Month: March 2020

Month: March 2020

Where are the women and youth peacebuilders?

Civil society Beijing +25 WPS-YPS Action Coalition launches its Advocacy Paper, calls for meaningful inclusion of Women and Peace and Security and Youth and Peace and Security in Generation Equality Forum

March 30, 2020 by Jenaina Irani and Katrina Leclerc

With the outbreak of the global pandemic of COVID-19, civil society-led Beijing+25 WPS-YPS Action Coalition strategized and mobilized. The pandemic did not stop their global advocacy: on March 17, 2020, they hosted an online event “Beijing+25: Where are the Women and Youth Peacebuilders?”, originally planned during the now-cancelled United Nations’ 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

As the situation continued to evolve – the CSW first postponed, then cancelled; gatherings in New York limited to maximum 10 people, then strongly discouraged altogether – women and youth peacebuilders who comprise the Action Coalition strategized and revised the modality of the event. Their determination and the success of the online discussion send a clear message: “Our resolve will not be stifled by the COVID-19. Our voices will not be silenced!”

Ultimately, the event took the form of a virtual roundtable discussion, which brought together 180 participants representing the civil society, Member States, and UN entities. They engaged in a strategic discussion on the necessary actions for the implementation of the WPS and YPS agendas and their intentional and meaningful inclusion in the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) process and outcomes, in order to prevent the weakening of agreed-upon language in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Women, Peace and Security and Youth, Peace and Security resolutions.

“There cannot be empowerment without peace, and there cannot be peace without gender equality,” said Mallika Iyer, GNWP’s Program Officer, as she introduced the Advocacy Paper developed by the Beijing +25 WPS-YPS Action Coalition identifying and coordinating messaging on key recommendations from civil society within the Beijing+25/GEF process. The key messages and recommendations of the paper were presented by participating organizations of the civil society-led Action Coalition from Afghanistan, Latin America, Iraq, the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Ukraine, and Canada. Their message was echoed by many of the other high-level speakers and grassroots activists who took the floor during the discussion.

Keynote speakers included Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and initiator of UNSCR 1325, Dr. Patricia Licuanan, former Chair of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, Ms. Bandana Rana, Vice-Chair of the CEDAW Committee, Ms. Paivi Kannisto, Chief, Women, Peace, and Security and Humanitarian Action Section at  UN Women, Ambassador Jacqueline O’Neill, Canada’s Ambassador for Women, Peace, and Security, Ms. Cecile Mazzacurati, Head of the Secretariat of the Global Coalition on Youth, Peace, and Security at UNFPA and Ms. Shannon Kowalski, from the International Women’s Health Coalition and the civil society representative to the GEF Core Group and Dr. Lina Abirafeh, Executive Director of the Arab Institute for Women at the Lebanese American University. All of them have agreed that the GEF offers an important opportunity to step up the commitment and action for gender equality. As Ambassador Chowdhury put it, “The year 2020 gives us the opportunity to put renewed energy to roll back the dual scourges of patriarchy and misogyny” – but only if WPS and YPS are meaningfully integrated into all discussions and outcomes.

In an encouraging development for women and youth peacebuilders around the world, keynote speaker Ms. Sarah Hendricks, Director, Policy, Program, and Intergovernmental Division at UN Women announced that GEF’s core group set up a task force to identify specific actions that can strengthen WPS and YPS integration into the GEF process. The task force identified four possible modalities for WPS and YPS integration and conducted consultations with the civil society, from which two options emerged as the most viable:

1)        a stand-alone Action Coalition, or

2)        a “hybrid” mechanism, which, for now, has been termed a WPS compact

Ms. Hendricks explained that the compact approach has some strong level of support, as it would build on existing normative frameworks of both the WPS and YPS agendas, while remaining grounded in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Discussions on the potential compact will continue to be shaped based on consultations with civil society, Member States, and the core group of the GEF process.

The welcome announcement came as a result of persistent civil society advocacy over the past months. The strong and enthusiastic participation of peacebuilding organizations from around the world in the virtual discussion shows that women and youth peacebuilders are ready to continue the advocacy for their meaningful inclusion in GEF progress and outcomes. As Ms. Mavic Cabrera Balleza, CEO and founder of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders emphasized in her closing remarks, “COVID-19 will not stop women and youth peacebuilders from our advocacy to make our voices heard!”

Want to know more about the Beijing+25 Action Coalition on WPS-YPS? Click here.

For full recording of the March 17th event: Click here.

Help Frontline Women and Youth Peacebuilders Counter COVID-19

Women and youth peacebuilders provide vital assistance to counter COVID-19 in areas affected by violent conflicts. They need lifesaving resources today. During this growing pandemic, they face great risks to their health and safety. Your gift ensures that women and youth peacebuilders are able to purchase face masks, disinfectants, disseminate factual information to prevent mass panic, and are able to respond quickly to the crisis.

No empowerment without peace! Civil Society-Led Coalition Launches Advocacy Paper, Urges Intentional Integration of the Women and Peace and Security and Youth and Peace and Security Agendas in the Generation Equality Forum

No empowerment without peace! Civil Society-Led Coalition Launches Advocacy Paper, Urges Intentional Integration of the Women and Peace and Security and Youth and Peace and Security Agendas in the Generation Equality Forum

March 18, 2020 by Mavic Cabrera Balleza, Agnieszka Fal Dutra Santos and Katrina Leclerc with contributions from Jenaina Irani

The Women and Peace and Security (WPS) and Youth, and Peace and Security (YPS) agendas cannot be siloed from the gender equality agenda! This was the resounding message from Ambassadors Ghanshyam Bhandari of Nepal, Xolisa Mabhongo of South Africa and Victoria Sulimani of Sierra Leone who co-sponsored the online roundtable discussion Beijing+25: Where are the Women and Youth Peacebuilders? on March 17, 2020. The message from the three Ambassadors reinforces the persistent call and advocacy of more than 150 civil society networks and organizations that formed a civil society-led Beijing +25 WPS and YPS Action Coalition[1] in November 2019: The call was further reiterated by the other speakers who expressed concern about the under-representation of women and youth peacebuilders in the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action and its new incarnation, the Generation Equality Forum (GEF); and called for a stand-alone Action Coalition on WPS and YPS.  

Making our voices heard: civil society Advocacy Paper on WPS and YPS

The roundtable discussion was organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) on behalf of the civil society-led Beijing +25 WPS and YPS Action Coalition[3]. It was initially planned as an in-person event. However, given the movement restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak (COVID19), the organizers have decided to hold the event online. This did not deter civil society, government and UN representatives from around the world from attending. A staggering 180+ participants joined the online roundtable to discuss the centrality of peace and security in the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the GEF and its outcomes.

The discussion also served as the platform to launch the Advocacy Paper, a document which explores the nexus between the gender equality agenda and WPS and YPS agendas, and presents actionable recommendations for the achievement of lasting gender equality for all – with an inclusive peace as its pre-requisite. Developed through a participatory process with substantive inputs from regional, national and local organizations that form the civil society-led Action Coalition, the Advocacy Paper reflects a broad range of views and perspectives of what gender equality means in the context of conflict prevention, conflict and post-conflict situations.  Its core message is clear: there can be no empowerment without peace; and no peace without gender equality!

This key message drove the civil-society led Beijing +25 WPS-YPS Action Coalition to staunchly advocate for the full, intentional and meaningful integration of WPS and YPS in all outcomes of the Beijing +25 and GEF processes. This includes in particular the Action Coalitions, the multi-stakeholder thematic groupings expected to catalyze collective action, spark global and inter-generational conversations, mobilize resources and political will, and deliver results that further advance equality for women and girls. WPS and YPS were not included among the Action Coalitions announced by UN Women in early 2020. Peace and security was also not included among the cross-cutting issues.

New possibilities: Compact Coalition on WPS and YPS

One of the highlights of the roundtable discussion was the presentation by Ms. Sarah Hendriks, UN Women’s Director of Policy, Program and Intergovernmental Division. She presented several different options to ensure meaningful and intentional integration of the WPS and YPS agendas in the GEF, which were devised by the GEF Task Force in response to the civil society advocacy:

1. A stand-alone Action Coalition on WPS and YPS;

2. Broadening an existing Action Coalition by incorporating WPS and YPS;

3. Integrating WPS and YPS actions across all existing Action Coalitions; and

4. Building a Compact Coalition on WPS and YPS to spur action on the existing normative frameworks on WPS and humanitarian action.

According to Ms. Hendriks, consultations with women and youth peacebuilders in New York and around the world reveal that a Stand-alone Action Coalition and a Compact Coalition are the most acceptable and highly viable options. The Compact Coalition, which Ms. Hendricks referred to as a “hybrid solution” in particular emerged as a salient option, given the fact that there is already a strong normative framework and a number of coordination mechanisms on WPS. The Compact Coalition would help consolidate and advance the normative framework on WPS – including National Action Plans – and bring more visibility and opportunities for implementation of both WPS and YPS, without replicating already existing efforts. Ms. Hendricks explained some of the principles of the Compact Coalition further, including:

1. It would be grounded in the principles of Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action;

2. It would purposely and intentionally engage young women peacebuilders & young women affected by crises;

3. It would strengthen coordination between the existing WPS and humanitarian action systems, networks, mechanisms, partnerships and capacities;

4. Women and young women peacebuilders & crisis-affected women and young women – would be meaningfully included in its design and management structure;

5. It would be guaranteed strong visibility throughout the GEF process and will serve as an opportunity to give impetus to the 20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325;

6. It would receive the recognition, political support and financial commitment akin to this given to the Action Coalitions;

7. It would be accompanied by sustainable and predictable financing, with due diligence applied to the funding partners; and would include an accountability mechanism.

We have come a long way: civil society advocacy for women and youth peacebuilders voices

The announcement of the four options – including the Compact Coalition – came following months of intense civil society advocacy for meaningful and intentional integration of WPS and YPS in the GEF. Prior to the roundtable discussion and the launch of the Advocacy Paper, the Beijing + 25 WPS-YPS Action Coalition under the coordination of GNWP, circulated an open letter to the core group of the GEF[2] calling for the official recognition of the WPS-YPS Action Coalition.  The UN High-Level Advisory Group for the 2015 Global Study on UNSCR 1325 under the coordination of Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury also sent out a letter to the GEF Core Group calling for a stand-alone Action Coalition on WPS and YPS. GNWP CEO, Mavic Cabrera-Balleza wrote an op-ed “A Woman Peacebuilder’s Reflections on Beijing+25 & the Generation Equality Forum” published by Inter Press Service that explains why the success of the GEF and its outcomes are dependent on the extent and quality of the participation of civil society groups representing diverse issues and initiatives – including women and youth peacebuilders.

Since July 2019, GNWP has actively participated in numerous discussions on the Beijing + 25 and Generation Equality Forum processes. From July 2019 to February 2020, GNWP consulted with grassroots women’s rights and feminist organizations as well as national, regional, and global civil society networks to develop an Advocacy Paper that presents shared messages and recommendations of women and youth peacebuilders for the GEF, as well as the 20th anniversary of UNSCR 1325, 5th anniversary of UNSCR 2250, and 5-year review of the Sustainable Development Goals. In December 2019, it launched the civil society-led WPS and YPS Action Coalition. It monitored the national and regional Beijing + 25 Review processes outcome documents. It participated in the “design sprint” in Paris, in February 2020, during which the modalities and format of the proposed Action Coalitions were discussed, and used this platform to demonstrate the impossibility of simply mainstreaming WPS and YPS into existing Action Coalitions. It held numerous meetings with other civil society groups from around the world, Member States, UN agencies and entities, and high-level UN leadership to advocate for a stand-alone Coalition on WPS and YPS and find ways to meaningfully integrate the WPS and YPS agendas in the GEF process and outcomes.

During the roundtable discussion, GNWP stressed the commitment of civil society to work closely with UN Women and other members of the GEF Core Group to examine the details of the Compact Coalition and ensure that it leads to full and meaningful integration of WPS and YPS priorities. We have come a long way, but there is still a way to go. The civil society and women and youth peacebuilders are ready for it!

To join the Beijing+25 WPS-YPS Global Coalition listserv, please fill out this form:

For more information, please contact: Mallika Iyer, Program Officer, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders; [email protected]

[1] The civil society-led Beijing +25 WPS-YPS Action Coalition is composed of more than 150 grassroots women’s rights and feminist organizations and civil society networks around the world who are advocating for the meaningful participation of women and youth peacebuilders in the Generation Equality Forum.

[2] The Generation Equality Forum core group is composed of the Governments of France and Mexico, UN Women and the International Women’s Health Coalition and the Foundation for Studies and Research on Women representing civil society.

[3] In partnership with The Permanent Missions of Sierra Leone, Nepal, and South Africa; UN Women; UNFPA; UNDP; The Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth; the NGO CSW/NY; Oxfam; Wo=men the Dutch Gender Platform; Center for Civil Society and Democracy; Canadian Council of Young Feminists; Institute of International Women’s Rights; Fontaine-Isoko and the NGO Working Group on WPS in the Great Lakes Region of Africa; Women, Peace, and Security Network – Canada; Inclusive Society; Canadian Voice of Women for Peace; and the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Center for Women

GNWP’s Cora Weiss Fellow: Civil society briefer at UN CSW64

Remarks by Heela Yoon, Cora Weiss Peacebuilding Fellow at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders; and Founder and Director of the Afghan Women Welfare and Development Association

Delivered during the procedural meeting of the 64th Commission on the Status of Women, 9 March 2020.

Your Excellencies, representatives of the UN, Member States, and fellow civil society actors, good morning!

Women, including young women, are critical actors, who build and sustain peace, advance sustainable development, and promote and protect human rights in their countries and communities. Over the past 50 years, significant achievements have been made to advance their rights and gender equality. The Commission on the Status of Women was created in 1961; the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted in 1995; the landmark United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security was adopted in 2000; and finally, UNSCRs 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security, was adopted in 2015. However, despite some progress in the implementation of these international frameworks, women, young women and girls still face many challenges and threats; and our contributions to human rights, peace and development is often unrecognized and unsupported.

I stand here before you today, particularly grateful that I have been given the unique opportunity and enormous responsibility to represent young Afghan women who are advocating for gender equality, human rights, and sustainable peace in grassroots communities on a daily basis. As the world watches Afghanistan’s peace process unfold, it is important to remember that to end and prevent armed conflict and war, we must address its gendered impact. Afghan women, young women, and girls must meaningfully participate in peace processes and political decision-making at all levels in order to ensure sustainable and inclusive peace and development.

Shouldering large domestic burdens, denied access to education and economic opportunities, and experiencing discrimination based on assumptions about their capabilities and credibility, Afghan women, young women, and girls—like their counterparts around the world–face significant barriers to meaningful participation in political decision making, peace processes, and the national economy. For example, 87% of women are illiterate, only 2% of women have access to higher education. This reflects a global reality, wherein 76 million young women lack basic literacy skills.

In Afghanistan, like in many places around the world, most women face significant challenges in exercising their economic rights and participating in the labor force. Without financial independence and literacy skills, they are inhibited from participating in household and community decision-making. Moreover, close to 90% of Afghan women and girls suffer from at least one form of abuse, including physical or psychological violence; and 70-80% are subjected to early, forced, and child marriage, many before the age of 16.

According to the Progress Study on Youth Peace and Security, young women in conflict affected communities are stereotyped as victims, while young men are stereotyped as perpetrators of violence–rather than partners for peace. In an already limited space for women’s meaningful participation in political decision-making and peace processes, young women remain overlooked, marginalized, and excluded. However, young women are dispelling restrictive narratives of women as victims of conflict without agency and are advocating for gender equality and inclusive and sustainable peacebuilding measures.  In the absence of formal mechanisms and accessible opportunities to meaningfully participate socially, politically, and economically, young women have forged their own avenues to lead peacebuilding efforts and movements for progressive social transformation.

As the Founder of Afghan Women Welfare and Development Association and as a Cora Weiss Peacebuilding Fellow at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, I work with young women and men  to challenge gender stereotypes in conflict affected rural communities. Through creative writing, art, and music, we discuss women’s rights, feminism, human rights, and sustainable development and peace. We are taking ownership of our bodies, examining religion, asserting our rights in the family and broader society. 

Today, most Afghan women, men, and youth fear that peace with the Taliban may mean war on us if we are marginalized from the peace process. The Afghan Peace Process is a decisive turning point in our country’s history. I urge all parties involved at the local, national, and international levels to remain committed to international human rights and women’s rights instruments, including the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, the WPS Agenda, and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Afghan women have buried their sons, daughters, husbands, sisters and brothers. We want peace more than anything, and we know peace can only be achieved by recognizing our freedom and rights.

We want meaningful participation in the peace process and we want our voices to be heard and make a positive difference. Without women, this peace will be a broken peace! We are hopeful for an Afghanistan in which women, young women, and girls will be able to participate meaningfully in political decision-making at all levels; and realize their full potential. 

I’m inspired and bolstered by the activism of young women from across the world whose leadership in peacebuilding has brought new approaches to advocacy. Young women have led peaceful demonstrations and protests for good governance in India, Chile, and Algeria; sparked global action for climate change; and steered community service, humanitarian response, civic engagement, and social media revolutions. Young women leaders continue to demand and push for equality in a way that can revive the energy of all those around them. They have the power to mobilize.

Considering that youth make up the majority population in conflict-affected countries, their meaningful participation in peace processes and political decision making is both a demographic necessity and a democratic imperative for accountability of political institutions under international law. 2020 is a pivotal year for gender equality. The 25th anniversary of the Beijing Conference (Beijing+25)/Generation Equality Forum, the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, and the 5th anniversary of UNSCR 2250, are catalytic moments to advance the gender equality agenda and improve the implementation of the WPS and YPS resolutions. These coinciding anniversaries present a global momentum for governments, UN entities, students, teachers, civil society, feminists, women’s rights activists, and young people to mobilize for our collective vision for gender equality, sustainable and inclusive peace. I call on the UN and Member States to ensure that the voices of women and youth peacebuilders are central to these global processes.

No women, no peace: Women peacebuilders and humanitarian actors set priorities and demand to be heard

No women, no peace

Women peacebuilders and humanitarian actors set priorities and demand to be heard

March 10, 2020

“Women work to prevent conflict in our communities on a daily basis – yet, we remain invisible!” – emphasized one of the participants of the Global Women’s Forum for Peace and Humanitarian Action. Nearly 20 years after the adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women and Peace and Security (WPS), women’s contributions to conflict prevention, peacebuilding and response to humanitarian crisis remain unrecognized and unsupported, their work and lives increasingly come under attack, and armed conflict continues to be a major obstacle to the fulfillment of women’s rights and gender equality.

The Global Women’s Forum for Peace and Humanitarian Action provided a space for over 60 women peacebuilders, humanitarian responders, and civil society representatives from diverse backgrounds and 17 countries from across the globe to exchange their experiences, jointly strategize on the concrete actions needed to effectively implement WPS agenda, and demand the recognition and support for their work and priorities. The Forum was organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF) and Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) in Vienna, Austria, on February 19 – 20, 2020. It provided a critical opportunity to amplify voices of local women at a critical juncture – ahead of the 20th anniversary of UNSCR 1325, the 5th anniversary UNSCR 2250 on Youth and Peace and Security, and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

The local women peacebuilders at the Forum identified lack of funding; increasing attacks on women peacebuilders and shrinking space for civil society; lack of access to economic opportunities; and exclusion from peace processes and decision-making at all levels as some of the barriers to effective implementation of the WPS resolutions. Through two days of intense discussions, interactive presentations and hands-on work, they developed a set of concrete recommendations to address these gaps, which were captured in the Vienna 2020 Declaration, the Forum’s outcome document. The women peacebuilders and first responders were joined at the Forum by representatives of Member States, UN Women, the media and private sector, who came to listen to the women’s voices and make concrete commitments to the implementation of the WPS agenda.

The WPS agenda is an essential component of global affairs, and a key instrument to achieving transformative change across the three pillars of the United Nations – peace and security, human rights, and development. However, its effective implementation cannot be a reality without strong and meaningful participation of women. As GNWP CEO Mavic Cabrera-Balleza stressed in her speech at the Forum, “It is local women who breathe life into the WPS resolutions, who translate them into necessary and practical actions on the ground, and use them as instruments to demand their participation in leadership and decision-making, conflict-prevention and peacebuilding.”

With the necessary technical support, funding, and enabling conditions, local women and grassroots civil society are breaking down patriarchal barriers, holding authorities accountable, and improving the functions of the state and traditional institutions. The Vienna 2020 Declaration is a powerful call from loca women peacebuilders and humanitarian actors for greater recognition and support to their critical work in preventing conflict,  building and sustaining inclusive peace.