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Project description

Our research explores the legal, political, and cultural barriers that women face in accessing high-level mediation positions in the United Nations. Consequently, it aims to address these impediments to promise women greater access to these prime positions.

Primary participants

Dr Catherine Turner Associate Professor of Law

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About the research

Our research seeks to redress the lack of women representation in lead mediation positions despite their excellence at grassroot levels and favourable resolutions by the UN Security Council and the then Secretary General in 2000.

See interactive graphics examining experiences of women working as mediators.
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The UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (31 October 2000) requires individual states and the UN to increase the representation of women at all levels of the UN mediation teams. Research supports the excellence of women mediators at local level political conflicts, but this expertise does not transfer into representation at international levels.

The scale of this problem was highlighted in March 2017 when the UN Security Council convened to discuss the low numbers of women among the ranks of UN mediators. Central on the Security Council agenda was the question of how women’s expertise in mediation at local level can be used to increase the gender balance of UN mediation teams.

This project explores the legal, political and cultural barriers that women face to accessing high-level mediation positions.


Project aims

Our project aims to provide research-led policy recommendations and support for States, Intergovernmental Organisations, and NGOs on the advancement of women mediators. 

The research objectives are as follows: 

  1. To understand the motivations of women mediators, including their perception of the skills they bring to this role
  2. To analyse the relationship between women mediators and women’s advocacy
  3. To explore barriers faced by women in moving between grassroots or civic society mediation initiatives and official state processes.

Further information

Women in Mediation - This paper in the Geneva Centre for Security Policy Strategic Security Analysis lays emphasis on a practical approach for making peace processes more inclusive while rethinking the fundamentals of mediation.

Soft ways of doing hard things is an open access article by Catherine which explores valuable strategic skills brought to the mediator role by women mediators.

Women's Leadership for Peace - the article suggests adoption of a multi-track leadership model in mediation to increase the shared role of leadership. It necessitates a closer scrutiny of women's role in international peace and security and promotes varied methods of dispute resolution.

Models for Women’s Inclusion in Track One Mediation in Peace and Transition Processes - A recent report co-authored by Catherine published in UN Women.

Advancing Women in High-Level Mediation - A Durham University led policy symposium brought together women working with international peace agencies, nation states, women's mediation networks, and NGOs. It lists recommendations for advancing women in high-profile mediation.

Rethinking Peace Mediation is a resource for policymakers, practitioners, and stakeholders of the mediation process. It provides information to develop contemporary peace mediation.