Leadership from the ground up – Executive Summary of the Report on Women Civil Society’s Perspectives on Sustaining Peace

Leadership from the ground up – Executive Summary of the Report on Women Civil Society’s Perspectives on Sustaining Peace

Leadership from the ground up – Women Civil Society’s Perspectives on Sustaining Peace

Download the executive summary here.

For any questions about GNWP’s work on Sustaining Peace, please contact [email protected]

Executive Summary

Following the review of the UN peacebuilding architecture in 2015, in 2016, the UN General Assembly and Security Council adopted twin resolutions (UNSC Resolution 2282 and General Assembly Resolution 70.262), emphasizing the importance of a broad approach to peacebuilding, encompassing all stages of peace, not only the immediate post-conflict reconstruction. The Sustaining Peace agenda, which has since been elaborated on by the Secretary General[1], recognizes that efforts to sustain peace are “necessary not only once conflict had broken out but also long beforehand, through the prevention of conflict and addressing its root causes”, and that multi-sectoral, locally-driven and owned approach is needed to ensure effective peacebuilding and conflict prevention.[2]

The agenda brings with it a great promise of a transformation of the approach to conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Yet, in order to fulfil this promise, it has to be effectively implemented and translated into practical and necessary actions on the ground. This cannot happen without the full and meaningful inclusion of women’s civil society at all stages of the agenda’s development. To understand how women civil society understands Sustaining Peace, and how they are already operationalizing it, GNWP, with support from UN Women, has coordinated a global research, which comprised of Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) and Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) in 15 countries, as well as a multi-lingual survey, which received responses from 43 countries. In total, over 1,500 people participated in the research.

The key findings of the study point to the following:

  • To women peace activists, peace is more than an absence of war – it is access to resources, education and employment; presence of strong institutions; and a culture of peace, understood as mutual respect, harmony and inclusion. Consequently, sustaining peace interventions need to focus on long-term, transformative approaches that address these issues.


  • There has been significant progress in the inclusion of women in both formal and informal peace processes, but much remains to be done. However, 13% of respondents still said women are not included at all in peace process; and 30% said they are not included at all in the implementation of peace agreements. Moreover, there is still a need to ensure that the inclusion extends to all women – including young, differently abled, and indigenous women and other marginalized groups.


  • Women’s civil society is already working to sustain peace. There are numerous examples of initiatives by women’s civil society, ranging from educating the youth; promoting and facilitating dialogue and mediation at the local level; organizing neighborhood watch to prevent electoral violence; providing skills training and income-generation activities for women; to supporting the victims of violence and conflict, for example through providing psychosocial support, or shelters for victims of violence.


  • Donor community support is appreciated, but needs to be more locally-driven. While the donor community’s efforts to support gender-sensitive peacebuilding initiatives are appreciated, there is a need for stronger local leadership in shaping international agendas and donor priorities. 20% of survey respondents reported that the local civil society was not able to influence the design of donor programs at all, and 17 per cent reported they could do so only to a limited extent.



1) Recognizing that peace is more than the absence of war, the UN, Member States and civil society should ensure that Sustaining Peace initiatives focus on long-term goals, such as strengthening state institutions; fostering a culture of peace and non-violent conflict resolution; and promoting access to social services, including health and education; and provision of employment opportunities. This requires strengthening the nexus between the peace and security efforts, including in particular the WPS agenda, development and humanitarian action.


2) The UN and Member States should put pressure on governments to include women in formal peace negotiations, crafting and implementation of peace agreements and political transitions, and ensure that this inclusion is meaningful, and extends to women from different backgrounds, and women’s civil society.


3) The UN and Member States should stop the support to and use of violence and military interventions. Member States should also ensure that they do not contribute to illicit trafficking in arms and instead support non-violent, civil-society led initiatives in conflict resolution and prevention.


4) The UN and civil society should monitor and hold governments accountable for the inclusive implementation of peace agreements as well as other laws and policies related to gender equality and peace and security, including the WPS Resolutions and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).


5) The UN and Member States should create institutionalized but flexible platforms for civil society women, especially local women, to participate in formal and informal peace negotiations.


6) The UN and Member States should ensure that women, especially young, disabled and indigenous women and other marginalized groups, are fully included at all stages of the implementation of peace agreements, peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace initiatives, that their voices are heard and their contributions recognized and supported. Civil society should continuously monitor and hold the UN and Member States to account on this matter.


7) Civil society from countries that have not experienced armed conflict in the recent history should organize experience-sharing exchanges with local and grassroots civil society in conflict-affected and post-conflict countries, to exchange experiences, enhance solidarity and build capacity for Sustaining Peace.


8) The UN, Member States and donor community should support women’s meaningful participation in the implementation of the peace agreement after it is signed. It is equally if not more important to ensure that they co-lead the implementation of peace agreements. Socio-cultural and institutional barriers to their participation (including gender norms, lack of resources and lack of clear mechanisms for implementation, such as specific objectives, action plans, or roadmaps) must be addressed.


9) The donor community should increase funding for peacebuilding, conflict prevention and Sustaining Peace, especially those led by women’s civil society, and make sure this funding is long-term and predictable. Such funding should also be made flexible and accessible to local organizations; and be available at all stages of Sustaining Peace – before, during and after conflict.


[1] Report of the Secretary-General on Peacebuilding and sustaining peace. S/2018/43, 18 January 2018.

[2] Ibid. Paragraph 3 and 13