From Wallpaper to Centre Stage: Women’s Meaningful Participation as a Key to Reclaiming the UN as a Peace Organisation
By WILPF Women, Peace and Security Programme Director Abigail Ruane
Participants of the WILPF’s Geneva Convening. (Photo: Irina Popa)
A few weeks ago, a fierce advocate for women rape survivors with an unshakable commitment to peace and justice made a call to action at the UN in Geneva. “At the Security Council, I have spoken, and everybody clapped,” she reflected. “But then it doesn’t go anywhere. We are not there to be a wallpaper! We are there to be listened to, and to find common solutions.”
This was just one of the comments that stood out at WILPF’s 26-28 April convening aimed at reclaiming the UN as a peace organisation through ensuring women’s meaningful participation. At this three-day meeting, over 150 leading women’s rights and peace activists from around the world – including Yemen, Syria, Palestine, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Africa, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo – came together to build a vision and strategy for what women’s meaningful participation at the UN looks like. We developed a shared vision and built strategies on how to work together to put local women’s voices at the forefront in sustaining feminist peace.
Discussions were timely, incisive and brutally honest. Together, we affirmed that meaningful participation requires more than an access. Instead, it requires a power shift to re-centre work on equality, development, security and peace around the voices and rights of women and those most marginalised. It requires that local women speak for themselves (rather than being spoken for) in a way that addresses root causes of violence for justice and human rights, including women’s rights, with impact.
Our exchange of experiences showed that the UN has done its best when it facilitates more and does less, as recommended by the 2015 HIPPO report. For example, in Colombia, UN Women has prioritised strengthening existing women human rights defenders and peace activist work. Women’s meaningful participation has contributed to Colombia reaching a peace agreement, and will continue to be critical for long term success.
We also learned from environmental advocates about how to build spaces and mechanisms to advance meaningful participation. The Major Group system that facilitated civil society engagement with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) process is rooted in principles of procedural justice from the 1992 Rio Earth Summit (Principle 10) and provides one good practice mechanism. Today in Asia and elsewhere, civil society is translating this at regional and national levels to combat shrinking spaces and retain platforms for democratic engagement, sustainable development and peace.
All of us have a role to play in re-centring work around local women’s voices for peace. INGOs should evaluate our facilitation role with partners, and should take action to ensure partner engagement at the UN works for them, whether through donor meetings, media visibility or otherwise. Governments should evaluate their role of respecting, protecting, and fulfilling human rights, and should take action to prevent harm of women human rights defenders by counter-terrorism financing or other “security” measures, while also strengthening core, on-going, sustained support for women human rights defenders, and investing in social institutions to support women’s social and economic rights rather than war. Donors should fund women’s political and movement building work and ensure women are at donor conferences. The UN should direct and build accountability for country teams to strengthen women civil society movements and work for local change.
As the new UN Secretary General António Guterres re-examines the relevance of the UN in today’s climate of rising nationalism and xenophobia and fears of being left behind, he should look to feminist peace and disarmament activists. Realising the UN’s mandate to prevent war requires moving from treating local women peace-builders and rights defenders as wallpaper to putting them centre stage.
We can no longer be risk averse: we must be bold.
As, Madeleine Rees, Secretary-General of WILPF, stated: “All of us have an interest in making the UN a peace organisation.”
We are counting down until one of the most exciting times in the last 70 years: the banning of nuclear weapons!
After concerted civil society advocacy brought attention to the severe humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons as well their link to gendered power, the UN is set to negotiate a legally binding nuclear weapon ban treaty on 15 June to 7 July 2017.
On 17 June 2017, building on their historic leadership on this issue, women around the world will hold Women’s Marches to Ban the Bomb to support calls for a binding treaty. WILPF is leading this March in New York and invites advocates of peace and social justice everywhere – whether civil society, UN or Member States – to join us in raising your voices:
1. Make a public statement in support of outlawing nuclear weapons through an international, legally binding nuclear weapon ban treaty.
2. Join us in NYC or hold a sister march or event in your town or city. (Register your event map on our map here, and share on social media with the hashtags: #nuclearban and #womenbanthebomb).
3. Ask questions: What do current commitments to nuclear weapons mean for funding for people and planet? For environmental degradation? For current or future refugee crises?
4. Start a conversation: What would security systems look like in a world designed by the 99% who support human security, rather than the 1% of nuclear weapons holders who currently hold the rest of the world hostage?
5. Raise awareness: Share and translate our Call to Action with your networks.
Watch WILPF’s webinar about Women’s March to Ban The Bomb here>>
Get more information on Women’s March to Ban the Bomb here>>
Get more information on the UN nuclear weapons ban treaty negotiations, on our Disarmament Programme Reaching Critical Will website here>> and our ICAN coalition website here>>
Keep informed: Subscribe to WILPF’s ban treaty mailing list to receive daily updates from our Disarmament Programme Reaching Critical Will here>>
By Sarah Tunnell
Mina Jaf, Founder and Executive Director of Women's Refugee Route, addresses the Security Council open debate on the topic, “Women and peace and security: Sexual violence in conflict”. (Photo: UN Photo/Evan Schneider)
The Security Council Open Debate entitled, “Sexual Violence in Conflict as a Tactic of War and Terrorism” was convened by the Council’s current president, Uruguay, on 15 May 2017. This discussion yielded significant references to the substantive work of the WPS Agenda, yet fell short of prioritising women’s empowerment over protection concerns. Though numerous speakers called for addressing the root causes of conflict, discussions related to key drivers of conflict, including militarisation, arms proliferation and patriarchal power relations, were scarce.
Civil society representative Mina Jaf of Women’s Refugee Route, speaking on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, provided a much-needed grassroots perspective in the discussion. Jaf focused primarily on the situation of displaced women, men, and LGBTQI persons and was one of the only speakers present to call attention to the fundamental nexus between arms proliferation and violent conflict.
It is notable that despite the preponderance of data offered in the Secretary-General’s report concerning relevant developments to sexual violence in nearly 20 conflict situations, few speakers afforded consideration to country-specific situations. Furthermore, while an increase in statements calling for improved risk assessment and early warning mechanisms is a positive sign, detailed commitments and mechanisms pertaining to conflict prevention remained absent from the dialogue.
Find WILPF’s analysis of the debate here>>
Find our highlights of the Secretary-General’s 2017 Report on Sexual Violence in Conflict here>>
By Marina Kumskova, Sarah Tunnell and Alexandra Rojas
Abigail Ruane of WILPF and other members of the Women’s Major Group at the UNECE 2017 Regional Forum on Sustainable Development. (Photo: Women’s Major Group)
As part of our work to improve multilateral action, WILPF participated in the UNECE 2017 Regional Forum on Sustainable Development and civil society consultation convened on 24-26 April 2017 in Geneva. Preceded by a preparatory civil society consultation, the forum created a regional space for various stakeholders to share policy solutions, best practices and challenges in the SDG implementation and helps identify major regional and subregional trends.
Highlighting the importance of women's meaningful participation for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, Director of the WILPF's Women, Peace and Security Programme, Abigail Ruane delivered a statement during the civil society consultations. WILPF also contributed to the drafting of the closing intervention on behalf of the civil society delivered at the SDG forum by Nurgul Djanaeva of the Women’s Major Group, which called for further action to shift the funding focus from war to gender justice and peace.
WILPF’s PeaceWomen team also monitored the 18 April 2017 President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly’s (PGA) SDG Financing Lab, which recognised that implementation of the 2030 Agenda requires transforming policy frameworks and renewed commitment.
Such dialogues must move forward as localising the Sustainable Development Goals in all regions requires shifting the balance of power in international financial architecture to address systemic barriers and create the conditions to respect, protect and fulfill women’s rights, especially in conflict-affected situations.
Read more about WILPF’s engagement in the UNECE 2017 Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (RFSD) here>>
Find the WILPF analysis of the SDG Financing Lab here>>
By Alexandra Rojas
(Visual: Monash Gender, Peace and Security Centre)
Civil society has always been essential in developing effective and balanced National Action Plans (NAPs). In pursuit of the same goal, WILPF’s partners in Australia, the Australian Civil Society Coalition on Women, Peace and Security and the Monash Gender, Peace and Security Centre, recently launched the fourth civil society report card on the 2012-2018 Australian NAP. This report provides a set of recommendations on how to update the next Australian NAP, which is due for release in 2019. Highlighting that civil society can enhance every stage of the NAP process, including its design, implementation, governance and evaluation, our partners have specifically encouraged the Government of Australia and others to formalise the relationship with civil society and develop a strong Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) framework.
This work is of crucial importance as Member States continue developing and implementing their NAPs. In the first quarter 2017, for example, there have been several developments in Member States’ implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000). The Czech Republic recently launched its NAP for a period of three years (2017-2020) in January, 2017; Montenegro announced the launch of a one-year NAP (2017-2018) in February, 2017; and Nigeria announced its revised NAP in May, 2017. Moving forward, it is important to ensure that Member States create dedicated spaces for civil society partnership for development and implementation of NAPs, while providing holistic and well sourced funds with clear leadership and accountability for implementation.
Find WILPF analysis of the Czech Republic’s National Action Plan here>>
Read more about Nigeria’s updated National Action Plan here>>.
Read more about the Montenegro’s National Action Plan here>>
Read Fourth Annual Civil Society Report Card on Australia’s National Action Plan here>>