Tuesday, October 21, 2014

“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced”

-- MalalaYousafza, the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.


Malala inspired me this month to reflect on the power of voice in various forms and spaces around me. My friend, Shaunagh, returned from the epicentre of Ebola in Sierra Leone. She's a journalist and bravely went to document and share the voices and humanity behind this crisis, which are too often lost behind the numbers and generalisations. We meet the people trying to survive and respond including a young mother, Kadiatu, a Sierra Leonean surveillance officer, Manjo Lamin, and a MSF worker, Sebastian. From the region, the women of Mano River Women's Peace Network remind us of the clear gender dimension of Ebola and how gender must be incorporated in interventions to ensure that the spread of this deadly disease is halted. In a recent open letter to the UN Security Council, they called for more citizen-centered approach, prioritising gendered social and cultural dimensions.

Around me here in the United Nations and policy-making fora, I cannot overstate the value and importance of the diverse and authentic voices of civil society. Amplifying the voices of women leaders working for peace is a core part of PeaceWomen's Local to Global work. Next week, we will welcome a delegation of women advocates from Cameroon, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Netherlands, Colombia, and Sweden to come to New York to share their recommendation and voices with international community. The silence on the still missing Chibok girls is why WILPF is voicing our analysis and recommendation at an important event on “Boko Haram and Cycles of Violence: Strengthening Prevention Using the Women Peace and Security Agenda” (October 30th 4pm at UN Headquarters) with Joy and Sylvie from WILPF sections in Nigeria and Cameroon. WILPF will also host a closed briefing on Syria and Iraq, and a workshop on “Leveraging Women's Action for Peace”. We are pleased to engage in other events with partners, including “Amplifying the Voices of Women in the MENA Region” and participate in numerous closed meetings including a consultation on the Swedish National Action Plan and the Global Study on Women, Peace and Security.

On October 28th, the Security Council will hold its annual Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security, this year focused on “Women and Girls as Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)” and expected to adopted a Presidential Statement. The voice of women affected by conflict and displacement must be front and center in decision making processes undertaken by the international community, in particular the Security Council. With partner in our coalition, the NGO Working Group on Women Peace and Security, we are calling on States to address the full spectrum of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda with a focus on key gaps: meaningful participation; multi-sectorial protection related to forcibly displaced women; women's human rights defenders; and real conflict prevention. This year the open debate is an opportunity to build momentum for 2015 High-Level Review, which coincides of course, with our WILPF 100th and key political discussions including Post-2015 sustainable development process.


In this edition, we take a look back at the General Assembly, where women's leadership, voice and participation continues to be excluded and marginalized from peace-making to policy-making. Less than 7 %– 13 of 197 total – statements in this year's general assembly were women! Systemic exclusion of women in decision-making, made the announcement of a men-only conference on gender equality particularly unwelcome (although some news reports note the proposed initiative by Iceland and Suriname will invite women). From WILPF's analysis of the statements at GA69, there is certainly much more work to be done. It is clearly beyond time to build adequate political will and commitment to gender equality and holistic understanding and implementation of Women, Peace and Security commitments. Read full analysis and summary done by PeaceWomen team here.

Unfortunately, there are many voices which are never heard, of people who are excluded and who continue to be silenced, especially when their truth does not fit the narrative of the powerful. I read about the courage of one such voice, the voice of Nabeela Rehman, who gave testimony at US Congressional hearing about the US drone that killed her grandmother in front of her and injured her. The injustice of her story angered me. The hypocrisy saddened me. The power of her voice and truth motivates me to continue my work as part of a peace community.

Who is inspiring you? What voices can you amplify in your work? Are you a diplomat who can engage more with women civil society? Are you a member of WILPF who can share women, peace and security work in your community? The voices of Malala, Kadiatu, Shaunagh, Mano River Women's Peace Network, Joy, Sylvie, and Nabeela have motivated me this month to continue to use my role and my voice in PeaceWomen to work towards peace, equality and human dignity.

This edition of E-News features the latest from our Women Peace and Security Lecture Series, our Local To Global Women events around the 14th anniversary of UNSCR 1325, and an update on terrorism discussions at the Security Council. It also includes initiatives and resources from the Women for Peace Initiative (WFPI) report on the Process of Resolution 2013, MADRE's Open Letter on Women's Rights in Iraq, the International Rescue Committee's report on Women and Girls in Syria, and more. Read and share widely!

Local To Global 1325 + 14 Years of UNSCR 1325

Next week is the 14th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, and WILPF will be participating with women peace leaders from all around the world! Leaders from Syria, Libya, Jordan, Lebanon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Colombia, and Cameroon will converge to advocate, share their stories, and strategize on how to move forward. We will remind states of the transformational vision and clear obligation that this ground-breaking resolution includes, and push them to strengthen action in promoting a gender perspective and strengthening women's participation, protection and rights in conflict prevention through post-conflict reconstruction processes.

This year is an opportunity to build momentum for the discussion in 2015 High-Level Review and 15th anniversary, which coincides of course, with our WILPF 100th and key political discussions including Post-2015 sustainable development goals negotiations. It is time to build on these opportunities and move from commitments to accomplishments. As part of 14th anniversary commemorations, the Security Council will hold and open debate on Women, Peace and Security on October 28th. The debate theme is “Women and Girls as Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)”. At this critical time, WILPF calls on states prioritize key gaps, especially in real conflict prevention, and to take action to promote meaningful participation, multisectorial protection, and support for women's human rights defenders, and forcibly displaced women.

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Join us at our public events and meet an inspiring group of women delegates!

  • WILPF Workshop on Leveraging Women's Action for Peace (Closed Briefing)

  • Thursday, 30 October, 16:00-17:30 – "Boko Haram and Cycles of Violence: Strengthening Prevention Using the Women Peace and Security Agenda"; UN Conference Room 6

  • Thursday, 30 October, 2014, 10:00-12:00 – “Amplifying the Voices of Women in the MENA Region: Obstacles and Opportunities for UNSCR 1325 Implementation”; Permanent Mission of the Netherlands

Follow us from wherever you are on Facebook and Twitter through hashtags: @Peace_Women @WILPF #UNSCR1325 #BringBackOurGirls.

Women, Peace and Security Agenda a Clear Gap at Security Council Summit on Terrorism

On 24 September 2014, forty-eight speakers, predominantly heads of state, unanimously adopted SCR 2178 in a summit presided over by President Barack Obama and opened by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. One hundred and six members supported this resolution and agreed that they would prevent foreign terrorist fighters from joining or otherwise supporting terrorist groups such as the Islamic State, the Al-Nusrah Front (ANF) or Al-Qaida and its various splinter groups.

Only seven speakers made gender-sensitive statements, two of which discussed sexual violence, and five of which mentioned women as victims of the general brutality in the region. In addition, SCR 2178 encouraged member states to include local civil society groups, including those of women, in countering the violent extremist narrative and recruitment. Despite this language in the resolution, there were no statements in support of women's proactive participation in the peace process or in the prevention of violence. Clearly, despite the Council's repeated requests for the implementation of SCR 2122, the Women, Peace and Security agenda remains on the back-burner in terms of national security policy.

Read more about this summit and get more information about the Security Council's recent meeting on Iraq and ISIS.

WILPF's Work Recognised by Peace in Progress Award

This past month, WILPF was unanimously awarded the 2014 Peace in Progress award by the International Catalan Institute for Peace (ICIP)“for its century-long involvement in the work of women for peace, its commitment to disarmament, the defense of human rights and the persistence to obtain the recognition of the role of women in the building of peace.”

WILPF President Adilia Caravaca's response highlights the continued importance of rolling back medieval narratives of gendered heroes and victims, and promoting gender equality, disarmament, and peace: As Caravaca stated: “The path toward peace continues to be aggravated and wars continue to escalate in the Middle East. Strong doses of racism, machismo and economic interests reveal veneration for capital profits at any cost...We thank the Catalan Institute for Peace, as well as the thousands of women around the world, in this and other organisations, who continue their work and maintain hope for peace.

The award, which consists of a sculpture made by Nobel Peace Prize winner and sculptor Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, as well as a financial donation of 4,000 euros, will be presented in 2015 in Barcelona. WILPF is honoured to be recognised for its role in the creation of internationalist pacifist feminism and the advocacy of women's initiatives for peace, especially amongst such notable human rights defenders. We applaud ICIP's work to promote a culture of peace, and to endorse peaceful solutions and conflict resolutions.

Read full article here.

69th General Assembly Analysis: A Gender Perspective

There was a disconcerting lack of gender perspective at the 24 - 30 September 2014 General Debate of the General Assembly's 69th session on "Delivering on and Implementing a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda.” Of the 197 statements that WILPF monitored for issues of gender and disarmament, only 98 contained references on women and gender. Furthermore, only thirteen (13) female leaders – one less than last year – spoke at the podium.

Many gender references focused on women as victims (rather than actors) of the recent conflicts in Gaza and Syria. Most (about 70) focused generally on gender equality and/or women's empowerment, with member states highlighting importance of women's active and equal participation for lasting peace, security, and sustainable development. Many states linked gender equality and women's empowerment as a priority on the post-2015 development agenda, but none linked demilitarization and conflict prevention. One notable statement by Chile, recognized that “today women are at the center of the new development and peace architecture.” However, these linkages were inadequate to the challenges that need to be addressed in today's world. Many states also referenced Beijing+20. Here, Iceland announced a “men” only conference on gender equality to the surprise of many advocates working on inclusion and efforts to shift from male dominated international policy discussions. Linkages on disarmament and development were also weak and often unhopeful. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, stated: “Disarmament is viewed as a distant dream, sabotaged by profiteers of perpetual warfare.”

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To create the world we want and need, our leaders must have a vision and the political will to create a new world. This year's debate makes it clear that more is needed. WILPF will continue to amplify the voices of women peace leaders and leverage international political tools for change, today at our 100th anniversary summit in 2015, and beyond. We invite you to join us in creating a more peaceful world.

Please visit the PeaceWomen website for an overview of the discussion and full index of gender extracts

Please visit the Reaching Critical Will website for an overview of the discussion and full index of disarmament extracts.