Former President Mary Robinson has said the involvement of women is central to achieving peace in parts of the world where there is conflict.
She was speaking at the start of a two-day symposium in Galway, where delegates will discuss efforts to resolve the 20-year conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Almost five million people have been killed over the last two decades.
Hundreds of thousands of women and children have been subjected to sexual and gender based violence.
Mrs Robinson said a gradual shift in attitudes had put the focus on the role women could and should play in achieving a peaceful resolution.
The former president was appointed UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region last year. Since then she has been focusing on the work to address the challenges in the region.
She said there was a real recognition that this was the moment to move forward and that there was a political will to make this happen.
Mrs Robinson said the next few years would be vital and compared the efforts to the Northern peace process, when she said a "peace dividend" had concentrated minds on the prize that could be achieved with agreement and co-operation.
The symposium at NUI Galway is taking place as part of an ongoing collaboration between the institution and the Washington-based Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.
Its Director Melanne Verveer said the policies and ideas formulated at the event in Galway could be applied to conflict zones in other parts of the world.