I have just returned from Colombia. A beautiful country, with an ugly decades old conflict. The negotiations between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were at a tense moment after being suspended.
I met women's groups, communities and survivors with WILPF-Colombia section. Women are active in peacebuilding, they are diverse, and have differing perspectives on politics, the negotiations and Women, Peace and Security. Women's groups recognize the progress on women's rights and participation although “progress” and implementation was described as being a bare “minimum”. There is support for the new Sub-Committee of the negotiations on Gender, which will hopefully provide advice to the negotiating parties, ensure the agreements are gender responsive and engage the women's movement. Women civil society do not have formal space in negotiations, and they have an uphill challenge to influence the substance of the five agenda points of the negotiation. Three have already been agreed on land reform, ending the drug trade, participate in electoral politics, which are generally gender-blind except for the agreement on political participation. Two agenda points remain on disarmament and demobilization, and reparations for the victims, which must reflect, and respond to women's rights and demands.
Truth and rebuilding trust, were among the calls I heard from communities, and these must not be secured by the elite but built in communities through processes of reconciliation, reintegration and making peace. One woman, a survivor of sexual violence, reflected on how only now through psychological support was she able to remember her past without fear. I was touched by her journey of truth, her struggles to rebuild trust and the time she will need. Her personal journey and the collective journey in Colombia needs our solidarity, support and most of all needs time.
From Colombia to Syria, from Ukraine to South Sudan, this year has been one where we witnessed devastating violence and conflict. We are living through a period of instability with only 11 countries in the world are not linked to conflict in some way, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace. It is hard to have trust in humanity, and belief in the international systems at times.
One recent example of where my trust in the UN was weakened was the failure of the UN to put their words on participation into action in appointing a panel to review peacekeeping operations. Only after civil society pressure did the UN recognize it was wrong and added women to the gender lopsided panel and they promoted a woman to vice-chair. The High-level Independent Panel on UN Peace Operations now includes an 11 men and 6 women panel. “Better late than never” or “too little, too late”? Stephen Lewis and Paula Donovan of AIDS-Free World led advocacy efforts to ignore the illegitimate panel until women are equally represented called out the UN and the Secretary-General. Others, like UNWomen, have welcomed the new appointments. I am concerned about the substance of the review as peacekeeping operations are not implementing women, peace and security and many missions have serious gender bias and resistance.
This Peacekeeping review is one of several important political initiatives happening in 2015. I am not interested in anniversary celebrations for the self-congratulatory circus, but rather if these reviews and negotiations can respond to the demands of women affected by conflict.
PeaceWomen will continue to focus on the Women, Peace and Security high-level Review and demand actions such as national dialogues on Women, Peace and Security where States hold parliamentary sessions and monitor implementation of the WPS agenda in the post-2015 agenda. We will also launch a new and improved website in early 2015- we have been working hard on this for months and months and are excited to share it with you.
This edition of E-News features the latest from the Security Council Monitor, the Women Peace and Security roundtable on Gender and Inclusive mediation, and we will begin sharing video interviews from amazing women peace leaders. This edition also includes initiatives and resources from the World Survey on the role of women in development, and a video series explaining CEDAW's principles. Read and share widely!
Finally, I want to thank Abbi and our dedicated and passionate team. I would also like to thank all those who have contributed their time and expertise, all those who have taught us more about peace and justice, and all those engaging with PeaceWomen and WILPF's work.
On 19 November 2014, the Security Council held an open debate on threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon gave opening remarks at the debate, and there were over 60 speakers in attendance. Despite the large number of speakers, only 14 speakers used gendered language in their statements. Of these 14 speakers, only 5 speakers discussed sexual and gender-based violence, 4 included women in their suggestions for combating violent extremism and 5 speakers noted the importance of protecting women. In addition to these references, 2 speakers also mentioned that women were being recruited to join extremist groups. A presidential statement (S/PRST/2014/23) was also issued, which emphasized addressing the root causes of violent extremism, however it was entirely gender-blind.
The use of military force in combating terrorism was heavily debated in this meeting. With regards to this, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon noted: “Looking at these challenges solely through a military lens has shown its limits” and emphasized a rights-centered approach. However, no speakers made any mention of the effect of such increased militarization on women or girls. Implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda requires speakers to have more political will in terms of gender-sensitivity and awareness. Clearly, SCR 2122 implementation continues to remain limited. Implementation of the Women Peace and Security Agenda needs to be prioritized at the forefront of all peace and security efforts.
On 18 November, 2014, WILPF PeaceWomen, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, and the Mission of Liechtenstein hosted a closed roundtable discussion on gender-inclusive mediation at the Mission of Switzerland in New York. Two mediation experts – Ngozi Amu, Team Leader with the Mediation Support Unit of the United Nations Department of Political Affairs (UN DPA), and Meredith Preston McGhie, Regional Director for Africa with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue – shared their experiences from the field on the challenges to civil-society inclusion in the recent peace processes in the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan. Ms. McGhie pointed out that trying to “fix women” is not effective as it does not address structural power hierarchies in need of transformation: “Women mediators are all trained while none of the men are. What we need is more women in positions of power, so that the people in power will appoint them as mediators.”
During the roundtable discussions following the speakers' accounts, participants mentioned the importance of preparatory processes and stronger tools to build consensus and capacity among women's groups. In response to the concerns raised by the audience, both Amu and McGhie recognized that international mediation and national dialogue are often divorced from local processes and that pressure to accelerate the peace process hinders inclusion and effectiveness. Therefore, mediators must take a multidimensional approach that includes both formal and informal processes and allocate more space early on for smaller fora and intercommunal processes.
We are constantly inspired by all the women peace leaders around the world. In October, we were fortunate to have many amazing women peace leaders visit New York for the Security Council's Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security. We had the opportunity to interview a number of these women and asked them what it means to be a women peace leader. Each week we will share one of these incredible women's stories on our website.
View the first video of Joy Onyedoh, the President of WILPF Nigeria here, and stay tuned for more interviews with these inspirational women!
The 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will take place in New York from 9 - 20 March 2015 with a main focus on the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
Registration is now open, and if you or your section are interested in attending, please email firstname.lastname@example.org by 18 December 2014. Because we will be focusing on Anniversary conference preparations, please note that WILPF will have more limited engagement at CSW this year, and all participation must be self-funded. As per previous years, the total number of official representatives for WILPF is 20 individuals. Please be aware that everyone can attend the hundreds of NGO side events outside the UN Headquarters building, even without a pass. Please follow PeaceWomen's monitoring of CSW 59 for additional resources.
On 1-4 December 2014, WILPF hosted a regional meeting in Istanbul of over twenty women peace leaders from eight countries in the Middle East North Africa region: Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen and Palestine. The conference built on WILPF's MENA1325 work in the region over the last two years and enabled participants to strategize and coordinate work on advancing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in the region.
Participants drew attention to the rollback of rights, rise of instability and extremism, and acceleration of violence in the region. “Our dream has been stolen by the so-called ‘Arab Spring,'” said a participant from Egypt. “We are facing religious and military fascism. There is an alliance between three shapes that lead to more violence: poverty, absence of freedom, and violence against women.” Leaders highlighted the importance of disarmament and creating enabling environments for gender equality and peace through systemic transformation that reduces militarism and arms. “War means no stability, no equality, and continued arms trade,” said a Moroccan participant. “We need change. If we don't have peace, we don't have equality or development.” Participants committed to continue to build networks and work in solidarity for peace throughout the region. “We want results,” said one participant. “I'm not pessimistic,” said another. “I'll never be. I'll keep working for this till the day I die.”
Read more about WILPF's MENA1325 project work here.