Women were absent when the peace agreement in DR Congo was signed. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation | Ida Udovic
Eleven countries signed a peace agreement mediated by the UN to end war in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. But civil society is not elated.
The new framework agreement for peace and stability in eastern DRC was signed in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on February 24, in the presence of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Eleven African countries signed the agreement, which among other things regulates the deployment of a special UN intervention brigade to the eastern DR Congo with troops from Southern and Eastern Africa. The brigade is supposed to reinforce the UN peacekeeping troop MONUSCO, which already is in the country. The undersigning countries furthermore committed not to interfere in each other’s internal affairs.
“Rwanda and Uganda have been criticized for their support to the rebel group M23. With this agreement, this kind of support has to stop. But it remains to be seen what will happen,” says Ylwa Renström, The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation’s coordinator for the DR Congo.
The violence escalates
Ylwa Renström sees it positively that there seems to be a will in the region’s countries to bring about a peaceful solution in DR Congo. At the same time, she continuously receives reports on escalating violence in eastern DR Congo. In early February, 30 women were for example raped in the Fizi territory in the South Kivu Province, brutal assaults which are believed to have been carried out by the FDLR rebel group. “This happens all the time! Sure, countries in the region can sign peace agreements, but it will be an enormous challenge to demobilize the rebel groups,” states Ylwa Renström.
The organization Solidarité des Femmes Activistes Pour la Défense des Droits Huimains (SOFAD), who works for peace and to increase women’s participation in political decision-making, is not impressed by the agreement. “They consider it a desktop product, signed by high-level politicians without consultation of civil society. Because of this the have doubts of how effective the contract will be to lay the foundations for lasting peace,” says Katarina Carlberg, The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation’s field representative in DR Congo, who has spoken with representatives of SOFAD.
Signees of the agreementThe peace agreement has been signed by Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Signees are also the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), the African Union, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the United Nations.
Katarina Carlberg also points out that the agreement neither mentions women’s rights nor women’s participation. Neither reflected in the agreement are the principles of the UN resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, nor mentions it women’s inclusion in the different mechanisms of stabilization and peace building the agreement suggests. “The only thing the agreement contains is a brief reference to sexual violence,” says Katarina Carlberg.
The content of the agreement has been criticized from different sides for being too vague. 46 Congolese and international organizations from civil society wrote for example in a joint statement that if the agreement should contribute to a genuine peace, it must be supplemented by concrete measures, such as the appointment of a special UN envoy with a mandate to mediate in both Congo and the region and the inclusion of civil society in the peace process.
In the organizations opinion it is furthermore important that war criminals do not go unpunished, as it has been the case in previous agreements.
Text: Karin Råghall
Translation: Katharina Andersen
This is not the first time Shatha Naji receives recognition for her work. She has already received the Mimosa Italian Award (2009) and the Shield of the Baghdadi Woman from Baghdad's governance council (2010). Photo: UNAMI
Shatha Naji Hussein from the Iraqi organization ‘Women for Peace’ was recently honored together with four other human rights activist by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Mr. Martin Kobler, during a ceremony to celebrate International Human Rights Day in Baghdad.
Every voice counts and can make a difference in society. Shatha Naji Hussein has raised hers to improve the situation of women and girls in Iraq. “The tireless efforts of those who campaign for justice, protect and support victims of violence, and work to ensure the political participation of people from all backgrounds, often go unrecognized,” Mr. Kobler stated in his laudatory speech. “I wish to draw particular attention to those ordinary Iraqis who have made their voices count by working to improve the lives of their fellow citizens,” he added. Shatha extended the honor to her colleagues at Women for Peace: “I feel each one of them deserve this honor more than me” .
In the seventies, Iraq declared full literacy for women, today the country is down to 40 percent. Before the 1980′s, Iraqi women were more visible and active in public life compared to other women in the region’s countries. A period of economic growth led to more education and employment possibilities. But the patriarchal structures and conservative moral concepts remained unchanged. Since then, women have been forced back into traditional roles and the overall situation in Iraq deteriorated after the invasion. In the war-torn and impoverished country, women now see themselves faced with stigmatization and marginalization from wider society. Sharia law has been introduced and honor killings, sexual slavery and domestic violence are serious problems. Until today, the law and custom allows male family members to “discipline” women with violence. The war has left many women widowed and with post-war trauma symptoms.
Against this background, Women for Peace was founded in 2003 to change Iraqi women’s conditions. Women for Peace works to empower women to bring change about in their own communities. According to Shatha Naji Hussein it requires a two-way process between civil movement and decision-makers to empower women and to secure women’s rights to build a safe future for women. “A nation’s development is measured by women’s development. If we want to build a nation that’s well-developed and prosperous, we must secure women’s rights to live a safe life”, says Shatha.
To reach that goal, women should also be included in the peace building process in the country, but are facing many enormous obstacles and challenges, Shatha points out. “It’s important to do continuous and diligent work in raising awareness about women’s legal rights in order for women to be more aware of their rights and to fight violence in all its forms. Moreover, the government has to work very hard to implement the UN resolution 1325 terms and make sure that women have an effective and real participation in all walks of life.”
Katharina Andersen | Afrah Nasser
Women in Damascus, Photo: Trilli Bagus
February 18th to 20th, Syrian activists and members of the country’s opposition met in Stockholm for a three days conference to discuss ”Women’s Influence and Participation in a Post-Authoritarian Syria.”
Issues like gender quota, human rights, the constitution, peace and reconciliation, psychosocial support and women’s empowerment were among the discussed topics. The conference resulted in the foundation of The Syrian Women’s Network, as the participants decided to work closely together in the future.
Organized work for women’s rights might be essential to break the pattern women experienced in the Arab spring countries: To be an equal part of the revolution, but when it comes to decisions and peace making, they find themselves excluded.
One of the conferences’ participants, a female activist from Syria who wanted to remain anonymous for safety reasons, shared her experiences of equality in decision processes at the beginning of the revolution and that this changed as the protests shifted to armed conflicts. Now women are the ones suffering the most under the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe and she was worried whether women will be able to overcome the devastating effects of war and violence and find the power to get actively involved in politics.
Now might be a good moment to start to shape the role women can have in a future Syria, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for negotiation talks on February 20th, after a meeting between Russia and the Arab League. Sitting down at a negotiating table is the only way to end the conflict without irreparable damage to Syria, he said. “Neither side can allow itself to rely on a military solution to the conflict, because it is a road to nowhere.”
Hopefully, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325, which urges the inclusion of women in conflict resolution and peace negotiations, will be attended and women will sit at this negotiation table as well. This would increase the chance of lasting peace and might also be a possibility to address the question of sexual violence as a weapon of war. Until now, in only three ceasefires in the world sexual violence was ever mentioned.
Representatives from nine women's and peace organizations met in Bukavu in November 2012 to mark the beginning of a three-year collaboration. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation | Anna Lithander
Politics and conflict resolution in DR Congo are areas reserved for men. But a new project, strengthening women at the local level, aims to break this pattern of discrimination.
Violence, harassment, slander and threats, poverty, corruption – the obstacles for women taking part in the daily life and future of their societies are many in the war-torn DR Congo. And the escalation of the conflict in eastern DR Congo the last couple of months, has once again made it evident that women are especially targeted. Several of the organizations in the region working with women’s rights and peace, have been subjected to violent threats and harassment.
In DR Congo, politics is not considered to be something for women to occupy themselves with. For many women the mere thought of participating on a political level is totally alien and women who do go into politics are at times even singled out as “rebels” and “prostitutes”.
Still there are many strong women in the country who are trying to increase women’s involvement. To support these struggles and to contribute to a more equal and sustainable peace, two Swedish orgainzations – The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation and the Life & Peace Institute – have teamed up to finance a three-year-long project for women on conflict resolution.
The Life & Peace Institute has worked with peaceprocesses on a local level in eastern DR Congo for many years.
- For several years we have tried to get a gender perspective into our work, but we haven’t been able to do it systematically. With the help of The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation and the Congolese women’s organizations that they work with, we hope to reach more women and make sure that their voices also are heard when local disputes are being resolved, says Zaurati Nasibu at Life & Peace in Bukavu, eastern Congo.
The conflict resolution method used by Life & Peace is based on long-term work to resolve local conflicts, with as many parties as possible involved in achieving peace. So far, however, too few women have been present and active.
- We advertise about information meetings, but not many women come. Clearly we have to have a different approach. Perhaps we should invite women separately? says Loochi Muzaliwa from Life & Peace.
- We women’s organizations also work with women’s peace issues, but we lack strategies and we don’t have the right connections. In this project we can all come together with our different points of view, but with the common idea that women are central in achieving lasting peace. We are very positive about this collaboration, it feels really important, says Gege Katana from the women’s rights and peace organization Solidarité des Femmes Activistes Pour la Défense des Droits Huimains, SOFAD, in Uvira.
The project kicked off in November 2012, when men and women from nine different women’s and peace organizations from eastern Congo came together in a two-day-meeting held in Bukavu. They discussed everything from how traditions discriminate women, to what the UN resolution 1325 on women, peace and security really means.
“Can we talk about women’s rights and participation at the same time?” one of the participants asked himself and initiated a loud discussion. “People have no idea that there even is a UN resolution on women in conflicts – education and training will be needed,” another person around the table said. “Women make up half the society and are the war’s main victims. They must be part of the work otherwise the peace won´t last,” a third participant pointed out.
The meeting ended with the participants listing the concrete tools they thought they would need to be able to work more systematically with peace and women’s participation.
The peace organizations expressed a desire to learn more about what a gender perspective really means and of legal and other documents that support women’s rights. The women’s organizations wanted to learn more about mediation, negotiation techniques and conflict analysis.
- In AFEM (Association des Femmes des Médias) we support women in rural areas and often help out as mediators when women who have been raped have been disowned by their families. We need to learn more about good mediation techniques, so that we really can help people reconcile, says Julienne Baseke.
The next participants meeting will take place early 2013. After that a pilot project related to Life & Peace’s conflict resolution method will be launched in one of the villages in the region that currently is dealing with a conflict. With the help of women’s organizations participating, the hope is for more women to be able to share in the talks to reach a solution.
Text: Anna Lithander
Translation: Malin Ekerstedt
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
Iraq NAP 1325 Initiative: Civil Society Reference Group Strategic Meeting, Beirut, July 28-29, 2012
When UNSCR 1325 was adopted in 2000 it clearly stated women’s right to equal participation in peace and re-building processes. But still there are many countries who hasn’t even developed a National Action Plan (NAP) for how to implement the resolution. One of these countries is Iraq, where women’s rights activists now have joined together to get a NAP into place.
Iraq is one of the countries that suffered greatly from the aftermath of conflicts and wars that have affected the social, economic, cultural, health and political status of women. Despite having played a critical role in sustaining the community and the remaining infrastructure and despite playing a critical role in the social, political and economic development of the post-conflict Iraq, women have been marginalized in the public and private life; excluded from decision making on all levels and consequently been deprived of the opportunity to influence the decisions that shape their lives. The discrimination and violence against women in the legislation, as well as in the economic and social life, persist, contributing to an increasing sense of insecurity for women.
Resolution 1325 was one of the instruments developed by the UN Security Council to confirm the fact that sustainable peace and security can only be achieved with the protection and the participation of the whole society – both women and men. As such UNSCR 1325, together with other international mechanisms as CEDAW and Beijing Platform for Action, is a powerful instrument that can be used by civil society organizations to hold their governments accountable. However, the resolution is written in general terms and in order for the government in Iraq to adopt a contextualized and effective response, a national action plan (NAP) with specific, measurable and time-limited objectives is needed, in order to enable the implementation of the resolution. It also requires specific actions and policies, accountability mechanism for the ministries and respective authorities, a concrete allocated budget, transparency and an evaluation and monitoring reporting mechanism.
A workshop entitled “Towards creation of National Action Plan for implementation of UNSCR 1325 in Iraq”, was held on 25-27 April 2012 in Amman by the European Feminist Initiative (IFE-EFI) in cooperation and with the support of the Norwegian Embassy Amman, to identify the present challenges for developing a national action plan and to map the way forward. One of the identified challenges during this workshop was the lack of networking and insufficient cooperation among women’s rights organisations. Addressing this problem was seen as a precondition for the success of the whole process and consequently for the development of the NAP. As an outcome for the workshop, four women activists were delegated to widen the process and reach out to other leading activists from civil society to form a focus group that would work together to ensure that in an all-inclusive consultative process for developing of a National Action Plan (NAP) in Iraq is set in place.
Between April and June the process continued and representatives from major women’s rights organizations were approached and invited to the Civil Society Strategic Meeting in Beirut on 28-29 July 2012. The main objectives of the meeting were to develop a common understanding and strengthen collaboration amongst key representatives from various women’s groups and networks to develop a NAP, benefiting from the Nepalese successful experience, identify key strategies and a work plan for the development of NAP, as well as the terms of reference for the national reference civil society group.
During this meeting, major Iraqi women’s rights organizations mapped the necessary actions for implementing UNSCR 1325 and developed an outline of a NAP framework with specific goals, objectives and main principles. The participants also expressed their willingness to work together towards building a political will for developing of NAP through a process built on dialogue, respect and the acknowledgement of differences, agreeing to maintain coordination, cooperation and transparency in the work of the reference group. A name for the national reference group was also agreed upon: Iraq NAP 1325 Initiative (I-NAP 1325 Initiative). In addition to that, an outline for the preliminary plan of action for the I-NAP 1325 Initiative was developed for the first several months, from the 1st of September till the 31st of December 2012, with a focus on building a political will towards developing the NAP; reaching out to other groups working with UNSCR 1325 inside Iraq and starting a broad consultation process.
It is worth mentioning that no country in the Middle East and North Africa region has yet developed an NAP for the implementation of UNSCR1325, hence the development of a NAP and the success in its implementation will certainly make Iraq a leading country and a model in the region. The Iraqi government can set an example in the region and in this way contribute to the building of a long-awaited regional peace process.
Download the report from the meeting.
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.
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”.