“Don’t Entangle the Peace”: Duque’s Antagonistic Politics towards Colombian Transition to Peace

Asserting his intention to build a peace that unites the country, Colombian president Duque announced on March 10, 2018, his decision not to sign the statutory law aimed at ruling the functioning of the Especial Jurisdiction to Peace (JEP). This judicial body is a mechanism of transitional justice created through the peace agreement signed between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas in 2016. Its main purpose is to provide justice for victims of the most serious crimes committed in the context of the internal armed conflict, in particular, crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes. Therefore, the JEP is responsible for delivering criminal justice, while still embedded in a system of transitional justice whose main focus is restorative rather than punitive. This means for the JEP that it must strive to privilege the victims’ right to truth and reparation by inciting the perpetrators to acknowledge their culpability and to repair the victims in exchange for lighter sentences than those they would receive in an ordinary court. From March 15, 2018, when the JEP started its operations until March 2019, it has obtained the commitment of at least 9,699 guerrilla members and 1,973 militaries to appear before it. However, as Duque claimed that six articles of the statutory law were whether violating the rights of the victims or leaving open the door to impunity, it is not surprising that Duque’s refusal to sign the draft law has caused alarm bells to ring.

© juanitaenelcongreso.com

Thousands of voices who support the peace agreement, including groups of retired militaries, have gathered in social media and public spaces around slogans and hashtags such as  #NoEnredenLaPaz (Do not entangle the peace) or #yodefiendolaJEP (I stand with the JEP). According to them, Duque’s position is putting in jeopardy the success of the Peace Accord. Yet, the lack of an own legal framework, resulting from Duque’s decision, does not prevent the JEP from ruling, as it can keep working in the light of relevant case law and the available constitutional rules. Against this background, how can Duque’s politics vis-à-vis the JEP, and especially in regard to the Peace Accord, be interpreted?

There is a shared view among public opinion that a turning back to war with the FARC is unlikely, all the more so given the achievements of the demobilization and disarmament of FARC guerrillas. According to Insight Crime, as of December 2018, more than 13,000 guerrilla members had demobilized. What is certain, though, is that the impact of Duque’s decision resides in its ability to trigger a climate of legal uncertainty in the implementation of the Peace Accord. However, is this effect a random outcome? Or, is it telling of an antagonistic politics aimed at undermining the capabilities of the system of transitional justice to bring about sustainable peace? A closer look at Duque’s politics towards the mechanisms of transitional justice through an intersectional lens of gender, class and location shows that Duque’s antagonistic politics is not so much a move against peace. Rather, he is deploying an antagonistic politics against the transformative dimensions included in the terms of Colombia’s transition to peace set out through the Havana Accord in 2016.

Understanding the Rationale behind Duque’s Flawed Objections

Broadcasted nationally on March 10, Duque’s refusal to sign the draft law did not come out of the blue. Indeed, before Duque’s objections went public, his political godfather and leader of the opposition to the Peace Accord, the hard right-wing ex-president Alvaro Uribe, posted a tweet asserting that the best that Duque could do was to eliminate the JEP. However, the strong signals sent by local actors and the international community allowed some sectors of Colombian public opinion to remain hopeful that the JEP will finally get a legal framework of its own. For instance, the JEP has been incorporated into Colombian law and, insofar as the debate and critiques to the JEP have arisen, the international community and the International Criminal Court (ICC) have immediately reiterated their support to the JEP. The role of the ICC in this debate must be considered through the lens of the principle of positive complementarity through which, briefly speaking, the ICC induces States parties to comply with their obligation to investigate and prosecute crimes domestically (Bjork and Goebertus 2014). This international support added to the role played locally by Colombian Constitutional Court which, after evaluation of the draft law, had already delivered a favorable decision on its constitutionality. Indeed, the Court’s decision took off the table the possibility that Duque could invoke the unconstitutionality of the law as an argument to justify his negative decision. Despite this, Duque did not resist the pressure to meet the expectations of his political godfather, and neither did he lose the opportunity to recapture its hard-line constituency. Finding a way around, Duque opted to refuse approval by challenging six articles of the law. But indeed, these aspects had already been revised by the Constitutional Court. It is therefore, to say the least, clear that Duque has provoked a clash between the executive and the judiciary powers in which, as Rodrigo Uprimny and Juanita Goebertus suggest, the executive power attempts to revive a discussion on issues about which the Constitutional Court has already given its final decision. 

Duque’s objections were rejected by the Chamber of Representatives a week ago. But as the decision of the Congress is still pending, the UN Special Representative for Colombia, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, has urged Duque’s Government to move forward in passing a statutory Law for the JEP:

“The Secretary-General has called for prompt action by all concerned to ensure that a Statutory Law consistent with the Peace Agreement is put in place as soon as possible.  This Statutory Law is the last missing element of the legal framework for the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and a necessary one to ensure that this institution can operate with the necessary independence and autonomy”

UN Special Representative Carlos Ruiz

The chances that Duque’s objections obtain Congress’ approval are few. But it is worth referring to the objection touching on the criterion of prioritization. According to this criterion, the JEP should give priority to the most representative and severe crimes, which is explained by the large number of crimes committed throughout a conflict that has lasted more than half a century. If Duque’s objection is upheld, all the guerrilla fighters should be tried by the JEP, which most likely will result in the overburdening of the transitional justice system and therefore in its collapse. Not surprisingly, it is asserted that Duque’s objections deter guerrilla combatants from demobilizing and seek the failure of the JEP.

The Peace Accord is constitutionally shielded as the Colombian Constitutional Court issued in October 2017 a ruling which states that the next three governments must comply with its implementation. But this does not mean that disagreements over the Peace Accord and its implementation have ceased to exist. During 2017, presidential members of Duque’s political party, the Democratic Center (hereafter DCP), pledged to undercut the Peace Agreement, whereas Duque asserted that once elected he will not destroy but reform it. Once in office, however, Duque has gradually aligned his politics with the practices and discourses of the DCP.  I will provide some examples that show how Duque and his Party have specifically targeted institutions and mechanisms of transitional justice performing what could be termed as antagonistic politics against transition to peace. 

Submitted to the Congress in September 2018, an initiative prompted by the DCP sought to create a separate tribunal for the militaries, so that they and other members of state security forces did not have to appear before the same court as that of the guerrilla members. Underlying this initiative was the idea spread through social media according to which the peace accords were a means to besmirch the honor of the militaries. In terms of the DCP, the JEP would put national heroes on the same footing as the guerrilla members. Although this attempt failed to win Congressional approval, the amplitude of the debate in public forums and in the media allowed the DCP to pay lip services to  their hard-line constituencies, as it made those militaries who support the peace process look as subordinated and kneeled.

Another target of Duque’s administration antagonism against the peace accords has concerned the program of coca substitution and rural development initiatives (PNIs). This program has sought to bridge the social inequality gap between urban and rural territories as well as to tackle the drug trafficking industry, a dangerous mix which has permitted the Colombian armed conflict to persist. The program entails to offer to coca farmers and their families a way out of dependency on coca bush cultivation. Along with granting financial incentives to the families who join the program, the PNIs is linked with development measures such as the building of social and economic infrastructure in the regions that have been most severely affected by the conflict. Viewed as one of the peace agreement’s transformative measures and as a flagship engagement of the Juan Manuel Santos administration, the voluntary substitution of coca crops has provided enhanced opportunities for transitional justice to not only tackle territorial inequalities but to bring about social and gender justice. By 2018, more than 77 thousand families have enrolled in the program and it has allowed the issue of more than 1,065 land titles to small farmers, 44% of whom are women. Such figures speak of the transformative potential of the PNIs to tackle a crucial and historically entrenched marker of gender inequality, specifically women’s access to land. For those populations living in rural drug trafficking areas, the almost only form of governance they have ever known is the alternation in power of armed actors, whether the Colombian army, the paramilitaries or guerrilla groups. Therefore, the PNIs represents as well a chance to bring holistic governance and justice to civilian populations, whose lives have been defined by a patriarchal military rule.

Certainly, however, two main challenges threaten the sustainability of the PNIs. On the one hand, emerging criminal bands (BACRIM) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) are taking over the control of drug trafficking areas formerly controlled by the FARC. But not less concerning is the announcement of the Duque administration to re-integrate forced manual eradication and to resume glyphosate spraying which was banned by the Constitutional Court in 2015. Duque’s securitarian approach against coca farmers has led ex-president Santos to intervene before the Constitutional Court in order to defend the focus on voluntary substitution. Meanwhile, on the ground, thousands of peasants are rallying against the return of glyphosate and the underfunding of the coca crops substitution program by Duque’s government, which as Insight Crime asserts has left “100,000 families in limbo”.

The Democratic Center: Its right-wing Populism and the Danger of its Negationist Discourse

The above examples are illustrative of the ways in which Duque’s politics of peace are undermining social, cultural and economic transformations that the transition to peace was aimed at bringing about. Yet, symbolic mechanisms of transition have not been spared from Duque’s antagonistic politics towards peace. In a move that has been described as an attempt to re-write the history of the conflict, Duque appointed as new director of the Center of Historical Memory (CHM), the researcher and historian Dario Acevedo. Known for his negationist statements about the Colombian armed conflict, Acevedo’s perspective echoes Uribe’s discourse according to which Colombia has faced a terrorist menace and not an armed conflict. Created in 2011 through the Victims’ Law, the CMH has the mission “to investigate and to document the atrocities that took place in the context of the internal armed conflict.” So, as soon as Acevedo was appointed in February 2019, intellectuals’ and victims’ associations quickly manifested their disagreement, raising the question of whether a researcher who negates the armed conflict is the right person to lead the CMH to accomplish its task.

The implications that Acevedo’s negationism might entail in allowing or preventing victims’ right to truth are still uncertain. What is certain, though, is that the construction of memory of the conflict is an aspect in which the political dimension of transitional justice and peacebuilding is more visible. Willing or not, memory is produced through agonistic processes in which there will always be moments of conflict regarding, for instance, the terms of the narration, its time framework, the categories it includes, the voices it allows to speak, as well as the methodologies and means through which memory is produced and represented. The Center of Historical Memory has been recognized for its independence from the government in office but also for its participatory methodologies and for giving room to a plurality of voices. However, according to the members of the Democratic Center, the CMH’s research agenda has until now being oriented by a leftist perspective. In their view, the CMH has given bigger weight to the role of paramilitaries in the conflict while devoting less effort in documenting the violence of the conflict undertook by the guerrillas. Bearing this critique in mind, it is reasonable to be concerned about the politics of memory that Acevedo’s work and the Duque administration are aimed at producing.

In a recent paper published by Peter Verošek on the politics of memory, the author draws attention on a contemporary trend driven by populist regimes which seeks to impose a “glorious national past” by portraying those who contradict this kind of narrative as traitors. Reflecting on Verošek’s work, one cannot help but think about the populist reactions of ex-president Uribe against ex-president Santos. Since 2011, when the Santos government recognized the armed conflict and the victims, thereby paving the way for a dialogue with the FARC, Uribe has slandered Santos labeling him as a traitor. A year later, when Santos engaged in peace talks with the FARC, Uribe expressed his rage by portraying the peace process as a surrender of the country to Castro-Chavism.

Investigating the experience of the victims and survivors is much more than collecting facts about the past. It is about reflecting on the causes and making sense of the violence by locating it in a historical and political frame. Actualizing the right to reparation and guarantees of non-repetition that are due to the victims involves building a perspective of the past in which a plurality of voices are represented and which does not erase local interpretations. It is through this agonistic dialogue that victims and survivors obtain redress and societies might know and address the causes of violence, so as to ensure that it will not happen again. To frame the violence of the conflict, however, in the limited context of a terrorist menace overshadows the violence from its social and political causes, whereas it reduces the experience and suffering of the victims as being the result of madness. The spread of such vision, prompted by Duque’s party, undermines sustainable peace as it ends by delegitimizing the needs and efforts to transform power relations of class, ethnicity, location, gender or political affiliation that the Colombian transitional justice system is called to build up.   

Duque’s antagonistic politics towards peace is telling of the political and therefore inherent conflictual condition of peacebuilding and transitional justice. Underlying this condition is the fact that the building of peace implies making choices and transforming relations of power. Duque’s antagonistic politics represents an articulation of interests that contests these transformations. This contestation could be legitimate and should have a place in an agonistic dialogue. But if societies are seriously engaged in achieving sustainable peace, this dialogue should seek the reform and consolidation of peacebuilding rather than to induce the failure and collapse of its mechanisms and institutions.

How War and Militarism Are Terrorizing Women in Ukraine

Yesterday, Ukrainian neo-Nazis stormed a European lesbian conference due to be held in the capital city, Kyiv, with the aim of shutting down the gathering before it even starts. Using tear gas and armed with placards, the ultra-right wing ‘protestors’ have spent days hounding the hotel where the conference is to be held, including smashing hotel windows and spray-painting homophobic graffiti. Picket signs read “Go back to hell, sodomites” amongst other unsavoury sentiments.

This targeting of the lesbian conference is just the latest in a string of violence perpetrated by neo-Nazis in Ukraine against women and the LGBQ+ community, which has become increasingly frequent in the last few years. Women and LGBQ+ are not the only targets of this violence – last year, the targeted attacks against Roma in Ukraine by ultra-right wing nationalists made international headlines. Less reported on are the similarly systematic harassment and intimidation of immigrants and other ethnic minorities in the country.

In a country like Australia, we would have a hard time imagining that such harassment, violence, and intimidation against women, sexual and ethnic minorities could become so commonplace. But I think Ukraine is a litmus for the rest of the world in terms of how quickly the polarization of politics can become lethal, and threaten to undo nearly 80 years of human rights advances.

The reason this far-right wing violence has become practically acceptable in Ukraine has to do with the civil war that has affected the country for nearly 5 years and the fusing of militarism, masculinity, and the state that enables the policing of the gender order by these groups to take place.

Tracing the story of war, militarism, and the rise of a particularly violent and aggressive form of neo-Nazi, militarized masculinity in Ukraine requires us to go back a few years.

In 2013, the country was deeply divided between ‘East’ and ‘West’ (or perhaps better said ‘Rest’) on the geopolitical orientation of the country. A very large number of people, particularly in the capital city and Western regions, were deeply upset with the government and with the economy, and held hopes that a new economic arrangement under negotiation with the EU would improve conditions. When the Yanukovich government suddenly reversed its position and refused to sign the EU deal, it sparked mass protests in Kyiv and around the country, which culminated in the 2014 Revolution now known as ‘Euromaidan.’

Euromaidan came under heavy siege from the Ukrainian government. The violence perpetrated against protestors was a strong impetus for many to commit what time, energy, and resources they had to support the movement. But, as with any violence, it also attracted a certain kind of man in droves, seemingly seduced by the opportunity to wield and use weapons and act as masculine protectors. Many of them shared political views that would place them far on the right side of the political spectrum, fostered and developed for many through their love of football (but that’s a whole ‘nother story).

While by no means the majority of participants in the protest, these violent men soon gained prominence and prestige as the ‘heroes’ of Euromaidan. Volodymyr Ishchenko, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, has been tracing the influence of the far-right in Ukraine since Euromaidan. He noted early on that despite their media prominence, the values espoused by the far-right did not reflect the general values of those participating in the protests. Yet, their apparent heroism has allowed for the normalization and even valorization of these extreme views.

Now, the true impetus or cause of the civil war is contested and I’ll reserve my views for now, since the important thing to note for this analysis is how, as heroes of the Revolution, these far-right groups soon became national war heroes for volunteering to take their arms and transfer their violence towards their new enemies – the separatist forces in Donbas. With historical factors and the revolution leaving the armed forces in disarray, when the separatists declared independence in Donetsk and Luhansk regions and seized government buildings by force, the Ukrainian government depended on groups of civilian men who formed ‘volunteer battalions’ to source their own weapons, mobilize to the front line, and fight for the territorial integrity of the state.

Since then, though small in number, these militant far-right groups of men have become an increasingly powerful political force in the state and the government has proven itself unable or unwilling to reign in their violence when it is directed internally at civilians far from the front lines of the civil war. To the neo-Nazis, the enemies are one in the same. According to one with whom I spoke for my own research, the enemy against whom they fight is “homosexuals, paedophiles, and communists.” Those enemies do not just exist in the armed units of the separatist forces, but, by their rationale, in all aspects of Ukrainian society and have the potential to threaten the cohesion and stability of the state anywhere at anytime.

As such, it has become increasingly dangerous to be not only left-wing, but liberal in any sense of the word in Ukraine. In such a situation, the rights of women and of sexual and ethnic minorities are facing quick erosion. Not only are these groups systematically targeted by far-right groups, but so too are the formerly mainstream, acceptable demands now being de-legitimized. For example, far-right groups harassed and attacked organizers of Ukraine’s International Women’s Day march, arguing that IWD is a ‘Soviet holiday’ and that women should be celebrated on Mother’s Day, instead.

Certainly, as we have seen with the recent Christchurch terror attack, the values and sentiments expressed by the far-right are not confined to Ukraine. There is a rising polarization of politics, globally. We have to stop thinking of the violence perpetrated by far-right militant men in the West as “lone wolf” attacks and begin placing their violence within the context of militarism, misogyny, and xenophobia that unites their vision of the world and glorifies violence perpetrated against women and minorities.

The Global Political Economy of Sexual Exploitation

I recently attended a workshop aimed at preparing a submission for a UN consultation on business & human rights on the role of the so-called ‘sex industry’ in Australia. One of the key observations made by scholars, practitioners, and activists was that this legal, regulated industry in Australia enjoys a special, exempted status from the scrutiny of business ethics such as the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. While there is much to be said about the incongruity of the ‘job like any other’ discourse regarding the sex industry and mechanisms to ensure corporate responsibility for upholding basic human rights, one aspect I find far less considered is the way in which both legal and illegal forms of sexual exploitation seem to undergird so many aspects of our regular, licit economy.

It struck me from socializing with men and women in the banking and IT sectors how normal it is for workplace socializing to be conducted in strip clubs. A number of my friends and acquaintances admitted the regularity with which their ‘team’ would wind up after Thursday night drinks at a strip club, while others relayed rumors of their company holding corporate accounts with such establishments. It has made me wonder just how integral is sexual exploitation to lubricating our core economic sectors in an advanced, capitalist country?

With this ‘feminist curiosity‘ in mind, I came across an article about 50 formerly prostituted women suing Salesforce for facilitating their being sexually trafficked. Salesforce is an American Fortune 500 tech company perhaps best known for its ‘customer relationship management’ (CRM) software, used by millions. This week, fifty “Jane Does” have filed a lawsuit in San Francisco accusing Salesforce of “sex trafficking, negligence, and conspiracy” for providing CRM services to the notorious classified advertising site Backpage.com.

Last year, Backpage made international news when its CEO pleaded guilty to an array of charges associated with sex trafficking and money laundering as a result of publishing ads relating to prostitution, sex trafficking, and the sexual exploitation of minors. This new lawsuit against Salesforce alleges that the company and CEO, Marc Benioff:

engaged in nefarious activities while claiming to be fighting trafficking. “Behind the scenes … Salesforce kept taking Backpage’s money and supporting it with the CRM database of pimps, johns, and traffickers that Backpage needed to operate.”

Most perniciously, at the same time the company was attempting to paint itself as ‘good guys’ concerned with global corporate responsibility,

“Salesforce knew the scourge of sex trafficking because it sought publicity for trying to stop it. But at the same time, this publicly traded company was, in actuality, among the vilest of rogue companies, concerned only with their bottom line,” the suit alleges. “And human beings—many more than just these 50—were raped and abused because of it.”

“The Jane Does were forced, coerced, and made victims of sex trafficking by means of force, fear, fraud, deceit, coercion, violence, duress, menace, or threat of unlawful injury to themselves and others, including family members,” the lawsuit claims. “Salesforce committed acts at issue with malice, oppression, fraud, and duress.”

The claim of Salesforce’s complicity rests on the recognition that the industry of sexually exploiting women and children cannot operate alone, but requires all the same support services, technical services, and financial services as any other. Thus, the claim lodged by the 50 women accuses Salesforce of complicity in actively maximizing “customer acquisition” of johns/punters and aggressive marketing towards this acquisition. As such, the suit claims that not only did Salesforce’s technology provide “the backbone of Backpage’s exponential growth,” but it was also under Salesforce’s guidance that Backpage came to dominate the illicit industry in the trafficking and trade in women’s and children’s bodies.

Such recognition of the complicity of giants in our economy in the sex industry is an important first step. For as research has shown, the sexual exploitation of women and children isn’t done just by a handful of deviant, lonely men. Rather, it is sustained by both a widespread culture of acceptance that women’s bodies can be bought and used as commodities, as well as by an economic system that enables the trade.

A Gender Analysis of the Christchurch Terrorist Attack

I spent the morning of Saturday, 16th March the way many in Australia and New Zealand did: glued to the morning news, watching hours of analysis regarding the previous day’s terrorist attack in Christchurch, NZ. That morning, it was still believed multiple individuals were involved, but because of his livestream, the focus was on Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year old Australian man deeply embedded in the far-right movement.

After several middle aged, white male analysts were rolled out from Universities across Australia to talk about the how and why of this attack, the absence of a gender analysis was striking. How, in 2019, do so many experts in terrorism studies still not look at masculinity as a factor that drives these attacks?

This question drove me to post to Twitter that a gender analysis was needed.

While I appreciate the effort one individual went to to look up my Academia.edu profile to private message me and mansplain why I was wrong about the need for such an analysis, I must respectfully disagree. So, this post is a preliminary discussion based on my cursory glance at Tarrant’s manifesto, The Great Replacement, to unpack some of what this sort of gender analysis may reveal.

A fixation on reproduction is about control of women’s bodies.

Most of Tarrant’s manifesto is focused on what he calls “The Great Replacement,” which hearkens to a popular right-wing conspiracy theory that holds the white race (specifically, Europeans) is in decline and going to be overtaken by non-Europeans. This replacement is due to declining fertility rates in the West compared to, in the views of the beholders of said theory, robust fertility rates of non-Europeans.

Sure, at first glance, this would seem to have nothing to do with gender. But just as fascists in the 1930s held, such obsessions over fertility rates belie an underlying desire to control women’s bodies and most often go hand-in-hand with beliefs that feminism is ultimately to blame for the decline in fertility rates (NB. I don’t disagree that feminism and/or the advancement of women’s rights correlates and even causes declining fertility rates, but we can debate the merits of this another time).

If one were to probe Tarrant about how he thinks the Great Replacement might be halted, I would hazard a guess that immigration controls is just one step. Most who hold these views also espouse so-called ‘family values’ ideas about sex roles.

The White Male Saviour and Militarized Masculinity

The second key area ripe for a gender analysis is a further exploration of the conditions that have produced a vast and growing number of disaffected, middle-class men in the world who find the opportunity to pick up a gun and perpetrate mass violence an attractive alternative to their everyday lives. As I wrote in a 2014 article published in IFJP:

Changes in global economic and political processes have affected gender relations in domestic contexts, resulting in traditional entitlements being lost by some men (True 2012). Efforts to resist the globalization of these orders by marginalized men have increasingly relied on a resurgence of domestic patriarchy through militarization, problematizing neighboring masculinities or appealing to overt symbolic expressions of a distinct masculinity defined in cultural terms (Kimmel 2005). For many men who lack access to the opportunities of the formal international economy, illegal economic activity represents an alternative means to pursue wealth and attempt to attain the status afforded to the “economic man.” Because economic success is so closely tied to men’s social value, efforts to resist the hegemonic effects of globalization have also become organized chiefly around notions of gender. Violence may not only serve to resist oppressive economic and political conditions, but is also an alternative mode of asserting masculinity and reestablishing patriarchy to benefit men (Kimmel 2005, 416).

Meger (2014) “Toward a Feminist Political Economy of Wartime Sexual Violence,” International Feminist Journal of Politics 17(3): 416-434.


For Tarrant, his obsession with protecting white children from invading races is an obvious expression of paternalism. But there are many ways to be paternal, and the one he chose was through the end of a large semi automatic, military-style weapon. One need not delve far into feminist psychoanalysis to recall the metaphors of guns as penile extensions, first brought to mainstream IR attention by Carol Cohn (1987).

The Globalization of Right-Wing Extremism

Finally, a far less explored area ripe for gender analysis is how these disenfranchised, white men are finding each other through globalized social media networks and becoming radicalized to commit mass violence. In my own research, I have been fascinated by the number of foreign nationals fighting in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, which both sides of the political spectrum see as the front-line for a potential third world war, based on ideology. Tarrant mentions only briefly in his manifesto having been to Ukraine. If it was to volunteer in the armed conflict, he wouldn’t be the only radicalized right-wing Australian.

There is something to be said for the way that both ideology and affective attachments to those ideologies are being circulated and promulgated online. The appeal of fascism is spreading amongst a particular demographic of men like wildfire. But if we keep thinking of them only as ‘lone wolves’ rather than connected through shared ideology and increasingly shared political agenda, we miss the political component that makes right-wing extremism as dangerous as jihadist terrorists against whom we’ve mobilized trillions of dollars of military, security, and political resources.

How West African women reclaim international discourses

Initiated in the year 2000, the UN Security Council’s Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda calls for women’s participation in security governance and protection of women from security threats around the world. Despite its grand plans, the agenda’s implementation has been spotty, with greater attention to women’s participation in security solutions than to the structures of violence that have threatened them.

Furthermore, though the WPS agenda was initially driven by women’s organizations around the world and its intent acclaimed by many more, the UN Security Council resolutions and other policy documents that comprise the agenda do not always reflect the needs of the women who are the object of these policies, particularly women in the Global South. Instead, international discourses about women in the Global South stereotype them and reify them simultaneously as passive victims and as inherently peaceful. This characterization positions women solely as targets of the WPS policies rather than as powerful actors in their own right.

In a 2017 article in Global Affairs, “Pragmatic scepticism in implementing the Women, Peace, and Security agenda,” I outline two ways in which women and their work in local women’s security and peacebuilding organizations challenge international discourses at the same time that they reclaim them for their needs. This challenging is the “pragmatic scepticism” of the title – a way for women to be wary about certain essentializing stories told about them while simultaneously realizing that some stories can be useful as forms of organization and fundraising. Drawing on interview and participant observation research conducted among local women’s security and peacebuilding organizations in Côte dʼIvoire in 2014–2015, this article identifies two such stories that frame women’s activism around their own security: vulnerability and motherhood.

Vulnerability as a strength

Discourses around wartime sexualized violence tend to create binaries between victims and saviors, between the vulnerable and the strong. This has been echoed in the WPS agenda, which was not designed to reduce vulnerability by fundamentally remaking the system of gender relations. And though the first resolution of the WPS agenda, 1325, incorporated perspectives of anti-militarism, later resolutions and other aspects of the policy agenda have comprised this intent. Instead, the WPS agenda now highlights women’s vulnerability, and its programs are intended deal with, not question this vulnerability.

Many women in Côte dʼIvoire expressed frustration about how their day-to-day peacebuilding work was overlooked by the WPS agenda, which emphasizes external interventions rather than support of pre-existing grassroots organizations. Côte dʼIvoire, in fact, has a long history of women’s peace activism, during both the colonial period and more recent civil conflicts.

These women did acknowledge that they were vulnerable to particular forms of violence in conflict and in their daily lives – economic, political, and physical. However, they did not want this vulnerability to define them; they did not want a sense of victimhood to permeate women in the country. They reconfigured the vulnerability from being based on fear to being a place of strength from which they can organize.

Photo courtesy of Organization of Active Women in Côte dʼIvoire (OFACI)

As part of my research, I attended trainings run by local women’s peacebuilding organizations that had the goal of teaching women about their rights or empowerment opportunities. I watched the trainings shift from the morning’s formality to a relaxed camaraderie in the afternoon. Women told stories about their experiences of vulnerability and used that vulnerability to develop a solidarity on which, the training leaders hoped, they could build peace in their communities going forward. In the words of one participant, “Women need to help women because it is only us who know what each other is experiencing.”

But vulnerability can be used instrumentally by these women’s organizations, as well. These organizations use the language of vulnerability stemming from sexualized violence in the WPS resolutions to ask for increased funding for their work. Vulnerability is a pathway to access funding for some of these organizations, and women allow themselves to be vulnerable to establish their credentials as at-risk and open to the intervention of the international community.

Motherhood as an identity

Another frame produced by international discourses that women in Côte d’Ivoire adapt and work from is motherhood. This identity is often collapsed with ideas of vulnerability because of women’s specific health needs and mother-only caring responsibilities for very young children. African feminists like Catherine Acholonu and Obioma Nnaemeka note that motherhood in many African societies is not just a biological role but also a social one. Even if a woman does not have children, familial roles such as “sister” or “aunt” are liberally given and come with nurturing duties.

Motherhood, then, is not only taken on by those who have birthed and raised children but is claimed by a majority of women in Côte dʼIvoire and is naturalized for all women. As with vulnerability, women are pragmatic about their mothering roles, noting that there are specific ways they can work with their identity as a mother, but also instrumental ways to sell motherhood as necessary to security.

At the core of the activism by the local women’s organizations was a commitment to security, peace, and anti-violence. In particular, it was the attachment to their children through birth and caretaking that provided women power in their communities and compelled them to act publicly. Especially for poor women, who have little formal power or access to resources, motherhood provides them with the capacity to act. The director of one women’s organization passionately claimed, “A woman, child, there is not a more horrible pain than giving birth. Do you think she can give birth to her child and then let her child die like this? Maybe he’s going to die because you can do nothing. If you can do something, you will snatch your child from death.”

Just as with the frame of vulnerability, women used motherhood instrumentally to attract attention and funding to their cause of peace and security. Women’s organizations often premised their programs on women’s roles in their families and their communities. Conflict management programs, in particular, relied on women’s domestic management and intimate knowledge of their families. Local justice officials sometimes depend on women to report if their adolescent sons or husbands are coming and going from the house at odd hours, if there are weapons or large amounts of cash in the house, and if there are new people in the community.

Implications of reclaiming the discourses

My goal is not to reify women in Africa and specifically in Côte d’Ivoire as motherly or “natural” but to note and understand their experiences in their work, as they operate in their own contexts, both as vulnerable and as actors in conflict and post-conflict. Because the WPS resolutions are based on assumptions of women, allowing Ivorian women to the space to push back against these assumptions can help them redefine security for themselves, through their own advocacy. Only by listening to African women can we open up space for their voices and analyze their words and actions vis-à-vis state structures and international discourses.

Can Conflict Resolution & Peace Building Survive Right-Wing Populism in Colombia?

I don’t feel that Duque can jeopardize my legacy,” asserted Juan Manuel Santos, the outgoing Colombian president and Nobel Peace laureate in an interview with the news website La Silla Vacía published on July 7, 2018.  Santos’s response might calm down some of the fears of Colombian peace process supporters, as much of them see in the entry into office of the president-elect Iván Duque on 7 August 2018 a serious menace to the ongoing implementation of the peace agreement signed by Santos’s government with the FARC guerrilla in 2016.

But statements made at the 2017 National Convention of the Democratic Center Party have even sparked the fears of those who were confident in the implementation of the peace agreement, as one of its most relevant members asserted that the first challenge to be undertaken by Duque’s political party will be “to shatter this cursed paper called final agreement with the FARC.” Nevertheless, during the presidential campaign which led to his election in May 2018, Duque was able to play a more moderate card by using a double-edged strategy. One the one side, Duque claimed that he we will make some adjustments to the peace agreement and, on the other, he pledged to support the ongoing process of FARC demobilization opened up by this agreement. When starting his government on August 7, Duque will have a comfortable absolute majority in the Parliament, which will secure him the ability to pass any proposed reform. However, the peace accords have been enshrined in the Constitution and, moreover, a ruling of the Constitutional Court obliges the next three governments to implement them.

All well and good, but can we trust Duque’s independence from the hard-liners of his right-wing party? Why should we be cautious about the populist imprints of the Democratic Center? And more precisely, how might the Democratic Center’s populism endanger gender mainstreaming in the peace-building process?

Why Should We Fear the Democratic Center’s Populism?

Contrary to what this question might suggest, I must start by asserting that I don’t reject populism outright. As Chantal Mouffe suggests, there is a necessity of certain forms of populism in order to enhance the agonistic relations that are essential for a vibrant democratic debate to exist. In their defense of populism, Mouffe as well as Ernesto Laclau explain that populism is not an ideology but “a way of constructing the political” (Laclau 2005). It is a way to build a transversal political identity by articulating different political demands. Not limited to concerns of class, populist demands may stem from other cross-cutting social relationships including, for instance, nationality, gender, race, religious belonging, or even environmental relations. A populist chain of demands is not fixed, but rather can be re-articulated or fall apart. That is another reason why populism is better defined as a way of “constructing the people,” and not as an ideology.

To put it shortly, the need for left-wing populist alternatives, that Mouffe prompts, arises as the current post-political consensus has rendered the adversarial model of politics obsolete and has achieved to turn the rule of technocracy into a hegemony. But at the same time, it is precisely the increasing rule of technocracy, with its ability to depoliticize and foreclose any debate about possible alternatives to, for example, measures of austerity, the rules of neoliberal globalization, or the global refugee crisis, what is at the roots of the current global success of right-wing populism.

Unlike a current elite unable to formulate alternative answers, right-wing populist parties claim that they embody the voice of the people, and their ability to construct a collective difference between an Us opposed to a Them is one their basic features. Notoriously, the other key feature of right-wing populism is its ability to build a political identity based on the articulation of a chain of identities and demands against a current elite, who they claim has failed or betrayed the people. And precisely, this recurrent practice whereby a political group labels those who dissent or oppose them, for instance, of being unpatriotic or supporters of terrorism, has been one of the most prominent footprints of Duque’s party Democratic Center. Thus, in order to map the populist architecture of this right-wing party, it is good to start by scrutinizing this practice.

Founded by Duque’s godfather, ex-president Alvaro Uribe, the Democratic Center fiercely opposed not only the Havana peace talks all along, but reparation to the victims. Insofar as Santos deepened his commitment to these causes throughout his presidential mandates (2010-2018), Uribe’s response was not long in coming and expressing his fury. Uribe labeled Santos as a traitor  who was leaving the country in the hands of a communist menace that he called  Castro-Chavism  and, moreover, accused Santos of  leading the surrender of the country to the FARC. The gendered dimensions of Uribe’s rhetoric are close to the surface, and that, coming from a politician whose war-centered approach to end the Colombian armed conflict and to deal with the coca cultivation entailed a serious militarization of women’s lives, is not surprising. Echoing the sense suggested by Cynthia Enloe, by militarization of women’s lives, I mean a governmental rule that provides a sense of worthiness and normalcy to military –and paramilitary– ideas.

Feminists, as Meger reminds us, “have documented the role that discourse plays in constructing gender symbolism and naturalizing hierarchies of dominance and subordination.” Moreover, she claims, “the discourse of counterterrorism is not only a means of delegitimizing insurgencies but also of feminizing them” (Meger 2016: 90). Uribe’s strategy to deny the FARC guerrilla belligerent status during his mandate was not an exception in this respect. But here, in order to sabotage Santos’s peace process, Uribe was able to use the discourse the other way around. Crafting an analogy between the Havana peace talks and military surrender, and equating Santos’s peace politics with a betrayal to the long effort of the Colombian Army against the FARC’s terrorist menace, Uribe sought to turn the military and their supporters against Santos. And in fact, in the view of public opinion, Uribe succeeded in creating a climate of distrust between the executive and the military. In Uribe’s populist rhetoric, Santos’s peace politics meant the dishonor and emasculation of the Colombian National Army, rendering both the long military struggle against the FARC as if it has been of no value and the sacrifice of Colombian people in the war of drugs as if it would have been in vain.

But, just as Santos counteracted the effects of Uribe’s rhetoric by including the military at the negotiating table, so too the Democratic Center was also able to reframe its chain of equivalences (interests-identities) and to keep its populist architecture going. In this endeavor, another maneuver particularly gendered that serves the purpose of securing to Uribe’s party a large section of the Colombian electorate was set in motion during the campaign on the plebiscite for peace that took place on October 2016. At that time, the Democratic Center orchestrated a misleading campaign that led not just to the resignation of Education minister Gina Parody but, even worst, to the rejection of the Havana peace accords. In what has been one of its most successful attempts to destabilize Santos’s government, the Democratic Center appealed to the religious beliefs and fears of the Colombian electorate by directing its attacks to the mainstreaming of gender in schools and to the inclusion of the term gender in the Havana accords. Crafting a discourse to stir up fear among the growing Christian community (Protestant and Catholic), the Democratic Center targeted as its new scapegoat the minister Parody. Blaming her for smuggling a supposed gender ideology into the schools and into the peace agreements, this party claimed that the inclusion of such foreign gender ideology would jeopardize the heterosexual basis upon which the traditional Colombian family is grounded. In the aftermath of such a defeat in the plebiscite, which journalist Maria Jimena Duzán has called “The Night of Tears”, Santos managed to achieve a new peace deal which included amendments and clarifications suggested by sectors of the “No” vote.  Approved by the Colombian Congress on December 2016, yet the new peace accord maintained the use of the gender-based approach, which broadly speaking was referred to as the recognition of equal rights for men and women. Despite the fact that Colombia has not issued a National Action Plan for the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325, the final peace agreement has been recognized for having incorporated 122 gender-specific provisions.

In its ambitious architecture, the Colombian peace agreement with the FARC seeks to tackle the following aspects: First, what have been identified as the causes of the war, and which, worthy to mention, have underpinned the FARC insurgency’s political grievances, such as inequality in land access and concerns related to territorial control. Second, factors and dynamics that fuel the war, being the most significant drug trafficking and others such as illegal mining. Third, socio-economic and political inequalities that have allowed human rights violations, which include but are not limited to gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and political beliefs or affiliation. Four, the peace accord aims at offering to the victims a comprehensive system for truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence. Thus, going beyond the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of the FARC guerilla, the final document addresses the above-mentioned aspects in six chapters: (1) comprehensive rural reform, aimed at reducing the socio-economic gap between urban and rural areas  which, worth mentioning, involves measures aimed at bringing about sustainable development; (2) political participation, with a view on enhancing democratic pluralism broadly understood; (3) DDR of the FARC members in order to guarantee their political, social, and economic integration into civilian life; (4) comprehensive solution to the drug problem which promises to overcome the over-criminalization produced by the war on drugs and, instead, involves a comprehensive plan with an equity-based and gender-based approach for the substitution of crops tackling the structural causes that lead families to cultivate illicit drug crops; (5) comprehensive system of transformative transitional justice;  and (6) system for the verification of the implementation of the agreement.

So far, so good. But can we be sure that in his attempts to adjust the peace agreement, the newly elected president Duque could resist its political party’s tendency to resort to right-wing populist strategies?

Ivan Duque: Under the Shadow of Populism

Since he was picked up as the Democratic Center’s official candidate, Ivan Duque was depicted for many as Uribe’s new puppet; a shadow from which Duque has not been able to free himself. And that despite the active support of the media, which facilitated him to elude any serious public debate. The media played its part directing the spotlight towards Duque’s experience working at the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and thereby helped him to build a pro-business profile. In the meantime, Duque refused to attend various debates, and notoriously a debate organized by women’s movements and feminist organizations, so-called “The Women Ask.” Yet, the Democratic Center could not afford to overlook the LGBT constituencies. Hence, it found a way around not just to repair the rifts caused by its misleading campaign on gender ideology, but to counteract the fears of the LGBT community that the Democratic Center will re-open the so-called anti-gay referendum. Without hesitation or shame, Uribe rushed to give a hand to his protégé by addressing a public statement to the LGBT sector and declaring that the Democratic Center will respect all acquired rights.

As for the peace process, Duque maintained his positioning as a moderate politician by emphasizing that he will adjust the agreements rather than shatter them. However, history might repeat itself and, hence, Duque might face serious difficulties to maintain a margin of autonomy from his party. As it happened with Santos, any step Duque might take in an opposite direction from Uribe’s rightist approach or from the Democratic Center’s hard-liners could cause him to be labeled as traitor.

The latest developments show that Duque’s government has begun to reshape the peace-building process even before its entry into office. Just some days after Duque won the presidency, the Congress passed a reform proposed by his party which weakens the power of a backbone institution created through the Havana agreements, so-called Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP in Spanish). The JEP is a transitional justice mechanism whose main function is to investigate and prosecute serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed during the Colombian armed conflict. Since the creation of the JEP, the Democratic Center has argued that this tribunal places on equal footing guerrilla members and the military. Thus, recycling the argument according to which the peace agreement undermines the honor of the Colombian Army, the Democratic Center succeeded in obtaining from Congress approval of a reform that obliges the JEP to create a special chamber to judge military personnel. Law scholars, such as Rodrigo Uprimny, have argued that this measure disarticulates the entire transitional justice architecture, while others have warned that this reform leaves over 2,000 military personnel who have expressed their intention to appear before the JEP in a legal limbo. But beyond that, what this amendment suggests is that the attacks to the peace-building process that Duque’s right-wing party may put in motion will be brutal, though not necessarily frontal. While keeping his technocratic façade, Duque can be tempted to resort to populist tropes and strategies aimed at disarticulating the institutions created through the peace agreement.

For instance, Duque might cast doubts on their design or on the neutrality of the functionaries appointed to work at these agencies asserting that they are ideologically biased. Thereafter, he can use that argument as a pretext to change their organization, turning them into dysfunctional agencies unable to accomplish their mission. Even starker, Duque’s government might provoke a division between the traditional poor and the victims. For instance, and given the huge cost of victim reparation programs, hard-line factions of his party can spread rumors asserting that, because of such expenses, the government might be obliged to reduce social investment for the poor. Or finally, as a report of the International Crisis Group has warned, the government might render transitional justice institutions inefficient by starving their operational budgets.

Yet, by way of conclusion, the Colombian peace-building experience does not suggest that we should reject all forms of populism, or that populism is antithetical to peace building and democratic rule. If the tropes used by populism include, for instance, those related to gender equality and respect for diversity, populism can help societies to bring about transformative justice and durable peace. In contrast, when the tropes and mottos adopted by populism work to promote patriarchal masculinities, to undermine democratic pluralism or to maintain inequalities, it is most likely that the only kind of post-conflict context populism can help to bring about is one ruled by an oppressive peace.

Note: at the time of submitting this article (July 2018), the Colombian Supreme Court announced that it has widened a criminal investigation to include Ex-president Uribe on charges of bribery and intimidation of witnesses. This investigation stems from another case concerning alleged participation of Uribe in the formation of death squads during the 1990s.

Acknowledgments

My grateful thanks go to Lucy for permission to use her cartoon. I would like to thank also Carine Middelbos for her invaluable comments and editorial support.

Instrumentalizing Women’s Security in the Counterterrorism Agenda

The UN Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda has become the dominant international legal and discursive framework for addressing gendered violence in international relations. The United Nations made its first great strides towards recognizing violence against women as an issue of international security in its landmark Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. For many, the securitization of gendered violence through 1325 and the subsequent resolutions that now make up the WPS agenda has been a decisive win, elevating to the ‘high politics’ of security the long-expressed concerns that the effects of war, armed conflict, mass violence, and other forms of international insecurity have distinctly gendered effects on men and women. However, as the WPS agenda has developed, the increasingly instrumentalist and reductive view of ‘gender’ and of ‘violence’ employed therein has had unintended impacts on structural, cultural, and economic forms of violence against women.

Since the adoption of SCR 1325, the development of the WPS agenda has been divergent and highly contested. Many feminists have noted with concern the practical bifurcation of the agenda into two parallel, and rarely integrated, concerns: protection versus participation, with ‘protection’ afforded greater attention and institutional support within the UN and other agents of global governance. This prioritization of ‘protecting’ women in times of conflict and insecurity has problematically both relied upon and reinforced gendered logics of protection that reproduce stereotypical ideas of women as passive, weak, and victims, in need of saving by rational, heroic, and militarized men.

When, in 2015, the UN Security Council passed a new WPS resolution, 2242, on countering terrorism and violent extremism, some optimistic that it finally represented a shift in perspective from seeing women only as helpless victims of men’s violence in armed conflict to also being active agents whose inclusion in political peace processes is central to advancing our peace efforts. Yet, the move to incorporate countering violent extremism (CVE) into the WPS agenda has largely focused on women’s roles in preventing radicalization and extremism, further instrumentalizing women’s security towards conventionally statist priorities. Key stakeholders in the implementation of both CVE and WPS measures have tended to operate in a way that seeks to fit women and their concerns into existing militarized prerogatives for addressing international security, rather than considering the social conditions that make such insecurities possible. In this way, the incorporation of gender into the CVE agenda may further represent how gender and gender-based violence has become securitized through the WPS agenda.

What has not been systematically addressed in this ‘gender mainstreaming’ paradigm for CVE are the multiple ways that terrorist groups use highly gendered narratives in their recruitment campaigns to bolster their appeal both to men and women, and how such narratives resonate with their target audiences. For example, ISIS’ recruitment narrative relies on hyper-masculinized and violently militarized motifs, portraying their jihadists as ‘real men’ who are rewarded for their service with promises of a home, monthly allowance, and a wife. The reliance on conventional gender norms and exploitation of gendered anxieties regarding the capacity to fulfill said norms are critical to understanding the appeal of extremist groups.

Yet, within the CVE frameworks, gender remains narrowly understood as relevant only to ‘women,’ and the interest in gender instrumental to the security of states. Rather than rendering the global security regime developed to combat the threat of terrorism a “gender-friendly” space, global policy on terrorism and counterterrorism “show the continued dominance of a masculine paradigm in those arenas central to international security.”

 

How the WPS-CVE Nexus is Failing Women

In July 2018, thousands of women are being held in Iraq and Syria on terrorism related charges on accusations of their links to Islamic State. Known as “jihadi brides” or “sexual jihadis,” these women are being denied basic provisions of human rights and facing punishment on the mere suspicion of their links to IS militants. Facing death sentences for their links to terrorism, the implementation of CVE measures in this case has exacerbated gendered abuses.

Captured in 2017, many of the women are being held in detention camps in legal and political limbo, as their home countries refuse to repatriate them, fearing the spread of radical Islamism. While many of the women are from neighbouring Gulf States, a number also come from Western countries including Germany, France, Russia, and the United States. Others have already been charged with terrorism-related offences and are now facing 10-minute death sentence trials under the Iraqi judicial system. Accused of entering the country illegally and supporting ISIS by living in the caliphate, the thousands of women are facing punishments to the full extent of counter-terror laws in Iraq. Iraqi officials speaking to the New York Times explained:

“These Islamic State criminals committed crimes against humanity and against our people in Iraq, in Mosul and Salahuddin and Anbar, everywhere,” said Gen. Yahya Rasool, the spokesman for the Iraqi joint operations command. “To be loyal to the blood of the victims and to be loyal to the Iraqi people, criminals must receive the death penalty, a punishment that would deter them and those who sympathize with them.”

According to critics, one of the most egregious outcomes of these women’s being swept up in the counter-terror proceedings is that it has also impeded political will to investigate gender-based crimes perpetrated by ISIS, including the systematic use of forced marriage, sexual slavery, and strict curtailments of women’s rights. News reports suggest that the lives of ‘jihadi brides’ were strictly monitored and controlled, with women facing harsh punishments if they behaved in a way considered un-Islamic.

The example of jihadi brides underscores the tensions between the two available subject positions of women in armed conflict. The narratives of these women as dangerous terrorists is premised on the fact that their active participation in violence runs counter to the idealised feminine role we expect of women, ultimately characterizing them as gender deviant. On the other hand, to characterize them solely as unwitting or unwilling victims, subject to the will of their male protectors and guardians, reinforces gendered stereotypes and deny any agency or attachment to political ideals that the women may hold. The explicitly sexual connotation associated with ‘sexual jihadis’ implies a sexual deviancy and suggests that the women may be getting what they deserve for allowing themselves to be ‘seduced’ or ‘lured’ into ISIS in the first place by men more powerful or more clever than themselves.

Yet, even where attitudinal shift has taken place towards women who have been associated with ISIS from seeing them only as victims to also seeing them as active agents of terrorism, the focus has remained on how to instrumentalize women towards operational effectiveness in preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism. For example, in March 2016 at an event on Gender and CVE, the US Under-Secretary of State Sarah Sewall stated that “empowered women provide powerful antidotes to violent extremism. They are able to refute extremist narratives and nihilistic visions with independence and authenticity. Societies that respect the rights of all and fully engage the participation of all have no room for violent extremism. So women’s empowerment is not only essential for defeating violent extremism; defeating violent extremism is essential for women’s empowerment. The two go hand-in-hand” (qtd in Chowdhury Fink and Davidian 2018, p. 163). These sentiments are echoed in SCR 2242 itself, which calls for ‘the participation and leadership of women and women’s organizations in developing strategies to counter terrorism and violent extremism.” Such sentiments have sparked concern amongst scholars and civil society activists regarding the co-optation of the WPS agenda in service of counter-terrorism policy and the retention of a problematically narrow scope of concern for what constitutes ‘violence’ of relevance to international peace and security. Women’s unfeminine, unruly behaviour is interpreted as a warning sign and thus efforts to address women’s participation in terrorism, or to empower them to join efforts in countering terrorism and violent extremism, still stem from assumptions that women are not independent, political agents.

 

Gender in the CVE Agenda

Both narratives, while exploiting stereotypical assumptions about ‘femininity’ and appropriate roles and behaviours of women in relation to violence and armed conflict, work to downplay the significance that politics may have in women’s participation in organized violence, including terrorism. Much like the label of ‘terrorist’ has succeeded in securitizing, and thus de-politicizing, the social and political grievances that lead to violence, or that make participation in a terrorist group attractive. A 2017 report issued by the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) showed how reductive the ‘jihadi bride’ narrative has been, and how far it went towards constructing women in terrorist groups as passive, manipulated, and brainwashed. Contrary to this prevailing narrative, the study found that many women, particularly those coming from Western countries, were drawn by a sense of ‘empowerment’ offered by ISIS, and were thus “deliberately seeking to challenge both traditional and Western-imposed gender norms, by seeking a new identity for themselves”. The report also suggests that exclusion and marginalization from wider Western society were compelling ‘push’ factors for women to join ISIS. Yet, prevailing efforts to account for women’s role in terrorism and counter-terrorism strategies ignore the structural social, political and economic roots of their own involvement, as well as the unique ways that women’s social positions may present alternative reasons or pathways for radicalization than their male counterparts.

Thus, while SCR 2242 and the focus on women in combatting violent extremism does, for the first time, shift the prevailing discourse of the WPS agenda from one of protection to one of participation, the scope for participation is restricted. Women’s agency and capacity for empowerment is discussed in complete isolation from the underlying social dynamics that both shape their social, economic, and political positions and that underlie the political economic dimensions of violence, armed conflict, and terrorism in the first place. Much like other global initiatives aimed at ‘empowering’ women, the discourse is designed to ‘sell’ women’s empowerment as good for the economy (or, in this case, good for political stability) rather than as a good in and of itself.

Because international security regimes enabled through processes of securitization enable states to use extraordinary means of force to eliminate threats outside of the oversight of democratic processes and civil society, the marrying of the WPS agenda to national security prerogatives, including the securitization of terrorism and violent extremism, may have quite serious implications for gender and gendered forms of violence. As feminists, we ought to be critically interrogating the extent to which gender-based violence and gendered vulnerabilities are best resolved through their formulation as acute existential threats that require such exceptional responses.

Does the urban question matter in the post-conflict era?

Given the increasing urbanization of persons experiencing forced displacement, it should be clear that the answer to this question is yes. Indeed, in 2017 alone, the number of new persons displaced because of armed conflicts almost doubled from 6.9 to million to 11.8 million, reaching an estimated 40 million people worldwide living in conditions of forced displacement. But contrary to popular belief, most internally displaced persons (IDPs) reside in urban areas rather than in refugee camps. Cities are now the main destinations where displaced people seek refuge, and at the same time, because of civil conflicts taking place in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, they are also places from which an increasing number of persons are forced to flee. In view of this, it is worth considering: what are the instruments through which urban-related needs of displaced persons and other victims of armed conflicts can be met? Great interest is given in current post-conflict processes to the right to truth, memory of the victims as well as to criminal justice. Important as they are, there is also a need to reflect on transformative means of reparation that post-conflict processes can make available to those victims of war who experience protracted displacement in urban centers.

The main focus of those involved in bringing an end to the plight of forcibly displaced persons is to achieve so-called durable solutions as it was suggested 20 years ago, when the UN adopted the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. Crucial to this approach is the responsibility of national authorities to provide the means to enable displaced persons’ voluntary return, their relocation to the places where they have found refuge or their settlement elsewhere within their own country. Nevertheless, when it comes to protracted conflicts or displacement caused by state actors, the pressures on local authorities to reduce the displacement figures might lead them to privilege other solutions rather than to facilitate their local settlement. This despite the fact that, even in contexts where peace agreements or ceasefires are being implemented, forced displacement still occurs. To this should be added that urban displacement is often invisible as displaced persons usually mingle with poor locals, which might be used by local authorities to avoid granting them the IDP status and to disregard displaced people’s particular needs. However, when the conditions surrounding forcibly displaced persons’ urbanization are those such as lack of political recognition and undifferentiated socio-economic policies, it creates additional pressure on the already scarce resources and social services available to the local population. In cities of the global South where growing urbanization has been shaped by informality and has often occurred with poor urban planning, the steady flow of displaced people into poor areas might exacerbate the demand for social housing and might overload existing public infrastructure.

In fact, until 2011, invisibility and poverty trap used to be terms employed by Colombian human rights defenders to describe the conditions experienced by internally displaced people, especially as during ex-president Uribe’s rule (2002-2010), their urbanization was systematically accompanied by the denial of official IDP recognition. At that time Uribe claimed that what Colombia was facing was a combination of a terrorist menace with a massive economic migration, and by deploying such an argument his government turned a blind eye to displaced people’s condition of victim. In line with Uribe’s denial, governing authorities did not go further than offering displaced persons minimum humanitarian assistance while overlooking their responsibility to provide them with the means to find a place to rebuild their lives and guarantees of non-repetition.

Against this climate of denial and marginalization, in 2008, women’s displaced organizations in coalition with feminists NGOs were able to make a dent in Uribe’s politics, as they resorted to the Constitutional Court and succeeded in getting passed a gender-sensitive ruling, the so-called Auto 092, on the rights of women forcibly displaced by the conflict. The Judicial Decision 092 states that due to historical discrimination of women, forced displacement has a disproportionate impact on their lives and called the Colombian State to adopt measures to specifically prevent conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence before, during and after displacement. Whereas underlining and addressing the risk of re-victimization, Auto 092 compels Colombian authorities to implement positive actions in order to tackle social, cultural and economic inequalities that allow conflict-related violence against displaced women to occur. In so doing, Auto 092 stands as an example of transformative justice as it goes beyond a focus on redressing civil and political rights violations.

Indeed, in their article “Exposing the Gendered Myth of Post-Conflict Transition,” Rees and Chinkin point to the timeliness and appropriateness of jurisprudence that, like Decision 092, binds the victims’ right to reparation to the so-called second-generation human rights:

The problem is that economic and social rights have long been regarded, especially in the global North and thus by those who are lead players in many peace processes, as non-justiciable and supported by only weak enforcement and monitoring mechanisms. Access to appropriate and affordable health services, housing, education, social security and employment are regarded as “benefits” or as services … The myth of their non-justiciability has been broken by the jurisprudence of constitutional courts in South Africa, Colombia, the Philippines, and elsewhere, and by the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in May 2008 (Rees and Chinkin 2015: 1220).

Unfortunately, reality does not always match the law. Despite jurisprudential developments such as Decision 092, Colombian displaced women needed to persist in their struggle to obtain recognition of the victim status of displaced people, to convince the Colombian government to seriously address human rights violations and to provide them with reparations that tackle historical inequalities that make them vulnerable to conflict-related violence.

In 2011, the newly elected president Juan Manuel Santos made a clear departure from Uribe’s negationist rhetoric by recognizing the internal armed conflict and passing the so-called Victims and Land Restitution Law. As a transitional justice framework, the Victims Law is not at odds with a transformative approach, as it seeks to offer a comprehensive redress of structural inequalities and explicitly states its intention to provide guarantees of non-repetition (art. 182). Yet, instead of local integration, the major focus of the Victims’ Law and its implementation is on the stabilization of displaced people, whether through their return or through their resettlement elsewhere within the country (art. 73). Hence, inter-alia, the Victims’ Law establishes procedures to facilitate access to land titles and, by giving priority to displaced women, takes into account the informality of land tenure reflected in the lack of enforceable land titles along with gender-related practices and cultural biases; for they are both tremendous obstacles that hinder rural women’s right to enjoy equal access to land and thereby make them more vulnerable to forced displacement.

However, what has thus become clear through the implementation of this law is that, in order to be a durable solution, the stabilization of displaced persons by means of return-oriented programs should be considered through the lenses of a comprehensive sustainability.

Return-oriented programs and the challenges of defeating impunity

Concerns about the limitations of the Victims’ Law and its program of land restitution to achieve their goals in the midst of the war have proved to be real difficulties. For instance, according to the report “A Land Title Is Not Enough” published by Amnesty International, most economic and political elites who commissioned and benefited from forced displacement have avoided being brought to justice. The interweaving of these structures with neo-paramilitary groups has taken over illegal and legal economies that have fed into the Colombian armed conflict and has not ceased to cause additional displacement. Of equal concern, as the 2015 report of the Working Group on Women and Armed Conflict brought to light, is the growing use of gender and sexual violence against Afro-Colombian women who have acted as social leaders in the process of land restitution. Following the peace agreement signed in 2016, the majority of FARC’s militias demobilized and the number of homicides in Colombia has significantly decreased. However, the number of killings of human right defenders, including land restitution leaders, has simply increased.

Colombian transitional context exemplifies a dramatic example of the difficulties of drawing a line between conflict and post-conflict. Given such a landscape, it is likely that the most pressing endeavors to achieve sustainable solutions would oscillate between providing security to those displaced persons willing to return and recognizing that, for a large portion of this population who live in protracted displacement, it will simply be unfair to condemn them to an indefinite wait until the restitution of their lands is feasible.

 

Stabilization: but not without transformation

A revision of the UN Guiding Principles on Forced Displacement issued in 2010 provides specific criteria to evaluate whether a durable solution for displacement has actually been achieved. Importantly, as this framework highlights, an actual stabilization is not limited to the restoration of the conditions in which a person was living before the displacement. It must take into account that even when an armed conflict has ended, displaced people “commonly continue to have residual needs and human rights concerns linked to their displacement.” Therefore, as with transitional justice measures aimed at providing reparation, the process of stabilization should be seen as an opportunity to address discrimination e inequalities that allowed the occurrence of forced displacement or might enable further victimization.

For instance, when relocated in areas other than their places of origin, forcibly displaced persons can face difficulties to access health services due to the lack of registration or adequate documentation. Also, when trying to find a job, they can face discriminations based on their relatedness to the armed conflict. Because of their political affiliation, they might too be victims of hate crimes, and they can experience discrimination on racial, gender or ethnic basis when trying to rent a dwelling or access social services.

Published in the so-called Framework on Durable Solutions, the revision of the Guiding Principles sets eight criteria of evaluation, with the understanding that they are interlinked and overlapping: long-term safety and security; adequate standards of living; access to livelihoods; restoration of  housing, land and property; access to or replacement of documentation; family reunification; participation in public affairs; and access to effective remedies and justice. But if we aim at embracing these criteria, we should look for how their implementation participates in bringing about social reconciliation and gender-just sustainable peace. Do options of livelihoods available for displaced people reproduce sexual division of labor? Do women’s livelihoods or jobs allow them possibilities in time and space to exercise political participation? Are the means to access housing failing to recognize non-normative families? Do housing solutions for displaced persons provide real chances to overcome gender-based exclusions? Are processes of public apologies and mechanisms of justice such as truth tribunals being gender-sensitive, or are they encouraging or perpetuating patterns of sexism or the patriarchal relation women-protected/male-protector? These are only a few of the questions that we should address if we are committed to mainstreaming gender when seeking to provide displaced persons with transformative durable solutions.

Housing: More Than a Roof over One’s Head

Achieving a suitable solution meeting the above-mentioned standards not only involves ensuring victims’ enjoyment of their human rights but, in doing so, also entails challenges in development and post-conflict reconstruction, including the building of physical, social and cultural infrastructure. This process in Colombia has mostly been referred to as to bring the state into those rural regions where for decades the only government presence has not been other than the military. Building social infrastructure in rural territories has been a claim of Colombian feminist movements since a long time. However, important as it is, it should not mean losing sight of the fact that for a large portion of the displaced population, who have lived far from their lands for almost decades, return might not be a feasible solution.

Despite the urban segregation that displaced persons experience, in Colombia women are less likely to return. This is due, in many cases, to the better access to education and health services for their children available in urban centers or to the fact that they have created new family ties. Thus, difficulties related to urban segregation or discrimination they might endure pale in comparison with the uncertainties of returning to areas where peace and war still overlap.

In spite of this, the main focus of Santos’s Victims’ Law is the return of displaced persons, and therefore it does not include housing restitution but instead access to housing subsidies. In that sense, the Victims’ Law fails to comply with the criteria of return sustainability mentioned above which, like the Pinheiro Principles, put forward that forcibly displaced persons “have the right to have restored to them any housing” of which they were deprived. However, as it has been demonstrated by urban scholars, for a displaced person, the probability that housing subsidies crystallize in an actual purchase of a property is extremely low. Especially, because the conditions of poverty they face and their lack of regular salary income make them ineligible to access a bank loan.

Over time, the Santos government decided to include some IDP families among the beneficiaries of its Free Housing Program. Nonetheless, the experience of Colombia in the implementation of social housing programs, and especially as a means of providing reparation for the victims of human rights violations, reflects similar difficulties to those faced by other global South societies engaged in transitional justice processes. For instance, in their research on post-apartheid South Africa, Parnell and Pieterse hint to some axes of the urban question which, if left unaddressed or ignored, might risk victims’ rights to the city being deferred:

The ongoing focus on electoral and participatory democracy as well as on protecting other individual rights (freedom from discrimination, freedom of expression, etc.) may marginalize new efforts to advance 2nd generation socio-economic rights. These are achieved through the sustained delivery of affordable urban services to households and neighborhoods (not individuals), and through viable service administration and finances, not just through infrastructural investment (Parnell and Pieterse 2010: 148).

Parnell and Pieterse touch on how weak decentralization, inadequate institutional support as well as the imperatives of neoliberal globalizations, such as privatization, play a role in determining the uses of land, limiting the availability of affordable land for developing social housing, and blocking the possibilities of offering subsidized or free services for the poor (electricity, water, sanitation). Other urban challenges such as rigid or outdated zoning plans can restrict development of social housing and social infrastructure, and prevent the evolution of dormitory areas to mixed-use neighborhoods. Those conditions are increasingly seen as requirements for sustainable housing as they prevent risks such as neighborhood deterioration, and further informality.

A combination of these difficulties have been experienced in Bogotá, the Colombian city where the majority of IDP live, as between 2012-2015 the city administration attempted to allocate social housing units for internally displaced persons. But specifically, the case of Bogotá exemplifies the misalignment between the politics prompted at national level and their implementation at local/municipal level. For example, Juan Carlos Flórez, an independent local politician, asserts that the current Bogotá’s administration of Enrique Peñalosa “does not at all comply with meeting victims’ right to housing.” Indeed, from an estimated 500 thousand victims of the armed conflict who live in Bogotá and who have no access to decent housing, only 4 thousand were included in Bogota’s development plan. Like picturing a recipe for disaster, Flórez explains that no free houses will be allocated to displaced people, and furthermore that the institutional support provided to access credit is so weak that it is working to preclude any chance displaced people might have to effectively gain access to the social housing units supposedly allocated to them.

Bogotá as other urban societies of the global South cannot elude the requirements posed by global competitiveness in order to play a role in the global economy. However, for those facing democratic transition, to provide transformative comprehensive reparation to the victims is an essential responsibility if they are aiming at social reconciliation, the building of sustainable peace and at not condemning the victims of forced displacement to become the new urban poor.

When is Terrorism Not Terrorism?

When the political motivations are misogyny, of course.

This week, Canada was rocked by a devastating mass killing, when 25 year-old Alek Minnasian drove a rented van into dozens of people on a busy Toronto street. By the end of the ‘van rampage,’ 10 people were killed and at least 15 more injured. And although the means and mode of attack very closely resembled some recent ‘van rampages’ in Europe that have been connected to terrorism, in Canada it shall not be named so.

Minassian’s 10th grade yearbook photo, (c) the Toronto Sun.

The carnage was reminiscent of deadly attacks by Islamic State supporters using vehicles that have shaken up Nice, France, Berlin, Barcelona, London and New York. But late Monday, Canada’s public safety minister, Ralph Goodale, said this time appeared to be different.

“The events that happened on the street behind us are horrendous,” he said, “but they do not appear to be connected in any way to national security based on the information at this time.”

It did not take long, though, for media reports to begin digging into Minnasian and discovered the likely motive behind his ‘rampage’:

While the police did not disclose a motive for the rampage, interviews with former acquaintances of Mr. Minassian, witnesses and others, and his now-deleted Facebook account, portray a troubled young man who harbored resentments toward women, had a penchant for computer programming, served briefly in the military last year, and appeared determined to die.

In a Facebook post made minutes before embarking on this rampage, Minnasian apparently wrote:

“The Incel Rebellion has already begun!” the posting stated. “We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”

While Toronto Police declined to comment on the sex of the victims, it has now been reported that the majority were women.

According to internet culture, ‘incels’ are ‘involuntary celibates’, a group of extremely misogynistic men’s right’s activists who rabidly hate women and blame feminism for, essentially, making women not want to have sex with them. According to researcher Arshy Mann, self-described incels are:

“almost entirely men who are laser-focused on their inability to have sex & blame women. Of the manosphere communities, incels are the most virulently misogynistic.”

Amongst this subculture, Elliot Rodger is worshipped as an almost deity. Rodger’s own manifesto, the insight into his motive for killing six people on a college campus in California in 2014, expressed frustration over not being able to find a girlfriend, his hatred of women, his contempt for racial minorities and interracial couples, and his plans for what he described as “retribution”.

And again, as we saw in the aftermath of Rodger’s ‘rampage,’ this violence is not being called ‘terrorism,’ but rather the unfortunate effects of one man’s ‘mental illness.’

Yet, by individualizing the problem of men’s violence – especially, in such overt and extreme forms – we lose focus of the way in which through its everydayness, the persistent threat of violence against women is in and of itself a means of terrorizing women. In their provocative book Loving to Survive, Dee L. R. Graham, Roberta Rigsby and Edna Rawlings argue that men’s violence fosters in women an omnipresent, and therefore often unrecognized, terror. This terror manifests in protective measures women take against the potential for rape, represented in any strange man she encounters, as well as strategies to reduce their risk of angering men. This omnipresent threat of violence can be theorized as a form of patriarchal terrorism. 

Unfortunately, within our existing legal and humanitarian frameworks, we haven’t the capacity to even conceive of men’s violence as terrorism, namely because this jurisprudence rests on the assumption of 1) an ideological agenda and 2) a community targeted as such. In both domestic and international law, women’s experiences have been largely trivialized, overlooked, or relegated to the private sphere of concern because the law has been grounded in the experiences of men.

As with the laws governing crimes against humanity and genocide, a core component of labelling an act of violence as ‘terrorism’ is the ability to show the offence to be directed against a community and not an individual. That is – is the violence discriminate or indiscriminate? Strangely, though, for all of international legal history, ‘women’ are not considered to be a community or recognizable group in and of themselves. Rather ‘community’ is defined strictly in ethnic, racial, religious, or political terms.

As MacKinnon once argued with regards to ‘genocidal rape’:

The acts of sexual violence perpetrated as an act of genocide are “routinely done to women everywhere every day on the basis of their sex. All the sexual atrocities that become genocidal in genocides are inflicted on women every day under conditions of sex inequality” and are inflicted upon them as women because they are women (MacKinnon 2006: 225).

The exclusion of sex as a ‘community’ against whom the rape may be used instrumentally may be a deliberate choice by the international community as it would open the door to understanding all rape as political and instrumental. As women are not considered a people, sex has not been included in the legal definition of a group that can be destroyed.

Recognizing this absence, Andrea Dworkin coined the term gynocide to “designate the relentless violence perpetrated by the gender class men against the gender class women” (1976: 16) to express the terrorizing of women through gender-based violence committed world wide at times of war and times of peace. However, it is only when the very same acts perpetrated against women daily are directed against a group of people on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, or nationality, it is recognized as destructive.

Thus, despite overwhelming evidence that not only was Minassian’s motive ideological, and that his violence was used in the pursuit of a political aim (read: textbook definition of ‘terrorism’), and that his target was women, as such, the rhetoric remains one of maladjustment, personal trauma, and mental health issues. Despite overwhelming evidence we now have in the West that these ‘lone-wolf’ mass murderers nearly all have a history of violence against women, we are loathe to consider how that violence may be, in and of itself, political.

David Futrelle has been researching this virulently misogynist online movement through his site We Hunted the Mammoth, and explains both the breadth and depth of the ‘Incel’ phenomenon. In his post on Minassian, Futrelle includes screenshots from one forum user, BlkPillPres, who advocates more effective mass violence in pursuit of the ‘Incel Rebellion.’ To him, mass shootings are ineffective. He says:

“What I can’t wait for, the one I know is really going to fuck with normies, really punish society, is when the first incel mass rape/serial rape takes place, when a guy leaves a manifesto after killing himself detailing all the rapes he’s done, that will be the best ER ever, because his victims don’t just get to die, and their families don’t just get to ‘move on’…”

Futrelle warns that these are not isolated sentiments, but warnings of a larger subcultural movement that could have very serious social repercussions. In a piece written for Elle, he warns:

“[The Incel movement] has transformed young men dealing with depression — or simply the ordinary unhappiness of life — into a veritable underground army of angry, bitter misogynists who feel they have nothing to live for and have no hope of improving their lives in what they see as our “gynocentric” society.

If these young men aren’t stopped, there will be more horrors like what we saw this week in Toronto, if not worse. In the forums on incel hangout Incels.me, some are already hailing Minassian as a hero, and looking forward to the next wave of incel terror attacks.”

In Australia, recent receptivity on the parts of the Victorian Police, for example, towards feminist arguments about the sociopolitical basis of men’s violence may be bucking this trend. Late last year, the Victorian Police announced that they would be treating domestic violence perpetrators like terrorists. In a statement, Acting Chief Commissioner Shane Patton, argued:

“The ramifications are the same in the long run. We have death, we have serious trauma, we have serious injury and we have people impacted for the rest of their lives.”

Intimate terrorism will now be investigated as major crimes by specialized police units. One of their priorities will be to target repeat offenders and work to predict violence in order to intervene before women and children are injured or killed.

Yet, we should temper our enthusiasm, since only a couple of short months after this initiative was announced, the Victorian government also announced a new A$31.6 million centre to prevent and combat terrorist and lone-actor attacks. The centre, problematically, includes no experts on domestic violence or violence against women. This suggests we have a long way to go towards politicizing men’s violence against women not only as acts of terror in and of themselves, but also as ‘warning signs’ of the potential for public forms of large-scale violence.

Economies That Work for Women Post-War

This blog is based on a forthcoming paper by Carol Cohn (Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights) and Claire Duncanson (University of Edinburgh). It originally appeared on Monash GPS blog here.

Building lasting peace and security in countries coming out of war is challenging. Many recent publications point to how badly the international community has fared in its attempts, and there has been much recent soul-searching within the UN system itself as to how to improve its record.

Economic recovery, reconstruction and development are critical, if often neglected, elements of attempting to create peace and security post-war. Regarding this more specific area, too, the UN and the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) who are the key actors in this sphere, have been the subject of several critiques.

One strand of critique focuses on relatively technical issues, such as sequencing and timing, flexibility and coordination. The international community fails, in this account, because it insists on implementing “development as usual” policies too early. Rather, it should accept that post-war states need to do several things which are not optimal in terms of conventional conceptions of economic growth – primarily providing decent jobs and basic services for ex-combatants, as well as other groups impacted by war, so as to give them a stake in the peace. In the immediate aftermath of war, “the peace objective should always prevail over the economic”. The IFI’s economic prescriptions are essentially sound; what is required is tweaks in how and, crucially, when they are applied.

A second set of criticisms focus more on the way that IFIs do not sufficiently recognise how their policies exacerbate the inequalities and violence of the “clandestine economies of war”. In this critique, neoliberal economic policies might be sound in general but not in post-war contexts because the profits created are subject to elite capture and corruption. The recommended policy response is “good governance”:  creating the institutions and regulatory framework that can facilitate inclusion in economic growth.

The IFIs have been receptive to these two lines of critique and evidence of adoption of these recommended solutions, at least on paper, is clear.

A third set of scholars make a more fundamental critique. The neoliberal policies themselves, and not just their propensity to elite capture in post-war contexts, are the problem.

Feminist colleagues working in this area and I agree with the scholars in this third strand. Although good governance (and better sequencing, timing and coordination) would be nice, they, alone, are not going to bring about the transformations required for gender-just sustainable peace.

What the third strand of scholars tend not see or highlight, however, is the gendered nature of neoliberal capitalism. As such, they overlook some of its harms and drivers, and how they play out in conflict-affected areas. They also miss the solutions that feminists offer.

To take one example, typically the World Bank’s reconstruction programme will be dominated by physical infrastructure, which usually comprises at least 60 per cent of the programme. Physical infrastructure is of course important for peacebuilding, but one might question the emphasis on physical infrastructure over social infrastructure (spending on health, education, childcare and so on), given the level of need for these services in post-war contexts. Moreover, the physical infrastructure projects tend to be designed primarily with men and markets in mind, and privilege superhighways, for example, from mines to ports over rural roads enabling people to get safely from home to healthcare. Investment in infrastructure is increasingly funded through public-private partnerships (PPPs). Evaluations of such PPPs focus on profitability, rather than on whether infrastructure serves the needs of people, including the specific needs of women. Rather than a basic good for all, infrastructure is conceptualised as a source of potential profit for foreign-owned commercial interests.

Central to the IFI’s approach, it is clear, are some neoclassical economic assumptions. A central one is the idea that the economy is for solving the problems of how to distribute things efficiently, and the beauty of market-provided solutions, according to mainstream economics, is that they are efficient. This approach is problematic in several ways. First, it elevates efficiency to the status of primary goal. Second, it privileges the monetised aspects of the economy, while ignoring the sphere of “social reproduction” or “unpaid work”, which includes both subsistence production (particularly significant in much of the Global South) and unpaid care (for family, friends and neighbours) that keep the social fabric together. Third, it is an approach which focuses on meeting human wants, without asking “how much is enough?” This is clearly problematic given finite resources on an increasingly degraded and dangerous planet.

Feminist economists (in company with other heterodox economists) see the purpose of the economy differently: human well-being, not economic growth, is the central measure of economic success. There are many different feminist approaches to the economy, but there are at least three which challenge the neoclassical model, and provide new ways of thinking about post-war economic reconstruction: the human rights approach, the centring care and social reproduction approach, and ecological and sustainability approaches.

Adopting a human rights approach could transform the way that IFIs respond to post-war countries. It would arguably compel them and post-war states to put employment creation (decent jobs, not just any jobs, food security, housing and land rights, for example, at the heart of their approach to economic reconstruction. Approaches that seek to make care visible and valuable also have the potential to be transformative. If IFIs and post-war states invested in social infrastructure, it would not only help meet the huge demand for health care and education, but create jobs on a massive scale, considerably more than physical infrastructure does. As such, an economy based around social infrastructure starts to become self-financing, as the tax base widens and the productivity of the labour force increases. The third approach, making sustainability a goal of the economy would move us away from the model of extraction and exportation of natural resources. These strategies, that degrade and destroy the natural environment and undermine women’s security, are all too dominant in post-war contexts.

Nonetheless, challenges and questions remain. What does putting sustainability at the heart of economic models mean for post-war countries?  How can the IFIs be persuaded of the need for alternative models? How can post-war states, often weak and corrupted, be the vehicles for transformation envisaged in many feminist economist accounts? These questions are part of an important research agenda, creating a Feminist Roadmap for Sustainable Peace, led by the Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights, and involving a team of international interdisciplinary researchers. For more information see http://genderandsecurity.org/feminist-roadmap-sustainable-peace.