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Meet the 2021 Cora Weiss Peacebuilding Fellows

The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) is proud to welcome two new Cora Weiss Peacebuilding Fellows: Wevyn Muganda from Kenya and Manal El Tayar from Lebanon. Established in 2015 to honor Cora Weiss, a lifelong women’s rights, peace and social justice leader and activist, the Fellowship supports the training of young women peacebuilders on global policy advocacy. It helps ensure that more young people share Cora’s vision for sustainable peace and gender equality as strong and integral parts of the global culture. Through their experience of working with GNWP – both in New York and around the world – Fellows acquire experiences and skills, which enable them to advocate for women’s rights, inclusive and sustainable peace, and the participation of women at all levels of leadership and decision-making in their own countries. You can learn more about the Fellowship here.

As we welcome them to GNWP, we sat down with Wevyn and Manal to bring you their thoughts and experiences from their peacebuilding work in Kenya and Lebanon! Read the interview below:

Wevyn Muganda is a young human rights activist from Mombasa, Kenya. She initiated the Mutual Aid Kenya, a COVID-19 response initiative that supported communities in informal settlements of Mombasa and Nairobi with food relief packs, sanitation materials, education materials for children, medical supplies and organized the communities for political participation. Wevyn is also part of UNDP’s Global Youth Program ‘16×16’ that supports 16 activists from all over the world in advancing SDG 16. Read Wevyn’s full biography here.

Manal El Tayar is the co-founder of Unconventional International, a community led by young women for young women, and supporting the leadership and wellbeing of young women advancing peace and reconciliation. Manal is also TearFund’s Eurasia and North Africa Fragile States and Peacebuilding Advisor. Read Manal’s full biography here.

Date: January 25, 2021

Edited by: Natalia Valencia

Why are you excited to work with GNWP?

Wevyn: I am excited to join GNWP, as it is a women-led organization and a leader in advancing gender equality and women’s rights. I look forward to working with an organization that seeks to ensure women have equal access to opportunities in peace and security processes and decision-making. Most of all, I am looking forward to working with women for women — this is the sisterhood at work.

Manal: I am excited to join GNWP for three reasons. The first reason is the chance to work with incredible and like-minded women to bring about change. The second reason is the opportunity to translate global policies into concrete actions at the local level. Lastly, I look forward to learning more about working in partnership with different entities, including the government, in sustaining peace.

What do you see as the most pressing issues in the area of peace, security, and gender equality in the near future?

Wevyn: I identify three main issues. The first one is a transition to digitalization, which poses a problem for many women, particularly rural women who are illiterate or have little to no access to the internet, a smartphone, or a personal computer. The growing digital divide serves to widen gender inequalities. Secondly, poor mental health is a growing concern, and while there are many initiatives that tackle women’s well-being, it remains a problem, particularly for young people. The third issue is related to climate change and how our current trajectory — including worsening pollution, desertification and depletion of natural resources — could present a danger to the gains made towards building sustainable peace.

Manal: Growing up in Lebanon, I have seen armed conflict and deteriorating financial and economic conditions push many of my peers to emigrate. Those with enough economic resources or with networks to the gulf, Europe, or North America, relocated and pursued an education and/or jobs abroad. Others, with fewer economic resources and only networks locally, joined ranks and fought in Syria. As I observed these trends, I became attuned to how critical the intersection of peace and economic development is to address challenges faced by youth in fragile and conflict-affected states. From my lived experience, I also believe another pressing issue in this field is that of ensuring the well-being of women leaders working towards peace. For instance, identifying, addressing and dealing with the very trauma that may propel us into working for peace is necessary to ensure we are able to operate from a place of healing and abundance, and contributing to more holistic and effective communities.

What do you hope to gain from your fellowship experience? How will this experience further the work you have been doing in your country?

Wevyn: Given GNWP’s vast experience in the Localization of  the UN Security Council Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) resolutions, I hope to learn from your expertise in this area in order to implement it back in Kenya. I am also very interested in learning how young women can become more active in civic, political, and democratic processes. The example of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as the youngest woman elected to serve in the United States Congress, and her journey, has inspired me to see how I can support young women leading in decision-making and political processes and institutions.

Manal: Localization of Women, Peace and Security is very important for me. I view this work as the equivalent of putting in the train tracks to enable local women and youth to move implementation in a specific direction.

What insights, knowledge, and experiences do you bring to the Fellowship?

Wevyn: I have previous experience with community organizing, particularly in engaging youth from diverse backgrounds. I also have experience with the Localization of Youth, Peace and Security in Kenya, and I hope I can bring this experience into my Fellowship.

Manal: Growing up in war-torn Lebanon and moving 21 homes before the age of 18 has shaped the person I have become today and my desire to see peace locally, regionally, and globally. For me, it is also important to take stock of the progress and reflect on the question “How could we have done this better?” This is because, if peacebuilders and non-governmental organizations are not critical, even with the best intentions, their work can often cause more harm than good. I am also grateful for the people that have supported me and the experiences that have shaped me up to this point.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Changing the narrative: Colombian reporters put women’s peacebuilding work in the spotlight

(Español abajo.)

January 6, 2021 by Cecilia Lazara

Recognizing the critical role women play in the prevention and resolution of conflict and crisis is one of the central tenets of the landmark United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325. Women are at the forefront of peacebuilding and addressing the root causes of conflict in their communities. Recognizing and supporting their leadership is not only right – but it is also strategic. Empirical evidence shows that when women are actively involved in peace negotiations, peace agreements have a higher probability of being more durable and sustainable over time. Colombia has been a key example of this- women negotiators and civil society were critical in reaching the peace agreement between the government and the FARC. They also ensured that the peace agreement is inclusive and addresses the needs of those most vulnerable. Moreover, after the adoption of the peace agreement, women have been monitoring the progress in its implementation and advocating for the institutionalization of its provisions – especially those related to gender equality – at the local level.

Women peacebuilders continue to demonstrate their adaptability and resilience in the face of emerging crises. Following the outbreak of COVID-19, women have become first responders to the pandemic. In Colombia, women peacebuilders have distributed food, hygiene packages, and sexual and reproductive health products to those most vulnerable, while continuing their advocacy to implement the peace agreement.

However, the work of women peacebuilders often remains invisible, and therefore unrecognized. Colombian women’s efforts to advance peace agreement implementation, address the root causes of conflict in their communities, and respond to the impacts of COVID-19 have been dismissed as part of their “care duties”. Therefore, they are taken for granted as a characteristic of female nature, diminishing the skills and sacrifices they require. Despite their contributions, the dominant narratives commonly depict women as passive victims, rather than acknowledging their leadership and agency. This narrow outlook perpetuates gender stereotypes inherent in the patriarchal system and restricts the spaces and opportunities available to women to advance their work.

Safeguarding spaces for women peacebuilders and ensuring their meaningful participation in decision-making at all levels is one of the key elements of the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda. To fully implement the agenda, we must shift the victimizing narrative and highlight women-led efforts to build just and inclusive societies. Journalists and media professionals are critical allies in this regard. They shape how women are perceived in society, stimulate debates about gender equality, and promote women’s roles as peacebuilders and agents of change. Likewise, they can also report on the status of national policies to provide the civil society with the information necessary to hold the government accountable for the implementation of UNSCR 1325 and the peace agreement and ensure that women are meaningfully included in it.

Recognizing the key role played by the media in the operationalization of WPS on the ground, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) and Red Nacional de Mujeres (RNM) have worked with journalists across Colombia to increase the awareness of the WPS agenda, their understanding of their own role in advancing it, and their capacity to integrate gender-responsive analysis in their reporting. In 2018 and 2019, with support from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and the Global Affairs Canada Peace and Stabilization Operations Program (PSOPs), GNWP and RNM held two trainings to enhance journalists’ capacities to advance the WPS implementation through gender-responsive and conflict-sensitive reporting, and to challenge traditional and conservative discourses.

In August 2020, with the support from Norad, we launched the National Media and WPS Prize, in partnership with Pacifista – a media collective dedicated to promoting journalism rooted in peace and human rights principles. The National Media and WPS Prize aimed to encourage professional journalists and students to reflect on women’s experiences by submitting written articles, audio, and audiovisual materials.

The materials were evaluated by a panel of peacebuilding and media experts. Winners were identified into two categories: professional journalists and journalism students. Additionally, a special prize was awarded for work that provided a particularly original angle on women’s leadership in peacebuilding. The winner of the special prize will travel to the Philippines to closely observe and document good practices on the implementation of UNSCR 1325 and the peace agreement and compare them with experiences in Colombia.

Please see below a summary of the recognized materials:

The podcast follows three women living in the North of Cauca: an indigenous leader, an ex-combatant, and an indigenous guard. It highlights their efforts to achieve women’s rights in the midst of armed conflict, calling them “the resistance within the resistance.” Thus, it sheds light on women’s work to build sustainable and gender-equal peace – including through supporting women’s economic empowerment, challenging the patriarchal culture, and addressing the continuum of violence in rural areas, even after the internal armed conflict. Women are resisting and raising their voices to change the course of history.

This podcast tells the stories of four community leaders who have been fighting for the vindication of women’s rights and peacebuilding in the municipality of Xuacha, Cundinamarca. Xuacha is seen as a place where all the problems converge, but at the same time, it features a glimmer of hope personified in grassroots leaders. The podcast presents a type of leadership that realizes the meaning and importance of UNSCR 1325 on the ground.

The special prize was awarded to Jeimmy Lorena Gutiérrez Turmequé. The student’s workclearly outlines women leaders’ efforts amid increased threats and barriers to their work – such as increasing gender-based violence, the killing of social leaders, and the growing inequalities caused by neoliberal economic policies. Its fundamental contribution lies in the fact that it sheds light on the women’s movement and the grassroots leaders often ignored by the mainstream media, but essential to prevent conflict, promote peace and stability.

GNWP congratulates the winners! We also want to thank all those who participated in the competition. This is a key step to strengthening the alliance between the media and women peacebuilders to create awareness and promote the WPS agenda’s core values. We look forward to further strengthening this partnership!


Cambiando la narrativa: reporteros colombianos colocan el trabajo de las mujeres constructoras de paz en el centro de la escena

El 6 de enero 2021 por Cecilia Lazara

Distinguir el papel fundamental que desempeñan las mujeres en la prevención y resolución de los conflictos es considerado uno de los elementos centrales de la histórica Resolución del Consejo de Seguridad de las Naciones Unidas (RCSNU) 1325. Las mujeres se posicionan a la vanguardia de la consolidación de paz, abordando las raíces de los conflictos en sus comunidades. Por tanto, reconocer y apoyar su liderazgo no solo es lo correcto, también es estratégico. La evidencia empírica ha demostrado que cuando las mujeres participan activamente en las negociaciones de paz, los acuerdos tienden a tener una mayor probabilidad de ser más duraderos y sostenibles a lo largo del tiempo. Colombia representa un claro ejemplo de esto. Allí, las mujeres negociadoras y la sociedad civil han sido fundamentales para concretar el acuerdo de paz entre el gobierno y las FARC, asegurándose que su carácter sea inclusivo y aborde las necesidades de las poblaciones más vulnerables. Asimismo, luego de su adopción, las mujeres siguen monitoreando los avances en su implementación y abogando por la institucionalización de sus disposiciones a nivel local, especialmente aquellas relacionadas con la igualdad de género.

Paralelamente, las mujeres constructoras de paz continúan demostrando su capacidad de adaptación y resistencia frente a las crisis emergentes. Tras el brote de COVID-19, han estado en la primera línea en respuesta a la pandemia. En Colombia, las mujeres se han ocupado de la distribución de alimentos, paquetes de higiene y productos de salud sexual y reproductiva destinados a personas vulnerables, a la vez que continúan con su labor de defensa y promoción para la implementación efectiva del acuerdo de paz.

Sin embargo, a menudo, su trabajo permanece invisible y no se lo reconoce como se debería. Por lo contrario, los esfuerzos de las mujeres colombianas tienden a identificarse como parte de sus “deberes de cuidado”. Por tanto, su labor se da por sentado como una característica de la naturaleza femenina, menospreciando las habilidades y los sacrificios que conlleva. A pesar de sus contribuciones, las narrativas dominantes suelen representar a las mujeres como víctimas pasivas, en lugar de reconocer su liderazgo y agencia. Esta perspectiva reduccionista solo sirve para perpetuar los estereotipos de género inherentes al sistema patriarcal y limita los espacios y oportunidades disponibles para que las mujeres avancen en su trabajo.

Es por ello que uno de los elementos primordiales de la agenda de Mujeres, Paz y Seguridad (MPS) consiste en salvaguardar los espacios para las mujeres constructoras de paz y asegurar su participación significativa en la toma de decisiones en todos los ámbitos. No obstante, para poder implementar plenamente la agenda, es necesario cambiar la narrativa victimizante y destacar los esfuerzos liderados por mujeres para construir sociedades justas e inclusivas. En este sentido, los periodistas y los profesionales de los medios son aliados fundamentales ya que describen la manera en cómo se percibe a las mujeres en la sociedad, estimulan los debates sobre la igualdad de género y promueven su papel como constructoras de paz y agentes de cambio. Asimismo, también sociabilizan la información sobre el estado de las políticas nacionales; componente clave que ayuda a la sociedad civil a ejercer presión sobre el gobierno para que rinda cuentas sobre el avance de la implementación de la RCSNU 1325 y el acuerdo de paz, y garantice la inclusión significativa de las mujeres.

La Red Global de Mujeres Constructoras de Paz (GNWP, por sus siglas en inglés) y la Red Nacional de Mujeres (RNM) reconocemos el papel fundamental desempeñado por los medios de comunicación en la operacionalización de la agenda MPS sobre el terreno local. Es por ello que trabajamos junto con periodistas para aumentar la sensibilización de la agenda en Colombia, facilitando la comprensión del rol que los medios ocupan en su promoción e incentivando el desarrollo de las capacidades periodísticas con el fin de integrar un enfoque sensible al género en los informes. Durante el 2018 y 2019, GNWP y RNM realizó dos capacitaciones con el apoyo de la Agencia Noruega de Cooperación para el Desarrollo (Norad) y el Programa de Operaciones de Estabilización de la Paz de Asuntos Globales de Canadá (PSOPs). El objetivo de estos talleres se centró en el avance de la implementación de la MPS a través de un periodismo con perspectiva de género y construcción de paz, capaz de desafiar los discursos tradicionales y conservadores.

En agosto de 2020, se lanzó el Premio nacional de periodismo Mujeres, Paz y Seguridad, con el apoyo de Norad, y en asociación con Pacifista, un colectivo de medios dedicado a promover el periodismo arraigado en los principios de paz y derechos humanos. El Premio nacional de periodismo MPS tuvo como objetivo alentar a los estudiantes y periodistas profesionales a reflexionar sobre las experiencias de las mujeres a través de textos, audios y materiales audiovisuales.

Todos los materiales fueron evaluados por un panel de expertos en construcción de paz y medios de comunicación. A su vez, los ganadores fueron clasificados en dos categorías: periodistas profesionales y estudiantes de periodismo. Además, se otorgó un premio especial para el trabajo que destacara un ángulo original sobre el liderazgo de la mujer en la consolidación de paz. Como resultado, el ganador del premio especial viajará a Filipinas con el propósito de observar de cerca su plan de acción y documentar la implantación de buenas prácticas de la RCSNU 1325 y el acuerdo de paz, para luego compararlas con la experiencia de Colombia.

Se presenta a continuación un resumen de los materiales reconocidos:

  • En la categoría de periodistas profesionales, la pieza ganadora fue: “La Resistencia en medio de la resistencia” de Lidha Beltrán Valero – disponible en https://soundcloud.com/rutas-del-conflicto/podcast-la-resistencia-en-medio-de-la-resistencia
    El podcast sigue la historia de tres mujeres que viven en el norte del Cauca: una líder indígena, una excombatiente y una guardia indígena. En él, se destacan los esfuerzos por la obtención de los derechos fundamentales de las mujeres en medio del conflicto armado, llamándolas “la resistencia en medio de la resistencia”. Este relato pone de relieve el trabajo de las mujeres en la construcción de una paz sostenible y con igualdad de género –  apoyando el empoderamiento económico de la mujer, desafiando la cultura patriarcal y luchando contra la violencia continua en las zonas rurales, incluso después del conflicto armado interno. Las mujeres no se rinden, resisten y alzan la voz para cambiar el curso de la historia.
  • En la categoría de estudiantes, el primer lugar se le asignó a: “Xuacha Lucha Femenina y Popular” de Jeimmy Lorena Gutiérrez Turmequé – disponible en: https://www.ivoox.com/xuacha-lucha-femenina-popular-audios-mp3_rf_55835207_1.html?f[…]=IwAR2NEaQogHqB08Bdxw4tDlsXAQ2ZnSiFCfI5KYu62LY0Si8lSoXMGQHCltA
    Este podcast cuenta las historias de cuatro líderes comunitarios que han estado luchando por la reivindicación de los derechos de las mujeres y la construcción de paz en el municipio de Xuacha, Cundinamarca. Xuacha es visto como un lugar donde convergen todos los problemas, pero en simultáneo, presenta un halo de esperanza personificado en estos líderes populares. El podcast presenta un tipo de liderazgo que da cuenta del significado y la importancia de la RCSNU 1325 sobre el terreno local.

Finalmente, el premio especial se le otorgó a Jeimmy Lorena Gutiérrez Turmequé. La pieza de la estudiante describe claramente los esfuerzos de las mujeres líderes para continuar con su trabajo en medio de las crecientes amenazas y las barreras que se imponen – como el aumento de la violencia de género, el asesinato de líderes sociales y las desigualdades causadas por las políticas económicas neoliberales. La contribución fundamental del material reside en destacar la importancia del movimiento de las mujeres y los líderes comunitarios; dos actores frecuentemente ignorados por los principales medios de comunicación, pero que son sin embargo esenciales para prevenir conflictos, promover la paz y la estabilidad en los territorios.

¡GNWP felicita a los ganadores, y a todos los que participaron en el concurso! Este es un paso clave para fortalecer la alianza entre los medios de comunicación y las mujeres constructoras de paz con el fin de concientizar y promover los valores centrales de la agenda MPS. ¡Esperamos poder continuar fortaleciendo aún más esta asociación en un futuro!

Launching the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao’s Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security: In Search of Intersectionality and Localization

December 16, 2020 by Queenie Pearl V. Tomaro and Mallika Iyer

In 2014, the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed a peace agreement to bring 40 years of armed conflict to an end and establish the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The peace agreement made history as the first in the world to have been signed by a woman chief negotiator, Miriam Coronel Ferrer. The recent adoption of a Regional Action Plan (RAP) on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) for the BARMM is yet another step towards achieving sustainable peace and gender equality in a region heavily impacted by armed conflict, violent extremism, rido (clan warfare), and natural disasters. The RAP is a tremendous success, not just for the Bangsamoro Transition Government but for the women and girls of the BARMM.

In a region considered to be a hotbed for armed conflict and violent extremism conducive to terrorism with a significant number of internally displaced persons, it is of utmost importance that women, young women, and girls, who are often disproportionately impacted, are protected. Equally important is the recognition that women and young peoples’ needs and experiences are unique as the impacts of recurring armed conflict are varied across age and gender differentiation. In order to ensure that conflict resolution strategies respond to their needs, women must meaningfully participate in decision-making at all levels on peace and security.

These recognized realities underscore the importance of the BARMM’s RAP on WPS, which is primarily crafted to ensure that “women and young people’s needs during emergencies are taken into consideration”. Mirroring the Philippine government’s National Action Plan on UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the four pillars of the RAP are as follows: Protection and Prevention, Empowerment and Participation, Promotion and Mainstreaming, and lastly, Monitoring and Evaluation.

The RAP calls for an investment in women’s rights and sustainable, inclusive peacebuilding in partnership with women’s civil society and gender equality allies across the region. In line with the gender-sensitive provisions of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), the RAP commits to increase women’s meaningful participation in the transition to the BARMM and the implementation of the peace agreement. It also commits to mainstream WPS commitments into the Bangsamoro Development Plan.

Grassroots women peacebuilders are expected to lead and be included in local Peace and Order Councils in conflict-affected communities. It is now time to translate these commitments into action, and employing an intersectional lens is crucial. In particular, the RAP draws attention to the intersectionality between WPS and humanitarian action, a nexus that is garnering growing attention amongst the global policymaking community following the recommendations of the Grand Bargain. The RAP includes specific provisions on ensuring gender-sensitive humanitarian emergency response for displaced women and girls and direct humanitarian aid to local women’s rights organizations. With a little under 15,000 people displaced due to the armed conflict, these provisions could not be more in line with the urgent, intersecting needs of women, young women, and girls in the region.

To avoid the pitfalls of the first RAP of the now-defunct Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) adopted in 2017, the BARMM’s RAP emphasizes the need for localization. Localizing the RAP will entail integrating its provisions into Municipal Gender and Development (GAD) Codes and developing Provincial Action Plans (or Local Action Plans as they are more commonly known). To truly bridge commitments, priorities, and resources into efforts to build peace and promote gender equality in communities affected by conflict, the RAP must be localized and owned by key stakeholders. Unless reflected in local action plans and GAD codes, the RAP will simply become a check-the-box exercise.

For effective localization, the RAP outlines provisions to “ensure and sustain awareness, understanding, and appreciation of duty-bearers on WPS”. Specifically, the RAP commits to capacitate local actors by providing awareness-raising training on WPS and gender-responsive budgeting in communities. This is vital to cultivate ownership and support for the effective implementation of the WPS resolutions amongst key stakeholders including BARMM agencies, its local governments, traditional, and religious structures (with due consideration to varying rigidity of gender norms across the region). For example, the RAP requires the orientation of traditional local mechanisms such as the Sultanates and Council of Elders on WPS and women’s rights. A lack of understanding of the gendered impacts of armed conflict will perpetuate structural gender inequalities and women’s exclusion from political decision-making.

Without adequate, dedicated, reliable, and sustainable funding, an effective, fully implemented, and localized RAP is unlikely. As highlighted by a study conducted by Inclusive Security, the potential challenges for localization  are the  lack of capacity, knowledge, and financial resources. Hence, gender-responsive budgeting for the RAP and corresponding Provincial Action Plans is crucial. It remains to be seen how budgets for GAD Codes will be utilized to implement provisions of the RAP.

While the RAP makes strides in addressing key challenges to gender equality and sustainable peace in the BARMM, it fails to refer to disarmament and non-proliferation. This omission follows a similar trend of 70% NAPs on UNSCR 1325 across the world which lack language on disarmament. As an agenda for the prevention of conflict, the Women, Peace, and Security resolutions cannot be implemented in isolation to UNSCR 2117 on Small Arms and Light Weapons. These two resolutions are interlinked over their concern with the gendered impacts of violence caused by small arms. However, policy forums on disarmament remain to be men-dominated, with only 30% participation of women. In the Philippines, women must meaningfully participate in disarmament, decommissioning, demobilization, and reintegration processes. The specific needs of former women combatants must also be prioritized. Disarmament is an important element of sustainable peace. Since peace is only sustainable if women are involved, disarmament and WPS should not be viewed in separate lenses. Hence, effective implementation of the RAP will require the recognition of women as equal partners in a gender-responsive disarmament processes.

Regarding missing elements in the RAP, is the important acknowledgement that climate change and armed conflict are closely interlinked. The Philippines is prone to natural disasters, including floods and typhoons, which exacerbate armed conflict, forced displacement, and insecurity for women and girls. Climate change has gendered impacts which cannot be analyzed in isolation from women’s experiences in conflict. The intersections of climate change and armed conflict result in compounding, multi-dimensional challenges for the achievement of gender equality and sustainable peace. By employing an intersectional approach to implementation of the RAP, the BARMM will be able to better respond to the needs of women, young women, and girls in the region.

In conclusion, it is important to reflect on the question: “For whom is the RAP on WPS?”. If it truly is for the women, young women, and girls in the BARMM, then they must lead implementation of the RAP in partnership with the government, traditional and religious leaders, and gender equality allies. Localization efforts must be taken seriously, resulting in corresponding Provincial Action Plans as well as greater awareness and ownership amongst key stakeholders. Disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration processes, which are vital to sustainable peace in the BARMM, must meaningfully engage women and respond to their specific needs. Additionally, the gendered impacts of climate change as they intersect with and fuel armed conflict should be adequately addressed. Employing an intersectional, localized approach to implementation of the RAP will lead to more comprehensive efforts to improve all aspects of women, young women, and girls’ lives in conflict affected communities in the BARMM.

Preserving Peace in the Pandemic: Young Women Leaders and Gender Equality Allies Mobilize in the Philippines

December 14, 2020 by Mallika Iyer and Heela Yoon

“We want peace! We’re ready to work for it!” – declared members of the Young Women Leaders for Peace (YWL) in the Philippines during an online capacity-building training organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), with support from Channel Foundation in August 2020. YWL in the Philippines is a network of young women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) youth, and gender equality allies. Since its establishment in February 2018, the network has mobilized to build and sustain peace in the Philippines, and prevent further outbreaks of conflict in their communities. The virtual training was organized to support their work towards sustainable and inclusive peace, by enhancing their knowledge and capacities on the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda, the Youth, Peace, and Security (YPS) agenda, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPFA). Between August 26-28, the youth leaders analyzed challenges and opportunities to accelerate the implementation of the WPS and YPS resolutions in the Philippines.

YWL members believe that the implementation of these resolutions is necessary to ensure that the hard-won peace is not lost. On March 27th, 2014, people across the country rejoiced as the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed a historic peace agreement, which brought 40 years of armed conflict to an end. The Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro is celebrated internationally for its gender-sensitive provisions and inclusive drafting process spearheaded by the world’s first woman chief negotiator. One of the key provisions of the peace agreement was the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). Six years after the signing of the agreement, the region is gradually transitioning from rebellion to governance. The provisions of the peace agreement were enshrined into the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and ratified in February 2019 through plebiscites, which institutionalized the establishment of the BARMM. Additionally, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) approved a transition plan and passed codes creating Bangsamoro Commissions on Youth, Women, and Human Rights. The parliament, for which an administrative code is being deliberated, is scheduled to begin regular sessions in 2022. To ensure a peaceful transition to the BARMM, it is critical to protect these achievements as well as build local ownership and support for the effective implementation of the peace agreement.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant delays in the development of government structures and processes, including the electoral code for the region, which is crucial for the effective implementation of the peace agreement. While Members of Parliament struggled to meet over Zoom, violent extremist groups wasted no time in sowing insecurity. In April, a clash between the Abu Sayaff Group, a well-known violent extremist group that operates in the BARMM, and the Armed Forces of the Patikul, Sulu resulted in the death of 11 soldiers. Shortly after, two soldiers were reportedly killed in an attack by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) at a COVID-19 lockdown checkpoint. Violence perpetrated by extremist groups and clan feuds jeopardizes the building of peaceful institutions in the BARMM and the implementation of the peace agreement.  

I have heard kids say that they want to join Abu Sayaff when they grow up. We need to counter violent narratives promoted by extremist groups. Instead, we need to build support for peace in the BARMM,” a young woman from Sulu shared. Violent extremist groups have exploited the limited collective understanding of the BOL, and have utilized the resulting misinformation and disinformation to radicalize and recruit in conflict-affected areas. In response, during the virtual training organized by GNWP, the young women leaders and gender equality allies designed community peacebuilding dialogues and social media campaigns, which will raise awareness and build ownership of the BOL, particularly including its gender-responsive provisions. Keynote speakers, Ana Tarhata Basman and Maisara Damdamun-Latiph, who are both Members of Parliament of the BTA, highlighted the critical importance of the participation of young women in political decision-making to ensure a sustainable and inclusive transition to peaceful governance. They highlighted that the BTA currently does not have enough women members to meet the required 30% participation quota stipulated under the BOL. In preparation for the upcoming elections in the BARMM in 2022, YWL members committed to leading advocacy campaigns to encourage and inspire their peers to join political parties and work for the BTA. “We don’t have a lot of time before 2022. We all need to work together to actualize this peaceful transition. There is too much at stake if we fail,” emphasized Ana Tarhata Basman.

As part of the August 2020 training, the YWL members also enhanced their capacities to advocate for a human-rights based peace process between the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) and the Philippine government. The conflict between the CPP-NPA-NDF and the government has devastated rural areas across the country and has resulted in large-scale internal displacement, loss of lives, damage to property, and widespread insecurity. It has also led to the implementation of martial law and multiple grave human rights violations. Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated insecurity experienced by communities as a result of the conflict. Although the warring parties were quick to declare ceasefires in March 2020, the failure to uphold them ultimately worsened prospects of peace negotiations, increased the incidence of violent clashes, and disrupted the delivery of essential relief goods to women and youth peacebuilders on the frontlines of the pandemic.

We need to dispel the perception that peacebuilding and negotiations aren’t going anywhere. Militarized responses to the pandemic and armed conflict shouldn’t be the only action the government takes. We need to spread hope, advocate for change, and meet the immediate needs of vulnerable groups,” Bianca Pabotoy, a young woman from Buhol, stressed. During the online training, the young women leaders and gender equality allies designed initiatives to empower and increase opportunities for internally displaced and indigenous young women in conflict-affected communities to protect their rights and participate in peacebuilding. The YWL members in the Philippines emphasized “Peace isn’t just for Mindanao!” Implementing an inclusive peace will help build a better, more equitable future for all Filipinos. The young peacebuilders are working steadily towards building a national movement for sustainable peace and gender equality.

From strong institutions to inclusive peace: Gendering the conversation about corruption, human rights, and peace and security

December 10, 2020 by Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos

“The most important characteristic of a peaceful society is a set of institutions that enable its members to live together in peace. This entails an absence of high levels of corruption and the existence of the rule of law. Strong institutions promote the peaceful co-existence of individuals and groups with differing interests and values and are a necessary condition for human flourishing.”

This is how one of the participants of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders’ (GNWP) research on local women and civil society’s perspectives on sustaining peace defined a peaceful society. The research reached over 1,600 women and men in 50 countries. When asked what peace means to them, the largest number – 40% of all respondents – indicated good governance and strong institutions. In line with this, corruption – within governments, civil society, and even donor institutions – was listed as one of the persistent challenges to sustainable and inclusive peace. 10% of all respondents believed that corruption is the biggest obstacle to peace. Respondents pointed out that corruption prevents grassroots peacebuilders from accessing funding to support their work, breeds distrust between citizens and their government, fuels economic inequality, and aggravates grievances. All of these factors are also the root causes of conflict and violence.

Corruption is a security concern

The findings of our research have added to the growing literature and policy discussions on the impacts of corruption on peace and security. A 2015 study by the Institute for Economics & Peace revealed that “corruption has a major influence over decreased levels of peace, including violent crime and the homicide rate.” In a similar vein, an analysis by Transparency International showed that “11 of the 20 most corrupt countries have been affected by violent conflict, often lasting many years.” As noted above, corruption aggravates the root causes of conflict. At the same time, armed conflict creates a fertile ground for corruption – as the influx of outside funds in post-conflict countries provides incentives for officials to make corrupt deals for personal gain.

The interlinkages between corruption and peace have also been recognized in global policy discussions. Recognizing the link between corruption and peace and security, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held a briefing on corruption and conflict in September 2018. The UNSC has also addressed corruption in country-specific discussions and briefings. Misappropriation of financial resources is one of the criteria for sanctions in the cases of Somalia and Libya. Corruption has also been tackled in discussions around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). While preventing and combatting corruption is not a stand-alone SDG, tackling corruption, bribery, and money laundering, as well as recovering stolen assets, are specific targets under SDG 16 on Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions.

Where are the women? Bringing a gender lens to policy discussions on corruption

Despite the strong linkages between corruption and peace, most research, analysis, and policy discussions on corruption remain gender-blind and leaves the myriad of ways in which corruption affects women and men in conflict-affected situations unexplored. There is evidence that women and men are affected differently by corruption: corruption affects women’s access to literacy education, as well as their access to health, including maternal health, education, and economic opportunities. Still, analyses of the gendered impacts of corruption is not systematic in the literature on the issue, or in the policy discussions and recommendations related to corruption.

To address this gap, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), with support from the Directorate of International Law of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, conducted research which applied a gender lens and conflict lens to the impact of corruption on peace and security, and on human rights. We used in-depth analysis of existing literature, policy documents, and ongoing global policy debates on corruption to map out existing trends and identify some good practices. Additionally, we conducted key informant interviews and focus group discussions in Nepal and Nigeria. Using the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda as a framework, the research highlights the interlinkages between corruption’s impact on human rights, peace, and gender equality, including women’s effective participation. The findings of the research are detailed in a policy brief and two in-depth case studies from Nepal and Nigeria. While not surprising, they serve as a critical wake-up call.

We found that corruption affects the implementation of all four pillars of WPS, and thus is a threat to both human rights, and to sustainable and gender-equal peace:

1. Corruption’s well-documented negative impact on human rights and women’s rights undermines the implementation of the Protection pillar of the WPS agenda. In North-East Nigeria, wide-spread corruption in internally displaced persons’ (IDP) camps has increased the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), and contributed to impunity for SGBV perpetrated by armed actors. Research respondents noted that corruption facilitates the spread of forced prostitution and human trafficking, as corrupt officials allow influential persons to “take girls outside the camp in the pretext of giving them better education but most often exploiting them either as sex workers or house helps, sometimes trafficking them to other states or communities.” Respondents also noted that there have been cases of police officers demanding payment from SGBV victims before filing their reports.

2. Corruption is a security concern, and a key factor undermining the implementation of the WPS Prevention pillar, as it can trigger conflict and aggravate existing insecurities, particularly for vulnerable groups, including women. The Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) has noted the link between corruption and women’s personal security. For example, in its Concluding Observations to Ukraine from 2017, the Committee notes that the continued hostility and impunity for violations especially in Eastern Ukraine “along with pervasive corruption, has contributed to an increase in the level of violence against women by State and non-State actors and to the reinforcement of traditional and patriarchal attitudes that limit women’s and girls’ enjoyment of their rights”. However, corruption is also a threat to international peace and security. The UNDP report “Journey to Extremism in Africa” shows that the groups most susceptible to recruitment are characterized by significantly limited confidence in government and a sense of grievance towards the State. The belief that the government only looks after the interests of a few, the level of trust in authorities, and the willingness to report experiences of bribe paying were all key indicators in analyzing the susceptibility of young people to voluntarily joining a violent extremist group.

3. Corruption restricts women’s ability to meaningfully participate in decision-making, thus undermining the WPS agenda’s Participation pillar. A number of countries have noted in their State Party reports to the CEDAW Committee that corruption has an adverse effect on women’s political participation. For example, the 2004 Guatemala State Party report states that “women have no faith in the political process and believe that they have been deceived and exploited by male politicians. The 2009 State Party report of Papua New Guinea and the 2010 State Party report of Kenya also points to corruption as a major barrier to women’s political participation. The Papua New Guinea report notes that the prevalence of corruption increases the cost of running for office, thus making it impossible for women to stand as candidates.

4. Corruption has a documented negative impact on women’s access to justice, which undermines the post-conflict transition to a peaceful society and the implementation of the WPS Relief and Recovery pillar. In Nepal, research respondents noted that the police and judiciary officials are often hostile or disrespectful towards women, and there is a lack of understanding and appropriate guidelines on how violations of women’s human rights, including SGBV, are to be addressed. The lack of effective transparency and accountability mechanisms perpetuates such gender inequalities, as there are no checks and balances that would prevent security and justice officials from bringing their own biases into the system. Respondents also stated that widespread corruption at police and courts prevents speedy case clearance. As one respondent stated, “If there is ‘khuwai piyai’ (term used to indicate bribes provided – in cash or in kind – to obtain favors) then work moves ahead, otherwise it does not.” As a result, it could take up to 5-6 years for a case of SGBV to be considered in court. This effectively prevents women from accessing justice, as they do not have the resources to pay the bribes or to cover the legal fees during such a lengthy period.

Corruption is therefore not only a security concern – it is a WPS concern. Yet, it remains largely absent from discussions on conflict prevention and peace and security, including in the framework of WPS. Our call is clear: conflict-sensitive gender analysis must be a part of all discussions, policies, and actions to curtail corruption. Likewise, the issue of corruption should be acknowledged and discussed in policy fora dedicated to gender equality and sustainable peace – be it within the UN Security Council, the CEDAW Committee, or in national parliaments.

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