Definition of Insanity and Reflections on CSW 58 -- PeaceWomen E-News, March 2014

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

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Are we all a touch insane? According to Liberian peace activist and Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee, we could be! At the last Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) Session 58 event I attended (an important event on the crisis in South Sudan), Leymah Gbowee reminded the room that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. She was referring to our collective work in relation to women's participation at peace talks. She recalled and praised WILPF founder, Jane Addams, and underlined that 100 years ago, peace women were doing the same as today - organizing and calling for peace and voice - and yet still today in South Sudan, Syria and Colombia, women are excluded.

I agree something is insane about women civil society not having access to peace talks, although I am not convinced it is us – more likely the system of exclusion. Leymah's comments did however evoke questions about our strategies - how can we tackle resistances differently?

At CSW 58, we experienced these resistances again. There was significant pushback to agreed language even on human rights as a whole, as well as on sexual and reproductive rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, and comprehensive health education. A small number of States (led by the USA and China) were also able to delete support for reducing military spending and financing development. This is a failure of the CSW 58 Agreed Conclusions, not to include already agreed language from Rio (1992) and Beijing (1995) on financing development by reducing military spending. Indeed, new ways to tackle this resistance and galvanize support for stronger progressive language in the post-2015 development framework must be found. Despite this, the Agreed Conclusions did successfully demand gender equality to be prioritized in the post-2015 development agenda by calling for a stand-alone Gender Equality Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) and gender integrated throughout all other SDGs. They also recalled the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) resolutions and call for measures to implement and monitor the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations, ensure women's effective participation in peace processes and conflict situations, and end impunity. For further analysis, see >>>

For me, CSW shows that we are innovating, strategizing and finding new partnerships like never before. What CSW brings forth is energy, new friendships and ideas that we must build on. Take for example, our work on bringing together women from Syria and Bosnia, educating policymakers and practitioners with our expanded WPS mobile app, and in all of our work overcoming silos and promoting change through our integrated approach promoting sustainable peace and development through disarmament and women's full and equal participation and rights. We must avoid doing the same things over and over and not seeing change, but we must also stand steadfast against resistance and a system of exclusion, which wants us to retreat and be silenced. We need a touch of madness to continue our work, to keep pushing for change, to keep exposing the wrongs and continue pushing for new ways to realize peace and equality.

We as WILPF had an energizing experience at this CSW overall, where 75 activists and advocates from the WILPF global network joined the WILPF international staff and over 3000 other civil society participants at hundreds of events in a two-week long hustle and bustle around UN Headquarters. WILPFers came from Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan, Colombia, Geneva and many places in between. They united as the WILPF CSW 58 delegation to collectively raise our voices and bring attention to the fact that you get what you pay for, and there can be no peace or development without disarmament and women's full and equal human rights. Together, we spoke fiercely and truthfully. We organized 10 successful events and we mobilized and built momentum around WILPF's 100th anniversary movement recognizing Women's Power to Stop War! Thanks to everyone who joined us and shared a photo in our #100Women4Peace photo campaign, and if you have not yet participated, please do! For a summary of WILPF's participation in CSW 58 and all our events, see here>>>

WILPF will be inviting all peace activists and supporters to avoid the insanity of the current war system and join our “Women's Power to Stop War” Peace Summit in April 2015 where we will be promoting radical thinking for the future! Let's innovate together and design the next 100 years for peace.

This month's E-news will provide a recap of WILPF's participation in the CSW 58, an article on Madeleine Rees' recent award, an overview of WILPF's #100Women4Peace campaign and an article on WILPF's advocacy work on disarmament. Under resources, you will find, amongst others, a report on the sexual and gender-based violence experienced by Syrian women and a report on the impact of explosive weapons on women. This month's news features updates from Kosovo, Lebanon and South Sudan. Happy reading!

WILPF at the 58th Commission on the Status of Women

Written by: Sandra Neuman

The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) participated in this year's Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) with over 75 participants from all over the world. WILPF participants included members and partners from a wide range of countries, namely: Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, Eritrea, France, India, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria and across the USA, fostering local and global dialogue.

On March 8th, International Women's day, WILPF arranged an orientation session for its delegation. On this day, WILPF members, young and old, connected, reconnected and discussed advocacy strategies for the coming week. It was also the day we kicked off our campaign “100Women4Peace”, an exciting photo gallery of women rights advocates from all over the world sharing their support for women's power to stop war. Eager to advocate peace, gender equality and women's empowerment at the numerous CSW58 events, our participants displayed a passionate commitment to promote WILPF's key priority areas to ultimately strengthen the CSW58 Agreed Conclusions. This year, WILPF's priority areas focused on strengthening gender equality and peace in the Post2015 development agenda by recognizing the links between conflict prevention and development, building on the Women Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, financing development with disarmament, and implementing the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

WILPF held and co-sponsored 10 events in total during this year's CSW. Our panels showcased the powerful voices of women working for peace, disarmament and women's rights from around the world. WILPF's Secretary General, Madeleine Rees, spoke at many of our events stressing that there can be no development without disarmament and reiterating the importance of having women's participation in peace negotiations for sustainable and long-lasting peace. “When women are not represented in peace processes, it is a failure. It is absolutely vital to include women in peace negotiations”, said Madeleine Rees discussing the situation in Syria.

WILPF's PeaceWomen team (Maria Butler, Abigail Ruane, Cristina Chahine, Sandra Neuman, and Shafferan Sonneveld) monitored over 60 events during this year's CSW. Stay tuned for the CSW58 PeaceWomen Summary Report! For more information on WILPF and CSW please visit our PeaceWomen website.

CSW Highlights

Quote: “We must move past the medieval narrative that peace is only possible by negotiations among male war-makers.” – Secretary General Madeleine Rees at WILPF CSW58 event: From Bosnia to Syria: Women Organizing for Peace, Rights and Accountability.

Quote: “Gender equality is not a woman's issue – it is an issue for all.” – Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (UN Women Executive Director) at CSW58 event: Engaging Men and Boys to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for Women and Girls.

Quote: “Peace without women is never real peace.” – Nawal Yazeji, (Syrian Women's League), at WILPF CSW58 event: Women, Peace and Security: Participation in Peace Processes.

Some Overarching Messages from CSW 58 Events

  • Design the next development agenda to prevent conflict and promote peace
  • Include a stand-alone Gender Equality goal as one of the next Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and mainstream gender throughout all other goals
  • Finance development with disarmament
  • Strengthen women's participation in peace processes for sustainable peace and development
  • Strengthen accountability for non-state actors - including international financial institutions and corporations - for women's human rights
  • Engage men and boys to promote gender equality

Abolishing Arms: From New York to Geneva

Written by: Cristina Chahine and Shafferan Sonneveld

For us at the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), it is clear: there can be no peace or development without disarmament and women's full and equal participation and human rights. This month, we shed light on the need for disarmament at three separate events – two in New York and one in Geneva.

New York
On the morning of March 11, WILPF Nigeria's Joy Onyesoh and WILPF's Reaching Critical Will (RCW) Director Ray Acheson spoke on the panel of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 58 event “Nuclear Proliferation and the Peace and Security Agenda: the Challenges it Poses for the MDGs for Women and Girls in Africa.” The event examined how African women's engagement in the nuclear weapons discourse can set the agenda for a global movement working towards the prospects of a ban on nuclear weapons and examined the challenges that nuclear proliferation poses to development.

On the same morning, WILPF hosted the CSW 58 event titled “No Development without Disarmament”, bringing together regional and global perspectives on women's peace activism to discuss how to strengthen an integrated approach to peace as part of a post-2015 development agenda. According to WILPF Secretary General Madeleine Rees, an integrated approach that prevents conflict by reducing militarism and arms and strengthening women's participation and rights is critical to sustainable development and peace. Read the summary of this event here >>>

On the occasion of International Women's Day, WILPF attended the Conference of Disarmament (CD) in Geneva to give a civil society statement. On behalf of WILPF's RCW, Mia Gandenberger reminded States that disarmament treaties should “prevent civilian casualties, prevent humanitarian catastrophes, and should prevent armed violence and escalation of armed conflicts.” Read the summary of this event here >>>

As we continue to advocate for disarmament, WILPF calls to include the issue of disarmament in the post-2015 development framework as essential for achieving sustainable development. For more information on how to get involved, see the website of WILPF's Disarmament Programme, RCW.

2014 Recipient of the CUNY Law School Dean's Social Justice Award: Madeleine Rees

Written by: Sandra Neuman

“I've been doing this since I was three years old. Whenever I saw injustice I had to do something about it personally.”
- Madeleine Rees

On the evening of Thursday March 13, WILPF Secretary General Madeleine Rees was awarded the 2014 CUNY School of Law Dean's Social Justice Award in recognition of her leading legacy of advocating for women's human rights in the context of conflict. An acclaimed panel of women's rights experts honoured and thanked Rees for the work she has done for women all over the world. Liesl Gerntholtz of Human Rights Watch recognized Rees for always creating space for women to talk to other women - bringing together people from grassroots level to talk to diplomats and vice versa. Filmmaker and peace activist Abigail Disney said that she knew that Rees was a visionary and a genius when she met her. Radhika Balakrishnan of the Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL) affirmed Rees as a “radical partner” for peace.

The event also included a discussion about the Bosnia to Syria experience, when Rees brought together women from Bosnia and Syria for a groundbreaking conference on women's participation in conflict and post-conflict countries. Rees stated that women are not only victims of war but also have a vital role to include their knowledge in peace processes, noting that “they should be the architects of peace.” Rees further underlined that one of the failures of the Syrian peace processes is the fact women have not been included in the talks - a failure linked to the absent, yet vitally needed gender advisor on Lakhdar Brahimi's team. Rees said that “the gender advisor is the most important person in any organisation and they are important to everything we do.”

To read more about Rees' outstanding social justice work, click here. If you missed the event, you can view by clicking here.

I Support Women's Power to Stop War, because

Written by: Shafferan Sonneveld

In the lead-up to WILPF's 100th Anniversary in April 2015 - celebrating a century of peacemaking from a gender perspective - women and men from around the world have demonstrated their support for Women's Power to Stop War during this year's United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 58) in the #100Women4Peace Campaign.

The #100women4peace gallery features WILPF's CSW58 delegation and other women rights advocates from around the world, like Australia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the USA and many more. Take a look at the gallery on our Facebook page!

Check out how you can continue to submit #100women4peace photos, which will be featured on our Instagram account.

Many thanks to all that shared a photo and raised awareness by supporting Women's Power to Stop War! For more information on the WILPF 100th anniversary, click here.