News from the Bush School

Cavin Speaks on the Role of Women in International Security

December 19, 2013

December 19, 2013

Recently Deborah Cavin, a former Foreign Service officer, spoke to Bush School students and faculty on the role of women in international security, focusing on the importance of increased female participation in international peace negotiations. Noting that women have had little involvement in the twenty-four major peace processes since 1992, she said that peace talks can be more effective with greater involvement of women. 

One of the factors Cavin highlighted was the unique societal role of women, which gives them a greater understanding of community needs and marginalized groups—elements integral to forming inclusive and lasting peace agreements. She also emphasized that women often have the ability to move more effectively than men among feuding groups to foster communication, since they are generally not viewed as combatants.

Cavin noted the importance of the landmark United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, which sought not only to recognize the adverse effects of conflicts on females but also to codify the inclusion of women in peace processes. One of the goals of Inclusive Security, according to Cavin, is female participation in all areas of conflict resolution, from the prevention of violence to aiding in relief and recovery efforts.

Currently, Cavin helps countries formulate National Action Plans (NAPs) on women, peace, and security. Noting that forty-two countries already have such NAPs, Cavin emphasized the ability of Inclusive Security to engage countries and provide them with the expert guidance needed to write the NAPs and learn more about them, and even to provide toolkits for monitoring their implementation.

Cavin also discussed the barriers to additional female inclusion in international security. They include unawareness of the benefits a female presence can bring to the negotiating process, the fallacy that the work of women is inferior to that of men, and the fear that involving more women is a “Western” notion that could upset the political or social balance of certain countries. She also pointed out that some see “women’s issues” as a separate category in the peace process, despite the central role women play in familial security.

Cavin concluded by stating that involving women in all levels of peace processes “is not rocket science,” and is not simply about women’s rights or protection. Rather, the ultimate goal is to get people to understand that a female presence is beneficial to negotiations and to take advantage of the special skills and experiences women bring to the process.