Begging the Question: What Would a Men, Peace and Security Agenda Look Like?

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Callum Watson


Connections: The Quarterly Journal, Volume 14, Issue 3, p.45-60 (2015)
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Callum Watson *
The starting point for much of the scholarship examining gender in International Relations and security studies can be neatly summarized in a question that Cynthia Enloe asked in 1989, namely “Where are the women?” [1] The following decade was marked by several milestones in the inclusion of women in the international security agenda such as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action produced at the Fourth World Conference for Women in 1995 and the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in 2000. After fifteen years and six further resolutions, academics, practitioners, and policymakers alike have begun to ask a similar question, but this time of the gender equality and women’s empowerment agenda, namely “Where are the men?” In this article, I first examine the historical background of work conducted on men and masculinities in peace and security at the international level. Subsequently, I outline some of the reasons why a “Men, Peace and Security” agenda is yet to clearly develop in international policy circles. Finally, I offer some suggestions on what a Men, Peace and Security agenda would look like by mirroring the four pillars of the Women, Peace and Security framework, namely protection, prevention, participation, and relief and recovery.
We Can’t See the Forest for the Trees: Men as the Missing Gender
The great irony at the heart of the women, peace and security agenda is that what began as an attempt to consider gender relations as a cross-cutting theme in all matters of peace and security resulted in the creation of a new, high profile pigeonhole known as “women’s issues.” While issues such as sexual and domestic violence against women did reach the agenda as a serious security concern, men as perpetrators, secondary witnesses, and victims are notably absent from the discourse.[2] While the term “women’s issue” may at first appear as a way to give women who have been traditionally underrepresented a voice, it in fact places the burden of resolving these issues on oppressed women themselves. In this way, discussions on gender equality are kept off the mainstream peace and security agenda and the status quo can be maintained.
This situation is problematic for multiple reasons. First of all, there is little focus on bringing to justice those who actually perpetrate crimes and discriminate against women – many, but not all, of whom are men. Second, prevention becomes complicated as, if the people who pose a threat to women’s security are not defined, the responsibility falls on women to protect themselves, with victims potentially being blamed for “failures” in this regard. Third, the labeling of crimes such as rape as a “women’s issue” conceals the many male victims, as well as men and boys affected by the rape of relatives and others who are close to them. The psychological trauma of being forced to witness the rape of a family member , as well as the subsequent caregiving responsibilities this entails, has only recently been recognized internationally.[3] Finally, the role that men need to play in preventing and responding to these “women’s issues” is not defined. This means that those men who are currently engaged in activities aimed at overcoming gender inequality go unnoticed, those men who have the will but not the expertise go unsupported, and those men who have a legal responsibility to prevent and pursue cases of gender-based violence go unaccountable.
Although dedicated men’s movements in the West began to proliferate towards the end of the late 1960s, men’s engagement in gender equality can be traced back at least as far as the nineteenth century.[4] Notable examples include British political philosopher and politician John Stuart Mill, who published an essay entitled The Subjection of Women in 1869, which he co-wrote with his wife, Harriot Taylor Mill, and also called for women’s suffrage during his term as a Member of Parliament in 1867.[5] Others who explored gender relations in their work include Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen and Austrian psychoanalyst Alfred Adler.[6]
A wave of groups such as the National Organization of Men Against Sexism (NOMAS) in the United States began to form towards the end of the 1960s and mid-1970s.[7] The activities of these groups tended to focus on self-help and small group discussions on building non-sexist male identities. Today, there is a diversity of men’s groups (generally small), some maintaining the original model, but others more engaged in political activism on topics largely centered around fatherhood, men’s health, and boys’ education.[8] These issues have become the focus of International Men’s Day, which has been celebrated on November 19 since the 1990s. It seeks to promote positive male role models, improve gender relations, highlight discrimination, and celebrate men’s positive contributions to society.[9] Many of the non-governmental organizations focused on engaging men and boys in promoting gender equality are now members of the international MenEngage Alliance, which produced the Delhi Declaration and Call to Action at its second global symposium in 2014.[10]
In the Nordic region, studies specifically on men and masculinities in academia began to emerge in the early 1980s (drawing significantly on women’s studies and feminist theory), and began to impact policy circles by 1987 when the Nordic Council of Ministers launched a project on men and gender equality.[11] The study of men and masculinities has subsequently proliferated, especially to English-speaking countries. A major milestone in this field was the establishment of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University in New York in 2013.[12] In the same year, Dr. Christopher Kilmartin taught the US military’s first ever courses in Men and Masculinity as a visiting professor at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado.[13]
The first mention of men as a social category in UN circles came in 1995 at the World Summit for Social Development, which highlighted the importance of the equal partnership between women and men in family life, care responsibilities, parenthood, and “responsible sexual and reproductive behaviour.” [14] This was swiftly followed by the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference of Women in September of the same year, which contained an explicit provision to “[e]ncourage men to participate fully in all actions towards equality.” It went on to encourage men to share in childcare and household responsibilities as well as to seek employment in the social sector.[15] Towards the end of the 1990s, staff at the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) formed a working group on men and gender equality to address gender discrimination in UN programs.[16]
While the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action laid the groundwork for many of the provisions of the UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) on Women, Peace and Security, the only mention of men in the first resolution (UNSCR 1325, passed in 2000) was to consider the different needs of female and male ex-combatants in disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration processes. It was only thirteen years later that further references to men were made in the preamble to Resolution 2106. This resolution cites the enlistment of men and boys as being central to long-term efforts to prevent sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations, which it went on to acknowledge could also affect men and boys.[17]
Despite the absence of language on men and masculinities in policy documents on women, peace and security, some UN agencies working on the ground have engaged in addressing the specific needs of men and boys in their programs. For example, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees published some guidance entitled “Working with Men and Boys Survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Forced Displacement” in 2012.[18] However, such efforts have not been institutionalized as part of a consolidated agenda.
The Invisible Man
While the use of the word “gender” as being interchangeable with “women” is commonplace, a closer inspection highlights how the authors of some international documents have gone to absurd lengths to avoid mentioning men and boys. While the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women attributes this kind of violence to “unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women,” it never goes as far as naming men as the predominant perpetrators of violence against women or the targets of violence prevention programs.[19]Similarly, while the Security Council expressed in Resolution 798 (1992) that it was “[a]ppaled by reports of the massive, organized and systematic detention and rape of women, in particular Muslim women, in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” [20] it refers to the victims of the sex-selective massacre of men and boys in Srebrenica as “civilians” even though the UN had successfully negotiated the deportation of all women and girls from the area.[21]
After the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it transpired that sexual violence in detention during the conflict had also affected men in large numbers. For example, a UN Population Fund report found that 80 % of male concentration camp victims in the Sarajevo Canton had been raped.[22] (Ironically, this report was entitled “The Impact of Armed Conflict on Women and Girls.”) Despite the fact that sexual violence against men in conflict has been documented in the ancient empires of Persia, Greece, and China, it is only as a result of the international community beginning to address sexual violence against women in conflict as a war crime that male victims of sexual violence have begun to be recognized.[23] It has subsequently been documented in conflicts in countries ranging from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to El Salvador, with the crimes committed by Coalition Forces at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq being one of the most high-profile examples.[24]
A recent example from Peru provides additional insight into why male victims of sexual violence in conflict are so often overlooked. The government-established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was tasked with investigating atrocities committed during the “people’s war” between government forces and Shining Path guerrillas, found that 2 % of incidents of sexual violence involved a male victim. However, when an academic team subsequently reexamined the transcripts of victim testimonies and applied their own criteria, they found the figure to be 29 %. The two main reasons for this were that cases of sexual humiliation and male genital mutilation or electrocution were often either not defined by declarants or not coded by interviewers as sexual violence.[25]
Acknowledgement of Men and Masculinities in Gender, Peace and Security Discourses
The full realization of the women, peace and security agenda will not be possible without also engaging with men. This is because gender is a relational concept; social changes in the position of women will redefine their relationship with men, and the acceptance of this change will need to involve a shift in male gender norms, otherwise referred to as masculinities.
When undertaking this endeavor in the policy arena, we are immediately confronted with a challenge: how can we talk of male vulnerability when men are the dominant gender in society? To answer this question, it can be useful to look to similar discussions that took place in the feminist movement. “Women” became a social category because of shared experiences, but not necessarily because of a shared identity or any inherent shared vulnerabilities. Rather, discriminatory laws and social rules that placed all women in the same vulnerable situation (e.g., by not having the right to vote) underscored the necessity of alliance-building. Many of these alliances began to fall apart when the initial objective was achieved (e.g., universal suffrage) as distinctions in privilege or vulnerability based on the intersection between gender and other factors such as race, religion, and sexual orientation began to be exposed. Indeed, “third-wave” feminism is partly characterized as a response to the accusation that many women’s movements had their own internal power hierarchy based on factors such as race and social class. Some women, especially those who were not white or middle-class, alleged that dominant women in these organizations were fighting not for gender equality as such, but rather for an equal share in the privilege enjoyed by the male members of their social class and, by extension, an equal right to dominate others. Socialization tends to make us blind to our privilege – it is racial minorities who are reminded that they have a “race” in the same way that women are more aware of having a “gender.” [26] We can take several things from this analysis that assist us in our understanding of a men, peace and security agenda.
Firstly, the notion of “vulnerable groups” is a misnomer; people are placed into vulnerable situations by the dominant members of society. Secondly, gender is only useful as a unitary category insofar as all members of that gender are discriminated against in a similar way. A subtle shift in UNSCR 2122 occurred that acknowledges this point where women are concerned. Article 7 (a) “requests regular consultations with women’s organizations and women leaders, including socially and/or economically excluded groups of women” (emphasis added). This language recognizes the limitations of the unitary gender category of women and the need to consider the variations within it. When it comes to men, the need to break down the gender category into different masculinities is even more marked because men have had no collective experience of being universally oppressed by women. Thirdly, while men are not inherently more vulnerable, certain groups of men are placed into vulnerable situations because of their gender. The aforementioned Srebrenica example clearly demonstrates how Muslim men in Bosnia were placed into a vulnerable situation. This example also brings us to a fourth point, which I illustrate with a quote from bell hooks:
All men support and perpetuate sexism and sexist oppression in one form or another. Like women, men have been socialized into passively accepting sexist ideology. While they need not blame themselves for accepting sexism, they must assume responsibility for it … but there are ways in which they suffer as a result [of sexism]. This suffering should not be ignored.[27]
The men of Srebrenica died partly because of sexist assumptions that all men are potential fighters; the women were spared because of assumptions that women cannot fight. The blame for what happened in Srebrenica lies squarely with the Serb commanders who orchestrated it. However, we are all responsible for inadvertently perpetuating sexist stereotypes such as those that placed those Bosniak men in a vulnerable situation in July 1995. In different ways, these stereotypes put women at risk of violence by men, men at risk of violence usually but not always by other men, and, especially when men are not able to perform the roles that society expects of themselves, men at risk of self-harm. The responsibility of the international community to try to overcome these stereotypes is what constitutes the driving force behind the men, peace and security agenda.
The Flipside of the Four Pillars
The women, peace and security agenda is divided into a framework consisting of four pillars: prevention, participation, protection, and relief and recovery. This framework can also be used to broadly reflect the current work being undertaken with men and boys, as well as its likely future direction.
Prevention of Conflict and All Forms of Violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations [28]
Conflict has a profound impact on gender roles. Forged by necessity, conflict can sometimes open the door for certain groups of women and men to perform roles from which they were excluded during peacetime, with women entering armaments factories in the World Wars as one of the better-known cases. We should not, however, assume this to be a form of emancipation (although it may ultimately be a contributing factor), but rather as the realignment of gender roles in accordance with military objectives. In conflict settings, it is often the case that non-violent masculinities are increasingly seen as unacceptable in society. In some cases, resisting recruitment may even carry a prison sentence; in others, the civilian identity of men is not taken seriously and hence they are not afforded the legal entitlements to protection to which they are entitled under legal instruments such as the Geneva Conventions.
It is an obvious but often overlooked point that recruitment into armed groups poses a significant security threat to men in conflict situations. The dichotomy that is often presented in rhetoric that men are the perpetrators of conflict-related violence (legitimate or otherwise) and that women are the vulnerable group overlooks the fact that in conflict, many members of armed groups are both perpetrators and victims of armed violence, and that membership of an armed group puts individuals into vulnerable situations.[29] It is exactly the invisibility of the male victim of violence that results in sexual violence against men in conflict going largely unrecognized, and that violence against women can make all of the victim’s family members secondary victims due to resulting psychological trauma and destruction of livelihoods. Indeed, the stigma of “becoming a woman” is one reason why sexual violence against men is used as a strategy in some conflict contexts.[30]
A further consequence of the narrowing of gender roles before, during, and after conflict is that those men who are unwilling or unable to conform to one of the few accepted model masculinities are at greater risk of violence. Sometimes they are specifically targeted by armed groups or political regimes. In other cases, they become the targets of those who are insecure of their own status and looking for a way to demonstrate their power by using violence against those who, through lack of protection, are placed in vulnerable situations. Sexual and gender minorities such as gay and transgender men often fall into this category, as do men from visible minorities.[31]
Work currently underway that could be categorized under the prevention pillar often focuses initially on attempting to safeguard the plurality of models of masculinity in a given society. This can include, for example, efforts to ensure that young men in particular are given opportunities to earn a living, and this way earn respect, as a means of discouraging them from seeking to prove (or employ) themselves by joining armed groups.[32] Other initiatives involve encouraging men to examine their relationship with violence as a group and creating space in public discourses for men to propose non-violent dispute resolution strategies without ridicule.
Further areas of work involve combating racism, homophobia, and other discriminatory attitudes in society that could eventually lead, or in the past may have led, to armed conflict. The goal is to reduce the number of men placed in vulnerable situations. In a similar vein, recognizing male victims of sexual violence on a par with other casualties of conflict, and providing access to medical services and legal remedies, goes some way to de-stigmatizing them.
What is clear in this pillar is that activities to support men can easily dovetail with the women, peace and security agenda. Encouraging a greater diversity of voices to speak up in order to fully understand how different groups of women, men, girls, and boys experience violence in conflict is the first step towards prevention. Giving women a voice to express views outside a single dominant narrative can also empower men to provide dissenting opinions. Furthermore, recognizing that women do not constitute a single vulnerable group, but in fact a collection of groups who are sometimes placed in vulnerable situations, can also help us understand the much more nuanced experience that men have of conflict as perpetrator-victims.
Equal Participation of Men and Women: Gender Equality is Promoted in Peace and Security Decision-making at National, Local, Regional, and International Levels [33]
When we look at gender, peace and security, we can see that women have historically been excluded from participating in discussions and activities related to security. Men, on the other hand, have notably been absent from those related to gender. To some extent, this is a consequence of self-selection – the internalization of gender roles meant that many women did not historically see security as something relevant to them, while men equally did not see gender as pertinent to them. Recent progress has been made on recognizing that everyone has different security concerns, so excluding women from the table means that the security needs of large parts of the population go unrecognized. Progress on including men in discussions relating to gender has been somewhat slower, perhaps because the process is a bit more complicated.
One of the challenges is that many fora for discussing gender equality have been constructed as safe spaces for those women who are usually silenced or spoken over to express their needs. All-male discussion groups have also existed for some time, albeit not on a large scale. There is evidence to suggest that they can be useful in providing men with non-judgmental spaces to discuss, for example, their relationship with violence as perpetrators and/or victims, as well as self-esteem issues caused by the insecurity of not fulfilling the expectations of society.[34] Some topics, however, require a coordinated response, such as engaging men in the prevention of violence and discrimination against women and engaging mothers in preventing the socialization of their sons into violent men.
The organizers of meetings on gender equality can be reluctant to reach out to men because it risks changing the dynamics of the meeting. Several studies have demonstrated that women talk less than men in meetings (partly as they are given less speaking time), are more likely to be interrupted, and are more frequently asked to substantiate their claims.[35] This can be particularly frustrating when the men who interrupt are new to the subject area and therefore not at the same level of expertise as the speaker. Nonetheless, this is a challenge that must be overcome by raising awareness, gender training, and skillful facilitation.
Another issue is the way in which some men feel attacked during these processes. These sentiments were at the heart of recent debates over the Twitter hashtag, “#NotAllMen,” which came to prominence after a male student attacked several people at a sorority house and then a number of other people in the town of Isla Vista, California. The killer explicitly referred to the attack as “The Day of Retribution,” with his stated motivation being “exacting revenge on women” and young couples because he had never succeeded in finding a girlfriend.[36] Discussions in response to these crimes led to several men objecting that “not all men” are like this. In this way, the conversation was sidetracked and attention shifted away from the concerns that women expressed, namely the often overlooked daily experience of sexism that women face, coupled with their fear that gender-based crimes such as these are not prevented and may not be taken seriously if they report them.[37] These discussions tend to result in the burden of protection falling on women, while it would be more effective for men to challenge other men who express discriminatory sentiments or display violent behaviors towards women.
One good practice that organizations working in this field have advocated is the naming of men in senior positions who publicly counter gender discrimination as gender equality champions.[38] In addition, gender and anti-sexual harassment training are now undertaken in some security institutions. Civil society organizations such as the White Ribbon Campaign also try to shape male gender norms by encouraging men to engage in role-modeling, better cross-gender communication in personal relationships, and in educating themselves about gender discrimination.[39] More recently, the UN’s HeForShe campaign has sought to foster greater social acceptance for men who express their support for gender equality and their solidarity with campaigns to end violence against women.[40] Finally, one of the calls by civil society organizations is for National Action Plans on the implementation of Resolution 1325 and other resolutions on women, peace and security to specify roles for men in greater detail.[41]
Protection and Promotion of Men and Boys’ Rights in Conflict-Affected Areas [42]
The protection pillar of the women, peace and security agenda is closely linked to the prevention pillar in that the work covers similar themes but from different angles, with the protection pillar focusing on safeguarding human rights. It is worth mentioning that a subset of men’s groups term themselves as men’s rights groups and work from the starting point that gender inequality has now swung in favor of women.[43] Many members of these groups feel disempowered and some have been victims of violence committed by women or of gender bias in court cases relating to the custody of their children, for example. Groups of this nature have existed since at least the nineteenth century, when concerns were raised about the idea of women’s suffrage.[44] These groups are counter-productive to supporting their male members on two levels.
Firstly, the argument that feminism, women’s rights, and women themselves are to blame for the predicament of their members is a misinterpretation. Gender inequality does restrict men and boys, but the emancipation of women, as well as trans people and other groups of men such as racial and ethnic minorities, indigenous people, and homosexuals, begins to create space for greater social acceptance of any man who expresses himself in a way that does not conform to the dominant norm. The barriers men face to reporting violence, especially sexual and domestic violence, are caused by these restrictive roles;[45] the challenging of gender stereotypes leveled at women automatically leads to conversations about those leveled at men.
Secondly, the men’s rights movement seems to focus its attention on confronting women while neglecting to provide support and services to its male members who are clearly in need. While this movement may provide a forum for men to vent frustration, it does not seem to lobby for changes that would improve their quality of life. A typical example is the demand for an equal number of places in shelters for male victims of domestic violence on the premise of providing an equal right to security. Groups working with male victims of domestic violence have found that most men would prefer either single-occupancy accommodation or, as many can afford to find alternative accommodation, improved security arrangements where they currently live.[46]
Returning to the hypothetical men, peace and security agenda, many of the human rights violations men face in conflict center, as mentioned earlier, on them not being recognized as civilians. In a more nuanced way, the failure of the state to provide security to its population [47]—or to parts of its population according to their race, geographical location, or perceived political affiliation, for example—can also force men to take on combatant roles for their own protection. (This, of course, affects women, too, but gender norms usually place greater pressure on men to enlist in armed groups or to take up arms.) In a similar vein, while education is always difficult in conflict contexts, the recruitment of child soldiers is a violation of boys’ (and girls’) right to education.
As previously mentioned, sexual violence is a crime that is widespread during conflict and providing medical care to survivors is a challenge for existing health infrastructure and international aid agencies. In some cases, however, healthcare facilities exist exclusively for female survivors, either because of a defined policy or because the stigma of accessing the healthcare system is too great for men.[48] There are also similar parallels when it comes to access to justice and even food aid, education, and credit facilities. To be clear, this is not a consequence of favoring women over men, but rather of the political dynamics at the international level. One rationalization for engaging in “just war” is for men to protect women. If one side commits rape against civilian women, it is easy to delegitimize them as rebel groups composed of “abnormal” soldiers, hence further justifying the presence of “legitimate” forces. In reality, all sides in war inflict violence on civilians, be it unintentional, deliberate or caused by the breakdown of discipline. Members of armed forces sometimes resent civilians who view them with disdain because their ranks are drawn from lower socio-economic classes, and their presence is perceived more as a threat than as a form of protection. By providing services to female victims of conflict-related rape, international aid agencies and NGOs are seen to be performing their protector roles; providing medical assistance for weapon-related injuries to women sends a contradictory message. Male civilian victims of sexual or other forms of conflict-related violence also do not fit easily into this logic and tend to go ignored.[49]
Good practices in providing services must again begin by recognizing that male civilians exist, recognizing their rights, and consulting with them to establish their primary human rights concerns. In the case of civilian men in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the main concerns were forced labor, forced recruitment, and mass killings. As for civilian women, it turned out that the most prominent human rights concerns centered on political participation, economic rights, and legal rights regarding property and inheritance. Gender bias in the international system, however, meant that donor funding instead tended to be earmarked for services targeted at rape victims. The rape of women in the Congo conflict was indeed widespread, but it occurred within the wider context of violence and poverty, and hence care for rape-related injuries was not most women’s top priority.[50]
Relief and Recovery
The fourth pillar of the women, peace and security agenda is most often applied to post-conflict processes such as peacebuilding and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR). Much of the work in this area therefore focuses on the transition of ex-combatants into civilian life, and again there are problems caused by a lack of understanding regarding male civilians. Relief and recovery is an area where it is important to recognize the diversity of different male identities that are present in post-conflict contexts. Conflicts are often fought predominantly by younger men in the interests of their older male commanders. Some may be recruited forcibly, but those who join voluntarily tend to have few viable economic options and believe a weapon is a means to command respect in society that they would not otherwise have. It then becomes particularly frustrating in post-conflict situations when these young people are demobilized and again find themselves in positions of powerlessness, while senior male political elites regain political control of the country and rule with their own cohort’s interests at the forefront.[51]This was particularly marked in the Arab Spring, whereby street protests were led by young people who were highly educated yet unemployed, unable to purchase a house of their own, and consequently unable to marry. Many youths took huge risks and were ultimately able to force a change of leadership in several countries, yet in all cases this resulted in replacing one older man with another, and gaining little in the way of increased representation.[52]
The relief and recovery pillar is also an area where the negative consequences of working only with women to address gender inequality are particularly evident. Internal displacement during conflict prevents men from performing traditional roles that would have earned them the respect of their peers. Men are usually displaced from their land and hence can no longer provide for their families through subsistence farming, raising livestock, or skilled labor. Hunting and gathering may be outlawed, impossible due to land mines, or may even be unnecessary if food is provided through aid agencies. Boys and adolescents may also face disruptions to their schooling, thus harming their prospects of a stable future. On top of this, lingering instability, violent crime, and conflict-related injuries may impede men from performing protection roles, or lead them to rearm.[53]
Women, on the other hand, are still able to perform the caregiving roles that earn them respect in society. In refugee camps they may be assisted in these tasks through free healthcare, food, and schooling for their families. In one case in Northern Uganda, men could not leave the camps for fear of arrest or abduction, so women performed agricultural roles alone, which, along with other economic activities such as brewing alcohol, provided them with a source of income. They were also given food aid directly by the camp administration in order to prevent men from selling the supplies to buy alcohol. Some men took on traditional feminine roles such as cleaning, which they found humiliating; others remained idle and developed alcoholism and drug addiction. Similar situations have been replicated in other contexts and resulted in spikes in domestic violence, high levels of sexual and other forms of physical violence outside the home, as well as self-harm and suicide. Evidently, these gender dynamics had severely negative effects on women (not forgetting that those engaged in economic activities faced the double burden of performing caregiving roles), as well as on men.[54]
It is clear from these experiences that more work must be done in promoting positive, non-violent masculinities in post-conflict settings. The starting point involves identifying the needs of men and boys. One often overlooked area is psychological support for post-conflict trauma and the stress of economic insecurity. In the absence of qualified practitioners, approaches often involve group therapy and life skills training.[55] Other activities have worked on changing attitudes so that men feel valued when they take on roles in post-conflict situations that were historically associated with women. These include working to support the economic activities of the female members of their family and promoting men’s involvement in household and caregiving tasks.[56]
Ultimately, many of the challenges that men and boys face in relief and recovery processes are a reflection of the initial drivers of conflict. One of the benefits of using gender as an analytical tool is that it highlights the need to further break down the gender categories according to other factors such as youth, age, race, religion, sexual orientation, and marital/parental status. It is usually the case that conflict creates changes in the strengths and vulnerabilities found in each of these categories and former members of particular armed groups may constitute a new social category that has specific needs. Certain groups of men are more resilient to the effects of conflict, but those who bear the brunt tend to face greater challenges in peacebuilding contexts. Ensuring that economic and political empowerment reaches different groups of men and boys, as well as women and girls, will be an important step towards improving interventions aimed at post-conflict relief and recovery.
Conclusion: Two Wheels Are Better Than One
It is uncertain whether a men, peace and security agenda will be articulated as such in the near future, not least because its implementation would not fall under the mandate of any existing UN agencies. Nevertheless, the achievement of the women, peace and security agenda will not be possible without engaging men and boys in each of its four pillars, including in donor and peacekeeper contributing countries. We have seen that conflict-related violence against women has an impact on men and vice versa. A reduction in conflict and violence can only be achieved through a coordinated effort involving both men and women, and by recognizing how violence, including sexual violence, affects both civilians and combatants of all genders. In a similar vein, women’s meaningful participation in security issues cannot be fully achieved without men’s meaningful participation in the promotion of gender equality. Successful protection of men and boys’ rights in conflict cannot be achieved unless gender stereotypes are overcome, particularly those that do not recognize men as civilians. Interventions aimed at improving the lives of women and girls in relief and recovery processes run the risk of placing the double burden of economic activity and caregiving roles on women, as well as violent backlashes from men, if masculinities are not considered. For these reasons, working with men and boys should not be seen as in competition with work supporting  women and girls, but rather as reinforcing its objectives.
As demonstrated, the women, peace and security agenda is also essential to improving the lives of men. The two agendas can be reconciled by beginning to understand “men as men” and not as “default humans.” [57] In other words, it is necessary to move away from “gender-blind” approaches, whereby all humans are treated as having the same needs, towards fully “gender-sensitive” approaches that examine the different experiences women, men, gender minorities, girls, and boys have during and after conflicts. If this can be mainstreamed across all activities related to peace and security, the competition for funds will pale into insignificance as the gender dimensions of all activities will be taken into account as a matter of course. To close, as begun, with a Cynthia Enloe quote, “the personal is international” and “the international is personal.” [58] The personal relations between different groups of men and women, as well as the relations within these groups, are what shapes international peace and security. If all actors involved are not taken into account, we are doing it wrong.

*    Callum Watson is a Project Officer for the Gender and Security in Eastern Europe Programme (Operations III) at DCAF, a Geneva-based international foundation working on security, develop­ment and the rule of law. In this role, he has served as a member of the Security Sector Re­form Working Group of the Partnership for Peace Consortium of Defense Academies and Secu­rity Studies Institutes, largely focusing on teaching gender to the military. He has also pub­lished research on men and masculinities, specifically on male victims of sexual and do­mestic violence.
[1]    Cynthia Enloe, Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Sense of International Politics (Lon­don: Pandora Press, Harper/Collins, 1989), 7.
[2]    Gizeh Becerra, “From Absent Perpetrators to Engaging Men as ‘Allies’” (presentation given at a workshop entitled “Sexual Violence Against Men during Conflicts: Bridging the Gap be­tween Theory and Practice,” Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Ge­neva, 26–27 February 2015).
[3]    See, for example, UN Security Council Resolution 2106 (2013).
[4]    Michael Flood, “Men’s Movement,” in International Encyclopedia of Men and Masculinities, ed. Michael Flood, Judith Kegan Gardiner, Bob Pease and Keith Pringle (Abingdon: Routledge, 2007), 418–422. Raewyn W. Connell, “The Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gen­der Equality” (paper prepared for a UN Expert Group Meeting on “The role of men and boys in achieving gender equality,” Brasilia, Brazil, 21-24 October 2013), 7.
[5]    John Stuart Mill, On Liberty and other writings, ed. Stefan Collini (Cambridge: Cambridge Univer­sity Press, 1989), x, xvii, xviii.
[6]    Connell, “The Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality,” 7.
[7]    Ibid.
[8]    Flood, “Men’s Movement,” 418–422.
[9]    “IMD Background,” International Men’s Day,
[10]  MenEngage, “Men and Boys for Gender Justice: Delhi Declaration and Call to Action, 2014,” available at
[11]  Øystein Gullvåg Holter, “Chapter 4: Masculinities in Context: On Peace Issues and Patriarchal Or­ders,” in Male Roles, Masculinities and Violence: A Culture of Peace Perspective, ed. Inge­borg Breines, Robert Connell and Ingrid Eide (Paris: UNESCO, 2000), 61; Gender Equality Cre­ates Sustainable Societies, Nordic co-operation on gender equality 2011–2014 (Copenha­gen: Nordic Council of Ministers, 2011), 25.
[12]  Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities, “Mission,” Stony Brook University,
[13]  “Professor to teach gender studies courses at USAFA,” Air Force Times, 18 June 2013, avail­able at
[14]  Rita Schäfer, Men as Perpetrators and Victims of Armed Conflicts: Innovative Projects Aimed at Overcoming Male Violence (Vienna: VIDC – Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation, 2013), 20; United Nations, “Report of the World Summit for Social Deve­lopment,” UN Document Number A/Conf. 166/9, Copenhagen, 6–12 March 1995, Commit­ment 5(g), 17.
[15]  Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women, 15 September 1995, Annex I, art. 25; Ch. II, art. 107(e), 108(l); ch. 4 178(g).
[16]  Schäfer, Men as Perpetrators and Victims of Armed Conflicts, 20.
[17]  UN Security Council, Resolution 2106 (2013), UN document number S/RES/2106 (2013), 24 June 2013.
[18]  UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), “Working with Men and Boy Survivors of Sex­ual and Gender-based Violence in Forced Displacement,” July 2012, available at
[19]  UN General Assembly, “Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women,” UN Docu­ment Number A/RES/48/104, 20 December 1993.
[20]  UN Security Council, Resolution 798 (1992), UN Document number S/RES/798 (1992).
[21]  See UN Security Council, Resolution 1010 (1995), UN Document number S/RES/1010 (1995).
[22]  United Nations Population Fund, The Impact of Armed Conflict on Women and Girls: A Consulta­tive Meeting on Mainstreaming Gender in Areas of Conflict and Reconstruction (Brati­slava, Slovakia, 13–15 November 2001), 64, available at
[23]  Sandesh Sivakumaran, “Sexual Violence Against Men in Armed Conflict,” The European Jour­nal of International Law 18:2 (2007): 257.
[24]  Ibid., 258, 266.
[25]  Michele Leiby, “The Promise and Peril of Primary Documents: Documenting Wartime Sexual Violence in El Salvador and Peru,” in Understanding and Proving International Sex Crimes, ed. Morten Bergsmo, Alf Butenschøn Skre and Elisabeth J. Wood (Beijing: Torkel Opsahl Aca­demic EPublisher, 2012), 343.
[26]  Bell Hooks, “Men: Comrades in Struggle,” in Men’s Lives, ed. Michael S. Kimmel and Mi­chael A. Messner (Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 1995), 520–521.
[27]  Ibid., 523.
[28]  Adapted from Inter-Agency Task Force on Women, Peace and Security, UN Strategic Results Framework on Women, Peace and Security: 2011–2020, available at
[29]  Pamela Scully, “Expanding the Concept of Gender-based Violence in Peacebuilding and Develop­ment,” Journal of Peacebuilding and Development 5:3 (2010): 29.
[30]  Callum Watson, Preventing and Responding to Sexual and Domestic Violence against Men: A Guidance Note for Security Sector Institutions (Geneva: DCAF, 2014), 12, 27.
[31]  Connell, “The Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality,” 7.
[32]  Joseph Vess, Gary Barker, Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, and Alexa Hassink, “The Other Side of Gender: Men as Critical Agents of Change,” United States Institute of Peace Special Report 340, December 2013, 4.
[33]  Adapted from UN Strategic Results Framework on Women.
[34]  Cf. the One Man Can Campaign by Sonke Gender Justice Network in South Africa,, Promundo’s Program H that was developed in Brazil and subsequently rolled out elsewhere,,  the Young Men Initiative coordinated by CARE and implemented by a variety of different NGOs in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croa­tia, Serbia and Kosovo, and the Young Men’s Fo­rum run by Youth Action in Northern Ireland,
[35]  See, for example, Tali Mendelberg, Christopher F. Karpowitz, and J. Baxter Oliphant, “Gen­der Inequality in Deliberation: Unpacking the Black Box of Interaction,” Perspectives on Poli­tics 12:1 (March 2014): 18–44; Victoria L. Brescoll, “Who Takes the Floor and Why: Gender, Power, and Volubility in Organizations,” Administrative Science Quarterly 56:4 (December 2011): 622–641.
[36]  Bill Brown, “Isla Vista Mass Murder, May 23, 2014, Investigative Summary,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, Santa Barbara, CA, 18 February 2015, 1, 44.
[38]  Gender Action for Peace and Security UK (GAPS), “Report on Involving Men in the Implementa­tion of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security,” event hosted by the Canadian High Commission, Canada House, London (UK), 13 March 2007, 2.
[39]  “What You Can Do,” White Ribbon Campaign, available at
[41]  See, for example, Gender Action for Peace and Security UK (GAPS), “Report on Involving Men,” 2.
[42]  Adapted from UN Strategic Results Framework on Women.
[43]  Flood, “Men’s Movement,” 420.
[44]  Michael Kimmel and Amy Aronson, Men and Masculinities: A Social, Cultural and Historical En­cyclopedia (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2004), 35–36.
[45]  Watson, Preventing and Responding, 27.
[46]  Ibid., 48.
[47]  This would be a violation of Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, see
[48]  Watson, Preventing and Responding, 18.
[49]  Maria Eriksson Baaz and Maria Stern, Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War? Perceptions, Pre­scriptions, Problems in the Congo and Beyond (London: Zed Books, 2013), 28, 29, 32, 96, 99.
[50]  Ibid., 98–9.
[51]  Henri Myrttinen, Jana Naujoks and Judy El-Bushra, Re-thinking Gender in Peacebuilding (Lon­don: International Alert, March 2014), 10, 21, available at
[52]  M. Chloe Mulderig, “An Uncertain Future: Youth Frustration and the Arab Spring,” The Par­dee Papers, no. 16 (Boston University, April 2013), 11–19, 23, available at
[53]  Chris Dolan, “Collapsing Masculinities and Weak States – A Case Study of Northern Uganda,” in Masculinity Matters: Men, Masculinities and Gender Relations in Development, ed. Frances Cleaver (London: Zed Books, 2003), 57–79.
[54]  Refugee Law Project, Gender against Men (documentary), 21 May 2012, available at; LOGiCA and Promundo, “A Study of Gen­der, Masculinities and Reintegration of Former Combatants in Rwanda: Results from the Inter­national Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES),” Analytical Report, August 2014; Myrt­tinen, et al., Re-thinking Gender, 20; Gary Barker and Christine Ricardo, “Young Men and the Construction of Masculinity in Sub-Saharan Africa: Implications for HIV/AIDS, Con­flict and Violence,” Social Development Papers: Conflict Prevention & Reconstruction, no. 26, June 2005.
[55]  LOGiCA and Promundo, “A Study of Gender,” 55.
[56]  “Engaging Men: The Journey Towards Gender Transformation,” Plan, 5 December 2014, avail­able at; Piotr Pawlak, Henny Slegh, and Gary Barker, Journeys of Transformation: A Training Manual for Engaging Men as Allies in Women’s Economic Empowerment (Kigali and Washington, DC: CARE Interna­tional and Promundo-US, 2012).
[57]  Myrttinen, et al., Re-thinking Gender, 12–13.
[58]  Enloe, Bananas, Beaches and Bases, 195–196.
Last updated: Friday, 29 January 2016