Voices from the conference
"Above all, solidarity is a political decision. It does not require empathy and should not be transactional."
Voices from the conference
“Toxic masculinity is allowed to run wild in the name of protection” – Feminist peacebuilding is about redefining the principles, values, and behaviours by which we want to coexist. Professor Cheryl Hendricks
Impulse & Exchange in Groups

Addressing Dilemmas in Power Shifts

Growing tendencies of socio-political resistance against feminist approaches.

Anti-gender movements and anti-democratic movements globally pose significant challenges to the progress made in (gender) equality, human rights and the achievement of positive peace and are not isolated phenomena. These movements oppose the rights of women, LGBTIQ+ individuals, and other minorities, often framing their arguments around traditional values and conservative ideologies. This is i.a. tangible through social media campaigns, public discourse that seeks to undermine gender equality and in the worst case ends up in discriminatory legislative reforms. Further the marginalization of women's roles in peace processes weakens efforts to address gender-specific impacts of conflict and to promote comprehensive security as well as just and sustainable peace. 

To counter these threats and advance inclusion, it is crucial to strengthen true solidarity. Forming coalitions and strengthening networks among various marginalized groups can create a united front against discrimination, enhancing their collective power and resilience. Strategic partnerships and the protective effect of joining forces can provide greater resources, heighten visibility for the cause but at the same time reduce exposure of individual activists. This allows advocacy efforts to become more robust and effective. Additionally, engaging allies from majority groups to support the cause and amplify voices can significantly bolster these efforts, fostering a more inclusive and equitable society. Feminist and human rights approaches by local activists and organisations look back at a lot of experience to improve the participation, rights and resources for marginalized groups. A human-rights-centred transformation of power has neither been nor is today only the idea of actors from the Global North. Still, feminist transformation of power is met with growing resistance from anti-feminist and anti-democratic actors. Civilian conflict resolution and peacebuilding find ways to deal with these opposing views and promote dialogue to reduce the growing polarization.  

At the same time, state actors as well as many CSO from the Global South alike are strongly criticizing existing inequalities in global structures. They point at the gap between rhetorical commitments to decolonial changes and the Global North clinging to its power. Reducing these power asymmetries could minimize criticism of double-standards and the framing of feminist approaches as a Western agenda. Much needed energy could be focused on the mutual task of a positive peace. 

While the discussions showed the variety and richness of feminist peacebuilding and power transformation three areas stood out: 

Solidarity and empathy – real solidarity 

Feminist actors are working on peaceful power transformations in their societies. They are forging alliances on different levels for greater visibility, access as well as protection. In the face of growing resistance by conservative and right-wing actors, it is recommended to broaden these alliances beyond a focus on women, taking into account intersectionality in all its manifestations. Thus, to build alliances with those who largely share our values and visions of equality and to fully stand in solidarity with them. 

Win over those currently sitting on the fence 

While we are often talking about clear cut opponents of feminist approaches, we miss out to reach out to those who are (yet) undecided. To convince them to join feminist demands, we should approach them with empathy, and avoid putting ourselves on a higher morale ground. This needs long-term engagement and care. 

Dynamics of right-wing (anti-feminist) actors – and what to do about them? 

Conservative and authoritarian actors use the current geopolitical changes to maintain their power by merging anti-democratic and anti-feminist narratives to delegitimize the calls for equal rights and resources from marginalized groups within their own population. A PBF-participant described this as a “match made in hell: authoritarians portray inequality as normal, as given by nature. In the name of protecting ‘god given order’ they restrict space for civil society, free speech and any form of opposition”. 

Especially the hardliners in this global and local right-wing movement are proceeding fast and with minimal friction losses about possible minor differences within their allyship, camouflaging their anti-human rights and anti-democratic demands with traditional references, e.g. the claim to protect families and children.  

It is unlikely that peacebuilders will be able to win these hardliners over. Nevertheless, peacebuilders have to minimize the influence that they can exert. Therefore, peacebuilders should expose their finances, connections and strategies. For example, through deconstructing the “emotional” language they are using and describing the consequences of their visions not only for marginalized groups, but everyone and their effect on positive peace.

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The FriEnt Peacebuilding Forum is a series of events on current and overarching challenges and trends in peacebuilding. With the Peacebuilding Forum, we want to provide future-oriented impulses for the development of peacebuilding and strengthen the visibility and importance of the policy field in its entirety.


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