April 30, 2014

WOMEN AND NATURAL RESOURCES: UNLOCKING THE PEACE BUILDING POTENTIAL

On 26th March 2014, two of our members represented AYICC Kenya at the launch event for a report entitled "Women and Natural Resources: Unlocking the Peace Building Potential" that was held at the UN grounds in Gigiri.
The report is the product of two-year collaboration between UNEP, UN Women, PBSO and UNDP. It aims at improving the understanding of the complex relationship between women and natural resources in conflict-affected settings and makes the case for pursuing gender equality, women empowerment and sustainable natural resource management together in support of peace building. The report drew on field research from over 20 countries and some 200 academic sources and institutions.

Some of the case studies highlighted in the report include;
Under Overview  and analysis of key issues, the case studies revolved around: Legality versus reality: implementing women’s land rights in Uganda; Safeguarding gender equality gains for ex-combatant in post-conflict Nepal; Women in agriculture in post–conflict Aceh, Indonesia; Gender dynamics in water management in the west Bank; Women’s roles in the peace process in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea; Women’s participation in artisanal mining sector in post conflict Sierra Leone; Women’s participation in decision making on forest management in Liberia.

Under Entry points and opportunities for peace building, the case studies highlighted are as follows: Supporting sustainable livelihoods for women through natural resource management in Burundi; Engaging women in natural resource management and conflict resolution processes in South Kordofan, Sudan; Protecting women from exposure to sexual violence while gathering natural resources in Darfur; The perils of the charcoal trade in North Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo; Improving women’s health and reducing deforestation in Afghanistan.

SUMMARY OF THE REPORT
Women’s diverse experiences in times of conflict have powerful implications for peace building. Their capacity to recover from conflict and contribute to peace is influenced by their role in the conflict, whether directly engaged in armed groups, displaced or forced to take on additional responsibilities to sustain their livelihoods and care for their dependants.
Inspite of efforts by the international community to recognize and better address these multiple roles through agreements such as UN security council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, the dominant perception of women as passive victims in conflict settings continues to constraint their ability to formally engage in political, economic and social recovery and thereby contribute to better peace building.
One of the unexplored entry points for strengthening women’s contributions to peace building relates to the ways in which they use, manage, and make decisions on gender norms in conflict affected settings, women’s roles in natural resource management provides significant opportunities to enhance their participation in decision making at all levels and to enable them to engage more productively in economic revitalization activities.

As the primary providers of water, food and energy at the household and community levels, women in rural settings are often highly dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods and are therefore particularly susceptible to changes in the availability and quality of these resources during and after conflict. In particular, lack of access to land - which underpins rights to all other natural resources and is a key asset for securing productive inputs - can force them to increasingly vulnerable situations and expose them to higher levels of physical and livelihood risk, with trickle down impacts on community welfare. The structural discrimination that women face regarding resource rights and access also limits their political participation and economic productivity.

At the same time, conflict often leads to both women and men to adopt coping strategies that challenge traditional gender norms. To meet the needs of their households by male family members, women may assume new natural resource management roles, either by taking up alternative income generating activities or by moving into traditionally male sectors. In the aftermath of conflict, capitalizing on these shifting roles can contribute to breaking down barriers to women’s empowerment and enhancing women’s productivity in sectors that are often critical to economic revitalization.

Failure to recognize the challenges and opportunities awarded to women in conflict affected settings by their various roles in natural resource management also risks perpetuating inequalities and deepening grievances linked to natural resource rights access and control which have proven to be powerful catalysts for violence. Addressing issues of inequality related to resource access and ownership, participation in decision making and benefit-sharing early on in the peace building process is therefore a critical condition for lasting peace and development.

To strengthen peace building outcomes by enhancing women’s engagement and empowerment in conflict-affected contexts through sustainable natural resource management, this report recommends that national governments and the international community take the following action:
  •  Promote women’s participation in formal and informal decision making structures and governance processes related to natural resource management in peace building.
  • Adopt proactive measures to protect women from resource-related physical violence and other security risks early in the peace building period
  • Remove barriers and create enabling conditions to build women’s capacity for productive and sustainable use of natural resources
  • Within the United Nations, increase inter-agency cooperation to pursue women‘s empowerment and sustainable natural resource management together in support of more effective peace building.
Prepared by Jecinta Akoth
Edited by Victoria Chengo

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