Dealing with contestations and backlashes of gender equality in peacebuilding

At first glance, it appeared for many years that norm deve­lopment in the area of gender-sensitive human rights was ma­king steady progress. The inter­play of the feminist/women's move­ments, gender-sensitive human rights con­ventions, and the WPS reso­lutions have evolved to date into a strategy con­sisting of norms and practices for gender-sensitive and -inclusive approaches to peace­building, such as women's partici­pation in peace processes or out­lawing gender-based violence (True and Wiener 2019). Despite this signi­ficant progress in norm-setting and norm-implementation of gender-sensitive human rights, there has always been resis­tance, both at the multi­lateral nego­tiation level and in the local imple­mentation of gender-sensitive human rights.

Such resistance or "backlashes" can now be found every­where in liberal demo­cracies, and they also have an impact on the imple­mentation of gender-sensitive norms in peace­building. A prominent example is certainly the Colombian peace treaty or the peace process in Afghanistan. However, such resis­tance does not always come from con­servative Islamist or Christian groups, but also results, for example, from the re­jection of a liberal under­standing of human rights that pro­duces specific colonial images of an un­civilized culture that oppresses women (Chishti 2020). The multiple mani­festations of gender back­lashes in the Euro­pean Union have also be­come a core part of femi­nist research and re­lated political activism (Sauer 2019; Kuhar and Paternotte 2017). This project brings to­gether two strands of femi­nist re­search that have so far been treated rather sepa­rately: First, femi­nist research on, but also critique of, liberal peace­building; second, re­search on forms of re­sistance and so-called gender back­lash with regard to gender-sensitive human rights. With this approach the project aims to examine how key stake­holders (donor states and their bureau­cracies, develop­ment aid agencies, and non­govern­mental organizations) deal with the various forms of resistance and back­lash in the realization of gender-sensitive human rights in peace­building.

Norm research in inter­national relations (IR) will provide the theo­retical frame­work for the pilot project, because it offers analyt­ical con­cepts for the study of resistance, but also normative per­spectives on forms of resistance, such as against liberal peace­building or against a liberal under­standing of "gender." In particular, con­testation research, but also more recent research on locali­zation and norm anti­preneurs and norm spoilers, offers interesting points of de­parture for under­standing resistance and gender back­lashes in peace­building. Therefore, the research question asks: How do key stake­holders who imple­ment gender-sensitive human rights in peace­building deal with resistance and gender back­lashes? Through a qualitative research design, data will be collected through document ana­lysis and inter­views of stake­holders (practitioners of NGOs and humani­tarian organi­zations, govern­ment officials and academics) with the aim to identify case studies fur further indebt research on a local level. The pilot project draws on rich research findings from norms research, feminist critique of liberal peace­building and recommen­dations of alterna­tive strategies, as well as feminist policy recommen­dations of dealing with anti-gender move­ments and gender backlash. The pilot project aims to de­ductively draw policy recommen­dations from the different feminist research approaches, but also to proceed in­ductively by asking stakeholders about their strategies for dealing with re­sistance.

Project director:
Backlash Against and Resistance To Feminist Peacebuilding | 2023

Demirci, Irem / Perras, Clara / Scheyer, Victoria / Wisotzki, Simone (2023): Backlash Against and Resistance To Feminist Peacebuilding, PRIF Report 6/2023, Frankfurt/M, DOI: 10.48809/prifrep2306.

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German Foundation for peace Research (DSF)
German Foundation for peace Research (DSF)