Women and Natural Resources: Unlocking the Peacebuilding Potential

Women’s participation is not only a right but a necessity to sustain and build peace.  Their capacity to prevent conflict, recover from it and build peace is closely related to their role in the conflict. Women might have engaged in armed groups, become displaced or taken on additional responsibilities within their households and communities. Women also bring diverse experiences derived from the way they use, manage, make decisions and benefit from natural resources, including where natural resources trigger conflict. However, women’s contributions to peacebuilding through natural resource management remain largely unexplored.

Conflict often leads both women and men to adopt coping strategies that challenge traditional gender norms; women tend to assume new roles in various natural resource sectors to meet the needs of their households and to compensate for the loss of income usually provided by male members of the family. Too often, though, the dominant perception of women as passive victims in conflict settings inhibits their ability to sustain these new natural resource management roles overtime and to effectively use them to participate in conflict prevention and recovery efforts.

To maximize peacebuilding outcomes women can bring through their participation in various natural resource sectors, it is crucial to capitalize on these shifting gender roles while continuing to support the breaking down of barriers to gender equality. Through sustained and targeted interventions, opportunities can be seized for women to engage more sustainably in the use of natural resources and to carve the space to influence decision-making in the governance of natural resources. These women’s contributions can help ensure that benefits from natural resources revert back to communities and address grievances linked to natural resources rights, access and control which are often catalysts for violence.  

Building on the findings of the Report, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has embarked on an initiative to unlock the peacebuilding potential women have in natural resource management together with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) and UN Women.

The Joint Programme: Gender-Responsive Approaches to Natural Resource Management for Peacebuilding

From March 2016 to February 2019, the Joint Programme will support, test and document a range of gender-responsive approaches to natural resource management in existing, relevant and impactful projects in conflict-affected countries. Lasting 12 months, each pilot will aim:

  • to unlock the peacebuilding potential of women’s contributions in different natural resource sectors (e.g. land, water, agriculture and other renewable resources as well as extractive resources, such as industrial and artisanal mining and commercial forestry);
  • by adequately linking “upstream” (e.g. policy enhancement and capacity-building of government/legislative officials at national and sub-national levels) and “downstream” interventions (i.e. creating concrete resilience-building results for conflict-affected communities in specific natural resource sectors).  

The first pilot will be undertaken in the Um Ruwaba, North Kordofan State, Sudan, through UNDP’s Community Security and Stabilization Programme (C2SP).

Operational lessons and best practice from the pilot interventions will be consolidated and distilled into a set of tools for national actors, UN country programmes and other national actors to overcome constraints hindering the effective participation of women in natural resource management for peacebuilding. These tools will include a practical programming guide, a model results framework, online and in-person training modules, an advisory expert group and a web-based platform that will serve as a repository for resources as well as a mechanism for supporting efforts aimed at unlocking the peacebuilding potential of women’s involvement in natural resource management.

In parallel, additional research will be conducted on areas not covered in the 2013 Report, which will help fill remaining analytical gaps and complete the programme guidance. New research areas include:  measuring the peacebuilding impact of women’s involvement in the management of natural resources; the differential health impacts of environmental contamination and pollution on men and women; linkages between women and extractive industries (including mining, gas and oil); and how climate change could further impact the women-natural resources-peacebuilding linkages.

By providing the means and the tools for national actors, UN country teams and other international actors in their efforts to unlock the peacebuilding potential of women’s involvement in natural resources, the Joint Programme will contribute not only to the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda but also of the recommendations of the 2015 United Nations reviews on Peace Operations, the Peacebuilding Architecture and Women, Peace and Security.

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