APPG on Women, Peace and Security: “Gender and Conflict in the Middle East – what next for Women, Peace and Security and displacement?”

This report was authored by Yasmine Kherfi, Projects Assistant at the LSE Middle East Centre. Yasmine is interested in feminist theory and praxis, transnational solidarity movements, and development planning in (post-)conflict settings. Find Yasmine on Twitter @yasmine_kherfi.

On Wednesday 10 July 2019, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security (APPG-WPS), along with the LSE Middle East Centre, the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security and GAPS, hosted an event titled “Gender and Conflict in the Middle East: what next for Women, Peace and Security and displacement?”.

The LSE Middle East Centre and GAPS network launched their joint policy report ‘Women, Peace and Security and Displacement in the Middle East’, co-authored by Dr Zeynep Kaya (Research Fellow, LSE Middle East Centre) and Hannah Bond (Director, GAPS). The report was a result of extensive discussions that took place among experts at a workshop organised by the LSE Middle East Centre in Jordan in September 2018. It outlines the gendered impacts of conflict-related displacement in the Middle East, and offers concrete policy recommendations for the ways in which the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda can be used to better address this longstanding issue.

Baroness Hodgson of Abinger CBE, Co-Chair of the APPG-WPS, opened the event by sharing reflections on protracted conflict and its implications on the living conditions and wellbeing of forcibly displaced people. Baroness Hodgson introduced the speakers and report authors Dr Zeynep Kaya and Hannah Bond, who provided a comprehensive overview of the report findings and recommendations.

Dr Zeynep Kaya spoke on the importance of incorporating gendered responses to conflict-related displacement in the WPS agenda, as well as in National Action Plans on WPS (NAPS) in the Middle East. She noted that accounting for displacement through a rights-based framework would help increase understanding of the different needs of women and girls, and enable them to participate in decision-making processes. Zeynep cautioned against the treatment of women and girls as homogenous groups, and stressed the need for WPS programming to consider the multiple factors that distinguish their experiences of displacement. She highlighted the importance of understanding the continuum between different phases of displacement to improve peacebuilding efforts and resolve community tensions, and explained the importance of bridging the gap between humanitarian and development work to ensure that long-term structural challenges are integrated in the relief-to-development transition. Zeynep also elaborated on the reasons for the existing disconnect between the implementation of the WPS agenda and responses to displacement, noting that national security and military concerns are prioritised over the needs of displaced communities. Other reasons contributing to this disconnect include: a lack of accountability mechanisms to ensure the effective implementation of the WPS and displacement agendas, as well as the lack of alignment and coordination between different policy frameworks and actors at the global level.

GAPS Director Hannah Bond presented the recommendations outlined in the report. To ensure the transformative potential of policy, Hannah explained that the gendered impacts of conflict-related displacement must be first and foremost acknowledged. She spoke on the fundamental need for international actors to engage in a participatory and intersectional gender and conflict analysis in the design of any WPS and displacement programme. Hannah noted that such analysis is essential to assess the root causes of discrimination and vulnerability, as well as to adopt an effective approach that is centred on the needs of displaced communities rather than donor priorities. Among other recommendations, she highlighted the need for different actors involved in policy development to undertake meaningful consultations with displaced women and girls, and local civil society constituents at large. Hannah also addressed the importance of the international community’s support for civil society spaces and human rights defenders, and raised issues of funding that impede on women rights organisations’ ability to sustainably operationalise their self-defined priorities. Moreover, she highlighted the necessity to ensure that displacement and WPS programmes adopt long-term approaches, which aim to transform harmful gendered practices. Hannah concluded by reminding attendees that 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on WPS, and that this opportunity should be maximised to ensure displacement is integrated into WPS policies and programmes.

Following an engaging discussion with attendees, Baroness Hodgson closed the event, affirming the importance of the report’s contributions, and thanking the speakers for their presentations.

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