Empowering women in natural resource management critical for lasting peace in war-torn countries, says UN report

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A group of women working the fields in Banke District in Nepal’s Mid-Western Region. (June 2012) © Phuong Tran/IRIN

Ensuring that women have better access to and control of natural resources such as land, water, forests and minerals can improve the chances of long-term peace and recovery in war-torn countries, according to a new report released by the United Nations on Wednesday.

The report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) says women in conflict-affected countries are often primarily responsible for meeting the water, food and energy needs of households and communities. Many women are also active in forestry and artisanal mining – in Sierra Leone, for example, it is estimated that up to 90 per cent of small-scale gold prospectors in some areas are women. As such, the report says, they play a critical role in the use and management of natural resources.

Despite this, women remain largely excluded from owning land, benefiting from resource wealth or participating in decision-making about resource management in peacebuilding settings. This exclusion often extends to negotiations over the way that natural resources are allocated following a peace deal, with the result that women's specific needs are rarely met during the peacebuilding process.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner says, "At a practical level, women form the majority of resource users and managers in peacebuilding settings, but this responsibility seldom translates to the political or economic levels. This has to change."  He says, "Peace and development can only be achieved when both men and women access and benefit from natural resources in an equitable and sustainable way."

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka says "Women bear the brunt of conflicts in many ways. They often have to become the sole caretakers of their families and communities and are agents of peace and recovery".

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration: 1’38″

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