Article – femLINKPACIFIC
Keeping the Hope Alive: “The Role of Women’s Civil Society Organizations in Contributing to the Prevention and Resolution of Armed Conflict and Peacebuilding.” Keeping the Hope Alive: “The Role of Women’s Civil Society Organizations in Contributing to the Prevention and Resolution of Armed Conflict and Peacebuilding.”
New York, 30 October 2012
By Sharon Bhagwan Rolls
If you walked past the Roger Smith Hotel on Lexington Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, New York, you would have had a window into the work and world of 1325 activists, on the eve of October 31st, which 12 years ago was the day when the UN Security Council adopted the groundbreaking resolution on Women, Peace and Security.
The improvised panel was convened at the Roger Smith Hotel as New York families and communities were either in wait and see or recovery mode – whether you have electricity or not, or whether you are to access basic services.
But for us, the work goes on, even though the UN Church Centre closed and despite our co-convenor of the panel Julie Anne Salthouse’s inability to travel into the city from New Jersey. We had a “disaster risk management plan”:
“It is a chance to get our message out there (online),”said Gesa Bent, the Gender Coordinator of GPPAC, especially the message of prevention, which she said needs to emphasized to enhance the platform for women as agents of conflict prevention and peacebuilding.
The panel discussions which has been filmed will feature on GPPAC’s Peace Portal focusing on National and Regional initiatives such as Action Plans and the experiences of civil society to develop and implement plans, the role of women in Dialogue and Mediation processes from the community level to international platforms and the role of engaging with men including the related challenges.
The planned panel was initially an opportunity to partner with the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership and a message from Julie Anne Salthouse who reiterated that women’s civil society experiences and voices that Members States must not just consider, but systemically collaborate with and integrate into the planning, implementation and evaluation of national action plans in order to ensure true peace and security.
Prevention requires a demilitarized role and the dismantling of patriarchal structures:
According to Salthouse, whose message was read by Bent, “The Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutgers University welcomes this year’s Open Debate on 1325 and the opportunity it presents to consider women’s civil society roles throughout the peacemaking process. Where do we as civil society stand in this dialogue? What roles can we play? What roles should we be playing? We hope through the forums this week that we can work directly with Member States to further all of our work on gender equality, women’s empowerment, and the end of violence against women.”
Building on the 16 days campaign which since 1991, has involved over 4,100 organizations in 172 countries the Campaign, over the last 3 years, has specifically focused on the intersections of gender-based violence and militarism. Militarism remains a key source of the violence experienced by women, as it creates a culture of fear, and supports the use of violence, aggression, and military interventions for settling disputes and enforcing economic and political interests.
Subsequently, the 16 Days Campaign has worked with women’s organizations and gender equality advocates worldwide to highlight the linkages between gender-based violence and militarism within the following three areas:
- Violence perpetuated by state agents
- Domestic violence and the role of small arms
- Sexual violence during and after conflict
“Militarism not only undermines women’s rights as a whole, but also women’s dignity and bodily integrity. While often being used in the name of “security,” militarism typically has the opposite effect, frequently serving as the antithesis of peace. Stemming from our work on militarism, the Center recently developed a second project, The Security Project, which aims to examine how members of civil society define security in their own terms. Often when we hear about security, it is defined by the state, in terms such as the presence of military personnel, checkpoints, and the right to bear arms. But do we define our own sense of security in these same terms? What do this mean for the ways in which governments prioritize their national budgets?”
“We want to use the North East Asia Peace Conference to also raise public awareness of “1325” and also to ensure that all the states involved in the Six Party Talks must also host a women’s conference” says Gyung Lan Jung who is adamant that all state parties involved in the peace talks must be complying with UNSCR1325 and this includes a call for a National Action Plan for South Korea particularly as the state assembly in Seoul has adopted a resolution to pave the way for an action plan, “but this must be an inclusive approach,” she adds as she looks forward to the integration of “1325” into the November 2012 gender policy review.
The impact of protracted militarization is one of the key reasons for the work of Gyung Lan Jung who was a Coordinator of Korean women’s peace delegation which visited 5 countries to hold the Women’s Six Party Talks in 2007 and is a Coordinator of the Organizing Committee of the Northeast Asian Women’s Peace Conference since 2009. She is a Chairperson of Policy Committee, Women Making Peace in Seoul, South Korea. She is also the codirector of the South Korean Committee for Implementation of the June 15th Joint Declaration between North and South Korea and the co-director of its Women’s Division. She visited North Korea over 10 times including Pyongyang, Mt. Kumkang and Kaesung city for negotiations with North Korean women’s group. She is also co-chair of the steering committee of the Civil Peace Forum.
“We try to meet to reduce the mistrust,” but this is not helped each time there is a nuclear crisis, “We meet twice every year… we have visited day care centres and the office of the Democratic Women, so we see the reality of North Korea women including the impact of society attitudes,” she said.
“Women Making Peace is raising awareness of 1325 since 2007 to contribute to articles on women and youth and we tried to rope in congress women to make testimonies to ministries of defence and unification,” says Gyung Lan Jung who added that a strategy is also the monitoring of the national women’s machinery, ”But women are still not visible in the Six Party Talks, and (now) since 2008 we have hosted conferences including in the DMZ and we also visited the US and Russian embassies to voice our concerns about the lack of progress of the peace talks,” she said.
The need to expand women’s participation and ensuring a gender perspective in the South Korea foreign affairs and diplomatic process however the current state plan of the Ministry of gender Equality and Unification does not reflect this and often women continue to face state obstacles from meeting for dialogue and mediation and further the women’s unification efforts. This also impacts on humanitarian assistance and civil society engagement: “The status of women is very low and even though there is a gender responsive budget approach, the actual amounts, she says is very low.”
A National Action Plan she also adds is a responsibility not just of the women’s machinery but must have an effective participation of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Unification.
There is a need to continue to search for the common ground between the two Koreas, and that is one reason the strategies use both Track One and Track Two Diplomacy says Gyung Lan Jung who is also looking forward to the upcoming elections especially as one of the Presidential candidates has heard the call of the “1325” Women’s Network and has added this to his campaign commitments.
Taking a Preventive and Human Security Approach – Women’s Participation Vital
Power sharing, resource sharing, DDR and transitional justice is where there is a need for women in the post-peace signing process says Carmen Lauzon-Gatmaytan (Memen) the Gender Focal Point for GPPAC Southeast Asia, who reiterated that the strategies include the involvement of the security sector and must build on how women have participated in innovative ceasefire monitoring, suggesting that throughout the implementation of the recently signed peace agreement must also be about the prevention of the resurgence of violence.
The role of “1325” in peacebuilding is obvious in Mindanao where the coalition of “Peace Weavers” also developed a peace agenda which integrated “1325” and complimented the innovation of other human rights and peacebuilding advocacy groups. Innovations included an all-female “Ceasefire Watch” which involved women from grassroots communities who were affected by the armed violence.
Participation of women is key, not just within civil society but also as Gyung Lan Jung is stressing for her region, in formal processes.
For Mindanao the “1325” campaign has also involved lobbying for and supporting the inclusion of women from the We Act Network in both sides of the peace negotiations, but this was not without barriers of culture and tradition, although with perseverance there was breakthrough.
And local peace efforts obviously connect to overall national peace. From the local to the national level, a series of women’s peace initiatives between Mindanao and Manila extended across the Philippines resulted in the launch of the National Action Plan on UNSCR1325 by October 2010. Aside from the establishment of the state working group, the women have also established their own monitoring mechanism through the “We Act 1325” network which has developed a series of reports and are now in the stage of localizing “1325”.
But according to Memen, there is also a need to ensure there is greater innovation and interface and interaction as the National Action Plan moves forward, which includes the need for government officials to be able to better understand and collaborate women’s civil society. Finally, there is also a need to work within the civil society and to continue to inspire each other to build on the gains.
At the global level, the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership is also bringing forward experiences from the local to the global level through an online research project that asks “what security means to you” and according to Salthouse, already the responses so far to this survey, as well as through the work on the 16 Days Campaign, key patterns are emerging in how members of civil society envision a more peaceful world, hinting at the steps necessary to achieve sustainable development and long-lasting peace.:
“Too often, we see women being places in two roles within the peace and security dialogue: as passive victims, and/or solely in relation to roles within their families. Women are not viewed as individuals, and their subjectivities are often erased through action plans that often block individual women’s experiences and identities into one homogenous group. To end violence against women, women’s rights must not be seen as one dimensional. Women’s experiences of violence are manifested in multiple forms of discrimination, and greatly influence their access to economic, social and cultural rights. Violence against women cannot be adequately addressed unless States also address land rights, healthcare, education, access to justice and legal mechanisms, and the larger economic, social, cultural, and political context in which women and men live.”
Additionally says Salthouse, there is a need to clarify men’s roles in this work as well: “Not all men are perpetrators, and not all women are victims. It is imperative that we work alongside men to address the larger systems of discrimination and unequal power structures that manifest themselves through violence. Men can and must be women’s allies in this work, and must work with other men to dismantle these systems that oppress us all. We must be willing to take a hard look at gender roles and dismantle the binary thinking that places unequal value—and power—on specific traits, gender, sexuality, race, and people. It is mandated in 1325 to “ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict” and to “incorporate a gender perspective into peacekeeping operations.”
Institutional Arrangements- bringing it back to the Pacific
According to Maja Vitas GPPAC’s gender focal point for the Balkan Region while most countries in the Western Balkans have adopted National Action Plans much of these plans, such as in Serbia, are about security sector governance and reform and increasing women’s representation in the military rather than reflecting women’s participation in peacebuilding.
However, the June 2012 Montenegro Gender Equality Committee Conference on Women, Peace and Security has reminded parliamentarians and civil society participants of the need to integrate peacebuilding and promote women’s active agency within the final declaration, ”This is important for our future work (especially peace education and peacebuilding),”says Vitas, as well as advancing anti-discrimination laws.
A recent OAC regional meeting in Vienna has also identified how women’s expertise can be incorporated in the formal processes:
“It is about women and men working together for conflict resolution and peacebuilding (which)makes it easier to bring about dialogue,” said Vitas drawing on her own organisation’s work of initiating peace education for mixed ethnic communities to develop peer education programmes.
In the Pacific, the development of a Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security has demonstrated that there are ways in which women’s innovations and initiatives can contribute to and be integrated into existing political processes.
“The call of the Regional Action Plan was catalytic with the call from the Pacific Regional Women’s Media and Policy Network on UNSCR1325,” says Veena Singh Bryar of FemLINKPACIFIC and GPPAC’s gender focal point in the Pacific:
“The development of the RAP was a way to use 1325 as a transformation tool,” she said builds on women’s history of negotiating and bringing about Peace in the Pacific, especially as it has a focus on participation and preventive action, and complimenting work in the Pacific already underway on Sexual Gender Based Violence highlighting the importance of civil society working together as demonstrated by the “1325 network” which pools together experiences and work of women’s peace and human rights activism in Bougainville – Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga as well as Fiji.
The gender mainstreaming approach also inclusive of young women, while the Protection goals also link to humanitarian assistance, especially as many Pacific Islands continue to face the brunt of climate change, and where much of the national efforts should be focused:
“From the Mat to the Policy Table is vital,” says Singh-Bryar.
While the RAP on WPS builds on the existing regional commitments such as the Biketawa Declaration, the October 18th launch is also a reminder that there might be a need now to review the existing declarations to ensure the commitment by Pacific Forum Leaders to women, peace and security is also integrated into the regional peace and security architecture and this could certainly be one of the key roles of the Forum Regional Security Committee oversight role.
The “1325” week of the GPPAC gender focal points maintains the momentum which the founding mothers and sisters of “1325” initiated well ahead of the October 31st adoption. But it brings to light the need to persevere and more and more with peace being so fragile across the GPPAC regions, the specific approach to the prevention and participation pillars of “1325” is even more relevant today especially to enhance women’s agency as peacebuilders.
As a global network of civil society network of peace practitioners working across 15 regions GPPAC has adopted a gender policy which focuses on ensuring gender balance in leadership positions. The gender policy addresses internal and external strategies, that is both at global secretariat as well as regional strategies, such as through the appointment of a cadre of dedicated gender focal points who bring their own expertise into the implementation process and also building on capacity development for both the gender focal points, as well as the membership of the Regional Steering Groups. Gender mainstreaming is also applied to the working groups of GPPAC including Dialogue and Mediation, Human Security Peace Education and Preventive Action such as within the development of the early warning action toolkit with gender indicators.
As the gender focal points here in New York have articulated women’s agency has not just claimed “1325” but also transformed the resolution as a living document but there is still a struggle to transform the political spaces where UN member states are engaging – whether it is the Six Party Talks for peace in the Korean peninsula or advancing the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro or transforming the peace and security architecture in the Pacific Island region where we have and continue to experience multiple forms of conflicts and political crises.
However, even within civil society movements, there is also a need to “step up” commitments to women’s leadership and to find a balance between mainstreaming and maintaining and supporting women’s spaces.
Ultimately, just as the focus on this year’s report from the UN Secretary General focuses on local and regional perspectives on our collective approaches from the stories and recommendations and actions presented by the panel clearly show that there is much more to be done to support and sustain women acting for peace.
The anniversary of 1325 as Salthouse says is to keep Member States to this promise, and to ensure that women—who are already doing the work of implementing national action plans, providing services, preventing violence, working in communities, ensuring access to justice—are heard at every level. “
Sharon E. R. Bhagwan Rolls(Ms)
FemLINKPACIFIC is a feminist & community media organization working to empower women and communities by giving them a voice to fully participate in decision making for Equality, Development and Peace.