Men, Peace and Security

About the project

This project investigates contemporary development, humanitarian and security efforts to change men and masculinities. There is a growing attention to men as the “other side” of gender justice efforts, whether as perpetrators, allies and agents of change, or survivors of violence themselves. Initiatives in national militaries, development programmes, civil society campaigns, humanitarian crisis responses and public health ministries seek to reform or abolish certain forms of masculinity and harmful masculine behaviour, in favour of other values and identities, described as positive masculinity.

While attention from practitioners, policy makers, activists, and scholars alike has grown in this area, more research is needed to critically examine these efforts and men’s numerous and sometimes overlapping roles in peace and security contexts. This is needed to both understand how these initiatives work, and the theoretical and practical problems that arise in the effort to govern masculinity.

Through participant observation, interviews and discourse analysis, this project engages with key organisations, practitioners and activists working with men towards gender justice.

Key findings: Men as allies

Efforts to engage boys and men as allies in gender justice are increasing and diversifying.

Violence prevention programmes and interventions that seek to promote men’s involvement in gender equality and prevent violence against women and girls continue to expand in conflict and security contexts globally. Within this growing field of ‘engaging men’ a diversity of approaches are being employed including those that focus on challenging and changing gendered social norms about masculinity; faith-based approaches; and programmes that use a trauma-informed lens to engage men as both potential allies and as victims-survivors.

Changing individual men and ideas of masculinity is important – but gender justice first and foremost requires addressing patriarchy and structural conditions.

There is a risk that too much attention is being paid to micro changes in transforming individual men and masculinities and not enough on the structural level changes. Overarching structural forms of violence and inequality, as well as institutional mandates and operational constraints constrain efforts to engaging men.

Key findings: Men as victim-survivors

Understanding the intersections between masculinity and conflict requires examining men as potential victim-survivors in conflict too.

While most violence in conflict contexts is committed by men, men can be and are victims and survivors too. Engaging men as potential victim-survivors challenges gender binaries on who can be a ‘victim-survivor’ which continue to frame many interventions, and means that formats for engagement are cognisant of their experience in providing a trauma-informed engagement approach.

There is increased attention to the experiences and needs of LGBTQI populations in conflicts, including those who identify as men and those who are the victims or survivors of violence.

Increased focus on LGBTQI populations is a needed and important development. However, work that focusses on men as victims of violence often linked or subsumed within LGBTQI work. While there can be overlap between these two groups, always conflating them is problematic and warrants more critical engagement.

Male survivors of violence often have less access to support services.

Research in the Democratic Republic of the Congo showed many men who experience sexual violence did not have access to support services or trauma-informed care – a trend we also see in other conflict settings. This care gap can leave men feeling silenced or marginalized and without support that this centered on male survivors and their differing needs.

Key findings: Men as perpetrators

Viewing men as perpetrators of violence remains the dominant lens through which men and masculinities in conflict and security spaces are understood.

In particular, programmes and research focus on militarised masculinities and armed men in uniform. While important, critical examinations of men’s violence in conflict requires attention to both militarised masculinities and the underlying structural conditions and policies that support the mobilization of men.

I think there are important ethical and practical reasons as to why we need female women’s privacy centered approaches and spaces. It just means that men, male survivors, have a more restricted range of support services.


Researchers and academia

  • A critical masculinities lens is needed in peace and security work. Those working in conflict-affected contexts need to be attentive to the role of masculinities, men’s diverse experiences and needs, and engaging with the challenges and tensions in doing this work through a feminist approach.
  • There is a need for more collaboration across gender-based research and programming. Masculinities in conflict work and broader gender justice, women, and LGBTQI-focused work is too often done in parallel. Although, there are valid critiques about work on masculinities, including that it takes away resources and attention from work focused on women, these challenges need to be addressed robustly and collaboratively, and more convergences across the different areas of gender research is needed.

Development INGOs/NGOs

  • Programmes development in response to conflict related sexual violence should avoid homogenous experiences of sexual violence. The experiences and support needs of male survivors-victims differs from the needs of LGBTQI folks, and women alike. Whilst we push for context specific approaches to and understandings of sexual violence when looking at female victim-survivor programmes, this should be further extended to specific programmes framed around male survivor-victims.
  • Doing masculinities work can be personally traumatic and challenging. In particular women and people of all genders who have experienced men’s violence may find doing work with men, masculinities, and conflict personally challenging. This work requires a feminist ethic of care as well as trauma-informed approaches and support.
  • Multiple approaches to accountability for male perpetrated violence and justice are needed in conflict contexts – including ones that use trauma-informed approaches. Many of the responses to men’s sexual violence in conflict-affected contexts are judicial and corporal. This is needed and important. But judicial systems in conflict affected contexts can be depleted, dangerous, and ineffective. More alternative, gender sensitive, context-specific and adaptable approaches to working with conflict-affected men, including through disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programmes that are trauma informed are needed.

Getting to a more peaceful, gender equal, equitable world I think more bridges need to be built, and there needs to be more willingness and openness to explore work with men and masculinities in a more open and potentially empathetic way particularly in conflict settings and contexts.