As civil war raged in Burundi since the 1996 outbreak of armed conflict between ethnic Tutsi and Hutu groups, in his role as Facilitator for the Burundi Peace Negotiations, former South African President Nelson Mandela worked with one of UN Women's predecessor organizations to bring women to the peace table for the first time.
Convened by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), and the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation, the first All-Party Burundi Women's Peace Conference took place in Arusha, Tanzania in July 2000. Burundian women representing the 19 negotiating parties, observers, refugees, internally displaced people and the Diaspora met to develop a common vision for Burundi's peace and reconstruction. The nearly 80 participants presented their recommendations to Mr. Mandela, the heads of the negotiating parties, the Facilitation team and observers from the international community.
They agreed that women should participate in the peace process and they listed specific proposals regarding justice for human rights abuses against women, women's land rights and women's engagement in recovery. The women's declaration was submitted to Mandela and he shared it with the negotiating parties. Many of these proposals were incorporated to the peace accord.
Mandela's engagement and strong endorsement of women's concerns was considered a turning point at the time for women's engagement in conflict resolution in Burundi.