Our search for peace

Women in South Sudan's National Preace Processes, 2015-2018

Paper author: 
Esther Soma
Paper publication date: 
Tuesday, February 4, 2020

In most of the years since Sudan gained independence from the British in 1956, South Sudan (‘southern Sudan’ until 2011) has been embroiled in conflict. Between 1955 and 1972, and again from 1983 to 2005, southern Sudanese fought against political and economic marginalization from the Khartoum-based Sudanese government in two long civil wars, which eventually led to the independence of South Sudan on 9 July 2011. In 2013, a brutal internal armed conflict erupted in the capital city Juba and spread to the rest of the country. Two agreements later, peace is still struggling to take hold. 

Across the globe, women have largely been excluded from peace processes. Studies show that, between 1992 and 2011, only 4% of signatories to peace agreements and less than 10% of negotiators during peace talks were women.4 Research also shows that, between 1990 and 2017, ‘only 2% of mediators, 8% of negotiators, and 5% of witnesses and signatories in all major peace processes’ were women.5 Peace processes have largely involved the governments of respective countries and armed groups, with limited participation by women.6 Since 1995, when the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was passed, the UN has made efforts to ensure an increase in women’s participation in peace processes.7 Among these efforts was the passing of the landmark UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on women, peace and security in October 2000. This resolution ‘reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction’.8 Despite this, women’s active and influential participation in formal peace processes has remained limited. 

International human rights law recognizes women’s right to participate in public affairs, which should be understood to include national peace processes.9 The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in its general recommendation 30 on women in conflict prevention, conflict and post-conflict situations, for instance, recommends that states parties ‘reinforce and support women’s formal and informal conflict prevention efforts’ and ‘ensure that women and civil society organizations focused on women’s issues and representatives of civil society are included equally in all peace negotiations and post-conflict rebuilding and reconstruction efforts’.

Research also shows that women’s participation increases the likelihood of reaching an agreement, as well as the ‘durability and the quality of peace’. A study analysing 82 peace agreements in 42 armed conflicts between 1989 and 2011 found that ‘peace agreements with female signatories are associated with durable peace… and demonstrate higher implementation rate for agreement provisions’. In fact, when women participated in peace negotiations, agreements were 35% more likely to last at least 15 years. This is because women were able to create linkages across different party lines.14 Women also contributed to the inclusion of more provisions beyond power-sharing arrangements, to address areas such as social and economic recovery, which may contribute to more lasting peace.
South Sudanese women have played critical roles in the efforts to achieve peace in South Sudan. They have taken on under-recognized and under-documented roles as active combatants, peacemakers, peace advocates, caregivers and humanitarians. They have also participated in the formal national peace processes. This report analyses women’s participation in peace processes that led to:  • The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005; • The Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) of 2015; and  • The Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) of 2018.