Over the past decade, gender has emerged as a core global issue for the conflict analysis and resolution field. In 2000, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1325, calling for the integration of gender issues into all levels of peace-building practice as well as increased attention to the needs of women in conflict zones. Today, virtually all major international organizations engaged in conflict prevention and resolution incorporate gender into their projects, and a slate of international conventions, laws and networks exists to promote attention to gender issues in conflict.
And yet, a quick glance around the peace-building arena reveals that there is still tremendous work to be done. Research by UN Women found that less than 8% of recent negotiating teams included women, with less than 3% of peace agreements involving women signatories. Despite an abundance of evidence demonstrating the specific effects of armed conflict on women civilians and combatants, a similarly scant number of formal agreements address issues of central concern to women, including the prevalence of sexual assault as strategy of warfare, the challenges women face reintegrating into societies in the aftermath of conflict, or the need to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment as central to thriving local mechanisms of conflict resolution. Peace-building work at grassroots levels has, arguably, gone further in integrating gender issues into programming, yet it has been slow to move past a paradigm that sees women as simply victims of conflicts waged by “men with guns,” rather than powerful social actors in their own right.
Perhaps even more troubling, our practices of conflict resolution have lagged behind our theorizing when it comes to recognizing that gender is not just about paying attention to women’s needs and potential, but deepening our understanding of how cultural and historical frameworks of masculinity and femininity help shape our sense of the possible. The field has overwhelming tended to reduce “gender” to “women,” which has helped keep the systemic exclusions undergirding structural violence invisible and blocked our engagement with some of the most exciting theoretical developments within gender studies. Innovative means of addressing the underlying power dynamics that marginalize women, the GLBTQ community, and other historically subjugated populations are needed to extend S-CAR’s long and vibrant tradition of addressing the structural roots of conflict.
The CGC serves as a link between the academy and the field to deepen and expand our understanding of the gendered dimensions of conflict. Building upon a decade of intensive faculty-student engagement in gender-related work at S-CAR, the CGC is positioned to become a global thought leader in an increasingly important field of concern. Recognizing that gender impacts all facets of life, the CGC represents not a boundary marking off a specialized set of interests, but a true center point around which a diverse group of faculty, students and international partners can cohere and collaborate.