The academic study of conflict resolution was born as as a critique of mainstream International Relations (IR), which explains why feminist theory and conflict resolution share many things in common. For example, both feminists and conflict resolution scholars challenge traditional power politics grounded in realist or neorealists analyses of conflict. They also share the core belief that war is not inevitable and that human beings have the capacity to resolve conflicts through nonviolent means. In the past two decades, with the expansion of feminist scholarship in IR, feminist interventions in conflict resolution have gained more currency. This essay reviews feminist scholarship in conflict resolution, with particular emphasis on five elements: critiques of the absence and/or marginalization of women in the field and an effort to include women and to make women visible and heard; articulation of a unique feminist standpoint for approaching peacemaking and conflict resolution, which is essentially different to, and qualitatively better than, mainstream (or male-stream) perspectives; feminist theorization of difference in conflict resolution theory and practice (challenges to essentialism, intersections, power and privilege, culture); feminist redefinition of central concepts in the field, especially violence, power, peace, and security; and original feminist research and theorizing, including field research in conflict areas, designed to transform rather than just reform the field. This essay argues that in order to further expand and institutionalize conflict resolution studies, mainstream scholars must be willing to engage seriously the contributions and critiques of feminists.
Gender shapes how both men and women understand their experiences and actions regarding armed conflicts. A gender perspective in the context of conflict situations means to pay close attention to the special needs of women and girls during peace-building processes, including disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement, rehabilitation, reintegration to the social fabric in post-conflict reconstruction, as well as to take measures to support local women’s peace initiatives. In this light, the overall culture, both within the UN and its member states, needs to be addressed. This culture is still patriarchal and supportive of state militaries, and peacekeeping operations that are comprised of them, which are based on a hegemonic masculinity that depends on the trivialization of women and the exploitation and commodification of women’s bodies. The values, qualities, and qualifications for peace-keeping personnel, on the ground and in senior positions, have been framed and adopted through a patriarchal understanding of peace-keeping, peace-building, and peace-making which has defined security narrowly, has relied on state militaries and military experts to be peace enforcers and makers, has been disinterested in the relationship between conflict and social inequalities, has imposed new social inequalities and new violences in the name of peacekeeping, and has systematically excluded or marginalized women in peace-keeping, peace-building, and peacemaking processes. Although the recent advances, reflected in Security Council, other UN, and member state resolutions and mandates, of integrating gender concerns into these processes have made a positive difference in some operations, implementation of these is still marginal.
Peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding have generated considerable interest in the areas of education, research, and politics. This can be attributed in part to the growing recognition that there are limits to violence and that proactive violence prevention is more cost-effective than reactive conflict prevention. Peacebuilding became part of the official discourse when the United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali introduced the concept of post-conflict peacebuilding in the Agenda for Peace. The agenda specified four areas of action relating to preventive diplomacy, peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding. Two important documents have helped bring peacebuilding to the mainstream: the 2000 Brahimi Report, a response to the failures of complex UN peacekeeping in the 1990s, and In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights, which led to the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission. Conflict prevention and peacebuilding have also been mainstreamed in the European Union and in most of the foreign offices of the member states. A central focus of studies on peacebuilding is the interrelationships between peacemaking, political change, development, peacekeeping, and reconciliation. Despite the progress made in terms of research, there are a number of gaps and challenges that still need to be addressed. Many analysts, for example, leave the end state vague and implicit and make no systematic differentiation between different types of peace. With respect to context, two salient issues require more attention: the qualities of a peacebuilder and the role of integrative power. The widest research gap is found in the planning of the peacebuilding process.
Peace research is a component of the field of international relations (IR) that focuses on the causes of war and violence as well as the conditions of peace. The origins of peace research can be traced to the works of Plato, Thucydides, Hugo Grotius, Thomas Hobbes, and Immanuel Kant. The central debate in peace research revolved around the question of whether peace is to be defined simply as the absence of war and direct violence (“negative peace”) or the whether the concept encompasses both the absence of war and direct violence plus the presence of social justice (“positive peace”). Three primary waves of peace studies worldwide since its beginnings between the world wars can be identified: the first wave, roughly from the 1930s to 1960s, focused largely on the causes of war; the second wave was concerned with radicalization and democratization of peace studies; and the third wave saw the rise of two dominant fields—those of nuclear weapons, arms control and disarmament, and conflict resolution/management. During the 1990s, there was a renewed attention to research on topics such as sanctions, peacemaking, the concept of a culture of peace, environment, development, and conflict. Peace research and peace studies have in some ways brought about a transformation not only of dominant power structures, but also of the very concept of power itself. However, there are areas that need improvement, such as developing alternatives to armed conflict and injustice.
Paul D. Williams
Peace operations involve the expeditionary use of uniformed personnel (police and/or military) whose mission is to help secure “international peace and security.” In many ways, peace operations are the most visible activity of the United Nations with a mandate to deter armed conflict through preventive deployment or help to kick-start a peace process through peacemaking initiatives, among other purposes. Peace operations can be grouped into several categories, including preventive diplomacy, peacemaking, peacekeeping, post-conflict peacebuilding, and peace enforcement. There are three clusters of approaches that have tried to think conceptually about the relationship between peace operations and broader processes of global politics: global culture, critical theory, and cosmopolitanism. Questions of success and failure in peace operations have been tackled in the literature, which includes the UN’s own reports as well as books and articles appearing within a range of academic disciplines. Scholars have also analyzed the many challenges facing peace operations ranging from civilian protection and gender issues to public security and policing, privatization, intelligence provision, and state-building. Overcoming these challenges will require, at a minimum, new ways of thinking about the problems concerned, new ways of organizing the relevant institutions, and getting the would-be state-builders to allocate substantial resources. There are also some important questions that deserve greater attention; for example, what types of non-UN peace operations are most effective, under what conditions, and how they compare with UN operations, or how a world order can be constructed in which the peacekeepers have put themselves out of business.