocate for reforms that would recognize their status.(p.223)
Regarding the economic reconstruction,there is an area in which the women play a key role in the post-conflict, this is the food security. Most of the agendas post-conflicts emphasize in the necessity to provide to women access to financial resources, to water and to protect their rights of property on land to guarantee their participation in the food production. However, this policies often are not articulated with commercial policy. In consequence there are not adequate regulation of prices and salaries making the participation of women in this area unfruitful. (p.229)
In the generation of the Agency preconditions and its excercise, the presence of international organisms is vital because most of the countries that have gone through a stage of conflict do not have institutional capacity strong enough to face the challenges of the post-conflict. In this way, the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995 and later different resolutions of the United Nations Security Council have seek to involve women in conflict prevention, to protect them during and after conflicts, and to secure their full participation in post-conflict reconstruction. However the authors conclude that the mechanisms to achieve these purposes have largely failed due to the lack of accountability on the part of the international organizations regarding their intervention as facilitators of peace talks, donor conferences, and as providers of women’s organizations of the associational resources needed to an effective participation in the post-conflict agenda.(p.231)
I consider this article very interesting because it shows how the structure can obstacle the development of the agency. In this case, the lack of accountabilibity on the part of the institutions (structure) in charge of accompanying the post-conflict process can limit rather than encourage the participation of women in the reconstruction.
In Colombia we have had many experiences of this nature. As an underdeveloped country that has had to deal with conflict and drug trafficking for many years, Colombia has received aid from many international organizations such as UN, USAID, EU, among others and although these institutions develop interesting initiatives especially with the most vulnerable communities, the results of these interventions do not have the expected impact in my opinion for two reasons: first, because most of the time it is still a model of top-down intervention in which the community is rarely taken into account in the formulation of projects and secondly because they lack accountability which means that it is not possible to make an effective measurement and follow-up of projects and initiatives to know if they are really fulfilling their purposes.
Goetz, Anne Marie and Jenkins, Rob (2016) “Agency and Accountability: Promoting Women’s Participation in Peacebuilding”Feminist Economics Vol. 22, No. 1, 211–236