In 2024, global security is poised to deteriorate even further amidst worsening conflict, instability, and violence. Recent data shows that approximately 600 million women—15 percent of women in the world—lived within 50 kilometers of armed conflict in 2022, more than double the levels in the 1990s. Women are crucial to addressing these challenges: peace processes that involve women are more resilient, gender-equal societies are less likely to experience conflict, and women leaders advance vital peacebuilding work at the international, national, and grassroots levels.
The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) framework, created in 2000 by UN Security Council Resolution 1325, outlines a path to achieving women’s comprehensive inclusion and consideration in all aspects of peacebuilding and security. This framework has been strengthened by nine subsequent UN resolutions, reinforcing the urgency and importance of women’s engagement in peace and security and recognizing sexual violence as a weapon of war.
Yet women continue to face exclusion from leadership roles and peace negotiations, are systematically terrorized and violated in conflict settings, and remain disproportionately vulnerable to challenges like climate change and the weaponization of new technology. Given the gendered impacts of today’s challenges, women must be centered in conflict coverage, advocacy, and response in 2024. The WPS framework is a vital tool to recognize and uphold women’s rights to full participation, protection, prevention of violence, and gender-sensitive relief and recovery.
In alignment with the WPS framework, this list identifies conflicts likely to create significant risks and opportunities for women and WPS aims this year: Afghanistan, Colombia, Haiti, Iran, Israel and Palestine, Kosovo and the wider Balkans, Mali, Myanmar, South Sudan, Sudan, Ukraine, Yemen.
These insights are drawn from the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security’s (GIWPS) WPS Conflict Tracker, which will launch publicly in March 2024. The WPS Tracker will meet the urgent need for global monitoring and analysis of conflict dynamics through a WPS lens. Sign up for GIWPS’ listserv and follow us on social media to stay informed.
New avenues emerge for promoting Afghan women’s engagement in policy dialogues and for pursuing accountability for the Taliban
In 2024, Afghan women’s rights must remain a priority for the international community as it continues to grapple with how to engage the Taliban as a de facto authority of Afghanistan. Since seizing power in 2021, the Taliban has systematically erased the rights of women and girls through almost 100 edicts. These edicts exclude women and girls from almost all aspects of public life, including education, employment, and movement. This year, international actors need to create new spaces for Afghan women to engage directly in dialogue and negotiation with the Taliban. Afghan women must also be involved and their needs considered in any implementation of the November 2023 UN Security Council assessment’s recommendations, including the appointment of a Special Envoy on Afghanistan. This assessment urges Afghan women’s “meaningful and consistent participation” in any space that impacts Afghanistan’s future—a recommendation that must be enacted in 2024.
This year will also see developments in the movement—led by Afghan and Iranian women—to recognize and end gender apartheid. UN Member States are currently amidst a two-year process of debating draft articles for a new treaty on the prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity. The UN will host a second discussion of the draft articles from the International Law Commission in April 2024. Formal recognition of gender apartheid in the treaty would unlock new legal and political tools to combat women’s oppression in Afghanistan. Debate of the draft articles provides an unprecedented opening this year to criminalize gender apartheid at the highest level. This movement to codify gender apartheid as a crime against humanity occurs alongside broader accountability efforts in Afghanistan, including calls for progress on the International Criminal Court’s investigation in the country.
Weak implementation of peace agreement gender provisions coincides with backlash against women human rights defenders
This year, Colombia will continue implementing the 2016 Final Peace Agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP. Colombia’s Final Agreement with FARC-EP has been hailed for its unprecedented inclusion of women and gender issues, with one-quarter of all included stipulations related to gender. Yet, in practice, just 12 percent of the 130 gender-relevant stipulations have been completed since the agreement was signed in 2016, undermining its progressive intent. The UN Verification Mission in Colombia—responsible for overseeing the enactment of the Final Agreement—reiterated in January 2024 the importance of robustly implementing the gender provisions. Implementation of the Final Agreement’s gender provisions must remain a priority at the local and national levels.
Last year, the Colombian government held consultations and introduced a roadmap for creating its first WPS National Action Plan. The launch of this plan would provide an opportunity to reinvigorate implementation of the Final Agreement’s gender-relevant stipulations and address violence against women activists in post-conflict society. In 2023, Colombia was called the most dangerous country in the world for environmental activists, with women human rights defenders at particular risk of both assassination and gendered violence. In the first half of 2023, one-quarter of attacks against human rights defenders targeted women, while the number of women defenders murdered increased by 50 percent compared to the same period in 2022. This violence highlights the dangers still facing women human rights defenders in Colombia and underscores the importance of fully implementing all aspects of the Final Agreement.
Negotiations between the Colombian government and the guerilla National Liberation Army (ELN) also continue this year, with the current ceasefire now extended to expire on July 15, 2024. These negotiations offer another opportunity for women’s voices to be heard.
A Kenya-led and UN-backed intervention could spark new opportunities and risks for Haitian women
An international police force led by Kenya may be deployed to Haiti in 2024 (pending a forthcoming high court ruling) to address the breakdown of governance and rule of law amidst widespread gang violence. The proposed international intervention is intended to restore order, quell gang fighting, and better enable humanitarian response. Yet, past international interventions have left a legacy of gendered harm in Haiti, including allegations of rape and sexual exploitation perpetrated by UN peacekeepers and humanitarian workers.
Fighting by Haiti’s more than 300 gangs is characterized by sexual violations, including gang rape. As of May 2023, one in five women in surveyed areas of Port-au-Prince had been raped, and 80 percent of women in Cite Soleil had experienced gender-based violence. Fighting has also led to widespread poverty and displacement, with around half the country unable to access adequate food. Dire conditions are leading many Haitians to embark on the dangerous journey to the United States, during which women migrants face further sexual violence and exploitation. Haitian women’s protection from violence must be foregrounded in all aspects of intervention and humanitarian response this year. It is essential that the UN-approved intervention is gender-sensitive and does not lead to further sexual exploitation and abuse.
Elections in March 2024 set to shine a light on women’s continued struggle for their rights and political violence targeting women
In March 2024, Iran will take to the polls for legislative elections—the first election since the women-led ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ protest movement following the death of Masha ‘Jina’ Amini in 2022. Iran’s government faces deep divisions, with the issue of women’s rights a persistent tension between conservative and more moderate factions. The Iranian government has been arresting, imprisoning, and killing those engaged in the protest movement. Further, they have been reversing the limited gains achieved by the protest movement, returning the morality police to the streets in July 2023 and approving stricter penalties for women who violate mandatory hijab laws.
While voter turnout may be low due to perceptions that the election will not be democratic, the election period could be a locus for increased repression of the ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ movement as well as continued unrest—particularly related to the issue of women’s rights. Women in the country remain likely to encounter harassment, abuse, and arrest, including political violence targeting women, often facilitated by extensive monitoring and facial recognition technology. But women will continue to play a vital role in opposing the regime and its policies.
Israel and Palestine
Widespread violation of women’s human rights continues to cause devastation and spark new investigations into human rights abuses in Gaza and Israel
The violence in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel has huge civilian costs—including on women—and could escalate this year, particularly if violence spreads to the wider region. Women’s full participation is essential and must be prioritized within all aspects of negotiation, humanitarian response, and accountability. Israeli and Palestinian women’s organizations have long been engaged in cross-community peacebuilding and represent a critical resource to advance peace in the region. Women must be full and meaningful participants in any attempt to bring an end to the violent conflict and to define the pathway to durable peace.
Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis continues to escalate in Gaza. The United Nations is warning that famine in Gaza is “around the corner” with specific concern for breastfeeding mothers and children. Gazan women continue to face disproportionate humanitarian and security risks, with women and children comprising 70 percent of casualties. Approximately seven women are killed every two hours. The decimation of Gaza’s healthcare infrastructure creates additional and long-term health hazards for women, including for the more than 50,000 pregnant women, 180 of whom are expected to give birth every day. In the West Bank, Israeli authorities have increased administrative detention of Palestinians, during which women are at risk of sexual violence and harassment. In addition, concerns remain that hostages still held by Hamas face sexual violence and inhumane treatment.
International legal and investigatory efforts are also underway. In January 2024, the International Court of Justice began hearings on Gaza in response to an application filed by South Africa against Israel under the Genocide Convention. Early this year, Pramila Patten, the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, will begin investigating allegations of widespread sexual violence—including rape and sexual mutilation by Hamas on October 7, 2023. Continuing concerns for 2024 include the more than 100 Israeli hostages still in captivity, a mounting humanitarian crisis in Gaza, growing violence in the West Bank, and the potential for expansion of the conflict regionally.
Kosovo and the wider Balkans
Rising tension risks reignition of past conflict and underscores the need for more women at the negotiating table
Possible escalation of long-simmering tensions in the Balkans, particularly between Serbia and Kosovo, poses a danger to women in 2024. Although Kosovo and Serbia signed a historic agreement in April 2023 to normalize relations, December 2023 skirmishes along the Serbia-Kosovo border led NATO to send additional peacekeepers. Serbia faces disputed elections and protests against leadership’s support of ethnic Serbian secessionist efforts in nearby countries, including Kosovo. This unrest echoes a broader trend across the Balkans. In December 2023, Milorad Dodik, the Bosnian Serb separatist leader, threatened to violate the longstanding Dayton Peace Agreement in order to seek Serbian unification throughout the region.
The Balkans are still contending with the legacy of the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s, characterized by widespread weaponized sexual violence. Since 2018, survivors of sexual violence in Kosovo have been eligible to receive a monthly pension yet still face stigma, trauma, and structural barriers to accessing support. Past peace agreements included few, if any, women negotiators at the time. In Kosovo’s case, just three percent of negotiators for the 1999 agreement were women, while no women participated in the Dayton Peace Agreement. Increased militarization and any new fighting jeopardize women’s safety and wellbeing throughout the region. In 2024, any attempts to mediate tension in Kosovo and the wider Balkans must meaningfully include women’s voices.
Armed groups likely to exploit new expansion opportunities, increasing the likelihood of violence and repression of women
On January 1, 2024, UN peacekeepers completed their withdrawal from Mali, echoing similar departures of French forces from Niger and Burkina Faso in 2023. As a result, women may face greater security threats and barriers to participation in 2024. Exits by UN peacekeepers create an opening for armed extremist groups and the Russian mercenary group, Wagner, to expand their influence in Mali and the wider Sahel region. The expansion of these groups heightens the risk of violence against women and the curtailment of women’s rights.
This year, armed extremist groups in Mali are likely to continue exploiting compounding crises—including poverty, climate change, and conflict—to recruit new members. Armed groups have been known to appeal to local masculine ideals of being a provider and protector to encourage men to join. For women, strengthened extremist groups may mean restrictions on their rights under jihadi governance, including dress, movement, and ability to engage in decision-making, as well as the continued threat of physical and sexual violence by combatants. The growing influence of Wagner forces across the region is a further concern, given reports of Wagner members raping and massacring Malian civilians. In addition to protection concerns, the withdrawal of international forces could also erode progress to promote women’s inclusion, as UN peacekeepers with a mandate to advance WPS goals had supported efforts to bolster Malian women’s participation. For instance, their role in drafting and sharing Mali’s national reconciliation Charter.
Women remain on the frontlines of Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement
Women comprise 60 percent of Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement, serving as frontline fighters in the armed resistance, leaders of nonviolent protests and civil disobedience, and humanitarian responders. A new offensive currently mounted by a rebel alliance reportedly poses the greatest threat yet to the ruling military junta, although fierce fighting persists. Despite their involvement in the pro-democracy movement, women continue to face obstacles to full participation, including displacement, socioeconomic hardship, restrictive gender-based roles, and patriarchal attitudes that favor older men as leaders. In past negotiations, women were underrepresented in formal Track One diplomacy—something that must be rectified in any future peace talks. At the same time, local women-led organizations remain uniquely equipped to enact backchannel discussions and deliver frontline aid, including to marginalized communities. These critical contributions by Burmese women must be recognized and supported going forward, alongside comprehensive inclusion in any official negotiations.
Women—both at home and in the diaspora—face barriers to participating in the 2024 election
After numerous delays, elections—the first since South Sudan’s independence—are currently scheduled for December 2024. Women face significant obstacles to political participation, including poverty, recurrent climate shocks, widespread gender-based violence, and displacement. In addition to making it harder to meet basic survival needs, these factors limit opportunities for women’s full inclusion in social, economic, and political life. Opinion polls show that the majority of South Sudanese anticipate violence during the election, which would pose significant risks to women when traveling to polling locations, including possible exposure to sexual violence.
At the same time, South Sudan is contending with the world’s largest displacement crisis: more than 2.2 million South Sudanese—most of whom are women and children—are refugees and asylum-seekers. Displacement further complicates women’s ability to vote due to location and potential difficulty proving age and citizenship. An estimated 90 percent of South Sudanese people lack National ID. Women also have significantly lower rates of literacy than men, an additional barrier to accessing election information. Lawmakers and civil society must institute measures to promote women’s political participation in South Sudan and in the diaspora and to protect women voters and candidates as part of ongoing election security and violence mitigation planning.
Sexual and gender-based violence in Darfur warns of genocide amidst a national humanitarian crisis
The risk of genocide persists in Darfur, where mass rape perpetrated by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and allied forces is characterized by ethnic dimensions. Since fighting began in April 2023 between the RSF and the Sudanese Armed Forces, civilians have faced the brunt of the violence, with thousands killed and millions displaced. Women and girls continue to be subjected to brutal sexual and gender-based violence across the country. International agencies also face security and bureaucratic barriers to operating in RSF-held areas, further exacerbating the unfolding humanitarian crisis as civilians lack access to adequate food, shelter, and healthcare. An International Criminal Court investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, including sexual violence, will continue this year. Recently, the RSF prevented citizens from fleeing captured territory in Gezira state, while the RSF’s leader has engaged in a regional diplomatic tour, which could signal that the RSF may be trying to prove its ability to govern—a dangerous proposition for women and girls given the group’s rampant use of sexual violence.
Women were at the forefront of the democratic movement that helped topple a 30-year dictatorship in 2019, yet were marginalized by the subsequent transitional government. Women and local community groups also play a vital role on the frontlines providing humanitarian assistance. External actors should remain committed this year to supporting Sudanese civilians in their quest for a civilian-led inclusive democracy. We believe women and civil society groups are being actively excluded from negotiations regarding Sudan’s future. The full and meaningful inclusion of women and civil society is crucial to any restoration of democracy. With violence still spreading, alarm over possible genocide in Darfur and widespread civilian suffering across Sudan now persist into 2024.
Women’s inclusion remains vital across all aspects of security, relief, and recovery
Women continue to play central roles in Ukraine’s war efforts as soldiers, parliamentarians, diplomats, advocates, civil society leaders, and documentors of war crimes. In addition to maintaining the ongoing war effort in 2024, Ukraine will contend with pressing needs for relief, recovery, and reconstruction. These efforts encompass humanitarian response—including for the more than 3.6 million internally displaced people, of whom 60 percent are women—and continued efforts at accountability for wartime violations, such as sexual violence and rape documented by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine. In December 2023, the European Union began allocating financial returns accrued by frozen Russian funds towards Ukraine’s reconstruction—a process that must be approved by the European Parliament and all EU Member States and is likely to face attempted blocks. Given these complications and the possibility of foreign aid cuts, relief and recovery funds targeted for women’s needs could be further strained this year. Switzerland recently announced it will convene a global peace summit on Ukraine, although specific details are not yet known. Women’s voices and needs are integral to these efforts and must be included in all forums, notably upcoming donor conferences.
The smooth reintegration of fighters back into Ukrainian society will remain a further challenge as the war persists. In December 2023, the Cabinet of Ministers submitted a draft law amending the procedure for mobilization, demobilization, and military registration, which did not account for the specific needs of women combatants. As parliament now considers a revised draft of the law, it will be critical that impacts on both women and men combatants be taken into account. There are at least 60,000 women in Ukraine’s military who will eventually require demobilization and reintegration services. Civilian women also face increased domestic violence as male soldiers return home; data from Ukraine’s National Police show a 51 percent increase in registered domestic violence cases in the first five months of 2023. All demobilization and reintegration support would benefit from a gender-sensitive approach.
A continued legacy of exclusion from official peace talks and further restrictions on women’s rights
As 2024 began, Yemen appeared to be closer than ever to a peace agreement between Houthi rebels and Saudi Arabia, however the regional spread of conflict between Israel and Hamas and the increasing involvement of Houthi rebels in Yemen may endanger peace negotiations. To date, women remain sidelined from peace talks and government roles, continuing a pattern of exclusion from past negotiations. No women negotiators participated in Yemen’s 2020 talks nor in the 2019 Riyadh agreement, and the 2018 Stockholm agreement included just one woman delegate out of 25. Without robust inclusion of women, any future peace agreement risks entrenching gender discrimination and undermining women’s rights and priorities in Yemen.
Women’s exclusion is in opposition to the quota adopted in the Yemeni National Dialogue Conference and the Yemeni Constitution, which requires 30 percent of all government positions, delegations, and committee members to be held by women. Almost one-third of delegates to the Yemeni National Dialogue were women, further underscoring the disparity between women’s participation in the national dialogue process and in subsequent peace talks. Women continue striving to influence peace talks through civil society despite facing escalating restrictions on their rights in rebel-held areas, including laws requiring women to have a male guardian when traveling. Women activists face considerable danger, as evidenced by the December 2023 death sentence of Fatima Saleh al-Arwali, the former head of the Yemen office of the Arab League’s Union of Women Leaders.