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Enhancing the EU response to women and armed conflict

Discussion Paper 84

April 2008

Sherriff, A. and K. Barnes. 2008. Enhancing the EU response to women and armed conflict - with particular reference to development policy. Study for the Slovenian EU Presidency (ECDPM Discussion Paper 84). Maastricht: ECDPM.

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Background

Women’s multiple and diverse roles in conflict are hidden, poorly understood and, at times, consciously or unconsciously dismissed. Usually it is women’s role as victims that is given most prominence. Though, in recent years the international community has become more responsive to women’s diverse roles as actors on conflict prevention, resolution and peace-building, there is recognition that the EU’s response to Women and Armed Conflict (WAC) must be scaled up, widened and deepened.

Key Purpose of ECDPM Study

The issue of women and children affected by armed conflict is one of the priorities of the 18-month troika programme of the three EU Presidencies of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia. This study, jointly commissioned by Slovenia, Austria and Germany, focuses on the EU’s response to Women and Armed Conflict. It describes international approaches and legal obligations to WAC, identifies and discusses the most salient issues, and gives an overview and assessment of the EU response to Women and Armed Conflict. In particular, the study provides insight in how to enhance the development cooperation dimension of the issue and to add possible development policy linkages to the European Union’s approach.

Key Findings

  • The EU’s response to Woman and Armed Conflict should be informed by a nuanced understanding of the broad scope of issues relevant to WAC. A holistic approach needs to consider the situation and position of women and interact with women as actors rather than only as victims.
  • There are several key interconnected aspects to be considered during all times of conflict of peace-building: preventing and resolving conflict, security issues, access to justice, governance and civil society, health and education, and economic development and livelihoods.
  • Four issues are particularly salient to the protection of women in conflict situations, the prevention of violent conflict and the participation of women in conflict resolution, reconstruction and peace-building and on which it is felt that the EU and its members states could improve their action: sexual and gender based violence, women’s empowerment and improved accountability, EU member-states and conflict affected countries developing National Action Plans, and regional approaches to women and armed conflict.
  • There should be a strategic plan or framework to guide EU response to Women and Armed Conflict and issues related to WAC should be prioritised within the EU’s development and peace-building policies and programmes. There should be better accountability, monitoring and reporting mechanisms and more financial and human resources allocated to addressing WAC.

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