“Our conflicts are not frozen!” – civil society, national and local authorities from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine discuss conflict prevention and Localization of UNSCR 1325

“Our conflicts are not frozen!” – civil society, national and local authorities from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine discuss conflict prevention and Localization of UNSCR 1325

“Our conflicts are not frozen!” – civil society, national and local authorities from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine discuss conflict prevention and Localization of UNSCR 1325

April 8, 2019 by Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos
Conflicts in Eastern Europe and South Caucasus are often described as “frozen.” However, many of the conflicts in the region have been characterized by low-intensity violence that span more than a decade. Despite the ongoing peace negotiations or settlement efforts, the violence and insecurity continue to affect local populations every day.
Between 2017 and 2019, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) with support from the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and in partnership with national and local civil society, governments and UN Women country offices implemented the project “Local, National and Regional Strategies to Improve the Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and its supporting resolutions in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.” The project aimed to enhance the implementation of the WPS resolutions in these countries, and to contribute to addressing root causes and the lingering impacts of conflicts. On 21-22 March 2019, GNWP and IDP Women’s Association “Consent”, its implementation partner in Georgia convened civil society, local and national government actors who participated in the project at a Regional Monitoring Conference in Borjomi, Georgia.
The Regional Monitoring Conference provided a space for the project participants to reflect on the achievements of the project, remaining challenges, and next steps to ensure sustained and effective implementation of the WPS resolutions in their countries and across the regions.

What have we achieved?

1. Building stronger understanding of UNSCR 1325 at the local level and bringing local voices to the national-level discussions.
In total, over 350 local authorities and grassroots civil society groups participated in the Localization workshops in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. For many of them, the workshops were the first time they heard about UNSCR 1325 and the supporting WPS resolutions. Localization helped them understand how the agenda is relevant to their local context. In Lviv and Kherson in Ukraine; as well as Gori and Zugdidi in Georgia, local authorities developed Local Action Plans (LAPs) to implement the WPS resolutions in their local areas.
LAPs are critical tools that allow to use WPS effectively to address the local security threats stemming from each local area’s specific situation. For example, Kherson, which borders the Crimea region, which had been annexed by Russia, is a host community for internally displaced people (IDPs). Lviv, on the other hand, is home to many volunteers who fought in the war in the East of the country. As they returned home, a major source of insecurity has been the untreated Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder suffered by veterans.
Gori and Zugdidi border the disputed territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. More than 10 years after the end of the war, there are still over 200,000 IDPs in Georgia. Gori and Zugdidi host the highest number of them.
The project also enabled local actors, including local women, to voice their security concerns and WPS priorities. “Localization is the most important tool we have to engage local women in discussions about peace and security. For many women from Gagauzia and Tiraspol, the Localization workshop was the first time they were asked about their fears and their views on security” – highlighted Victoria Bucutaru from the Foreign Policy Association, GNWP’s implementation partner from Moldova. For example, during the Localization workshop, an activist from Gagauzia, an autonomous region of Moldova bordering the Transnistrian region, shared the challenges women and human rights defenders face across the administrative line. The local authorities from Gagauzia as well as civil society from both sides of the administrative line identified concrete steps towards addressing these challenges, such as holding workshops to raise awareness about WPS, and the importance of women’s participation in peace and security in the Transnistrian region.
2. Improving coordination between government and civil society, and local and national actors.
During the project, GNWP and its local civil society partners worked closely with the national and local authorities to build trust and cooperation for stronger UNSCR 1325 implementation.
As stated by Marin Bodrug from the Bureau of Reintegration in Moldova, the State institution responsible for NAP monitoring, “the project improved the communication between government and civil society. It helped us develop cooperation in good faith.”
In Georgia, the project also contributed to improving the cooperation between local and national level authorities. Sopho Japharidze, Assistant to the Prime Minister of Georgia on Human Rights and Gender Equality recalled that being able to participate in Localization workshops in Gori and Zugdidi allowed her to build a stronger relationship with the local authorities and pass on the message that they should not wait for an approval for the centre to implement – they have the lead on implementation!
The strengthened cooperation between local and national actors has had tangible impacts. For example, Localization workshop participants in Zugdidi called raised the need for public transportation from Ganmukhuri to Zugdidi. In response, the Prime Minister’s Office on Human Rights and Gender Equality, discussed the transportation request with relevant stakeholders at the national level, which led to the establishment of a bus that regularly travels local people from Ganmukhuri to Zugdidi.
3. Changing the narrative on gender and conflict
Localization helped “break taboo that surrounds the concept of gender” in local communities in Armenia – shared Knarik Mkrtchyan, one of the implementers in Armenia. It also helped raise awareness about the human impacts of the conflict.
Partnership with the media was also a central component of the project. 127 journalists and media practitioners participated in training workshops in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, and media strategies on how to report on UNSCR 1325 were produced in all four countries. These have contributed to a more gender-sensitive coverage of conflict and security. In Ukraine a media and WPS prize was launched. This generated more interest from the media to report on peace and conflict issues that highlight women’s roles ad leaders, peacebuilders and change agents.

What challenges remain?

Building sustainable and inclusive peace is a long-term process. Despite the progress achieved, the Conference participants identified several remaining gaps as well as emerging challenges, including:

– Focus on institutions and policy-making structures in UNSCR 1325 implementation – The “human dimension” – meaning the impact of conflict on lives of the individuals – still remains neglected and is absent from the National Action Plans;

– Lack of data and evidence – especially from the local level. Local Action Plans and National Action Plans should be more strongly based on needs assessments;

– Insufficient funding and technical capacity for implementation, especially at the local level;

– Gender stereotypes, misunderstanding of gender equality and emergence of “anti-gender movements.”

What lies ahead?
Based on the challenges, the participants identified the following recommendations and priorities for future work on UNSCR 1325 in the region:
1. Continue localization of UNSCR 1325: There is a need to further enhance capacities among local authorities, especially on data collection, needs assessment and monitoring and evaluation. New target groups, such as teachers and religious leaders, should also be reached.
2. Strengthen focus on human security: New LAPs and NAPs should include stronger focus on human security.  In countries where NAPs are not up for revision, implementation should include human security components, including women’s access to education and economic opportunities as important drivers of peace.
3. Continue regional experience exchanges: The regional component of the project, including “Peace Exchange”, wherein civil society and government representatives from one country would participate in Localization workshops in another country, was particularly valued by participants. More peer-to-peer exchange between local authorities from different countries and from different regions within a country should also be encouraged.
4. Engage and train the media at the local level: The media are a critical actor in reconciliation and peacebuilding. It is important to continue enhancing their capacity to report on conflict in a gender-sensitive manner. This is also important for the local media, especially in contexts such as Ukraine, where they are a popular source of information and opinion makers.
5. Strengthen decentralization to give local authorities more autonomy to implement the WPS resolutions at the local level.