Date of Award

August 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Audie Klotz


Conflict resolution, Gender, Mediation, Narrative, United Nations

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


In 2000, the United Nations (UN) adopted Resolution 1325, the foundation of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda. It aims to make peace and security more gender-sensitive and inclusive. Scholars have examined the implementation of the WPS Agenda in peacebuilding and peacekeeping; however, mediation, particularly UN-brokered peace processes, remains under-researched. Nineteen years on, progress is inconsistent. Numbers of women have increased in negotiations, but they remain a minority. While the UN has guidelines on gender in mediation, peace processes do not consider gender issues systematically. This project considers the problem of how the UN has institutionalized the WPS Agenda in its mediation work. This issue matters because inclusive, gender-sensitive peace processes are more likely to reach just, sustainable agreements. Yet, scholarship to date has not systematically examined the institutionalization of the WPS Agenda in UN mediation.

I examine how the changing historical context of UN mediation has affected its institutionalization of the WPS Agenda. In the post-Cold War era, UN mediation has moved from being seen as a diplomatic art to a professionalized science. Narratives about mediation as an "art" or as a "science" inform how the UN has institutionalized the WPS Agenda in mediation. To examine this, I take an interdisciplinary, feminist, and qualitative approach to this research. I conceptualize institutions as assemblages of narratives (stories about what mediation is), practices (how one does mediation), and subjectivities (ideal types of actors in mediation). These encapsulate prevailing notions of what is legitimate in UN mediation. For the WPS Agenda to be successful, it has to fit with these existing ideas of legitimacy. The ideas of UN mediation as an art or a science both constrain the implementation of the WPS Agenda, although they do it in different ways. I show how these competing ideas about mediation affect the interpretation of the WPS Agenda, whether it is seen as relevant, and how it is implemented at field and headquarters levels.

The narrative of mediation as science constructs UN mediation as a technical endeavor. It employs a mechanistic ontology of peace in which issues can be treated separately, and relies upon a linear conception of progress. It depoliticizes gender relations, treating them largely as "women's issues." In practice, UN personnel use conflict analysis to produce specialized knowledge about a conflict. Gender is incorporated as one technical area among many. Moreover, UN staff often forget to consider gender in their analyses. Local women feature as sources of information that can legitimate a process, as well as make it more effective. At the same time, they are prevented from fully participating due to a presumed lack of capacity.

Meanwhile, the narrative of mediation as an art privileges experience rather than training, the consent of negotiating parties, and relationships. Gender and women appear risky because they potentially endanger consent. Mediators practice emotional labor to get and keep the consent of conflict parties, who are widely understood to be male politicians or military leaders. Emotional labor hinges on male trust and bonding, particularly in informal settings. Meanwhile, UN mediators exercise a significant degree of discretion over the implementation of the WPS Agenda in their work. Not only are there few professional incentives for them to implement it, doing so may risk others' perception of their political judgment. Finally, practicing UN mediation as an art legitimates the representation of the ideal UN mediator as a man with good people skills and a feel for the game that has developed through extensive experience in diplomacy or politics.


Open Access