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Women, Natural Resources, and Peacebuilding: Exploring the Connections

Community Land Protection Program Director, Rachael Knight, recently spoke at a United Nations panel focusing on the intersection of gender, natural resource management, and peacebuilding.

This article originally appeared on the United Nations Environment Programme website.

New York, 8 March 2012 

The need for greater support for the equal participation of rural women in natural resource management in the context of peacebuilding was the focus of a forum held in New York today as a contribution to International Women’s Day and the United Nations’ 56th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
The event brought together an expert panel to promote discussion on the under-researched topic of the links between gender equality, natural resource management and peacebuilding.
The equitable and sustainable management of natural resources plays a key role in peacebuilding. According to UN Women, rural women and girls constitute one-fourth of the world’s population and account for a large proportion of the agricultural labour force.

The forum discussed how rural women are therefore vital actors who bring peace and stability through their local knowledge about natural resources and the crucial role they play in managing them.

Hosted by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO), the discussion was moderated by the PBSO’s Chief of the Policy, Henk-Jan Brinkman.

“Over the years, natural resources have driven violent conflicts in a number of countries. Amplifying the role of women in managing natural resources and as agents of peace is invaluable,” said Mr Brinkman, “and this collaboration among UN entities provides the best combination of expertise and experience to identify concrete tools and methodologies in post-conflict country programming.”

Speaking at the forum, Dr Mishkat Al Moumin, a former environment minister in Iraq, said the role of rural women was an under-appreciated factor in achieving sustainable peace.

“The impact of women’s participation in natural resource management on generating and maintaining social equality and stability needs to be better understood so greater efforts can go into anchoring peacebuilding in gender equality and the sound management of natural resources,” stressed Dr Al Moumin.

Despite their lynchpin role in managing crucial natural resources, rural women have few legally recognized rights. The forum discussed how the situation tends to worsen in conflict settings due to insecurity, migration and violence.

Moreover, in cases where women’s engagement in community decision-making and in managing natural resources and finances increases in times of conflict, for example due to the absence of men, the post-conflict period often sees a “roll-back” of these opportunities.

UN Women, UNEP and the PBSO plan to produce a joint policy report focused on the linkages between gender equality, natural resource management and peacebuilding in post-conflict country programming.

Recognizing the critical role and contribution of rural women, the theme of International Women’s Day 2012 is Empower Rural Women ? End Hunger and Poverty.

About the expert panel

Dr Mishkat Al Moumin, was Iraq’s Minister of the Environment in the government of 2004-2005, where she designed the Ministry and developed a new environmental law. She is currently a scholar teaching and researching environmental policies in developing countries and research interest focuses on the security implications of environmental policies.

Carl Bruch is a Senior Attorney and Co-Director of International Programs at the Environmental Law Institute (ELI). He is coordinating a global initiative with UNEP, the University of Tokyo, and McGill University to examine experiences in managing natural resources to support post-conflict peacebuilding.

Rachael Knight is an attorney with expertise in the areas of land tenure security, access to justice, and legal empowerment of the poor. She is currently the director of Namati’s Community Land Protection Program, which works to support rural communities to seek documentation for their customary land claims in Uganda, Liberia and Mozambique.

March 9, 2012 | Namati

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