Better Peace Initiative

Better Peace Tool Logo for ICAN Site


Early inclusion of women and civil society in peace processes–and at the negotiating table–can make a positive difference.

But the practicalities of ‘how’ to achieve this remain a challenge.

ICAN’s Better Peace Initiative set out to address the ‘how to’ question by offering practical guidance for the effective inclusion of gender perspectives and women peacebuilders in peace processes. Primarily, this requires a paradigm shift away from a narrow notion of peace negotiations as security and political processes to acknowledging that they must be inclusive societal processes. It also requires changes in practice.

The Better Peace Tool explores the history and evolution of peacemaking in modern times. It considers six common barriers to inclusion and how to overcome them. And it presents a four-part framework for the inclusion of women peacebuilders, offering proactive steps to broaden participation.

For more on the Better Peace Initiative and to access its resources, visit




Throughout history, negotiations about war and peace have been exclusive processes dominated by male political and military leaders. But traditional approaches are inadequate for tackling complex contemporary conflicts that are often internal or transnational involving multiple non-state actors and often-predatory states. Too many current peacemaking and mediation efforts fail. Between 2000 and 2011, one in five peace agreements failed within five years. The breakdown often escalates violence, making the next round of peacemaking even more difficult. The World Bank estimates that over 90% of conflicts in the past decade occurred in countries that had experienced war in the past thirty years.

In 2000, the UN Security Council recognized in Resolution 1325 that a more durable peace required the involvement of all sectors of society. In particular, the resolution called for the inclusion of women in peace processes. The UN Secretary General’s 2012 Guidance for Effective Mediation also recognized inclusivity as a key principle for effective mediation. But inclusivity, especially as it relates to non-state unarmed or civil society actors, is not practiced widely. All too often, peace negotiations take place between the immediate warring parties and exclude large segments of society. Thus the terms of negotiations and consequently the future of the country are defined by those who used violence to further their goals, while excluding the experiences of people who had the courage to work non-violently and take responsibility for their communities in the midst of war.

Experiences in conflict areas – recently reflected in quantitative and qualitative studies – demonstrate that greater inclusion of unarmed non-state actors (civil society) in peace processes improves the chances of success. Early engagement and direct representation and/or access to the negotiating table can make positive differences. Internationally, there is growing interest and support for more inclusive peace and mediation processes. But the practicalities of ‘how’ to do this remain a challenge. Since 2010, ICAN has undertaken research and led consultations with UN agencies, governments, international and national NGOs to address this issue and provide practical solutions.

Activities encompassed in ICAN’s Better Peace Initiative:

  • 2010 – ICAN/MIT Participation and SCR 1325 case studies and analysis;GROUP
  • 2012- ICAN and partners experts meeting and survey on identifying ‘criteria’ for identification/ inclusion of civil society actors in peace processes;
  • 2014 – ICAN, in partnership with UNWomen and 8 other organizations, hosted the “Better Peace” Symposium focusing on solutions for common barriers to inclusive peacemaking;
  • 2015- The Better Peace Report – a summary of the historical and legal contexts and solutions to common barriers (Spring 2015);
  • The Better Peace Tool – an endorsed standard of inclusive peace making (email for the most up-to-date draft);
  • Engagement with government, international and civil society mediators, as well as women civil society in conflict contexts, to develop and implement the Better Peace Tool;
  • 2nd Better Peace Symposium – focusing on mediators’ use of the Better Peace Tool in real-time conflict and mediation contexts (Fall 2015);
  • Better Peace online – a web portal to include the Better Peace Tool as well as research, resources, and case studies on inclusive peace making (Fall 2015).

For more information and an updated draft of the Better Peace Tool, contact info [@]

More Resources: Women & Civil Society at the Table