Improving Women’s Inclusion in South Sudan’s Draft Peace Agreement

Kelly Case, Huda Shafig, and Anna Tonelli | July 2015

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South Sudan’s warring parties officially adopted the draft peace agreement in August 2015. Read our January 2016 report on “Implementing a More Inclusive Peace Agreement in South Sudan” for updated recommendations.

In December 2013, violence erupted between forces aligned with President Salva Kiir and those aligned with former Vice President Riek Machar. What started as a conflict between these two parties quickly devolved into a war pitting South Sudan’s two largest tribes, the Nuer and Dinka, against each other. After seven failed ceasefires and numerous rounds of unsuccessful talks, resolution of the conflict felt unattainable. Recently, however, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)—which has been leading mediation efforts—released the Proposed Compromise Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan. This proposed agreement presents an opportunity for South Sudan to start anew and create a viable country that is inclusive and representative of the people. Ensuring that women’s needs and interests are addressed in the agreement is vital to creating a peace that will endure.

Research shows that when women are actively involved in peace processes, peace is more likely to be attained and to persist. A study of 182 peace agreements signed between 1989 and 2011 found that an agreement is 35 percent more likely to last at least 15 years if women participate in its creation.1 Because of their unique experiences during and after conflict, women tend to shift negotiations away from who gets what position toward critical social and humanitarian needs.

Bringing women’s perspectives, experiences, and needs into the drafting of an agreement is critical not only to advancing greater equality between men and women, but also to ensuring a more inclusive implementation process. Research shows that if the needs and interests of women are not specifically recognized in a peace agreement, they tend to be overlooked during post-conflict rebuilding.2

This analysis identifies major gaps related to gender in the Proposed Compromise Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, drafted by IGAD in July 2015. It also provides recommendations for how to ensure the agreement attends equally to the needs of women, men, girls, and boys. The first section presents recommendations for improving the overall gender sensitivity of the agreement. The rest of the analysis focuses on seven of the thematic chapters in the agreement:

  1. Transitional Government of National Unity;
  2. Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements;
  3. Humanitarian Assistance and Reconstruction;
  4. Resource, Economic, and Financial Management Arrangements;
  5. Transitional Justice, Accountability, Reconciliation, and Healing;
  6. Parameters of a Permanent Constitution; and
  7. Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission.

The assessment framework used for the proposed South Sudan agreement is based on recommendations for gender sensitive peace agreements outlined in From Clause to Effect: including women’s rights and gender in peace agreements3 and the Women’s Empowerment Framework designed by Sara Hlupekile Longwe.4 Longwe’s framework categorizes empowerment into three levels, which we have applied to the South Sudan agreement:

  1. Negative: the absence of any mention of women and girls or their specific needs;
  2. Neutral: some mention of women and girls or their specific needs, but still demonstrates a lack of concern for improving their position relative to men; and
  3. Positive: the agreement is positively concerned with women and girls’ needs, and gives strong attention to improving their position relative to men.

Overall, the level of gender sensitivity in this agreement is between neutral and negative. Some chapters, such as that on transitional justice, recognize critical issues that impact the social fabric of communities, including sexual violence. This chapter would be considered gender-neutral. Other chapters—like chapter two on the permanent ceasefire—are negative because the language is not inclusive and makes little to no mention of women’s participation. When an agreement is gender-negative, it’s more likely that women will be left worse off during and after implementation.


  1. Include a critical mass5 (at least 30-35 percent) of women in relevant bodies named throughout the agreement, including in the most male-dominated mechanisms (such as those dealing with security arrangements). Women must be included from the beginning and have representative numbers to ensure meaningful, rather than token, participation;
  2. Ensure inclusive language is used throughout the agreement. Gender-neutral language may seem inclusive, but resultant policies often end up being exclusive. Instead of using the word “people,” use “men and women.” Similarly, when discussing economic incentives and humanitarian aid for internally displaced persons (IDPs) or ex-combatants, specify women’s entitlements within those categories. Demonstrative language like “shall” and “must” is preferred over “should” or “where appropriate”;
  3. Characterize women in the agreement as constructive contributors to peace, not just as victims whose needs must be addressed. For example, instead of just noting that the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation, and Healing shall “implement measures to protect victims and witnesses, in particular, youth, women, and children” it could also call for a women’s outreach committee that would go into communities to meet with victims and support them in telling their stories to the Commission; and
  4. Establish a committee with the power, funding, and technical expertise to ensure and oversee gender mainstreaming throughout the agreement and subsequent implementation. The committee should be comprised of South Sudanese women and civil society, with at least 50 percent representing organizations that focus on gender or social inclusion.

See the full report (link below) for additional recommendations and endnotes.

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