Yesterday, parliamentary elections were held in Albania. However, women’s diminishing role in politics was decided upon already in the beginning of the election campaign.
”Despite the advocacy conducted by civil society and promises from the leaders of political parties, the 30 percent gender quota for candidates’ lists wasn’t met” says Armela Bejko, Project Director for the Albanian women’s rights organisation Association of Women With Social Problems.
Prior to the official start of the election campaign, Albania’s three main political parties – the Socialist Party (SP), the Democratic Party (DP) and the Socialist Movement for Integration – all spoke of their positive view on gender equality and of the necessity of increasing women’s participation in decision-making. Therefore the lack of women candidates on the party lists came as quite a surprise, says Armela Bejko
Armela Bejko, Project Coordinator, Association of Women With Social Problems.
”The reality revealed that their promises were not serious and the lists reflected gender inequality and proved once again the discrimination and patriarchal attitudes of the political leaders. This was unexpected for the women’s movement and women in general, who have worked continously for the improvement of legal framwork on these issues and with encouraging women to be involved in politics on the local and national level.”
Instead of putting more women on their lists, the parties chose to pay the fines connected with not fulfilling the quota.
Ranked low on the lists
Many of the women who made it onto the lists are also ranked so low that they basically have no chance to get into parliament. And not many of them have run any campaign of their own.
”Women candidates for MPs (Members of Parliament) generally have supported the top candidates on their lists. Partly this can be explained by the fact that you vote for the political party and not the specific candidates. But it also reflects women’s limited power and independence within their own parties” says Armela Bejko.
Important for EU
Sunday’s elections were marred by a shooting near a polling station in the northern city of Lac, where a candidate for the Democratic Party was wounded and an opposition supporter was killed. A tragedy in itself, this, together with an election campaign characterized by political tension and hostile comments between opponents, is a clear problem for a country trying to show its readiness to join the European Union. According to Armela Bejko, the election process is seen as a key test of the democratic progress in Albania and a determining factor in the country’s efforts to take its seat in Brussels.
After polling stations closed, both the ruling Democrats and the Socialist opposition declared they had won, while an exit poll gave the opposition a nine-point lead, reports the Balkan Insight. So far the Central Electoral Commission, CEC, only has announced partial results representing less than two per cent of the national vote. These results put the left-wing opposition in the lead.
But no matter which party wins, the political participation of women seems to have lost. In the last election women recieved 15 percent of the seats in the parliament, and Armela Bejko is not optimistic regarding the outcome of this election.
”Analyzing the ranking of women candidates in the first places of the candidates’ lists we foresee a decrease of the number of women MPs” she says.
Protests against the adoption of the abortion law outside the parliament building in Skopje in the beginning of June. The sign reads "My body, my decision". Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Emilija Dimoska.
Despite strong protests from civil society organisations and the political opposition, June 17th Macedonian President Gjorgje Ivanov signed a decree for restrictions of abortions. Still, activists have not given up hope of overturning the decision.
The draft law was pushed through in a rushed procedure and many NGOs claim that the whole process has been a clear evidence of the lack of democratic capacities among Macedonian institutions. We talked to Bojan Jovanovski, Executive Director of H.E.R.A, Health Education and Research Association, which has been one of the most active NGOs organising actions against the abortion law.
What were the reactions on the draft law from the women’s movement and civil society organisations?
”Many women’s and human rights organisations were active in trying to stop the adoption of this law. In just one day, 72 organisations signed a request to the Minister of Health and members of parliament not to vote for the law and to ensure a transparent and consultative process in writing a new one, involving interested parties like gynecologists and civil society organisations (CSOs). At the parliamentary public hearing, organised by the Health Commission, CSOs were also very active, putting forward the same request.”
Are you planning any new actions to protest against the law?
”H.E.R.A sent a letter to the President asking him not to sign the law, using many arguments. We have also had a meeting with collaborators of the President, to thoroughly explain why the law is harmful from a human rights perspective. Now, CSOs are looking into the possibilities to send a submission to the Constitutional Court to dispute the law. Most probably there will be a working group established to coordinate this work.
We are also planning on doing more international advocacy. All parliamentary groups on sexual and reproductive health and rights in the European Parliament sent a letter to the President not to sign the law and we will look into how these groups perhaps can influence our decision makers further on. The Center for Reproductive Rights will also provide support in terms of human rights analysis of the new legislation and especially in relation to all international obligations that our country has ratified.”
What do you think will be the consequences of the law? Do critics see this as a first step to criminalize abortion?
“The law will definitely obstruct women’s access to legal abortion services as they will have to go through a lot of bureaucratic procedures, which are non-scientific and not in line with international human rights treaties. There is off course also the possibility that the number of non-safe abortions will increase and that could be lethal for women. We have seen this conservative government trying to introduce many pro-natal politics that stigmatizes and delegitimize women’s rights and it will not stop here.”
More on the contents of the Macedonian abortion law.
Emilija Dimoska/Malin Ekerstedt
Ursula Keller, Swisspeace, Louise Olsson, Folke Bernadotte Academy, Pelle Enarsson, Political Advisor to the EUSR for the Horn of Africa and Shukria Dini, Somali Women's Studies Centre was in one of the panels discussing the EU, peacebuilding and gender. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Pavlina Ekdahl.
”You can hardly find a single high-level speach not mentioning the importance of including women. Resolution 1325 is firmly established on the policy level. So why has so little changed in practice?” This was one of the questions debated at a day of seminars on the European Union and peacebuilding, held in Stockholm, Sweden, last week.
The day was arranged by the NGOs European Peacebuilding Liaison Office (EPLO), The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation and Life & Peace Institute and focused on the EU’s peacebuilding efforts in Somalia and the rest of the Horn of Africa, together with its commitment on gender, peace and security. And there wasn’t always agreement on what could be seen as good practice.
Pelle Enarsson, Political Advisor to the EU Special Representative (EUSR) for the Horn of Africa, described a ”successful political transition” taking place in Somalia last year, after 20 years of conflict – a success that the EU, and the rest of the international community, contributed to. Regarding women’s participation he highlighted that there had been a strong pressure from the international community to have a quota of 30 percent women in the transitional parliament, although this goal wasn’t reached in the end.
Somali women not listened to
But Shukria Dini from Somali Women’s Studies Centre was not impressed by the international efforts that ended with 12 percent women now holding seats in the parliament. ”Somali women are really not represented well in the new parliament. The international community cared about ending the process, not making sure that women fulfilled the 30 percent quota. We had a number of meetings with different international stakeholders and they all said ‘you women, go negotiate with your clan elders, there is nothing we can do about this’”she said.
On a question from the audience for advice on how to include women in work with conflict resolution and prevention, Shukria Dini pointed out that in Somalia women orchestrated local cross-clan peace processes for several years before the international community arrived, and had a lot of knowledge on participation. “We told the international community that we didn’t trust the clan elders to deliver lists with women for the parliament and that we could present these lists instead. But our appeal fell on deaf ears and we felt we had been cheated. So, there has to be more consultations with women in the concerned country – not just one, but several! Find out what women want, what solutions do they have?”
Many instruments – too little coordination
Many of the participants, both from within and outside of the EU, repeated that if the union isn’t yet seen as a strong actor in peacebuilding, it’s not due to a lack of policies. On the contrary, some mentioned that the fact that there are so many institutions within the EU working with peacebuilding, could be one of the problems. At the same time there are parts of the EU that doesn’t deal with peacework, but that should be involved for a common approach to be effective.
UNSCR resolution 1325
Resolution 1325 was adopted by the UN Security Council in 2000.
It was the first time that the Security Council addressed the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women and also recognised the under-valued and under-utilized contributions women make to conflict resolution and peace-building. It stresses the importance of women’s equal and full participation as active agents in peace and security.
Resolution 1325 is binding upon the UN and all its member states.
”We have a lot of instruments for peacebuilding, the challenge is to join up the dots. The structures are not ideal, there is a lot to do to make them more comprehensive and holistic. And there are also a lot of policies that doesn’t lie within the EEAS, like trade for instance, that still are important for our peacebuilding work” said Andrew Byrne from Conflict Prevention, Peace Building and Mediation Instruments within the EU’s European External Action Service (EEAS)
Catherine Woollard from the NGO European Peacebuilding Liaison Office (EPLO) elaborated:
”The EU is still divided. There are multiple institutions working in different external missions and there are fights on who should be dealing with conflict prevention and resolution. Additionally there are a lot of actors, like us, standing on the outside telling the EU what to do. So in the end there are more people studying the EU and conflict than who are working with conflict within the EU – more reflection than action!” she said.
Practice what you preach
When it comes to women being equal participants in the EU’s peacebuilding actions, the problems seem to be the same as for most big actors: transforming big words into reality. Many of the (female) participants pointed out that the EU has to practice what it preaches, i e how can its officials go to conflict-ridden countries and talk about the importance of including women in their decision-making structures, when there at the same time are so few women within the decision-making structures of the EU peacebuilding missions?
Another area where the credibility of the EU’s equality approach seems to be faltering, is in reporting. According to EU policy, gender mainstreaming is supposed to permeate all its work. To follow up on this, all institutions and actions are to report on their actions to live up to that committment.
But out of the participants in the seminar, none of the persons who worked within the EU could say how, or even if, this reporting system was being implemented at their division. It came down to a voice from the audience, Giulia Pasquinelli from EPLO’s Gender, Peace and Security Working Group, to explain the regulations and how they should be working. A clear sign of the need for acute measures to be taken to fill the gap between policy documents and practice, if the EU is to be taken seriously as an actor working for women, peace and security.
The European Parliament adopted a resolution on March 14 requesting the European Union to stop financial support to Egypt if the country doesn’t make considerable progress in the fields of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
The Members of European Parliament (MEP) asked the EU to set clear conditions for its aid to Egypt, applying the ‘more for more’ principle. High representative Catherine Ashton had been vague about the EU’s policy towards Egypt at a debate on March 13.
”While we have to show ‘strategic patience’ with the political developments in the country, we will not remain silent on issues like fundamental freedoms and human rights. At the same time we have to help meet the socio-economic expectations,” Ashton said.
With both subsidies and loans from European financial institutions taken into account, EU aid to Egypt totals 5 billion euros in 2012-2013. The European Parliament reminded the EU that part of this package is conditional on respect of human rights, democracy and economic governance, thus the EU should “set clear conditions for its aid to Egypt.” The MEPs wanted to see a focus on civil society, women and child protection.
Saba Nowzari, working with Egypt for the Swedish women’s rights and peace organization The Kvinna til Kvinna Foundation, stated, that “Egypt’s institutional channels do not work, the government itself is facing lots of challenges, so the allocation directly towards women’s rights could be difficult. But nevertheless the EU should always make demands regarding human rights and specifically allocate money for women, not only for their human rights, but also for their economic growth, job opportunities and access to public space.”
The European Parliament also expressed ”deep concern” about the rise of violence directed towards women in Egypt, especially towards activists and female protesters, and urged the Egyptian authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice. Another demand was the abolition of all laws allowing police and security forces to make unlimited use of violence and to pass a moratorium on the death penalty.
We recieved a blog post from Lena Ag, the Secretary General of the Swedish women’s rights and peace organization The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, regarding the decision of giving the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU.
“Three distinguished, senior, white men will go to Oslo December 10 to collect the Nobel Peace Prize. European Parliament President Martin Schulz, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU President Herman Van Rompuy.
They reflect perfectly the power structure within the EU.
All Heads of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions are men, as are 73 percent of Heads of EU Delegations. Only two women have ever been appointed as an EU special representative. Just two of the Unions 25 member states have a female prime minister, and of 19 presidents only one is a woman.
The Swedish journalist Jenny Nordberg captured my feeling in her tweet yesterday: “Three white middle aged Western European men will go to Oslo to accept Peace Prize for Europe. That’s my modern, inclusive continent…” @nordbergjenny
Although you can call the EU the world’s largest peace-building project, the Union has a lot left to do to be a worthy winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.I wonder how the Norwegian Nobel Committee reasoned regarding the basic idea of the Peace Prize, that it is supposed to promote disarmament and non-military solutions. Within the EU there are major military actors, including nations with nuclear weapons.
At policy level, there are high aspirations for peace and human rights, but what counts is what is carried out on the ground. Especially considering that last year’s winners, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman was awarded for their peaceful struggle for women’s security and participation in peace processes. The Nobel Committee noted then that a sustainable peace and democracy can not be achieved as long as women are discriminated against.
Our partner organizations in the Balkans testify to how the EU work is a total failure at this point, despite the enormous resources spent. The EU has a shamefully low number of women in high positions, for example none of the EU’s common peace and security mission, like EULEX in Kosovo, is lead by a woman. And the list goes on. EU and the international community’s failure is evident when studying our latest report, Equal Power – Lasting Peace, that was presented in the European Parliament on October 11th. The report’s conclusions, and the discussions during the conference in the Parliament, show that there is a lot left to be done before the EU implements new strategies, worthy of the Peace Prize.”
The unique mapping was presented at the conference. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Ida Udovic.
On October, 11th the Equal Power – Lasting Peace report made by the Swedish women and peace organization The Kvinna till kvinna Foundation on women’s participation in peacebuilding was presented at a conference in the European parliament. Based on the interviews with women-activists from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, DR Congo and Liberia, the report is a unique mapping of obstacles that keep women in conflict-torn regions from participating in peace processes on equal terms with men.
The Equal power – Lasting Peace conference gathered more than 100 participants, EU and NATO officials and politicians, as well as civil society representatives – in the audience and among the panelists.
The opinions and discussions at the conference were many, all of them though sharing a common stand: something has to be done to increase women’s participation in peace negotiations. The question is how and by whom.
– Women’s political participation and decision-making are the key issues, underlined Ms. Helga Schmid, Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs at European External Action Service (EEAS).
At her opening speech she mentioned Egypt, where the draft of the Constitution does not make any provisions for gender equality and where there are only six female MPs.
– We focus our assistance in the EU neighborhood to civil society and women’s issues, in particularly legal rights and equal access to decision making and to the power structures. Gender cannot be an excluding factor in the political processes from an early stage of mediation in the process and onwards, said Ms. Helga Schmid.
Ensuring that gender equality is guaranteed from the very beginning when designing a peace agreement has proven to be a crucial factor for the sustainability of the peace. How bad a gender-blind peace agreement can turn out Alexandra Petric, Programme Director of United Women Banja Luka, BiH, testified on.
– Bosnia and Herzegovina has gone eight years without any women ministers, 17 years without any women members of the BiH Joint Presidency, and 17 years without any women in negotiations about crucial political issues that affect lives of women and men citizens of BiH, such as security sector and constitutional reforms, says Alexandra Petric
“EU should lead by example”,
The Kvinna till kvinna Foundation’s Secretary-General Lena Ag highlighted in her introduction. While the EU has adopted a comprehensive approach
on UNSC resolutions 1325 and 1820 on women, peace and security, the reality reflected by statistics
leaves much to be desired
. EU’s CSDP operations (operations under the EU’s common security and defense policy) are all led exclusively by men, and only two of EU:s ten special representatives are women, just to name a few examples.
This statistics, says Mr. Olof Skoog, Chair of the Political and Security Committee at EEAS, was a lesson from the day:
– Not a single woman leads our missions. We are choosing the best of the best, but the problem is that member-states are not nominating any women. What we can do is to explicitly ask them to nominate more female candidates, says Mr. Skoog.
NGOs not GONGOs
The topic of giving room to the voices of women from conflict-affected regions was discussed by many of the panelists and raised in questions from the audience. Finding the authentic grass-root organizations can be a challenge when a lot of GONGOs (governmentally organized NGOs) are entering the scene. Still it is crucial in getting a comprehensive understanding of the situation in a region:
– When EU officials are visiting a region, they really need to seek contact with, and talk to, real civil society organizations, including women organizations, not those who will tell the convenient things that the officials want to hear, says one of the panelists Gulnara Shahinian from the Armenian organization Democracy today.
Slander, violence, corruption and unequal laws are some of the obstacles that keep women from participating on equal terms with men in peace processes, the report shows. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Sara Lüdtke.
Women has important role
The role of women’s organizations and women activists in peace processes was stressed by many panelists throughout the conference. Monica McWilliams, one of the signatories of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland dwelled on it at her presentation at the conference, as well as Teresita Quintos-Deles, advisor to the President of the Phillipines on the peace process, who sent her greetings on video, as she herself was occupied with the upcoming peace agreement. Both women provided striking evidence of the importance of women’s empowerment.
Long-term support neeeded
A long-term strategic approach and continuity are what women activists Alexandra Petric and Gulnara Shahinian would like to see from the EU:
– The EU needs to develop strong and coherent strategies to address women’s human rights and gender equality in Bosnia and Herzegovina to address both direct and indirect support of perpetuating ignorance toward these issues by BiH authorities. This requires the EU’s commitment to a long-term support of women and gender equality – specific programs that focuses on the prevention of and fighting against gender-based violence and that underlines women NGOs positions as watch-dogs and partners to BiH government institutions. This would both strengthen women’s human rights in practice and the NGO’s work on empowering women, says Alexandra Petric.
– We would really appreciate sustainable and strategic involvement from the EU. What we see now is that the EU finances short projects, where partnership with civil society has a formal character, says Gulnara Shahinian.
The findings from the Iraqi field study show that the US occupation increased secterian thinking within the country and severly crippled women's rights. Photo: Anna Lithander/The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.
Violence, corruption and unequal laws are some of the obstacles that keep women in conflict-torn regions from participating on equal terms with men in peace processes. Another big part of the problem is that the international community gives priority to men for senior positions in peace operations. This according to the new report Equal Power – Lasting Peace made by the Swedish women and peace organization The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.
Equal Power – Lasting Peace is based on field studies made in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, DR Congo and Liberia. Although the countries and conflicts differ, the patterns are strikingly similar.
In all the regions women and women’s organizations play important roles in resolving conflicts in local communities and in handling everyday life.
But when it comes to formal decision forums the doors are closed for women. This contrary to the statements of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which emphasizes that women must participate on the same terms as men in all parts of peace processes, for the peace to be sustainable.
The exclusion of women is present both within the international missions and negotiating team at national level. Equal Power – Lasting Peace shows that very little has happened, despite the fact that twelve years have passed since Resolution 1325 was adopted.
– Peace Processes that excludes half the population are imperfect. Women’s needs and experiences are made invisible, says Lena Ag, Secretary General at The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.
Equal Power – Lasting Peace’s survey shows that the most common obstacles for participation that women face are:
- Legislation and standards
- Rumours and threats
- Domestic violence, including sexual violence
- Poverty and corruption
- Ignorance of the international community
- As in other policy areas, the male dominance within the peace and security area needs to be broken. It is a question of democracy and a basic condition for sustainable peace processes. It is also important to push for the appointments of more women to key positions within the EU and the UN. How else can the international community credibly argue that equality is important? says Lena Ag.
No female UN Chief Mediator
Examples of the representation of women and men in key positions related to peace and security:
- At the 24 largest peace negotiations held between 1992 and 2010, only 7,6 percent of the negotiators and 2,5 percent of the mediators were women.
- The UN has never appointed a female Chief Mediator.
- 89 percent of the UN’s special representatives and envoys are men.
- 84 percent of the UN peacekeeping operations are led by men.84 percent of the UN member countries’ UN ambassadors are men.
- There are only men leading the EU’s CSDP operations (operations under the EU’s common security and defense policy).
- 2 of the EU’s 10 special representatives are women.
Equal Power – Lasting Peace, the report
Equal Power – Lasting Peace, summary
Statistics of women and men in key positions within the EU and the UN
On October 1st parliamentary elections will be held in Georgia. Currently there are only 6.6 percent women representatives in the Georgian parliament, the lowest number in all of Europe.
− To achieve long-term stability in Georgia, it is crucial to include more women in the decision-making processes, says Alla Gamakharia from the women and peace organization Cultural-Humanitarian Fund Sukhumi, based in Kutaisi.
Between 2006 and 2011 Georgia fell from place 59 to place 120 in The Global Gender Gap Index concerning women’s political participation. To reverse this negative trend, the Georgian government in December 2011 adopted a law amendment stating that the stately support to political parties will be increased if they have at least 20 percent women candidates on their party lists.
But this seems to have had little impact on the biggest rivals in the upcoming election. President Saakashvili’s party, United National Movement has 10.9 percent women among its candidates and billionaire Bidzina Ivanisjvilis party, The Georgian Dream (Kartuli Otsneba), has 16.5 percent.
Patriarchal norms and nepotism
The Georgian society is characterized by both patriarchal norms and nepotism. This drastically reduces the possibility of getting into politics without having an influential family behind you, especially if you’re a women. Discrimination against women is widespread and embedded in social structures, which limits the opportunities for women to pursue careers and participate in politics. Issues of gender equality and women’s rights are not high on the political agenda.
For Alla Gamakharia there is a clear relationship between the low percentage of women in parliament and other problem’s in Georgian society.
− A low representation of women leads to marginalization of issues concerning women’s situation in the country, which leads to inequality, human rights violations and social imbalances, says Alla Gamakharia.
International discussions important
Within the framework of the EU’s Eastern Partnership – which includes the EU and its six Eastern neighbors Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus – Georgia has committed itself to respecting the EU’s common values, including democracy and human rights. A commitment that, according to Lika Naidaraia from the Georgian women and peace organization Women’s Political Resource Centre, WPRC, could be crucial for future development in Georgia. She underlines the importance of the EU and the international community highlighting gender equality in political decision-making, when meeting with representatives of the Georgian government.
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.
Last year’s new European Neighbourhood Policy meant an increased commitment from the European Union to support human rights when aiding its neighbouring countries. But women’s rights are still very much missing in the formal documents, and thereby also in the actions taken and planned. This although the official words spoken are underlining equality.
In May 2011 the European Union revised its Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in, as the European Commission (EC) describes it, ”a rapid respons to the changes taking place in particular in the Southern Mediterranean but also in Eastern Europe”. This new strategy was adopted to show Europe’s support to the peoples of the Arab Spring and to their struggle for freedom, democracy and safety. A year on the EC has made an assessment of the implementation of this new policy so far, and the result is presented in the report Delivering on a new European Neighbourhood Policy.
When presenting the report, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Commission Vice-President (HR/VP), Catherine Ashton, was optimistic:
- We have seen great progress in some countries. In others, we need to encourage the political leadership to take bold steps down the path to reform. I have always said that we will be judged on our work with our immediate neighbours, and I am convinced that we are moving in the right direction. We will continue to help our partners in their efforts to embed fundamental values and reinforce the economic reforms which are necessary to create what I call ‘deep democracy’, she said.
Women’s rights not in writing
The ENP defines deep and sustainable democracy as ”including free and fair elections, freedom of association, expression and assembly, the rule of law administered by an independent judiciary” etc, but there is no mentioning of women’s rights to equal participation in decision-making.
Since history has shown us that when women’s rights are not spelled out in basic documents (and sometimes even when they are) they won’t appear in reality, this could be seen as very unfortunate. Especially since Delivering on a new European Neighbourhood Policy states that it ”is based on new features, including…a recognition of the special role of women in reshaping both politics and society”. A statement further endorsed by Catherine Ashton:
- I’ve been very privileged to meet women in countries like Egypt, Libya, Tunisia. We need to ensure that women play their full part in society, in the political and economic life of their countries, not just because of course it’s the right thing to do, but because it makes economic and political sense. I would argue women should be at the heart of all the transformations that follow.
Actions for women through the ENP
So the question is: How have these EU statements on women’s rights been transformed into actions concerning the neighbouring countries during the past year, and what are the plans within this area for the years to come?
Delivering on a new European Neighbourhood Policy has only one paragraph mentioning women’s rights. It states that building sustainable democracy also means ensuring gender equality and increasing the participation of women in political and economic life. But after that the paragraph just goes on observing that some of the countries last year tried to set up legislation to ensure a more balanced composition of parliaments, but that they have encountered resistance and therefore this action has not had the desired effect.
But in the accompanying document Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity: Report on activities in 2011 and Roadmap for future action, there is a list of actions taken within the ENP to establish full participation of women in society when it comes to the Southern Neighbourhood. This includes:
- A high level meeting in New York in September that ”drew international attention to the need to ensure that women play an active part in political processes worldwide”.
- The HR/VP during the Women’s Rights Forum in Libya in November announcing the launch of a programme for women’s empowerment, including capacity building and education in the region.
- A regional campaign on women’s political participation in the Middle East and North Africa launched in December, together with ”concrete projects in this field”.
- In Tunisia: promoting gender senstitive institutional and judicial reforms and women’s participation in elections.
- In Egypt: addressing women’s participation in political life through a cultural initiative called the Spirit of Tahrir.
- In Jordan: having two ”Village Business Incubators” promoting rural women’s right to participate in the labour market.
Actions to come
For the upcoming period of 2012-2013 the actions specifically mentioning women are:
- The programme Political and economic empowerment of women in Southern Mediterranean region, aiming to help marginalised women gaining access to economic and public life.
- Increased funding to the Anna Lindh Foundation and its programme Civil Society for Dialogue, targeting youth and women.
The equivalent document for the Eastern Neighbourhood – Eastern Partnership: A Roadmap to the autumn 2013 Summit – has no mention of women’s rights or participation whatsoever.
The new ENP entailed the principle of ”more for more”, meaning that the more a partner country makes progress and implements reforms, the more support it will recieve from the EU. In separete country progress reports these reforms are stated as actions that EU ”invites” the country to take. Four of the ones for 2012 mention women or gender:
Armenia invitations contain ”adopting a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, including further steps leading to the harmonisation of legislation with the EU acquis in the areas of gender equality and non-discrimination.”
Jordan invitations contain ”increase efforts to eradicate violence against women and to promote their integration in politics, socio-economic life through promoting women entrepreneurs, women’s participation in the labour market and in education, in line with the recommendations listed in the preliminary report issued in October by the UN Special Rapporteur on discrimination against women”.
Lebanon invitations contain ”pay special attention to enhancing the role of women in both public and economy sectors respectively”.
Ukraine invitations contain ”address in good time issues raised in the area of justice and home affairs, notably on combating trafficking in human beings taking into account a gender and human rights perspective”.
These are all of course good examples, but in comparison to the points on various measures regarding trade that are taking up several pages of the different documents, it is not much. Especially when accompanied by a floating language that uses non-specific words like ”leading to”, ”harmonisation”, ”pay special attention to” etc.
In other words: it remains to be seen how the EU’s bold statements on the importance of gender equality will actually be followed through in its practical dealings with the neighbouring countries the upcoming years.