The situation in northern Lebanon has made a turn for the worse during the last couple of weeks, after several outbreaks of violence in connection with the civil war in Syria. In the Lebanese city of Tripoli, the military presence has increased and there are significantly more weapons in circulation. But there are also people trying to stop the violence.
The escalating conflict in Syria is clearly noticeable in the city of Tripoli in northern Lebanon. Violence has broken out in the city on several occasions during the last couple of months, resulting in several deaths and injuries. In addition, many Syrians have fled across the border into northern Lebanon.
Tripoli is situated just 150 kilometers from the Syrian capital of Damascus. When civil unrest breaks out in one of the two countries, it often influences the other.
Supporters on different sides
Alexandra Karlsdotter Stenström is working for the Swedish women- and peace-organization “The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation” in Lebanon. According to her, there are several ways you can interpret the recent unrest in northern Lebanon.
- There are families living on either side of the borders – some support the revolution, while others support the regime in Syria – and this creates unrest. Others argue that it is the Salafists, an ultra-orthodox Islamic movement that takes the earliest Muslims as model examples of Islamic practice, who are trying to deliberately create disorder as a way of trying to take control of the region, she says.
Salafists worse for women
One person who is worried that the Salafis will gain a greater influence in the region is Lina Abou-Habib from the women’s organization Collective for Research and Training on Development – Action (CTRDA). The Salafis have access to money and weapons via Saudi Arabia and Qatar and, according to Lina Abou-Habib, both these countries are trying to worsen the division between Sunni and Shia Muslims.
- A take-over by the Salafists would be the worst scenario possible for women, and for people at large, says Lina Abou-Habib.
According to several Lebanese women’s organizations, conservative religious leaders have gotten more influential in the region in recent years. The conservatives are now highlighting the abuses committed by the Syrian regime and calls on people to support them instead.
Had to close office
Although the conflict in Syria has not yet had an effect on everyday life in Lebanon to any greater extent, however most people are expecting the unrest to return. The Lebanese Council to Resist Violence against Women (LECORVAW) in Tripoli is working to support abused women and has also, together with other organizations, been assisting Syrian women, who fled to Lebanon, with counseling and medical care. LECORVAW has had to close its office several times during the latest outbursts of violence. The office is located near an area where there have been bombings and fights between snipers.
- People are worried that an armed conflict is going to flare up again. If the politicians and leaders in Lebanon do not take strong action to prevent these types of conflicts, we fear the worst will happen, says Michel Daia from LECORVAW.
According to Michel Daia, all Lebanese in northern Lebanon are affected by the growing tensions, but the young are particularly vulnerable. It’s harder for them to find jobs and they are forced to relocate to other areas or countries.
Protests against violence
LECORVAW along with several other organizations, have been demonstrating against armed conflicts.
- There are people who are trying to fight the cycle of violence, for example by pulling together peace demonstrations, saying: “We do not want your conflict, we want peace.” Actions like that give hope, says Alexandra Karlsdotter Stenström.
June 26 is the International Day Against Torture. The Israeli organization Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, PCATI, is using this to highlight the Israeli security forces acts of torture and abuse against prisoners.
- Women prisoners are not subjected to the same physical violence as men. The violations against women are more subtle. But it does not mean that they are not serious. It could be soldiers or interrogators getting too close, making suggestions, touching them. One interrogator began to sing a famous Egyptian song to a female prisoner, about a bride who will lose her virginity the following night. At the time the prisoner was handcuffed and her feet were tied. We need to look at how gender determines the forms of torture. How do you classify a song? says Connie M Varela Pedersen from PCATI.
Tahani Nassar and Nisreen Abu Zaineh. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Annika Flensburg.
- I was really scared. Afraid that I would never get out again, afraid of the insulation and of my dad’s reaction, says Nisreen Abu Zaineh.
She was arrested by the Israeli security forces seven years ago, when she was 17 years old and spent three weeks in custody, isolated, without any access to information or representation. During the interrogations she was subjected to sexual harassment and other types of abuse.
Tied up and interrogated at 16
Nisreen Abu Zaineh is one of the 1 027, mainly Palestinian, prisoners, who were part of the prisoner exchange when Hamas released the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in October last year. She sits slumped on a sofa in the office of the organization Palestinian Working Women Society for Development, PWWSD. The organization is based in Tulkarem in the West Bank.
Beside Nisreen Abu Zaineh sits Tahani Nassar who was also imprisoned. Both participate in meetings on the situation of female prisoners that PWWSD organize.
- We were on our way from Jenin when they suddenly started to fire at our car. The driver died and my brothers were wounded. Soldiers dragged me out of the car and the others were taken away by ambulance. The soldiers found bullets in my pocket, but I have no idea how they got there, says Tahani.
After she had gotten arrested she was questioned by the Israeli secret service, GSS. She was 16 at the time. For hours she was forced to sit with her hands and feet tied up. The interrogator showed her photos of her brothers and told her that they were dead. He smeared her family and told her that she was all alone.
Tactics to get people to break down
Nisreen Abu Zaineh’s and Tahani Nassar’s stories are not unique, says Connie M Varela Pedersen. PCATI is criticizing the Israeli security forces for use of torture and abuse against persons believed to threaten the Israeli state. According to Connie M Varela Pedersen, interrogations can take 20 hours and the suspects are usually tied to the hands and feet during this time.
Connie M Varela Pedersen
- It’s a very tough situation and the prisoners are completely isolated. The investigators tells them that they will never get out again. They threaten their families. In different ways they try to get the prisoners to lose their sense of time – the light may be on around the clock, or the prisoners are locked up underground. Forensic experts states that if a person is forced to stay awake for more than 72 hours he or she begins to lose control. These tactics are used tof get people to break down, not to attain useful information, says Connie M Varela Pedersen.
Women interrogated about male relatives
In the Shalit agreement all female Palestinian political prisoners were released. A new trend that PCATI has noticed in recent weeks is that women are being arrested, put in detention for a week and then being released. During their time in lock-up, many of them are pressed for information on their male relatives.
- Prison was like being in hell. We were beaten and the guards poured hot water over us. During menstruation, we only got a few sanitary towels that were supposed to last the entire period, says Nisreen Abu Zaineh.
- But at the same time it set my thoughts free. I was mentally independent. I read books and when I walked through the room, it was like going through all of Palestine. I was able to study other thoughts and opinions than those of my family.
Helps with legal support and complaints
PCATI offers legal support to Nisreen Abu Zaineh and other prisoners who have been freed. They also help them file complaints against the Israeli authorities for the abuse and torture they have been subjected to. Although many are afraid of reprisals, several have agreed to report what has happened to them. Of course one big problem is that it’s the security forces themselves who are investigating the allegations, and so far none of the prisoners have been given redress. It may seem like a hopeless fight.
- But it is important to utilize the systems in place to obtain redress. And to never give up. The official complaints help to highlight the shortcomings of the system and challenge it, says Connie M Varela Pedersen’s colleague Louis Frankenthaler and shows an article about how Nelson Mandela worked in a similar way to change the justice system in South Africa.
Harsh attitudes towards human rights organizations
At the same time the attitudes towards human rights organizations in Israel are getting increasingly harsh. Connie M Varela Pedersen and her colleagues refer to a number of laws which have been proposed in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament – laws that in various ways would hamper the work of human rights organizations.
- There is much anger and hatred against us. We are seen as enemies, as state traitors. And as long as we do not get the public opinion behind us, it is difficult for us to bring about any real change, says Connie M Varela Pedersen.
That’s also why PCATI is turning to the international community for help to increase the pressure on Israel from the outside.
- We could really need the international community to support us as human rights organizations. When the Israeli authorities are trying to discredit us and undermine our credibility, the international community could legitimize us, she says.
UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki moon has appointed Zainab Hawa Bangura as new Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Zainab Hawa Bangura is currently the Minister of Health and Sanitation in Sierra Leone. She is the second person to recieve this mandate, and will replace Margot Wallström, who concluded her two years on the post on the 31st of May this year.
Zainab Hawa Bangura, new UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Photo: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras.
Zainab Hawa Bangura has worked for over 20 years with issues of governance, conflict resolution and reconciliation in Africa.
She was responsible for managing the largest civilian component within the UN peacekeeping operations in Liberia (UNMIL), and in Sierra Leone she has been an important advocate for the elimination of female genital mutilation, has managed the country’s Peace building commission and been instrumental for the development of national programs on affordable health. She is also an experienced civil society, human and women’s rights campaigner and democracy activist.
Read the UN statement on the appointment of Zainab Hawa Bangura here.
Women are discriminated against in most societies. But Roma women are often even worse off, since they are faced both with the strong patriarchal culture within the Roma community and the sometimes blatant racism from institutions as well as individuals.
- I wasn’t allowed to move around freely or make decisions about my own life, says Fana Delija, one of the founders of Center for Roma Initiative (CRI), the only organization working for Roma women’s rights in Montenegro.
Jovana Mrkaic, Fana Delija and Fatima Naza from the Center for Roma Initiatives during the award ceremony for the Anna Lindh Prize in Stockholm, Sweden. Foto: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Karin Råghall.
CRI has just received the 2012 Anna Lindh Prize (yearly award in memory of the Swedish Secretary of State with the same name who was murdered in 2003), and Fana Delija and the co-founder of CRI, Fatima Naza, are still a bit overwhelmed.
- The award means a lot to us, it gives us the strength to continue our work. And hope and optimism, says Fana Delija.
Besides from founding CRI, Fana Delija and Fatima Naza have also started a network for young Roma women and are advisors to the Montenegrin government in matters concerning Roma women’s situation and rights.
But just ten years ago their lives were very different. They lived in a Roma area and were almost never allowed to leave their own homes.
- I used to wonder why I couldn’t move around freely when girls from the majority population could, says Fana Delija.
Discussion groups changed their lives
The change came when Fana and Fatima started to participate in activities for young Roma women, arranged by the organization SOS Hotline in the town of Niksic. There they were taught about human rights, and eventually they began to lead their own discussion groups with other young Roma women, about the importance of education and to have power over your own life.
The discussion groups grew and in 2004 CRI was created as a separate organization. And their hard work these passed years has not been in vain. For example, the proportion of Roma women who give birth at home went down from 60 percent till less than 30 percent between 2000 and 2005, and today almost all Roma women give birth in a hospital.
- The changes are also noticeable in terms of education. The number of Roma children attending public schools have multiplied and now there are also Roma women with university degrees, says Fana Delija.
Roma women have also started to work outside the home, something that was almost never heard of ten years ago.
Biggest problems within the Roma community
Fatima Naza thinks that the Anna Lindh Award will help to bring more attention to the work of CRI and to Roma women’s situation.
- The biggest problems we encounter are within the Roma community, in particular Roma leaders who try to keep some negative aspects of the Romany traditions, such as arranged marriages. Parents sell their daughters to their future husbands, which is a crime against women’s and children’s rights. In our work we focus a lot on reducing the number of early and arranged marriages, says Fatima Naza.
CRI also informs Roma women about different types of violence against women and distributes information on where abused women can receive help. But their work is not solely focused on their own group.
- We also provide training for the whole community on prejudice against the Roma. It’s an extensive job, says Fatima Naza.
Gambian Fatou Bensouda has been appointed new prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. One of her chosen priorities is to develop a strong gender policy.
Fatou Bensouda. © Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images.
- Massive crimes continue to be committed in Darfur; Joseph Kony and the Lord Resistance Army’s acts of violence continue unabated in central Africa; Bosco Ntaganda is still a fugitive of the ICC. In total, 11 arrest warrants remain outstanding. Nothing short of arresting all those against whom warrants have been issued will ensure that justice is done for millions of victims of the crimes committed by these fugitives, Fatou Bensouda said in her acceptance speach.
- It (the office of the Prosecutor) will in particular (…) continue to look for innovative methods for the collection of evidence to bring further gender crimes and crimes against children to the Court to ensure effective prosecutions of these crimes while respecting and protecting their victims.
“Signals new era”
Fatou Bensouda has served as ICC’s Deputy Prosecutor on Prosecutions since 2004. Besides from promoting the development of a gender policy, she also has named reviewing the quality and efficiency of investigations and prosecutions and clarifying the process through which the office selects where it will conduct investigations, as issues she will focus on during her time in office.
Amnesty International welcomed Bensouda’s stated priorities and said that the inaugeration of her ”signals a new era in international justice and the potential for a more robust approach to their (the ICC’s) prosecution strategy”. The organization has previously called parts of the ICC’s prosecution strategy too restrictive, as with the case of Thomas Lubanga, who was only charged with crimes regarding the recruitment of child soldiers and not the other crimes, including sexual violence, that he was accused of.
The ICC is currently investigating crimes in Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Libya, the Darfur region of Sudan and Uganda. It is examining allegations of crimes in seven other situations in order to determine whether to open investigations: Afghanistan, Colombia, Georgia, Guinea, Republic of Korea, Honduras and Nigeria.
Her last day in office Margot Wallström (middle in flowery blouse) visited the Swedish women's right and peace organization The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation. The crossed armes is the symbol for the UN campaign Stop rape now! Photo: Sara Lüdtke/The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.
After two years as the first ever UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström on May 31st left her office. We met up with her on her last day, to talk about the achievements made and the many things still left to be done.
- Somehow it feels like this mission starts and ends with Congo, Margot Wallström says.
She is sitting in her homecountry of Sweden, trying to prepare for her new life as a non-UN worker. But her mind is filled with gruesome images sent to her as late as the day before.
- It was a lot due to the terrible situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with mass rapes and increasing sexual violence, that this office and its mandate came into place. And now, again, we recieve these horrifying photos of massacres that have taken place in Eastern DRC; photos of dead women whom I believe also had been raped. I am really worried that this will escalate into a genocide. They are hacking each other to death with machetes now, just like in Rwanda. The international community has to react, and not just with words, but physically go there and put pressure on the government.
The DRC has gotten the not so flattering nickname ”the rape capital of the world”, and crimes of sexual violence has continued in the country also during ceasefires. But Margot Wallström points out that there have been achievements made as well.
- We have managed to get military courts in the DRC to try cases of sexual violence. There have been 250 prosecutions so far. But I would really like the Congolese government to do a lot more. Like in the cases of the massacres taking place right now, where are the governmental officials? Noone seems to be putting any demands on them.
Breakthrough with Resolution 1960
Born: 28 September 1954, in Kåge in northern Sweden.
Family: Married, two children.
Career in short: Active in the Swedish Social Democratic Party 1977-1988. Minister of cultural affairs 1994-1996 and Minister of health and social affairs 1996-1998. 1999-2004 Member of the European Commission, in charge of issues regarding the environment and sustainability. 2004 appointed first Vice President of the European Commission, a position she held until 2010, when she became the first UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
On future plans: – I have accepted to become Chairman of the board at Lund’s University in Sweden. Otherwise I’m not sure. I will spend some time at home now to figure out what I want to do next.
The widespread problem of impunity for crimes of sexual violence and rape has been one of the main issues on Margot Wallström’s agenda as Special Representative. And one of the major breakthroughs during her period in office was the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1960 in 2010, that requests the provision of detailed information on suspected perpetrators of sexual violence during armed conflict..
-When I started out I remember talking to a colleague at UNICEF about how we would be able to define success. You know, there are no easy ways to define and quantify objectives like these. She said that it would be a huge success if we were to get the UN Security Council to state that they are prepared to use the same methods to stop these types of crimes, as when it comes to crimes of violence against children. And with Resolution 1960 we actually got there, she says.
With the support of UNSCR 1960 the Special Representative can produce a ”name and shame” list in her annual report. This means putting names and faces to the warlords and armed groups suspected of crimes of sexual violence in conflict. Resolution 1960 also gives the Security Council the option to exercise sanctions against groups or nations in order to put a stop to ongoing crimes of this nature. In short it underlined sexual violence as an important part of the Security Council’s agenda.
- Now they make statements about these issues and incorporate them when writing new mandates. Of course, now and then they do still forget about them – as recently, regarding Syria. I called Kofi Annan up personally and told him that I thought it strange that they had put together a peace mission group without including any gender experts. And he agreed right away, so now we have sent one, who will be part of his team of UN observers, Margot Wallström says.
Still seen as “women stuff”
But it is far from that easy all the time, to get the people (mostly men) in power to recognize the sincerity of what her office is working with.
- It is not uncontroversial, I mean there are countries that doesn’t like these kind of special mandates. Pakistan, India and China, for example, constantly try to push back these issues. For them it’s like: ”is this really relevant for the Security Council? We are working with peace and security here, this women stuff, should we concern ourselves with that?”.
Stories of violence
But they should, and they have to, because the severe situation for women all over the world is not changing at any high speed. Margot Wallström’s last trip when in office, was to Colombia, a country that most people normally don’t associate with conflict-related sexual violence. But conflict situations aren’t limited to what you regularly perceive as war.
- In Colombia women are being subjected to these crimes by all armed groups within the country. The sexual violence is present everywhere, from the mass rapes conducted by the FARC guerilla, to the everyday threats and violence.
- We went to an area where a lot of IDPs (internally displaced persons) were living and it turned into a kind of reception. They placed us in a local store and I sat there with two garden chairs and a long cue of women lining up to tell me their stories: ”My husband is trying to kill me, he chokes me every night”, ”he has knocked my teeth out”, ”I lock the door to my bedroom every night at six, because he always comes home ragingly drunk”.
Hope in spite of the pain
Of course this situation isn’t unique for Colombia. Everywhere Margot Wallström has travelled during these two years, she has seen the same patterns of women being held back, beaten and tortured. And it is not always an easy task to listen to all these painful testimonials.
- Sometimes we almost censor our own reports, because there are such appalling atrocities taking place that you feel like people just won’t believe they are true. I have gotten really depressed and walked with a heavy heart, for sure. But at the same time these women carry on, they pick up their burdens and continue working for human rights. There is so much inspiration and hope in that.
Footnote: The mandate of the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict has been prolonged indefinitely. Margot Wallström’s successor has not yet been announced.
27th of December 2011 the Parliament of Georgia approved a National Plan of Action for 2012-2015, for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325. The vote was preceded by a long and intense process, which involved governmental offices, international organizations and non governmental organizations (NGO:s). Now, six months later, is it possible to see any results?
Discussions on the possibility of adopting a National Action Plan, NAP, began in 2002, but at that time it didn’t reach beyond just talks. But when Georgia in 2010 adopted the Law on Gender Equality, and later established the Council for Equality, the issue surfaced again. A working group including government officials, civil society and international organizations was formed.
Miranda Gvantseladze works at the Cultural-Humanitarian Fund Sukhumi, one of the organizations represented in the working group:
- It was very important that non-governmental organizations were involved in developing the NAP. We are familiar with the situation at local level and we also have the experience and capacity to use in developing this kind of documents. And since the document was in our hands, we can say that our voice has been heard, she says.
The Georgian National Action Plan includes a number of priority areas:
- Increase the number of women in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and conflict management
- Protection of women’s rights and the guarantee of mental, economic, social and political security
- Elimination of all forms of violence against women
- Addressing the special needs of women in conflict and post-conflict situations
To be able to monitor the outcome, the NAP also includes a number of measurements. They focus on education, like seminars and workshops, as well as on the analysis of the situation, i e the accumulation of data, research and sharing of available statistics on the floor. And the first results are already here.
- There have been trainings held for the officials at the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior. The Ministry of Education haven’t had any trainings held yet but they have developed a plan of activities, says Eka Kemularia from the Georgian Parliament’s Committee on Human Rights and Civil Integration.
- The Minister of Defense plans to issue a special order for the implementation of the NAP at the ministerial level. That will include more women working at the ministry, more women involved in decision-making and training for the ministry’s staff in gender issues with regard to women and security, says George Amanatidze, Head of the International Law Division at the Ministry of Defence.
40 percent women delegates
And these are not just empty words – Georgian women have actually gotten more chances to make inputs in the area of conflict resolution. For example, in the 19th round of the Geneva talks on the stabilization work in South Caucasus, four out of ten of the participants in the Georgian delegation were women.
Hopes for international funding
Despite the obvious progress in implementing the NAP, there still remains, according to Eka Kemularia, the painful question of funding. And here the Georgian government’s hopes are to the international community.
- We hope that donors will not have the attitude that now, when the NAP has been adopted, they will stop or reduce their assistance. Yes, getting a plan through is not always easy, but it is easier than to execute it. If the international community won’t support us, first, the plan could unfortunately fail, and secondly, we have to some extent become an example for other countries, so if we are not successful, it would not be a very good example .
NGOs need support from the state
Miranda Gvantseladze agrees that the support from international organizations is important, but at the same time she finds it sad that the Georgian state doesn’t support the non-governmental sector.
- It’s a big problem for us. We have good ideas, good projects, but it’s difficult for us to get funding. Unfortunately, in our country the non-governmental organizations do not get state assistance yet, she says.
Why is it so difficult to get the parties in peace negotiations to include women? This was the main focus of an informal round-table held in Geneva, Switzerland, on April 26th. Experts on mediation and peace processes and women from civil society with experience of peace work participated.
- The results of the discussions will now be passed on to international actors, donors and civil society as part of the efforts to make a change, says Therese Arnewing, field coordinator at the women’s rights and peace organization The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, which arranged the round table.
Among the participating experts were Monica McWilliams, Professor at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland and signatory to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, Paul Bremer, the US Presidential Envoy to Iraq, responsible for Coalition efforts to start rebuilding the country’s shattered political and economic structure and Joyce Neu, first team leader for the United Nations’ Standby Team of Mediation Experts, with over 20 years of experience in conflict analysis and mediation in sub-Saharan Africa, the Balkans and the Caucasus etc. The ten civil society representatives came from Bosnia and Hercegovina, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Liberia and the South Caucasus region.
Chatham House Rules used
The whole round table was held according to the Chatham House Rules, which means that the information shared is free to use, but the identity of the speaker is not to be revealed.
- We did it that way because we wanted to have as open a dialogue as possible. When people know that they won’t be quoted, they can speak more freely. And we kept the group small to make it easier for the discussions to actually end in fruitful, concrete, recommendations, Therese Arnewing explains.
Joyce Neu, Founder and Senior Associate of Facilitating Peace, USA, Annie Matundu Mbambi, president of WILPF in DR Congo, Khanim Latif from ASUDA, Iraq and Bineta Diop from Femme Africa Solidarité, DR Congo, at the round-table in Geneva. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.
Trust in one self
One of the participants from civil society was Annie Matundu Mbambi, president of Women’s International League For Peace and Freedom, WILPF, in DR Congo. She was very pleased with the meeting.
- I learned a lot about experienced mediation and how to promote women’s participation and gender perspectives in negotiations. It will help me to encourage all of us to trust in our own skills and start negotiating more to have seats in the process, she says.
So what was the outcome of the discussions? Clearly the role of the negotiating parties are crucial when it comes to deciding if women will be present or not. But since they are also the ones who, most likely, will be implementing the peace agreement, it is important that they don’t feel forced to include women, but do it on their own accord. Otherwise there is a greater risk that the decisions won’t be pushed through.
In the summary of the meeting four incentives were presented:
- The self interest incentive: Find ways to convince the negotiating parties that a gender balanced negotiation team is in their best interest. Arguments that can be used is that when the peace agreement is followed by democratic elections, women will make up 50 percent of the constituency, i e to ensure positions of power it could be strategically wise for them to make sure that they have women’s support. That research shows that a peace is likely to be more sustainable when civil society is included in the negotiations and a gender perspective in the agreement, can also be an important leverage.
- The financial incentive. Funding can be used to motivate the negotiating parties to include women and a gender perspective at the negotiating table.
- The public opinion incentive. By increasing public awareness on the issue, through both traditional and social media, public opinion can be used to pressure the negotiating parties to include women and a gender perspective. However, it is important to remember that media often is a part of the problem, reinforces stereotypes and spreading rumours about the reputation and moral of politically active women.
- The non-threatening incentive: With quite small measures including women and a gender perspective can be less threatening. Using other words than the sometimes sensitive ”gender” or ”women’s rights” can be a way to avoid the resistance. The discussion on women’s rights can become a discussion on economic development, constitutional reform and social justice for example. Another way is to insist that all mediators and their teams have knowledge on gender issues. Today the gender advisors in the UN Mediation Standby Team are not being deployed since the negotiating parties do not request their assistance.
Wants special agreement
Annie Matundu Mbambi has yet another idea of what is needed.
- In my point of view, the UN Resolution 1325 arguments aren’t enough to bring women to the negotiation tables. The international community must decide that women’s participation is so important that it needs to be protected by a special agreement to let them have seats in the peace process. In my country we will not reach sustainable peace as long as women are excluded.
You can find more about the findings of the meeting in Women’s Participation in Peace Negotiations: The role of the negotiating parties.
A lot of men, and not so many women, met to discuss Afghanistan at the NATO Summit in Chicago. Photo: NATO.
NATO will appoint a Special Representative ”for mainstreaming UNSCR 1325 and related Resolutions into its operations and missions”. This was decided on the Alliance’s recent summit held in Chicago, USA. NATO also stated the importance of ”the full participation of all Afghan women in the reconstruction, political, peace and reconciliation processes in Afghanistan” and that this opinion is shared by the Afghan government.
The declaration released at the end of the summit, points out that the continued under-representation of women in peace processes, together with the widespread acts of sexual and gender-based violence, are severe impediments to building sustainable peace. NATO reaffirmed its commitment to UNSCR 1325 and related Resolutions, but also claimed that they ”in line with the NATO/Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) Policy (…) has made significant progress in implementing the goals articulated in these Resolutions”.
Besides from appointing a Special Representative, whom the member country Norway offered to provide, the Alliance also endorsed a Strategic Progress Report outlining NATO’s implementation of UNSCR 1325 to date and required the North Atlantic Council to provide a report on the status of implementation prior to the next NATO Summit.
The international development organization Gender Concerns International, GCI, welcomed the statements from the declaration, but raised concern over whether the words would translate into actual benefits for, for example, the women of Afghanistan, since it nowhere was mentioned how much of the budget, of 4,1 billion USD for the Afghan National Security Force, that would be allocated to recruit and train women.
GCI also stated that: ”The false notion that peace and security has little to do with women is exacerbated by the fact that while heads of state discussed issues which have a disproportionate affect on the lives of women in Afghanistan, Afghan women themselves were relegated to raising concerns at a shadow summit also held in Chicago”.