Violence & Conflict

Barbara Unmüßig behind the lectern

Torture and sexualized violence are part of everyday life in Syrian prisons. However, human rights violations committed by the Assad regime play no role at the Geneva peace talks. With this in mind, Barbara Unmüßig, calls for women to be included as peace negotiators.

The Danzer case: local subsidiary pays military and police to brutally harrass residents

The Danzer case is an example of European businesses working in conflict regions and profiting greatly from the brutal actions by the police, the army or paramilitary groups. Anna von Gall analyzes the international legal framework and urges Germany to pursue legislative clarification relating to due diligence requirements for foreign subsidiaries of European companies

Thematic Focus: Transitional Justice

All shall be equal before the law - Graffiti in Cape Town, South Africa. Creator: Kerimcan Akduman. Creative Commons License LogoThis image is licensed under Creative Commons License.

Concepts of transitional justice for dealing with societies‘ conflict-ridden past have become increasingly important. The aim is to achieve reconciliation in relations between the parties that were involved in the conflict.

Expert Talks

In recent years, concepts of Transitional Justice have been becoming increasingly important in the context of coming to terms with societies’ past conflicts.

The expert talk aimed for an in depth discussion with experts from civil society and public institutions in order to develop strategies to constructively counteract expressions of brutalised masculinities, focussing on examples from the sub-Saharan region.

Violent Conflicts

By now there is a worldwide movement of women and men campaigning for gender justice, for the universal application of human rights, and for peaceful conflict resolution.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall, globalization, and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, security policy all over the world has changed. Meanwhile, climate change, worldwide famine, the struggle over resources, and the global financial and economic crisis have become potentially new threats to peace.

With the end of the Cold War, military organizations such as NATO and the Bundeswehr have changed their roles. Although their importance has declined, a new range of duties has developed to legitimize their existence, and thus, they have been able to regain some of their hegemony.

Throughout history and in many cultures gender roles in times of war are stereotypical: Men fight, women do not – with few exceptions. This is slowly beginning to change, not least because in many countries there is an increasing number of female soldiers.

In the modern conception of statehood, it is the nation state that can defend itself from attack from outside and that domestically, as the guarantor of security and peace for all its citizens, has a democratically secured monopoly on violence. From a feminist perspective, however, the positive role of the nation state in matters of security is not so straightforward.

Conflict Prevention

Peace is more than just the absence of war. The goal of a gender-equal and non-violent society does not pertain only to the military, but to civilian forms of dealing with conflict, especially through prevention.

Whereas in hegemonic discourses, military intervention remains an option for conflict management, feminist discussions have developed comprehensive positive models for peace. They use the need for security and the experience of violence by individuals – in what only appears to be their private sphere – as a point of departure for their deliberations.

Today, peace researchers, civil-society groups, political parties, and supranational organizations are questioning previous notions of security and development. They have developed new approaches to civil conflict and crisis prevention and have fostered debate on what constitutes security.

Feminist politics faces several dilemmas in the area of security and peace: Should the military be abolished or should it be reformed in a gender equitable way? Should feminists participate in decisions concerning war or exercise pacifist abstinence? Thus we find ourselves caught between a fundamental critique and a critique from within the system, between the demand to overhaul the system and the attempt to have it adopt tangible gender-sensitive approaches in the military-strategic domain, too.

Peace policy means to cultivate the prevention of violence in all crisis and conflict regions, and to strengthen the role of local peace activists. Traditional mechanisms of conflict management, such as reconciliation based on public negotiation and apology, or material compensation, play an important role here, but, explicitly or implicitly, often exclude women. Therefore traditional forms of preventing violence between populations or states are not sufficient. All social and government institutions, as well as families and schools, must be included in the process.

Violent Conflicts and Conflict Prevention

The background of violent conflicts and wars is multifaceted. Yet, an essential factor is often disregarded in the cause analysis: gender-political dynamics. However, looking at the power relations between women and men is also important to understand how crises and wars develop, how they can be prevented and how lasting peace can be achieved. Peace is more than the absence of war. A gender-equitable and non-violent society cannot be realized through the military but through civil society forms of conflict regulation, mainly through prevention. The gender issue plays a decisive role in this process.

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