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Published on 30 November 2023
Written by Dr. Anupama Ranawana

Together researchers from Colombia Diversa, Christian Aid and the Queen’s University Belfast Center for Gender in Politics, have developed a new toolkit offering practical guidance to those working to bring a queer perspective to peace and security work. The toolkit is for those invested in supporting queer visions for peace, including those looking to transform the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) architecture to ensure the inclusion of lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer (LBTQ) women in programmatic work and conflict interventions. The focus of the toolkit is to highlight the key questions, action points and interventions to address this the areas where this inclusion is not happening.

The toolkit draws on insights from the ongoing and active work of the human rights organization Colombia Diversa, as a case study or laboratory space from which one might find ways to considering how to queer the implementation of the WPS agenda. Colombia Diversa is the leading organization working for including LBTQ women’s perspectives in the WPS agenda, and, over several years has continued to inform the WPS agenda in Colombia by feeding into the development of the country’s first Women, Peace and Security National Action Plan.  The toolkit provides key guidance and reflection questions and a variety of resources through three main sections: 1) Queering the four pillars of WPS, 2) Feminist and LGBTQ collaborations, and 3) Queering WPS National Action Plans.

Toolkit cover - Queering women, peace and security agenda: a practice-based toolkit

In September, a launch event for the toolkit was held at the Center for Gender in Politics at the Queen’s University Belfast. This event, held online and in person, allowed for the toolkit to be presented by the researchers involved, as well as for an audience of academics, policy stakeholders and activists to respond and discuss some of the key points of the research.  Those of us who developed the toolkit were keen to discuss our collaborative research process and how the dynamic of allowing dialogue and open conversations was fundamental to not only the project but also the work of queering WPS.

María Susana Peralta Ramón from Colombia Diversa reflected on how having such dialogue was especially important in spaces where Colombia Diversa is working to bridge divides between ‘legacy’ feminist organizations and LGBTQ organizations. Open and honest dialogue, as well as willingness to have uncomfortable conversations was stressed as an important strategy for this work. There was also discussion of the power issues at play, particularly regarding how leadership manifests at key decision making levels, as well as, as pointed out by Dr Hagen, the biases in institutions that do not necessarily see lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer women leaders or as experts to contribute to discussions about gender, peace and security.

Following the panel, audience members raised a variety of important points. An activist from Nepal, for example, discussed their work in building Women, Peace and Security National Action Plans and the strategies that were necessary to ensure the inclusion of LGBTQ voices in the second round of the NAP. An important question raised was how in many country contexts it would be impossible to do this work due to it being a hostile environment for queer persons. Though the Colombian experience is atypical in terms of the extent to which the LGBTQ community has been integrated into the peace process, there are key learnings that may be useful for other country contexts. It was acknowledged that, at present, such work cannot happen everywhere, and that priority for doing such work should be the safety and security of the queer community.

recommendations for how to address needs of LBT women in Colombian NAP

Panelists also discussed the importance of finding safe ways to include queer voices, even in contexts where there may not be an organization or network that brings such voices together.  Peralta Ramón and partners she has worked with point to one useful strategy as not highlighting events as focusing on LGBTQ rights, but to name it in a way that does not create an unsafe atmosphere. This also opened a set of conversations on the growing autocratic nature of states and what strategies would be necessary for feminist and LGBTQ movement building in response to the same.

The event concluded with agreements to continue these key conversations. The toolkit is now available online for anyone to use and will soon be workshopped by UN Women to think through next steps for putting the resources into practice.

The Queering Women, Peace and Security (WPS) project is a British Academy funded Innovation Fellowship led by Dr. Jamie J. Hagen from Queen’s University Belfast in a research collaboration with Colombia Diversa, Christian Aid Colombia and Christian Aid UK.