Louise Olsson is Research Director of the Global Norms, Politics and Society Department and leads PRIO’s Gender Research Group. Her research focuses on the gendered dynamics of war, effects of conflict resolution on women’s rights, and Women, Peace and Security (WPS) in Nordic national security and defense policies and implementation. She is the author of articles appearing in International Negotiations, Global Governance, Social Science Research, Journal of Global Security Studies, and International Peacekeeping.
Olsson is engaged in promoting the effective use of research results and approaches in decision-making and policy formulation. For example, she has been part of arranging a series of Dialog Forums to support the Ministry for Foreign Affairs during Norway’s term in the UN Security Council 2021-2022. Olsson also regularly contributes to course at the Nordic Center for Gender in Military Operations and to the Swedish Armed Forces’ senior leadership training program on gender equality. For example, she has acted as a coach to the Supreme Commander and to the Chief of Joint Operations. Prior to coming to PRIO, she worked in the Swedish government agency, the Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA), as a Senior Advisor to the leadership on gender mainstreaming and WPS.
As part of her work at FBA, she organized an international research group (2009-2018) with the aim to promote systematic empirical research of relevance for the implementation of WPS. Olsson has also served as Chair of the International Studies Association's (ISA) Professional Development Committee (April 2022- April 2024) and as a member of the ISA's Research and Workshop Committee (2016-2018).
Olsson got her PhD from the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University in 2007 with the thesis Equal Peace. United Nations Peace Operations and the Power-Relations between men and women in Timor-Leste (published by Brill 2009). She began her career in 1999 by contributing to the UN-led project Mainstreaming a Gender Perspective in Multidimensional Peace Operations which held its final workshop in Windhoek in May 2000.
Current and former projects:
Gendered dynamics of war
- The Inclusion of Women in Ceasefire Processes (2023). This project, led by Siri Rustad, aims to examine both under which circumstances women are included in ceasefire processes and how their inclusion affected the dynamics of the negotiations, including the potential adoption of gender provisions in the agreement. Funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- Inequality and insurgency in India: a disaggregated analysis of the link between gender inequality and armed conflict (2015-2018 with Erika Forsberg, Uppsala University). By combining fieldwork with statistical analysis of new micro-level data on India’s 640 districts, this project sought to improve our understanding of the mechanisms behind gender inequality and violent conflict. Funded by the Swedish Research Council.
- Disciplining Fighters: Understanding Armed Political Actors’ Control of Sexual Violence (2016-2019. With Angela Muvumba-Sällström, Uppsala University). This project studied why and how diverse types of armed groups, with their varied agendas, motivations, institutions and gradations of sociality during wartime, create preventive cultures and pathways. Funded by the Swedish Research Council
Conflict resolution and women’s rights
- Shattering glass: African Elected Members of the UN Security Council and the Fight for Women, Peace and Security. While previous research has tended to treat the Security Council as a unitary actor, this qualitative project analyses and compares the strategies and actions of a select number of elected states. Thereby, the project strives to capture dynamics related to economic development, contributions to peacekeeping, and roles in regional conflicts and their solution. The project places a particular emphasis on collaborations between younger researchers from the African continent and on public dissemination and dialogue. The project is led by Angela Muvumba Sellström and funded by the Swedish Research Council. It is part of a broader PRIO-Nordic Africa Institute effort to expand our knowledge of the UN Security Council at a time of drastic changes in the geopolitical landscape.
- From Hopeful Agreements to Disillusioned Peace? The effects of peace agreement implementation on women’s security and empowerment (2018-2021). This project combines a global study tracking gender aspects in a set of peace processes, with in-depth analysis of Colombia, including both survey and focus group data. Funded by the Swedish Research Council.
- Tracking and analyzing WPS in the Security Council in real time. Are we moving from rhetoric to impactful action by integrating Women, Peace and Security in regular UN Security Council resolutions? This project tracked and analyzed WPS language as resolutions got adopted in 2021 and by back-coding to 2015 when the Global Study and UN Security Council resolution 2242 both underlined the need for in-depth analysis of the Council's own efforts to realize the WPS agenda. Thereby, the novel data provided by this project provided us with detailed information about current developments and allows us to develop strategies for effective ways forward. Funded by the Norwegian Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
- Equal Peace? Women’s Empowerment and Multicultural Challenges in War-to-Peace Transitions (2018) Olsson contributed with a study of women mediator networks (with Anna Möller-Loswick, and Camilla Riesenfeld at FBA) and with a chapter on the production of the Global Study to the Oxford Handbook on Women, Peace and Security (with Ismene Gizelis, University of Essex).
WPS and Nordic national security and defense.
- Should I stay or Should I go? (2020-2023 with co-project leader Chiara Ruffa, Erik Melander, and Sara Lindberg-Bromley, Uppsala University). The project asks: What determines if women choose to leave or to stay employed in a male-dominated organization? Addressing that question is key for being able to establish a more gender-equal workplace. Drawing on novel qualitative and quantitative material, this interdisciplinary project therefore aims to advance our knowledge on what factors affect the retention of female personnel. Funded by the Swedish Research Council on Health, Working Life and Welfare.
- Women, peace, and security in the defense of Sweden (2019-2021, located at Uppsala University). With the return to a focus on national defense, this project studied issues regarding the protection and resilience of the population and the role of gender equality and the norm on Women, Peace and Security in a national defense and security context. The project was funded by the Swedish Armed Forces.
- Reducing Barriers for Women in the Norwegian Armed Forces' Peacekeeping Contributions (2020-2021 with the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF) and Sabrina Karim at Cornell University). The aim of the project was to assess the relative importance of barriers for women and men's deployment to UN and NATO military missions. Funded by DCAF.
- Sweden in the UN Security Council: Making Women, Peace and Security Core Council Business? (2019-2020) The objective of this first joint PRIO-Uppsala University/Nordic Africa Institute project was to increase our knowledge on the role of an elected member in two respects: 1) It provided insights into a) the assessments and decisions involved in forming the elected member’s aims and strategy, and b) the tactical manoeuvring of the conditions which affect an elected member’s efforts to promote WPS within the UNSC’s responsibilities and processes. 2) It demonstrated a) how the effects of an elected member’s actions on the WPS trajectory can be understood, and b) outline a model for assessing progress on integration into UNSC’s responsibilities. Funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and FBA.