Kathleen Kuehnast is the director of the Women, Peace and Security portfolio at USIP, where she oversees the Institute’s work on the gendered impacts of violent conflict, drawing upon U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325, emphasizing the critical role women play in all aspects of peacebuilding.

Since 2012, Kuehnast has served as a founding partner of the Missing Peace Initiative, which is focused on ending conflict-related sexual violence by bringing a survivor-centered focus to research, policy and practice. Since 2010, she has also spearheaded the U.S. Civil Society Work Group on Women, Peace and Security, of which USIP is the secretariat.

Prior to USIP, Kuehnast worked in the international development field, primarily with the World Bank, where her role as a senior social scientist included research and project management on the thematic streams of women and poverty, social capital, and community driven development in fragile and post-conflict societies. Her regional expertise is in Central Asia, where she lived for several years during the initial years of the post-Soviet period in Kyrgyzstan completing her doctoral dissertation research.

Kuehnast’s most recent publication is the chapter “Gender and Armed Conflict” that appears in the volume “The Gender and Security Agenda: Promoting Equality and Peace in the 21st Century.”

She was the 2015 recipient of the Perdita Huston Human Rights Award from the U.N. Association of the National Capital Area. Kuehnast holds a doctorate in sociocultural anthropology from the University of Minnesota and received a post-doctorate Mellon Foreign Fellowship at the Library of Congress and a Kennan Institute Fellowship at the Wilson Center. Kuehnast is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations.


Gender Inclusive Framework and Theory guide cover

Featured Publications

Gender Inclusive Framework and Theory

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Gender Inclusive Framework and Theory (GIFT) guide is an approachable and thorough tool that facilitates the integration of gender analysis into project design. Because peacebuilding work is context dependent, the GIFT puts forth three approaches...

Publications By Kathleen

Missing Peace Initiative: Listen to Survivors to Prevent Sexual Violence in War

Missing Peace Initiative: Listen to Survivors to Prevent Sexual Violence in War

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

By: Kathleen Kuehnast, Ph.D.;  Margot Wallström;  Sofiia Kornieieva;  Kolbassia Haoussou;  Sayda Eisa Ismail;  Mause-Darline Francois

For over a decade, the Missing Peace Initiative has brought together scholars, policymakers, practitioners and survivors of conflict-related sexual violence to discuss new ways to prevent this scourge of war. At the initiative’s second global symposium, USIP spoke with several experts on the progress made in the last 10 years, the importance of hearing directly from survivors and persons with disabilities, and the continued work that needs to be done to end this horrific crime.

Type: Blog

Conflict Analysis & PreventionGender

Five Gains and Gaps in the Campaign to End Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

Five Gains and Gaps in the Campaign to End Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

By: Chantal de Jonge Oudraat;  Kathleen Kuehnast, Ph.D.

The wars of the 1990s — particularly in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) — saw the devastating use of sexual violence not only by individual subordinate soldiers, but as deliberate tactics of war by state and non-state armed actors. In response, a wave of strong advocacy from women’s civil society organizations called for an end to these acts of violence, and their vision was eventually incorporated into U.N. Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and what is now known as the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda in 2000.

Type: Analysis and Commentary


Four Ways to Include Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Atrocity Prevention

Four Ways to Include Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Atrocity Prevention

Thursday, September 29, 2022

By: Lauren Baillie;  Kathleen Kuehnast, Ph.D.;  Mikaylah Ladue

Conflict-related sexual violence is not only an indicator of rising atrocity risk — it can also constitute an atrocity crime itself. And while the U.S. government has implemented conflict-related sexual violence response efforts, concurrent international efforts on the issue offer a solid foundation for the United States to go beyond responding to these crimes and toward prevention.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & PreventionGenderHuman Rights

Protecting the Participation of Women Peacebuilders

Protecting the Participation of Women Peacebuilders

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

By: Negar Ashtari Abay, Ph.D.;  Kathleen Kuehnast, Ph.D.

Worsening violence against women is often a precursor to — and early outcome of — the rise in coups and authoritarianism that have made recent headlines. Not only does protecting women’s participation in public life and decision-making go hand-in-hand with democracy, but the former is actually a precondition for the latter. As we mark International Women’s Day in 2022, we would do well to remember that global efforts to prevent violent conflict and sustain peace are significantly undermined when women are deterred from access to participation and full leadership without fear of reprisals and violence. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

GenderPeace Processes

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