Within the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO), our experience shows us that inclusion is necessary for durable peace. In practice, this means creating mechanisms within negotiations that actively engage and include voices that are usually excluded from decision-making. show that inclusive peace processes are key to creating sustainable peace and ending the cycle of conflict. Women’s participation produces stronger decision-making and more sustainable initiatives that build legitimacy, credibility, and broader societal support.
Therefore, within CSO we use a “gender analysis of conflict” lens to define our problem sets and identify solutions. We are working to develop practical tools for advancing the collection and analysis of conflict-relevant gender data into our situational awareness and forecasting tools, and integrating into recommendations for implementers and international donors. We advocate for women’s inclusion in our engagements with our international partners and with parties to complex political negotiations and peace processes. And we design and manage programming to support gender-responsive approaches within conflict prevention and stabilization, as well as inclusive implementation of peace agreements.
But inclusion goes well beyond any one institution or singular decision-making effort. It has a ripple effect that can be felt for generations. We must catalyze and invest in inclusive processes now to support more resilient communities that prevent crises and conflicts in the future.
We at CSO are working to advance women’s participation in local, national, and global systems to specifically anticipate and prevent atrocities and design gender-responsive approaches to atrocities. To illustrate how we are putting into practice our commitment to advancing women’s direct participation in decision-making, I will describe an initiative we are undertaking with civil society and international partners on atrocity prevention.
We recently partnered with local communities in northern Nigeria to advance women’s leadership and decision-making in community-level early warning of potential violence and early response mechanisms. Through our program, communities have developed joint protocols to respond to threats and incidents of violence, including gender-based violence, that are specific to the security needs of women. Our local partners are now working to sustain these efforts by supporting the integration of trained female early responders into traditional decision-making forums.
Looking more broadly across the U.S. government – and across the globe – the U.S. interagency Atrocity Prevention Task Force is refining and expanding our atrocity prevention toolkit to incorporate gender and intersectional dynamics, including conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV). We are increasing our engagement with civil society networks to ensure our work is trauma-informed and survivor-centered. We are also incorporating CRSV risks into early warning, prevention, and accountability options for future U.S. diplomacy, programs, and analysis.
Said differently, early warning enables early action. We are not waiting until the outbreak of a crisis before building up and building out our capacities, engagement, and programs. Carrying out consultations with CRSV survivors in a survivor-centered and trauma-informed way further develops our response toolkit.
And of course, we are working closely with our global partners to prevent atrocities. We are engaging with governments that have prioritized addressing this issue as well as UN representatives and civil society. Our latest Elie Wiesel Act Report also focuses on the role of CRSV as a potential early warning sign of atrocities and reinforces that CRSV should never be considered an inevitable result of armed conflict.
To address the structural drivers of violence, we must invest in women and girls’ direct, meaningful, and safe participation in conflict prevention at levels that bridge the global to the regional to the most local. The campaign for durable, inclusive peace across borders requires robust partnerships with civil society in addressing the drivers of instability and fragility. My CSO team and I are committed to this mission – and to our colleagues outside and inside of government who share it.
About the Author: Anne Witkowsky is the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations.