Gender, Governance, and Peacebuilding: Institutional Reform in Jordan, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka

About the project

This project focusses on the development of gender-related governance arrangements in conflict affected countries. The governance issues vary across the three countries studied, reflecting the importance of context. Jordan, while not in a state of civil war, has weathered the spill-over effects of conflicts in its region. The research focusses on the role of migrant women in forming networks to address issues such as violent extremism and participating in the formulation of Jordan’s National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security.

In the Philippines, the focus is on how the governance arrangements specified in the peace agreement that ended decades of civil war in the country’s only Muslim-majority region affect women’s political participation, and gender equality in the region.

In Sri Lanka, where the civil war ended not through a peace agreement but through military victory by government forces, the research focusses on the mechanisms to govern post-conflict accountability particularly the Office of Missing Persons, and experiences of conflict-affected women seeking the truth about relatives. In all three cases, opportunities presented by new mechanisms for women’s inclusion or peacebuilding are tempered by context-specific patriarchal and ethnic biases.

Sri Lanka

In 2018, The United Front for Good Governance in Sri Lanka established an Office on Missing Persons (OMP) as part of its commitment to furthering truth, justice and reconciliation in post-war Sri Lanka. In establishing the OMP, the Front was responding to a demand for truth and justice that had been waged by minority Tamil relatives of the disappeared, the vast majority of them women, since the end of the civil war between the Sri Lankan state and The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009. In doing so, it also challenged the denial of disappearances by the previous regime which had defeated the LTTE and ended the war.

Participant observation, ethnography,  and discourse analysis are used to explore the response to the OMP from both Sinhala Buddhist nationalist leaders and family members of the disappeared, and why the OMP was rejected by both.

Jordan

In the wake of persistent regional conflicts and the resultant security challenges stemming largely from instability in Iraq and Syria, the Jordanian National Action Plans (JONAP) for 2018-2021 and 2022-2025 have been the key mechanisms for implementing UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security. Implementation has focussed on training initiatives and community-based projects aimed at empowering women in conflict resolution and prevention of violent extremism. But a significant gap remains in recognising and supporting the informal contributions of migrant women, including Syrian refugees. This project examines the contributions of Jordanian and Syrian women to local peace and security mechanisms.

This study uses desk research, six focus group discussions in three Jordanian communities (Mafraq (North), Al Baqa’a (Central), and Ma’an (South), and 12 key informant interviews with representatives from civil society organisations (CSOs), international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), and key stakeholders.

The Philippines

In 2012, the the Philippines government signed a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which along with other revolutionary groups had waged a civil war since the early 1970s to demand a separate state. The agreement created a new regional government with special institutional features that recognise the Bangsamoro people’s right to self determination within the context of the Philippines constitution. The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) came into being in 2019, and has since then enacted regional laws on the conduct of elections, local government systems, the structure of the civil service, and so forth. Given that gender provisions in many peace agreements are often poorly implementing in practice, this project seeks to examine the challenges and opportunities facing gender-equality advocates in realising the potential of the Bangsamoro peace deal.

In addition to attending events (public consultations, sittings of the regional parliament, stakeholder workshops on aspects of the peace process), the project team has collected data and conducted interviews with party leaders, civil society representatives, members of the Bangsamoro Parliament, former combatants, donor agencies, government officials at the provincial, regional, and national levels, and members of the national legislature.

Key findings: Sri Lanka

The international toolkit of transitional justice can be instrumentalised by bad faith governments to manage international pressure while delivering neither truth nor justice.

The OMP has been run by nationalist leaders who opposed its creation. The result is a human rights half measure that appeases and distracts the international community while it weaponises the OMP against relatives of the disappeared.

Truth-seeking is not easier than justice in deeply divided contexts.

In post-war Sri Lanka, truth seeking is wrongly assumed to be easier than judicial prosecutions. Indeed, truth is not just a second-best option to justice but an equally radical demand.

Family members of the disappeared in Sri Lanka are demanding an international truth and justice mechanism.

The failure of the domestic truth-seeking mechanism is driving family members, most of whom are women, to demand an international mechanism, primarily through the UN Human Rights Council.

The OMP has been run by nationalist leaders who opposed its creation. The result is a human rights half measure that appeases and distracts the international community.

Key findings: Jordan

Women contribute to Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) and conflict resolution, through their contributions as caregivers, educators, activists, and political leaders.

As caregivers and educators, they shape values and foster tolerance, lessening susceptibility of youth to radical influences. They are well positioned to detect early signs of radicalisation. The evidence of their impact is further seen in their activism and leadership roles, where their informal women’s networks and engagements with local leaders can help raise awareness about extremism.

Despite Jordanian and Syrian refugee women’s contributions to preventing violent extremism (PVE), they face substantial obstacles.

Societal norms, rooted in the belief that women’s primary role is in the home, restrict their participation in public decision-making. This also limits their access to leadership positions crucial for peacebuilding efforts. Violence against women directly undermines their ability to contribute effectively to the creation of peaceful and inclusive societies. Political factors, including restrictive laws, further diminish the effectiveness of women’s roles in conflict resolution and social cohesion.

Civil society organisations (CSOs) play a major role in aiding women within local communities to mitigate the spread of violent extremism.

The research identifies several key CSOs including Arab Women’s Organization, Women’s Program Centres, Jordanian National Commission for Women, Peacegeeks, WANA, Generation for Peace, and Institute of Politics and Society, all of which have mobilised women against extremism. However, women report that some communities exhibit resistance to PVE measures due to cultural perceptions and security apprehensions.

Despite the Jordanian National Commission for Women’s participatory approach in crafting the first Jordanian National Action Plan (JONAP) 2018-2021, improvements are needed in including marginalised women.

Problems of inclusion face Syrian refugee women in particular. Despite this challenge, significant progress has been made in the JONAP in education initiatives against extremism and media campaigns to promote diversity and tolerance.

The second JONAP 2022-2025 demonstrates a strategic commitment to bolstering women’s engagement in peace and security efforts.

This iteration is guided by principles of comprehensive security, diversity, transparency, accountability, decentralisation, and alignment with human rights obligations. Noteworthy is its focus on the intersections of gender, climate change, and security, reflecting the evolving landscape of security concerns.

Societal norms, rooted in the belief that women’s primary role is in the home, restrict their participation in public decision-making and their access to leadership positions crucial for peacebuilding efforts.

Jordan City Scape

Key findings: The Philippines

Peace agreement provisions for women’s meaningful participation in post-conflict governance have yielded mixed outcomes.

While laws passed by the new BARMM government have addressed gender equality issues, they have often done so in ways that indicate less than enthusiastic backing by the ruling group. For instance, while the Bangsamoro electoral code passed in 2023 included a gender quota of 30% of regional parties’ candidates for Party List (Proportional Representation) seats, there is no requirement that women be in winnable positions on party lists, and no required minimum number of women candidates for District seats.

Special actions for island communities and Marawi are needed.

The communities in the island provinces of Sulu, Tawi Tawi, and Basilan, as well as the city of Marawi, which was the site of a five month armed conflict with ISIS-linked violent extremists in 2017, are in dire need of employment, education and healthcare. For example, in Marawi many women remain in shelters where they are forced to beg for survival. Basic needs are not being met.

Women associated with rebel groups face discrimination and dependency.

Many of the women associated with the rebel forces report facing discrimination when it comes to accessing their compensation. If they are in a relationship with another former combatant, the compensation is often given to the man only. Moreover, livelihood programmes tend to leave women economically dependent rather than empowered. A cassava-planting programme, for instance, provides training and support to male farmers only.

Grassroots women interviewed for this project report that the Bangsamoro Women’s Commission has provided few opportunities for substantial engagement by key stakeholders.

Commissioners and local officials visit for key events, such as international celebrations to raise awareness of violence against women, but beyond this, women’s engagement in policy development remains limited.

Disagreement between national and BARMM leaders over the Philippines law introducing criminal penalties for enabling child marriages may highlight future gender-based tensions with regard to regional autonomy.

The law, which came into effect in late 2022, was forcefully opposed by key BARMM leaders, including women politicians associated with the ruling MILF, on the grounds that, as part of regional autonomy, the BARMM must be free to set its own standards – such as the age of marriage – when it comes to personal law. There is concern that other gender issues may be flashpoints for disagreement.

Livelihood programmes tend to leave women economically dependent rather than empowered. A cassava-planting programme, for instance, provides training and support to male farmers only.

Recommendations

Sri Lanka

  • Government: To demonstrate its commitment to transitional justice in Sri Lanka, the government must ensure that the OMP fulfils its mandate under the law and begins by resolving disappearances cases.
  • International community: The international community needs to put pressure on Sri Lanka through bi-lateral and multi-lateral forums to implement the mandate of the OMP. The Sri Lanka situation should be kept on the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council. International partners should also consider travel bans on named military officers and politicians, and open files based on evidence collected by the OHCHR Sri Lanka Accountability Project so that cases involving universal jurisdiction can proceed.

Jordan

  • Local and regional organisations should focus on capacity building, community engagement, addressing gender-based violence (GBV), and promoting economic empowerment. Engaging women at the grassroots level and supporting community-led initiatives that promote dialogue and social cohesion is crucial for fostering inclusive community development.
  • International organisations should prioritise support for local women’s organisations and NGOs that focus on women’s empowerment, prevention of violent extremism (PVE), and peacebuilding. These organisations can facilitate networking and collaboration opportunities to share best practices, and enhancing their contributions to stability, peaceful coexistence, and peacebuilding efforts.

The Philippines

  • Targeted opportunities for grassroots gender-equality and women’s rights advocates should be expanded. Two important codes remain to be passed by the interim parliament before the first elections are held in 2025: the Indigenous Peoples Code, and the Gender and Development (GAD) code. Both require close attention – the IP code in terms of IP women’s representation, and the GAD Code across a range of issues, including the role of the BWC in responding to complaints, engaging on policymaking, and enforcing the 5% spending quota for women. The BWC should also strengthen its presence in and links with the region’s island provinces.
  • Women combatants’ voices, needs, and concerns must be addressed in an equal and inclusive manner. Despite the many new codes that have been passed by the new BARMM parliament and new development programmes for the region, these often do not trickle down to marginalised communities. Women should be engaged in the implementation of these measures to ensure they genuinely benefit communities. In addition, initiatives and programmes to promote women’s economic independence need to be implemented to ensure gainful sources of employment and skills training.
  • The BARMM Electoral Code must be widely disseminated to ensure the meaningful participation of women in the elections. Five provisions in particular should be enforced: 30% of party nomination lists should be women; women should be in party leadership; party platforms should have a women’s agenda; political parties should have a women and youth committee; and 50% of Tribal Assembly Conventions should be women, with Indigenous People’s sectoral representatives being 1 man and 1 woman.