All Words and No Action: Marginalizing Women in Peace Processes

Friday, October 12, 2012

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Have you been following the anti-drone peace march in Pakistan? Have you heard about the horrific shooting of 14 year old Malala Yousufzai? Peace activists from Pakistan and abroad have protested both these serious injustices this month. On the drone protests, people have united against the American government's use of drone technology in Waziristan, which target large civilian gatherings without distinction, or significant intelligence, meaning many thousands of innocent civilians have lost their lives. To combat this indiscriminate violence and use of drone technology against civilians, the WILPF-Pakistan-section has organized two meetings for the 15 American peace activists during this month. The Peace delegation is led by Ms. Medea Benjamin, a women's rights and peace activist and founder of CodePink. Sameena Nazir, President WILPF Pakistan and Director of the Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy (PODA), shared information about women's rights and peace issues in Pakistan and spoke about the local perspectives and consequence of drone attacks. Read more >>

This month has also seen serious regressions for women's inclusion in peace processes. I recently met with women from Burma who discussed the economic military exploitation and women's marginalization in their state's international engagement. They flagged this new report which exposes the state's failure to consult with civil society, to include a women and gender perspective in the peace-process, and to consider the root causes of the conflict. The report also includes recommendations from civil society organizations and Burma's ethnic communities to the Peace Donor Support Group (PDSG), particularly Norway and the World Bank, with regards to their ambition to promote peace and development in Burma by establishing a peace fund.

Despite the rhetoric, the exclusion of women is also evident in the latest developments in Colombia. We feature a special article on Colombia in this ENews and will continue to share news on the developments there, and the work of WILPF (Limpal) Colombia.

Back in New York, the annual Security Council meeting on Women, Peace and Security will take place on October 29th. The theme of the Debate is the “Role of Women's Civil Society Organizations in Contributing to the Prevention and Resolution of Armed Conflict and Peacebuilding.” Guatemala holds the Presidency of the Security Council. The latest UN Secretary-General's Report includes an update mostly on UN's work and data on some of the global indicators, rather than an in-depth analysis of challenges and lack of implementation. What the data in the report demonstrates, is that despite words and resolutions, there remains distinct lack of action on Women Peace and Security globally. Of the nine peace agreements that were signed last year - only 2 (22 percent) contained women and peace and security provisions. Furthermore, out of the 14 peace processes that were underway in 2011, only 4 of the negotiating party delegations included a woman delegate.

As with previous years, WILPF will provide input to the NGO statement in the Council and the PeaceWomen team will monitor the Open Debate for Security Council Monitor.

This year's General Assembly First Committee will address for the second time, the issue of women and disarmament, arms control, and non-proliferation through a resolution tabled by the government of Trinidad and Tobago. This resolution, first introduced and adopted by consensus as Resolution 65/69 in 2010, recognizes “the valuable contribution of women to practical disarmament measures carried out at the local, national, regional and sub-regional levels in the prevention and reduction of armed violence and armed conflict, and in promoting disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control.” Read article on this in RCW 1st Committee Monitor>>

In this edition, we are featuring news and resources that highlight the role women and work of women activists in Somalia and Somaliland, North Africa and the Middle East, Columbia, Indonesia and the Philippines, and much more. Featured initiatives include several new and exciting books on women, war, peace and security. We encourage you all to read these 3 powerful and compelling new books! And with the open Debate on Women Peace and Security scheduled for later this month, we are also featuring side events to take place internationally.

Finally, we are very proud to have launched the new WILPF International Website this week! Check it out at Lots of information on WILPF's work and also read Madeleine's latest blog on the controversial new Report on sexual violence in conflict which she calls irresponsible.

Security open debate on Children in Armed Conflict

On Wednesday September 19th 2012, the Security Council held an open debate on Children in Armed Conflict (CAAC). The main focus was the Secretary-General Report on Children and Armed Conflict (S/2012/261). The council adopted Resolution 2068 on CAAC, which addressed the issue of persistent perpetrators and the need to end impunity through the use of national and international justice mechanisms.

Out of the collective forty-six statements, twelve Member States made gender references, as did Special Representative Leila Zerrougui, Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. The majority of these statements referred to sexual violence, systematic rape and sexual torture perpetrated against young girls during times of armed conflict, and did not refer to the agency of girls and young women or their role in conflict prevention, resolution or reconciliation and recovery.

Unlike last year's debate, not one statement made direct reference to UN Security Council resolutions on Women, Peace and Security (UNSCR 1325, 1820, 1888, 1889 and 1960). It must be remembered that sexual violence as experienced by children in armed conflict is not mutually exclusive from sexual violence as expressed in resolutions on Women, Peace and Security; and that even the young are more than just passive victims during conflict, who also possess the potential to actively contribute to conflict prevention, reconciliation and recovery.

General Debate of the 67th Session of the General Assembly

During the week-long General Debate, the General- Secretary Ban Ki-moon, the President of the General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic and representatives from 193 member states put forth their concerns, positions and priorities to the Assembly under the theme of “adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations by peaceful means”.

Out of a total of 194 analyzed statements, 58 contained general comments on women and gender issues. A majority of them, such as India, Belgium and Papua New Guinea, mentioned their commitment to advance gender equality and promoting women's political and economical participation, both nationally and within the UN agencies. A general tendency in the statements was that women were referred to in a context where the needs and rights of vulnerable groups in the society were addressed, such as people with disabilities, elderly, youth, children, refugees and minorities. Repeating patterns of previous years, statements tended to depict women as mere victims in need of greater protection and failed to address their important role as agents for peace and security.

Breaking Barriers: What it will take to Achieve Security, Justice, and Peace."

From 26 – 28 September 2012, 146 women peacemakers and peacebuilders gathered at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice (KIPJ) in San Diego for its fifth international conference, “Breaking Barriers--What it will take to achieve security, justice, and peace.” WILPF participated with delegates from the US Section and WILPF Secretary General Madeleine Rees and International Coordinator Petra Totterman Andorff.

Three plenary sessions, over three days, addressed the themes Security, Justice, and Peacebuilding, respectively, followed by break-out, action-oriented sessions and workshops on these topics. WILPF was represented in the first panel on Security where the participants discussed the challenges to women's security and participation that the current political security agenda poses. One of the major themes of the discussion was the militarization of societies and the need for the integration of gender perspective into all elements of security. A gender perspective in conflict resolution would show, for example, the correlation between sexual abuse and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in conflict areas.

Also addressing the funding of war, Petra Totterman Androff, emphasized the importance of shifting military expenditures for armament to funding to meet human rights and security needs. She concluded that nations are engaged in the “overspending on war and the underfunding of peace.”

On the last day of the conference Keynote Speaker Madeleine Rees summarized the outcomes and gave an inspiring speech on how the global women's activist movement can move forward and break the many barriers to women's participation and human security. She reminded the conferees to raise their voice to power to inform their governments of women's human rights laws and resolutions, instruments to be used to achieve what women want: security, justice, and peace. Through these efforts with NGOs, women will speak out for new definitions of security, universal and transformative justice, control of the arms trade, and abolition of nuclear weapons.

Peace Talks in Colombia Sideline Women

Colombia's government has failed to bring in women to the forthcoming peace negotiations despite substantial advocacy from women's organizations around the country. In a recent open letter to the Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, the 1325 Working Group (which includes: Red Nacional de Mujeres, Alianza Iniciativa de Mujeres Colombianas por la paz, Corporación de Investigación y Social y Económica (CIASE), WILPF Colombia / LIMPAL Colombia, Afrolider and DeJusticia, which is also a member of the group but did not sign the letter) publicly called for women's inclusion and consideration of women's concerns in the peace talks. The fact that women have now been completely sidelined from the official peace table is not only a major disappointment, but also indicative of Colombia's inability to meet their international commitments to include women as specified by UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325).

The organizations in the 1325 Working Group are all committed to increasing the recognition of women's rights and experiences in the context of the conflict, although their focuses and contributions differ. For example, Red Nacional de Mujeres is also running a campaign to end violence against women and girls by urging men to be agents of change; Alianza Iniciativa de Mujeres Colombianas por la paz is fighting for the release of people held in captivity by the FARC; Corporación de Investigacón y Acción Social y Económica (CIASE) is promoting human rights with special attention to economic, social and cultural rights; and LIMPAL Colombia is empowering women who have suffered displacement politically, socially and economically to become leaders in their communities. The 1325 Working Group also works in cooperation with international women's organizations and holds work-shops around the country which seek to localize UNSCR 1325 and 1820. A series of workshops, conducted in September, brought local women's groups and leaders together to promote legislation and funding to advance the implementation of the resolutions in local development plans.

Like so many other regions around the world that experience conflict women are at the heart of every conflict resolution and reconciliation process. Their skills, experience and perspectives are a vital ingredient to achieving sustainable peace, and their inclusion is mandated by UNSCR 1325. It is therefore a grave disappointment that the Columbian government has thus far marginalized women and their interests in the peace negotiations.

These organizations are a powerful voice for peace and women's rights in Colombia and we fully support their work.

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an annual global campaign initiated by the Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL) which runs from November 25, International Day against Violence against Women, through December 10, International Human Rights Day.

The campaign's recent focus has been on the intersections of militarism and violence against women, and this theme will continue during the 2012 campaign “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let's Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!”

Militarism harms all of society and remains a principle source and cause of violence against women. Militarism privileges violent forms of masculinity, promotes violence as a means of conflict resolution, facilitates the proliferation of arms and diverts resources away from gender equality, sustainable development and conflict prevention activities. Militarism not only has material and institutional impacts; it shapes cultural and psychological attitudes and reinforces rigid gender roles that subordinate women to men in public and private spheres.

The connection between violence against women and militarization has been a core of WILPF's agenda for almost 100 years (see WILPF's ongoing campaign “You get what you pay for”), and this is now gaining global momentum. Thanks to the efforts of feminist peace and security researchers, we now have the benefit of a growing evidence base to support our activism- which unequivocally demonstrates the strong link between state security and women's security. We can no longer afford to ignore the connection between militarization and women's security – this is the new ‘realpolitik'.

So how can you become involved in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence and support disarmament for gender equality? Here are the steps WILPF suggests to get you started:

Step 1: Review the 16 Days Campaign website and Take Action Kit

Step 2: Form a Project Team & Planning Committee

Step 3: Research SIPRI Data

Step 4: Read WILPF's “You Get What You Pay For”

Step 5: Start your own country or global analysis on Military spending & gender violence

Step 6: Report your findings to WILPF and the Center for Women's Global Leadership (16 Days Campaign)

This year WILPF have created a special campaign logo, merging WILPF's own logo with the dark purple colour of the official campaign. Our sections around the world are planning actions, and if you are a member of a WILPF section we encourage you to share you activities with us, so we can promote them. As part of the campaign WILPF will also be releasing 16 blogs – one for every day of the campaign. You can follow our blogs at the new WILPF International website.

If want to become a member, or establish a local WILPF section please contact us at PeaceWomen or WILPF International.

Download the WILPF 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign Flyer here.