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The Effects of Violent Conflict on Development: A Gender Perspective

Anna XoyaneFrom assessing the successes and challenges of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the world has come to realize that peace and security are not only fundamental to the well-being of humankind but cornerstones to sustainable development. Therefore, development cannot be achieved without peace and neither can peace without development.1 Arguably, one of the most glaring omissions in the MDGs and African Union (AU) Agenda 2063, has been the role women and conflict play in development. Although the High Level Panel on post-2015 development agenda recognized the silence of MDGs on the impact of violent conflict on development as an underlying cause of failure for MDGs, it continues to overlook the significance of gender element in peace and security as a fast-track to development.

With the current global, regional and national consultations on determining "the world we want" in the next 15 years and "the Africa we want" envisioned for the next 50 years, it is important that African and world leaders prioritize the impact of violent conflict on women and girls as an obstruction to sustainable development. For instance women in conflict affected countries experience a higher rate of poverty, hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, maternal and child death, HIV/AIDS and unemployment. Only 9% of women have legal rights to land in conflict and post-conflict countries. Meanwhile, almost 60% of women and girls are affected by HIV in Rwanda. These countries also have an increase rate of child brides, forced marriages, early marriages and forced pregnancies. In the Central African Republic (CAR) 65% of girls are married before the age of 18, 45% in Somalia and 40% in Afghanistan.2 This undermines the goal of education for all and violates human rights of a child.

Secondly, link security agendas such as UNSCR 1325 to all future development frameworks.3 Despite the fact that women and men both become victims in conflict situations, women are, without a doubt, the most affected. Over 60% of refugees and internally displaced persons are women and children. Meanwhile, women and girls continue to bear the brunt of rape and other forms of sexual violence in the hands of the security forces and rebels. The case of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in the recent report published by Human Rights Watch titled "The Power These Men Have Over Us" is an example and the abduction of 276 school girls in Nigeria by Boko Haram. This indicates lack of coherence between development frameworks and security agenda.

Thirdly, centralize the role of women in peace building, conflict resolution and reconstruction as the foundation of sustainability by incorporating gender dimensions of conflict and development into global, regional and national policies' planning, budgeting, implementation, monitoring and evaluation processes. Above all, the participation of women in development has to be holistic. As in the case of UN Women position on the post-2015 development agenda, gender equality and women empowerment should be mainstreamed across all aspirations and targets of the Agenda 2063.

It should be realized that not only does conflict violates the international human rights of women and girl but also undermines the core foundation of MDGs i.e. gender equality and women empowerment. According to Saferworld, the higher rate of gender inequality and poverty are mainly experienced in less peaceful countries. The UN Women survey report on the role of women in development states that "the effects of unsustainable patterns of development intensify gender inequality because women and girls are often disproportionately affected by economic, social and environmental shocks and stresses. The causes and underlying drivers of unsustainability and of gender inequality are deeply interlocked"

Therefore, Agenda 2063 and the post-2015 development agenda should seek to address the plight of women and girls in conflict situations as the underlying cause of reversal development. Strong universal gender-sensitive instruments should be integrated and effectively implemented within national policies. Adequate national gender machineries and policies against gender-based violence should be formulated and implemented with equal participation of women, girls, men, boys, community, private sector and government. Socio-cultural acceptance of gender-based violence, unjust system and social injustices should be addressed as impediments to sustainability as they can exacerbate devastating effects of conflict on women and girls.4

In short, peace and security are critical to creating an enabling environment of stability and prosperity where both women and men can equally participate in public life and benefit from their countries' productive resources aimed at development. Therefore, an enabling environment should be free of violent conflict and disease with education and capacity building programmatic interventions of women.


Anna Xoyane is a Research Assistant at Institute for Global Dialogue associated with UNISA


1 Report of the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (2013), A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development, United Nations Publications, New York
2 UN Women (2014), The destructive effects of conflict on women and girls: A snapshot, UN Women.
3 Hayes, C. (2010), Gender, Conflict and MDGs, Women for Women International
4 United Nations Secretary-General (2002), Women, Peace and Security, document S/2002/1154, 16 October, United Nations Security Council

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