Title

Conflict and consensus-building at the fourth UN World Conference on Women: A study of international nongovernmental cooperation

Date of Award

1998

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Social Sciences

Advisor(s)

Marjorie Devault

Keywords

Conflict, Consensus, International, Cooperation, Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women, Nongovernmental organizations, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Sudanese Women's Voice for Peace, Beneath Paradise

Subject Categories

Women's Studies

Abstract

This study looks at the process by which international non-governmental organizations set agendas for policy formation within the context of the UN. Over a period of two years, I conducted a qualitative study of three non-governmental organizations (NGOs) focusing on peace issues: the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the Sudanese Women's Voice for Peace, and Beneath Paradise. Research sites included the 4 th UN World Conference on Women (FWCW) that took place in Beijing, China in 1995 and four preparatory conferences organized around the FWCW including regional conferences in Austria and Senegal. I also collected data on the WILPF peace train which traveled with an international delegation of women peace activists from Helsinki, Finland to Beijing for the FWCW. I found that within the peace sector of the conference, the NGOs reached a "managed" consensus on common. priorities ignoring or leaving out controversial issues. The Western NGOs tended to dominate the process and set up an agenda for the coalition of organizations that reflected their own regional agenda. Some NGOs, particularly Third World, challenged the dominant Western agenda and conflict ensued. Using a combination of social movement tools, e.g. repertoires of contention, activist identities, and strategic framing, the NGOs achieved partial success in gaining attention for their agendas. As the conflict escalated, some of the NGO members tried to resolve or manage the conflicts using dialogue. I found that given certain conditions, such as a team of international facilitators and the willingness of participants to confront one another, these attempts at dialogue contained the potential to uncover difference, challenge the dominant discourse, identify underlying problems and breakdown stereotypes. As such, I conclude that dialogue has the potential to facilitate the agenda-setting process among NGOs.

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