March 10, 2020
“Women work to prevent conflict in our communities on a daily basis – yet, we remain invisible!” – emphasized one of the participants of the Global Women’s Forum for Peace and Humanitarian Action. Nearly 20 years after the adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women and Peace and Security (WPS), women’s contributions to conflict prevention, peacebuilding and response to humanitarian crisis remain unrecognized and unsupported, their work and lives increasingly come under attack, and armed conflict continues to be a major obstacle to the fulfillment of women’s rights and gender equality.
The Global Women’s Forum for Peace and Humanitarian Action provided a space for over 60 women peacebuilders, humanitarian responders, and civil society representatives from diverse backgrounds and 17 countries from across the globe to exchange their experiences, jointly strategize on the concrete actions needed to effectively implement WPS agenda, and demand the recognition and support for their work and priorities. The Forum was organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF) and Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) in Vienna, Austria, on February 19 – 20, 2020. It provided a critical opportunity to amplify voices of local women at a critical juncture – ahead of the 20th anniversary of UNSCR 1325, the 5th anniversary UNSCR 2250 on Youth and Peace and Security, and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
The local women peacebuilders at the Forum identified lack of funding; increasing attacks on women peacebuilders and shrinking space for civil society; lack of access to economic opportunities; and exclusion from peace processes and decision-making at all levels as some of the barriers to effective implementation of the WPS resolutions. Through two days of intense discussions, interactive presentations and hands-on work, they developed a set of concrete recommendations to address these gaps, which were captured in the Vienna 2020 Declaration, the Forum’s outcome document. The women peacebuilders and first responders were joined at the Forum by representatives of Member States, UN Women, the media and private sector, who came to listen to the women’s voices and make concrete commitments to the implementation of the WPS agenda.
The WPS agenda is an essential component of global affairs, and a key instrument to achieving transformative change across the three pillars of the United Nations – peace and security, human rights, and development. However, its effective implementation cannot be a reality without strong and meaningful participation of women. As GNWP CEO Mavic Cabrera-Balleza stressed in her speech at the Forum, “It is local women who breathe life into the WPS resolutions, who translate them into necessary and practical actions on the ground, and use them as instruments to demand their participation in leadership and decision-making, conflict-prevention and peacebuilding.”
With the necessary technical support, funding, and enabling conditions, local women and grassroots civil society are breaking down patriarchal barriers, holding authorities accountable, and improving the functions of the state and traditional institutions. The Vienna 2020 Declaration is a powerful call from loca women peacebuilders and humanitarian actors for greater recognition and support to their critical work in preventing conflict, building and sustaining inclusive peace.