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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New possibilities: Compact Coalition on WPS and YPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To join the Beijing+25 WPS-YPS Global Coalition listserv, please fill out this form: https://forms.gle/6Z7tsyj8xe8bPneU7

For more information, please contact: Mallika Iyer, Program Officer, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders; Mallika@gnwp.org


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

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

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