Making women count – not just counting women: Assessing women’s inclusion and influence on peace negotiations

Thania Paffenholz, Nick Ross, Steven Dixon, Anna-Lena Schluchter and Jacqui True


This report presents an analysis of women’s inclusion in peace negotiations distilled from the ‘Broadening Participation in Political Negotiations and Implementation’ project. This is an ongoing multi-year research project started in 2011 at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, to address the lack of evidence-based knowledge on the precise role and impact of women’s inclusion on peace processes. The project comprises 40 in-depth qualitative case studies that examine the role and impact of all actors and groups – in addition to the main conflict parties – included in peace and political transition processes throughout all phases, including post-agreement implementation.

The research found that the direct inclusion of women does not per se increase the likelihood that more peace agreements are signed and implemented. What makes a difference is the influence women actually have on a process. This general conclusion is reinforced by six key findings:

  1. Women have made substantial contributions to peacemaking and constitution-making negotiations and to the implementation of final agreements.
  2. In the cases studied, the strength of women’s influence is positively correlated with agreements being reached and implemented.
  3. The involvement of women does not weaken peace processes. On the contrary, the presence of women strengthened the influence of other additionally included actors (aside from the main conflict parties).
  4. Women’s inclusion is not limited to direct participation at the negotiation table. The report identifies seven modalities of inclusion: direct participation at the negotiating table; observer status; consultations; inclusive commissions; problem-solving workshops; public decision-making; and mass action.
  5. A specific set of process and context factors work hand in hand to either enable or constrain the ability of women to participate and exercise influence. The main process factors are: selection criteria and procedures; decision-making procedures; coalition-building; transfer strategies; inclusion-friendly mediators; early inclusion; support structures; monitoring; and funding. The main context factors are: elite support or resistance; public buy-in; regional and international actors’ influence on a peace process; presence of strong women’s groups; preparedness of women; heterogeneity of women’s identities; societal and political attitudes and expectations surrounding gender roles; regional and international women’s networks and the existence of prior commitments to gender sensitivity and women’s inclusion.
  6. When women were found to be influential in a particular multi-stakeholder negotiation process, it was often because they pushed for more concrete and fundamental reforms.


Paffenholz, T., Ross, N., Dixon, S., Schluchter, A-L., & True, J. (2016). Making women count - not just counting women: Assessing women’s inclusion and influence on peace negotiations. Geneva: Inclusive Peace and Transition Initiative (The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies) and UN Women.