Month: July 2020

Month: July 2020

Youth Leaders Demand Action: Analysis of the Third UN Security Council Resolution on Youth, Peace and Security

Youth Leaders Demand Action: Analysis of the Third UN Security Council Resolution on Youth, Peace and Security

July 17, 2020 by Katrina Leclerc

“Coming from a community where youth continue to experience violence, discrimination, limited political inclusion, and are at the brink of losing trust in the government systems, the adoption of UNSCR 2535 is a breath of hope and life to us. There’s nothing more empowering than being recognized, meaningfully included, supported, and given the agency to help build a present and future where we, the youth, are seen as equals across different decision-making tables.” – Lynrose Jane Genon, Young Woman Leader in the Philippines

On July 14, 2020, the United Nations Security Council adopted its third resolution on Youth, Peace and Security (YPS), co-sponsored by France and the Dominican Republic. Resolution 2535 (2020) aims to accelerate and strengthen the implementation of the YPS resolutions by:

  • institutionalizing the agenda within the UN system and establishing a 2-year reporting mechanism;
  • calling for system-wide protection of youth peacebuilders and activists;
  • emphasizing the urgency of the meaningful participation of youth peacebuilders in decision-making on humanitarian response; and
  • recognizing the synergies between the anniversaries of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (women, peace and security), the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the 5th anniversary of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Some of the key strengths of UNSCR 2535 build on the persistent work and advocacy of civil society groups, including the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP). As we welcome the new resolution, we look forward to their effective implementation!


A highlight of the resolution is that it emphasizes the intersectionality of the YPS agenda and recognizes that youth are not a uniform group, calling for “protection of all youth, particularly young women, refugees and internally displaced youth in armed conflict and post-conflict and their participation in peace processes.” GNWP has been advocating for, and implementing, intersectional approaches to peace and security for over a decade. We believe that to build sustainable peace, it is necessary to address cumulative barriers that different people and groups face based on their gender, sex, race, (dis)ability, social and economic status, and other factors.

Removing barriers to participation

In practice, intersectionality means recognizing and removing barriers to participation in peacebuilding processes – including conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and post-conflict reconstruction. Such barriers are outlined throughout UNSCR 2535, which calls for comprehensive approaches to peacebuilding and sustaining peace by addressing root causes to conflict.

This is particularly important because structural barriers still limit the participation and capacity of youth, particularly young women. GNWP’s Young Women Leaders (YWL) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) experience first-hand the “insufficient investment in facilitating inclusion.” For example, in the province of North Kivu, young women have created and run micro-businesses for two and a half years providing them with small revenues to sustain their field work and modest personal expenses. Despite the low income of their micro-businesses, and the fact that they invest all profits into initiatives that benefit their communities, local authorities have been imposing seemingly arbitrary ‘taxes’ on the young women – without documentation or justification. This has hindered their capacity for growth and economic development as many have found that these ‘taxes’ were not proportionally adjusted to their small revenue. It has also impeded their ability to reinvest their small profits to support their peacebuilding initiatives.

The recognition by UNSCR 2535 of the complex and multi-layered barriers to youth participation is important to ensure unjust and burdensome practices, imposed to young people and particularly to young women, are eliminated. Supportive systems must be prioritized to ensure the success of local youth initiatives who contribute to the overall progress and good of societies.

Young people and preventing violent extremism

The resolution also recognizes the role of young people in counter-terrorism and preventing violent extremism (PVE). GNWP’s Young Women Leaders for Peace are an example of youth leadership on PVE. In Indonesia, YWL are using education and advocacy to tackle radicalization of young women. In the provinces of Poso and Lamongan, where the YWL operate, they work to prevent and counter violent extremism by addressing the root causes within a human security framework.

Call for WPS and YPS synergies

The resolution calls on Member States to recognize and promote synergies between the Women, Peace and Security (WPS); and Youth, Peace and Security agendas – including the 20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325 (women, peace and security) and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

Civil society, particularly women and youth peacebuilders, have long called for greater synergies between WPS and YPS agendas as many of the barriers and challenges faced by women and youth are part of the same exclusionary cultures. The discrimination, marginalization and violence girls and young women experience often continue to adulthood, unless enabling conditions are created for their empowerment. On the other hand, girls and young women who have strong support from family, school and other social institutions are better equipped to realize their full potentials as adults.

GNWP has taken this call for stronger synergies between WPS and YPS in the processes around the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) through its advocacy for an Action Coalition on WPS and YPS. This advocacy was recognized by the Core Group of the GEF with the development of the Compact Coalition on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action within the Beijing+25 review process. While the name of the Compact does not include YPS, the inclusion of young women in decision-making has been highlighted in the Compact’s concept note.

Role of youth in humanitarian response

The resolution recognizes the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people as well as the role they take in responding to this health crisis. It calls on policy-makers and stakeholders to guarantee meaningful youth engagement in humanitarian planning and response as essential to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance.

Young people have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic response, providing lifesaving support in local communities gravely affected and vulnerable to the health crisis. For example, GNWP’s Young Women Leaders in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, DRC, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines and South Sudan have been providing relief support and information dissemination to promote safe precautionary measures and counter ‘fake news’ within social media. In the Philippines, YWL have distributed ‘dignity kits’ to local communities to ensure the health and safety of vulnerable individuals and families who have been further isolated by the pandemic.

Protection of young activists and support to survivors

Historically, the resolution recognizes the need to protect the civic space of youth peacebuilders and activists – including the important need for explicit protections of human rights defenders. It also calls on Member States to provide “access to quality education, socio-economic support and skills development such as vocational training, to resume social and economic life” to survivors of armed conflict and survivors of sexual violence.

The experience of the Young Women Leaders in DRC has emphasized both the importance of multi-faceted and survivor-centered response to sexual violence, as well as the key roles of youth peacebuilders in addressing impacts of conflict. The young women peacebuilders are supporting survivors of sexual violence by providing psychological and moral support to survivors. Through awareness-raising and collaboration with local partners on the ground they have begun to shift the narrative from victim to survivor, important progress for the stigmatization and agency of young women. However, speaking out about this sensitive issue can put them at risk – therefore, it is essential to ensure adequate protections for young women activists.

Implementation and accountability mechanism

The UNSCR 2535 is also the most action-oriented of the YPS resolutions. It includes specific encouragement to Member States to develop and implement roadmaps on youth, peace and security – with dedicated and sufficient resources. These resources should be intersectional and realistic. This echoes GNWP’s long-standing advocacy for adequate resources to support peacebuilding led by women, including young women. Far too often, roadmaps and action plans are developed without dedicated budgets, which limits the implementation of the agenda and meaningful participation of young people in sustaining peace. Furthermore, the resolution encourages dedicated funding for youth-led and youth-focused organizations, and emphasizes the institutionalization of the YPS agenda within the UN. This will eliminate additional barriers faced by young people as they are often in precarious work and disadvantaged economically. Young people are expected to provide their skills and experiences as volunteers, which further increases the economic divide and forces many to remain or to live in poverty.

Young people have a role to play in sustaining peace and economic well-being of societies. Thus, it is crucial that they be included in all aspects of design, implementation, and monitoring of economic-focused opportunities and initiatives; especially, now within the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic which has created additional disparities and burdens in the state of the world’s economy. The adoption of UNSCR 2535 is an important step towards guaranteeing that. Now – on to the implementation!

GNWP is having ongoing conversations with Young Women Leaders around the world on the relevance of UNSCR 2535 and other YPS resolutions. This is their views:

“UNSCR2535 is relevant both in our communities and globally because it reinforces the importance of youth’s meaningful participation in creating a just and humane society. Given that our country has passed the Anti-Terrorism Law recently, this resolution can also be a protective mechanism for youth activists engaged in different advocacies such as peacebuilding, protecting human rights and ensuring due process.” – Sophia Dianne Garcia, Young Woman Leader in the Philippines

“Coming from a community where youth continue to experience violence, discrimination, limited political inclusion, and are at the brink of losing trust in the government systems, the adoption of UNSCR 2535 is a breath of hope and life to us. There’s nothing more empowering than being recognized, meaningfully included, supported, and given the agency to help build a present and future where we, the youth, are seen as equals across different decision-making tables.” – Lynrose Jane Genon, Young Woman Leader in the Philippines

“As a worker in the local government unit, I think we need to engage the youth throughout this peacebuilding process. Engaging the youth means recognizing us, as one of the political actors that can influence decisions. And those decisions will affect us eventually. We don’t want to be ignored. And at worst, be wasted. Participation, hence is empowerment. And that’s important.” – Cynth Zephanee Nakila Nietes, Young Woman Leader in the Philippines

“As UNSCR 2535 (2020) does not only recognize the specific situation of young people, but also leverages their role and potential for preventing conflicts, building peaceful and inclusive societies and effectively addressing humanitarian needs. That can be attained by strengthening the role of young peacebuilders, especially women, engaging youth in humanitarian response, inviting youth organizations to brief the Council, and considering the specific situation of youth in the organ’s deliberations and actions that all are needed at this age in everyone’s community.” – Shazia Ahmadi, Young Woman Leader in Afghanistan

“In my opinion, this is very relevant. Because as a member of the younger generation, especially in our region, we want to be able to participate with the guarantee of protection. So, with that, we can also be taken into account in efforts to maintain peace itself even in making decisions and other matters relating to peace and humanity.” – Jeba, Young Woman Leader in Indonesia

Building peace from the grassroots: Learning from women peacebuilders to advance the WPS agenda

Building peace from the grassroots

Consultations on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), Sustaining Peace and COVID-19 with local women peacebuilders in Colombia, Northern Ireland, South Africa and Uganda

To ensure that voices of local and national women peacebuilders are meaningfully included in the processes leading up to the 20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, in partnership with UN Women and the Government of Ireland, conducted a series of in-country consultations and follow-up interviews on WPS and Sustaining Peace with women from the civil society in Colombia, Northern Ireland, Uganda and South Africa.

Read about the work of some of our participants below!

Featuring Women Peacebuilders

Photo provided by Akudzwe Mhangami

Akudzwe Mhangami, Director, TukRes Women in Leadership Academy, Pretoria, South Africa

“To me, peace means living without fear and having an equal seat at the tables where decisions are made that affect me. It means that being a woman will not endanger me or put me at a place of disadvantage.”

Akudzwe Mhangami is a young peacebuilder and activist from Pretoria, South Africa. She is the Director of the TuksRes Women in Leadership Academy (TRWLA) at the University of Pretoria, where she is studying law. TRWLA’s mission is to empower a new generation of women leaders and change-makers, to build a more equal and peaceful society in South Africa. “We want to grow the leadership potential in young women by helping them to recognize and grow their inherent strength” – says Akudzwe. TRWLA pursues this goal by providing year-long leadership training to young women. The participants attend seminars, workshops and guest speaker presentations. Upon completing the training, the young women graduate and are encouraged to transfer the knowledge they acquired to their peers and their communities. Some of them become mentors and trainers within the Academy. “We hope to create a ripple effect of empowered young women entering all spheres of society as they graduate,” emphasizes Akudzwe, highlighting that the Academy has trained 750 young women since its establishment in 2014.

The work of the Academy is crucial, especially given the many challenges women peacebuilders face in South Africa. Lack of political will to support women’s rights and to curtail the high femicide rates in South Africa, and lack of resources to implement the peacebuilding work are among the most important challenges noted by Akudzwe. She hopes that training a new generation of female leaders committed to social justice and sustainable peace will help address those.

Akudzwe recognizes that women’s leadership for sustainable peace is a matter of urgency. Conflict and instability continue to be widespread across the world. According to the Global Peace Index, in 2018, “global peacefulness declined for the fourth straight year (…)  as a result of growing authoritarianism, unresolved conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, and increased political instability across the world.” Women are disproportionately affected by conflict and global instability. Moreover, they also face violence at home – in 2017, more than 50% of women who were intentionally killed were killed by intimate partners or family members. This is visible also in South Africa, where it is estimated that a woman is murdered every three hours, and femicide has been declared a national crisis.

When asked what motivates her to be a peacebuilder, Akudzwe says, “I do not have the privilege to stay silent or remain complacent. If one of us is silenced, oppressed, abused, used as a weapon of war, all of us are. Peacebuilding and Women and Peace and Security is relevant because the world is in desperate need of a systemic change, change that will free us as women too.”

Akudzwe was one of the participants of the consultation on WPS and Sustaining Peace organized by GNWP, UN Women and the Embassy of Ireland in South Africa in Pretoria on March 2, 2020

Dieketseng Diale, Chief Executive Officer, Lady of Peace Community Foundation, North West Province, South Africa

Photo by: Flow Communications, South Africa

“Peace is a process of working together to create conditions for all to flourish and prosper”

“Effective participation of women in peacebuilding and conflict prevention efforts should be a key priority for our country – South Africa,” says Dieketseng Diale, the Chief Executive Officer of Our Lady for Peace Community Foundation (LOPECO) operating in the North West province of South Africa. “Although we are not a war zone, we are troubled with a rising number of gender-based violence and communal violence cases.” Dieketseng highlights the importance of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, and says we still have a long way to go towards the implementation. “The number of women involved in formal peacemaking processes remains low; and many peace agreements do not include gender provisions that sufficiently address women’s security and peacebuilding needs.”

Her organization, LOPECO Foundation,  seeks to address this gap by providing women with a platform to connect, empower each other, and advocate on peace matters. Our Lady for Peace works at the grassroots level, addressing root causes of conflict through economic empowerment of communities, building social cohesion, and campaigning for peace. Since 2018, LOPECO has organized crafts workshops, teaching women crafting skills, as well as capacity-building and step-by-step guidance needed to start and grow their own businesses. The Foundation also works with local schools, to organize peace dialogues, and peace poems competitions to increase the students’ awareness of the importance of peace.

When asked about the challenges women peacebuilders face in South Africa, Dieketseng points to the limited resources, and the inadequate understanding of the Women, Peace and Security agenda among most government departments and grassroots communities. But the challenges do not deter her! LOPECO has continued its important work even during the COVID-19 pandemic, organizing weekly WhatsApp chat discussions to identify key challenges to women’s empowerment, gender equality and peace, and formulate concrete solutions.

Dieketseng was one of the participants of the consultation on WPS and Sustaining Peace organized by GNWP, UN Women and the Embassy of Ireland in South Africa in Pretoria on March 2, 2020.

Suraya Bibi Khan, Founder, SAWID-Southern Dialogues, Johannesburg, South Africa

Photo by: Flow Communications, South Africa

“To me, peace means communities living in peace and harmony, with a shared value of humanity, taught to me by my parents.”

For Suraya Bibi Khan, her passion for peacebuilding and women’s rights was inspired by exchanges with women activists from around the world. “I began my journey towards peacebuilding during my visit to Iraq in 2003. Seeing the impacts of the war, especially on women and children, cemented my dedication to work for peace.” Shortly upon her return, Suraya participated in a meeting organized by an ad-hoc Steering Committee or women volunteers that led to the establishment of the South African Women in Dialogue (SAWID) organization. SAWID was established by 1,000 women who met in Pretoria in July 2003, and is dedicated to “improving the status of women by engaging national government, the private sector, civil society.”

While it was established by women from South African, SAWID works in the framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and has a Pan-African, as well as national, outlook. It hosts both national and regional conferences and forums to provide a platform for women activists to share their perspectives, exchange their experiences and strengthen each other’s work and advocacy.

In 2004, inspired by the National Annual SAWID Dialogue, Suraya established the organization’s grassroots chapter, SAWID-Southern Forums, working in “Region G” the southern part of Johannesburg. The chapter organizes intergenerational inter-faith dialogues for peace, and raises political awareness at the grassroots level to enable local women’s participation in peacebuilding, democratic processes, including elections and election monitoring, and decision-making.

For Suraya, it is clear that South Africa still has a long way to guarantee women’s meaningful participation and build sustainable peace. “South Africans have emerged from a conflict, but not from the challenges posed by new commitments to democracy”, she says. “As we establish one of the newest democracies of the world in our country, we are shocked by the fact that a large proportion of women from disadvantaged groups will not be participating in our democracy. Why? Simply because they are not aware about processes and the values of democracy.” Thus, awareness-raising and support to women’s meaningful participation in politics have to remain a priority. But there are many challenges – including funding. “Funding outcomes are dictated by donors who do not fully grasp the situation on the ground”, emphasizes Suraya. “This has to change!”

Suraya was one of the participants of the consultation on WPS and Sustaining Peace organized by GNWP, UN Women and the Embassy of Ireland in South Africa in Pretoria on March 2, 2020.

Tintswalo Cassandra Makhubele, Secretary General, South African Congress of Non-profit Organizations, South Africa

Photo provided by Tintswalo Cassandra Makhubele

“Peace is critical, but it is also quite fragile. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated it. To me, sustaining peace means much more than just silencing the guns. It means bringing gender equality, protecting women and children from violence, and taking urgent action to combat climate change. We cannot build sustainable peace if our natural resources are drained away.”

Tintswalo Cassandra Makhubele is the Secretary General of the South African Congress of Non-profit Organizations (Sacono). Sacono is a network of civil society organizations from South Africa and the continent.

In her work, Tintswalo focuses on addressing the root causes of conflict. Through Sacono, she has organized awareness campaigns on water conservation to reduce water consumption. Sacono has also monitored elections, to ensure that they are free and fair, and prevent violence outbreaks. “Respect for the rule of law and human rights is a critical element of peacebuilding”, says Tintswalo, “especially when it comes to care after the war, management of conflict and sustainability of peace.”

Tintswalo believes that addressing violence against women is also a critical element of peacebuilding. Sacono has worked with the judiciary and the police to improve the procedures for handling cases of domestic abuse, and accelerate the turnaround. They assist gender-based violence and domestic violence survivors through psychosocial counselling. They have also established community “food gardens” for women who had experienced abuse, to allow them to build their livelihoods while dealing with their trauma.

“Women peacebuilders are already taking serious action to address conflict and build sustainable peace,” says Tintswalo, “They need to be recognized and supported.” She emphasizes that the same is also true for LGBTQI persons, people living with disabilities and even boys and men, whom we need to nurture to change their mindsets.

In April 2020, Tintswalo addressed the Peacebuilding Commission during the special meeting on Women, Peace and Security, to share her experience and her perspective on the gaps in the ongoing peacebuilding and sustaining peace efforts. “South Africa is not a country at conflict, but we still have a long way to build a sustainable peace,” she recognized. The key challenges she shared included: lack of sufficient communication and coordination among peacebuilding actors, leading to exclusion; insufficient funding for women-led peacebuilding; and short-term planning in peacebuilding strategies. “Ultimately, peacebuilding programs and efforts need to be designed to enable transition from the culture of violence to peace. This is a long-term task that requires inclusion of women, youth, LGBTQI, people with disabilities and all other marginalized groups”, she concluded.

Tintswalo was one of the participants of the consultation on WPS and Sustaining Peace organized by GNWP, UN Women and the Embassy of Ireland in South Africa in Pretoria on March 2, 2020

Andrea Gurrute, Red Departamental de Mujeres del Cauca (REDEMUC), Popayán, Colombia

“Peace means the full enjoyment of human rights for all people, wherever they live.”

Photo provided by Andrea Gurrute

Andrea Gurrute is a political scientist and young peacebuilder from Cauca Department in Colombia. Since 2019 she has been working with the Women’s Departmental Network Association in Cauca (Red Departamental de Mujeres de Cauca – REDEMUC), a non-profit organization that advocates for women’s rights, their political participation, economic autonomy, and female empowerment. She also designs educational methodologies for vulnerable populations, and leads political training for youth and women leaders at the grassroots. She believes that equipping young women with knowledge and skills to participate in the political life of their town and municipality is necessary to promote the implementation of the gender provisions in the peace agreement, which ended 56 years of an armed conflict between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia; FARC). “Peacebuilding is a collective process, and mobilization always begins at the local level”, emphasizes Andrea.

Cauca, where Andrea lives and works, is considered to be one of the hotspots of violence in Colombia. The many intersecting conflicts have brought devastating consequences to the department. The territory has experienced a spiral of violence due to the presence of guerrillas from the National Liberation Army (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional; ELN), dissidents from the FARC and drug trafficking groups who hold disputes over the drug trafficking routes. Moreover, women leaders and activists in the department face increasing threats and violence, in particular during the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes them an “easier target” due to restricted mobility. As a result, Andrea remarks, “women peacebuilders face many challenges. in particular due to a lack of guarantees and security measures. Their lives are under serious threat, and there is not enough recognition and protection for the work of social community leaders and human rights defenders.”

Although women play an important role in peacebuilding processes and are essential to creating long-term sustainable peace, many of them are not aware of their rights and remain silent about the violence they experience due to the fear caused by threats. Andrea believes that to change the status quo, it is necessary to challenge patriarchal values, which are deeply rooted in Colombian society. “UNSCR 1325 is a useful tool for a structural change”, she says. “it helps women to learn about and understand their rights, while at the same time it forces the municipal and national governments to fulfill their obligations in advancing the Women, Peace and Security agenda.”

Andrea is a member of the Grupo Impulsor (G-10) – an advocacy collective formed by local women from across Cauca during the Localization of UNSCR 1325 workshops conducted by GNWP and Red Nacional de Mujeres (RNM) in December 2019. The group’s main objective is to work as a liaison between local authorities and their citizens. It seeks to amplify the voices of grassroots women by integrating their advocacy proposals in local development plans, ensuring a peace and gender lens. Andrea believes that creating such spaces for dialogue and joint strategizing is essential to motivate the effective and meaningful participation of women in the implementation of the peace agreement. Such dialogue can also strengthen the territorial identity by promoting the sense of joint responsibility and creating alliances between public institutions, social organizations, the community, and the private sector.

Andrea was one of the participants of the consultation on WPS and Sustaining Peace organized by UN Women Colombia, with support from the Government of Ireland, in March 2020. She also contributed to follow-up research on the impact of COVID-19 on WPS implementation coordinated by GNWP.

Zulma Hurtado Ibarbo, Red Departamental de Mujeres del Cauca (REDEMUC), Popayán, Colombia

To me, peace means equity and equality and it is vital to building more just and inclusive societies”

Photo provided by Zulma Hurtado Ibarbo

For Zulma, her participation in a popular education school for women in 2010 was a defining moment in her career as a woman peacebuilder. Popular education is an alternative education model that uses a participatory approach and challenges the way in which traditional education reproduces socio-economic inequalities. At the popular education school, she was encouraged to reflect on the conditions that perpetrate social injustice and how to transform the existing structures of oppression. Since then, she has committed herself to promoting and protecting women’s rights, encouraging their political participation, economic empowerment and the prevention of gender-based violence. She was actively involved in the advocacy that led to the adoption of the Law 1257, which establishes the right of women to live a life free of violence as a fundamental human right that is protected by Colombia’s Constitution. She also monitors the Territorially Focused Development Programs (PDETs in Spanish) – a key component of the local implementation of the peace agreement between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia; FARC) – as well as the implementation of the peace agreement’s gender provisions.

Zulma currently works as a facilitator in the Women’s Departmental Network Association in Cauca (Red Departamental de Mujeres de Cauca – REDEMUC). She explains that the work inspires her because “all the organizations that are part of this network strive for gender equity and equality, for the inclusion of an ethnic perspective and for peacebuilding.” Additionally, she is also involved with the Grupo Impulsor (G-10) – an advocacy collective formed by local women from across Cauca during the Localization of UNSCR 1325 workshops conducted by GNWP and Red Nacional de Mujeres (RNM) in December 2019. The group works together to bring the perspectives of local women to municipal and departmental policy processes – such as the adoption of the Local Development Plans – and monitors the implementation of the gender provisions of the peace agreement at the local level.

When asked about the challenges faced by women peacebuilders in Colombia, Zulma points out that the persistence of gender-based violence against women continues to be one of the greatest barriers to peacebuilding. However, despite the violence they have suffered, she emphasizes that women have shown that they can be agents of change and social activists fighting for equality. “We live in a country where women are constantly attacked, but nevertheless, they never stop workiing to address the structural causes of discrimination and gender inequality”, she notes. Zulma believes that effective peacebuilding takes time, and insists on the importance of creating, funding and supporting sustainable peacebuilding programs, which reach the most remote places where the intersecting impacts of violence, poverty and the armed conflict have done a lot of damage, especially to women.

Her passion for peacebuilding and women’s rights was inspired by the search for gender equity and equality, and her respect for human rights and international humanitarian law. For Zulma, they are key pillars to build sustainable peace and equitable societies. In her words, “peacebuilding has a transformative character that provides well-being and balance to societies”.

Zulma was one of the participants of the consultation on WPS and Sustaining Peace organized by UN Women Colombia, with support from the Government of Ireland, in March 2020. She also contributed to follow-up research on the impact of COVID-19 on WPS implementation coordinated by GNWP.

Elizabeth Law, Chair of Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform (NIWEP) and Jonna Monaghan, Program Coordinator at NIWEP

“To us, peace means women having an equal seat at the table and choice in their own lives.”

The Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform (NIWEP) was established in 1999, to “give women and girls in Northern Ireland a voice at the national and international level.” Elizabeth Law was among the founders of the platform. “Women in Northern Ireland have a long history of peacebuilding, and played a vital role in leading and sustaining communities during the conflict,” she says. “That role, has, however, not necessarily been recognized, and women are finding it difficult to make their voice heard in decision-making in many countries and communities, including in Northern Ireland.

Elizabeth and Jonna Monaghan – a Program Coordinator at NIWEP – emphasize that today, there are still persistent gaps and barriers to women’s participation in Northern Ireland. women are still underrepresented in decision making. “Much of the policy-making in Northern Ireland is actively gender-blind,” says Jonna, stressing that there is a lack of political will to change it. “It is an aspiration, not an accident,” she notes, highlighting that while 30% of members in the devolved regional Assembly are women, progress is slow and there is limited political will to prioritize gender equality.

NIWEP believes that gender parity is a critical element of sustainable peace building. “Our aim is to advocate for gender equality, as well as for full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement,” says Elizabeth. NIWEP has been working towards this mission by coordinating the civil society monitoring of the UN human rights mechanisms, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). NIWEP was also instrumental in introducing the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 to Northern Ireland. Although Elizabeth and Jonna highlight that much more remains to be done, they believe that UNSCR 1325 has helped highlight women’s role in public life and women’s perspective on peacebuilding in Northern Ireland, and provided a means for holding government to account. NIWEP provides the secretariat to Northern Ireland Assembly All Party Group on UNSCR 1325 and Women, Peace and Security, which in 2014 undertook an inquiry that highlighted the challenges to implementation of the principles of UNSCR 1325. NIWEP is currently planning to update that evidence.

“Today, the COVID-19 crisis and other challenges mean that advocacy, networking and supporting women in communities must be emphasised more than ever, to ensure hard won rights can be secured and strengthened in the future”, stress Elizabeth and Jonna.

Elizabeth Law and Jonna Monaghan were participants of the consultation on WPS and Sustaining Peace organized by the Government of Ireland in Belfast in March 2020. They also contributed to follow-up research on the impact of COVID-19 on WPS implementation.

Civil Society Recommendations to the Compact on Women, Peace, and Security and Humanitarian Action

This document was prepared by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) based on the inputs of the members of the civil society-led Action Coalition on WPS and YPS.  It presents a set of recommendations on the points raised in the concept note of the Compact on Women and Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action in the Generation Equality Forum. The recommendations were generated from the Zoom meeting of the civil society-led Action Coalition on WPS and YPS on June 10, 2020, and a series of phone, Zoom, WhatsApp, and email consultations between June 19 –30, 2020. Local, national, regional and global CSOs from Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Rwanda, Serbia, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Sweden, Uganda, Ukraine, UK, and the USA participated in these consultations. Representatives of the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy Youth, UN Department of Peace Operations, UNDP, UNFPA and UN Women also participated at the Zoom meeting on June 10, 2020.

Many of the recommendations echo those presented by civil society and local women peacebuilders in the Vienna Declaration 2020, the outcome document of the Global Women’s Forum on Women Peacebuilders & Humanitarian Actors, organized by the Austrian Development Cooperation,  the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders and the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fundin Vienna on February 19-20, 2020; the 2018-2019  Global Study of Civil Society And Local Women’s Perception of Sustaining Peace conducted by GNWP with  support from UN Women; and the report from the Local consultations with women from civil society on WPS and Sustaining Peace in Colombia, Northern Ireland, South Africa, and Uganda prepared by GNWP with support from Ireland and UN Women as a contribution to the Peacebuilding Architecture Review in 2020.”

“Women don’t participate in the peace process – they don’t know how. It’s the journalists’ job to change this!”

July 6, 2020 by Heela Yoon and Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos

“Resolution 1325 is one of the most important international laws we have. It guarantees women’s participation in peace processes and decision-making. But in Georgia, women do not participate in the peace negotiation and important discussions, because they don’t have the information on how to get involved. In conflict areas, television is the main source of information for women, but it does not speak about peace, or about the importance of women’s participation. It’s the journalists’ role to change this!”

This is how Ms.Lela Akiashvili, the Prime Minister’s Advisor on Human Rights and Gender Equality in Georgia, addressed the participants of a four-part online training on Women and Peace and Security (WPS) for Georgian media representatives, organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) and Women’s Information Center (WIC), with support from the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) between May 20th and June 11th, 2020.

The government of Georgia adopted its third National Action Plan (NAP) for the implementation of UN Security Council’s Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on WPS in 2018, for the period 2018-2020. Thanks to the advocacy by civil society organizations – including GNWP’s partners, WIC and IDP Women’s Association “Consent” – the latest NAP includes a stronger focus on human security, participation of vulnerable groups, such as internally displaced women, and conflict prevention, including through using early warning systems. However, grassroots organizations and local populations in Georgia have very little or no knowledge about the NAP and UNSCR 1325. As a result, this transformative policy may not be effectively implemented.

Journalists play a key role in the implementation of policies. They can bring the resolutions to the local communities and provide the people with information to hold governments accountable. They also have the power to change narratives about women’s roles in peace and security, by highlighting their leadership and contributions, instead of portraying them as helpless victims. However, in practice, this role often remains unfulfilled. According to the Global Media Monitoring report, in 2015, only 24% of the people heard or read about in print, radio and television news are female, and most stories about peace (64%) reinforced gender stereotypes. GNWP’s work with media representatives in Armenia, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Georgia, Moldova, Nigeria, the Philippines and Ukraine confirms this. For example, in Ukraine, textual analysis of leading national newspapers conducted by the journalists has shown that women are portrayed as sex objects and incapable of taking decision-making positions. In Nigeria, the journalists found that only between 5 and 10 per cent of stories in major dailies featured women. Therefore, in order to effectively tap into the power of the media to advance the women and peace and security agenda, their own awareness and appreciation of this agenda must also be enhanced. This is the primary reason why GNWP developed its Media and WPS program.

In Georgia, many journalists – especially at the local level – are not aware of the WPS resolutions or women’s roles in building sustainable peace, and often view women as weak and powerless. As part of its effort to support implementation of WPS and meaningful participation of women in peace processes in Georgia, GNWP and WIC organized a series of online media trainings on “Media and Gender Equality in Conflict and Peace Process”. The aim of the training was to increase the awareness of Georgian journalists about their roles in supporting gender equality, women’s meaningful participation, the implementation of Georgia’s NAP on UNSCR 1325, and in promoting gender- and conflict-sensitive responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The training came at a critical time. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused delays and suspension of work for many civil society organizations. Moreover, the wide-reaching socio-economic and peace and security impacts of the pandemic make the role of the media more crucial than ever. To address the “pandemic of disinformation,” GNWP and WIC with the support of ADA have decided to hold the media training virtually.

As a result, the training took place as a series of four interactive online discussions. During the first online workshop, the participants learned and discussed the basic concepts of gender equality and reflected on the different needs of women and girls in time of conflict and crises. The journalists conducted a gender-sensitive analysis of the content of local and national newspapers to better understand how women are portrayed in the media and how these representations are different from the representation of men. During the second workshop, the participants deepened their knowledge of UNSCR 1325 and other resolutions on WPS. They also heard from Lela Akiashvil – the Prime Minister’s Advisor on Human Rights and Gender Equality in Georgia – about the national and local policies and activities implemented in the country to achieve the objectives of the resolutions. During the third workshop, the participants engaged in an interactive discussion about women’s roles in the Georgian peace process. They learned about the structure and modality of the ongoing peace negotiation and listened to experiences of women from areas bordering the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. During the fourth training, the participants analyzed the specific needs of women and girls in the context of COVID-19 pandemic and what is required for a gender-responsive and conflict-sensitive COVID-19 response.  They also examined  how Georgian women – including women peacebuilders – are responding to the COVID-19 crisis. The participants emphasized the importance of implementing the WPS agenda during the pandemic as this can contribute in addressing gender inequalities and prevention of violence.

The workshops equipped the journalists with knowledge and skills necessary to produce gender- and conflict-sensitive reports on COVID-19 and on peace and security. As a result of the intensive training course, the journalists committed to practice more gender-sensitive and conflict-sensitive reporting. As one of the participants Nina stated, “As journalists, we should focus more on the needs of women and girls during the pandemic, share stories of female doctors and healthcare workers, and highlight their achievements and challenges.” Another participant, Nuka, said “Media is not only a source of information. It shapes norms and attitudes.”

During the last training, the National Media and WPS Prize in Georgia was launched. The journalists have a month to submit articles, audio and video materials that cover peace and security or COVID-19 issues from a gender- and conflict-sensitive perspectives. Stay tuned for GNWP’s announcement of the winning journalists and their entries!