Summary of the Prelude to the Peace Forum

Summary of the Prelude to the Peace Forum

Oct. 21, 2015 at the UN Church Center

Summary of the Prelude to the Peace Forum prepared by Global College for: Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom – WILPF and the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders – GNWP

1.     Opening Remarks

Abigail Ruane – WILPF
Dr. Abigail Ruane from the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF) acted as the moderator for the Prelude to the Peace Forum. She opened the discussion by noting that last week, during the Open Debate of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on October 13, 2015 to mark the 15th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS), the call was made to go beyond engaging in exhausted conversations about commitments and to move towards accomplishments.
Ruane explained that the aim of the Prelude hosted by WILPF and GNWP, which opened with the panel “Voices from the Field: A Global Call for Implementation of UNSCR 1325”, was to share and build on the rich experiences of WPS actors around the world and determine how members of civil society can better strategize and better mobilize women’s involvement in the peace process. The panel featured six leaders involved in civil society organizations and the UN, each sharing their personal experiences and stories of constructive practices and suggesting ways to move forward from the 15th Annual Review. Ruane explained that this Prelude was designed to provide time and space, following the panel, to engage everyone in attendance in Conversation Circles to address critical gaps in the WPS agenda that are evident after 15 years. She set the tone for the whole Prelude with the statement that women and civil society are not just waiting, they are stepping up to the challenge.

2.     Summary of Key Points from the Prelude Panel

  • Solange Lwashiga – DRC

The first panelist, Solange Lwashiga from the South Kivu Congolese Women’s Caucus for Peace, shared the story of the campaign, “Rien Sans les Femmes” (“Nothing Without Women”). The campaign generated a petition of more than 2,000 signatures aimed at changing a discriminatory electoral law and giving Congolese women a space for political participation. Lwashiga was asked to present the petition to the President of the National Assembly and read the accompanying letter. She emphasized that meeting the President of the National Assembly is not an easy task, however, she ultimately succeeded. The President commended the “big civic action” and granted two focal points of his Cabinet in order to change the electoral law. Lwashiga addressed the crowded room filled with many grassroots activists and members of civil society organizations by stating that whoever you are, at any level you are, you have your input and by encouraging the women there, that desipte the days and nights being long, one day the sun will shine.

  • Jasmin Galace – Philippines

Dr. Jasmin Galace from the Centre for Peace Education (CPE) in the Philippines was the second panelist. She opened her presentation with a familiar quote from Benjamin Franklin: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Her work has focused on the prevention of different forms of violence and suffering experienced by women, whether direct, structural, and/or socio-cultural. Galace presented a four-pronged model of conflict prevention which focused on peace education, effective dialogue, advocacy for arms control, and the power of women as agents of peace and conflict resolution.
The importance of peace education stems from the understanding that transforming mindsets to support nonviolent conflict resolution can be a pathway to peace. She believes that to reach peace, teach peace. As a result, the CPE has worked in the Philippines for the adoption of a policy that would integrate peace education into school curriculum. The onset of peace education in her country has resulted in many schools being declared zones of peace, the birth of many peace education centres and the birth of young peace advocates working against war and other forms of violence. The power of dialogue has been demonstrated in an interfaith and intercultural program that bridged the gap between a Christian and a Muslim school in Mindanao. As the students got to know one another and gained deeper knowledge of each other’s cultures through exchanging letters, they demonstrated a shift away from their feelings of fear and mistrust for each other, and moved towards understanding and becoming concerned for one another. The students also learned skills of conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
To advocate for stronger arms control, Galace and the CPE worked for the ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which prohibits the transferring of arms that directly undermine peace and security through perpetuating genocides, crimes against humanity and mass armed crimes. The ATT also addresses sexual violence that is caused by arms trade and includes a provision on the prevention of Gender-Based Violence (GBV). Sustained and intense lobbying, such as handing out flowers, post cards, bananas, and mugs, also helped to ensure the support of delegates at the UN of the GBV provision. Dr. Galace asked those present at the panel to work together towards ensuring that the GBV provision of the Arms Trade treaty is observed and implemented.
Galace stated that the WPS agenda has not delivered transformative change because it is missing the power of women in preventing conflicts and achieving peace. Women in the Philippines want to help make their communities safer for their loved ones. Women also helped build skills of early warning and early conflict response. She reminded the participants that if we want the WPS Agenda to help transform a culture of militarism to a culture of peace, the time to invest in conflict prevention is now.

  • Paivi Kannisto – UN Women

Where are we now?
The third panelist explored the question “where are we now?” fifteen years after the adoption of UNSCR 1325. The new Chief of Peace and Security at UN Women, Ms. Paivi Kannisto, acknowledged the significant burden that was placed on civil society when the date of the Open Debate was changed this year (to Oct. 13, from Oct. 22), but also noted that the change facilitated an extra week of discussions on WPS. Despite the fact that the civil society participation review was not at quite as high level as it would have been on the original date, the Open Debate still featured the highest number of speakers. In total, 111 countries spoke. Both the Secretary-General’s (SG) report to the SC on WPS and the newest UNSCR 2242 on WPS were discussed at the Open Debate. The SG’s annual report to the SC was informed by the 2015 Global Study led by Radhika Coomaraswamy and the high level advisory group, delivering evidence that women’s participation makes peace more sustainable. It also combines works from the UN that provide recommendations to member states. Kannisto noted that many people at the Prelude were a part of that advisory process, such as Ambassador Chowdhury who also played a role in the initial creation of UNSCR 1325.
The most recent of the eight Security Council resolutions on the Women, Peace & Security theme – UNSCR 2242 (adopted Oct. 13, 2015) – links the WPS agenda to the current global context by addressing issues such as rising violent extremism, climate change, and unprecedented numbers of displaced persons. The new resolution also establishes a clear link between women’s participation and sustainable peace and security, calling for incentives for women’s participation and the capacity building of women and civil society groups. Both of these documents talk about the globalization of peacebuilding programs. Kannisto noted that the connection between women and leadership in humanitarian action has yet to be made. It was decided, responding to a recommendation made in the Global Study, that an informal expert group would be established. This decision was made to address the need to create a mechanism that would increase awareness in the SC about the current condition of the implementation of the WPS agenda.
Kannisto then addressed the funding of the WPS agenda, expressing concern over the reliability of future funding and emphasizing the need for creative approaches to fundraising. The SC has promised that 15% of peacebuilding funds will be spent on gender equality. Although this commitment has been made by the Secretary General, it has yet to be achieved. Kannisto suggested that perhaps the commitment should include 15% of all peace and security related funding as peacekeeping operations received $9 billion (USD) in funding last year alone, and even five percent of that would provide many possibilities. Additionally, the newest resolution has called for greater gender analysis and gender budgeting in the planning of peace missions as well as the tracking of expenditures on promoting gender equality.
Kannisto noted that a new global acceleration instrument (GAI) was announced last week with the launch of the Global Study. This new instrument has been created to ensure that there will be funds for civil society to take actions on WPS. To date, the fund has received pledges up to $7.5 million and there is hope that more countries will contribute additional pledges. All high level reviews stressed the participation of women as well as the importance of preventing conflict. She suggests that it is in this area that the WPS Agenda can be a very powerful tool as long as we get those who make funding decisions to understand the importance of early responses for conflict prevention.
Kannisto noted that the Global Study emphasizes that UNSCR 1325 should not be “securitized” and she echoed that sentiment, stating that women should not be used as an instrument in any military strategy and women’s rights need to be protected. In addition to relying on sufficient funding for the effective implementation of WPS, the agenda also needs UN agencies and representatives to work in collaboration with civil society. Her final observation was that mechanisms that facilitate the flow of information about global implementation from Civil Society to the SC (and back) must be enhanced in order to inform security relations.

  • Danielle Goldberg – GNWP

What have we learned?
Danielle Goldberg, project coordinator at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), and lead author of the civil society organization survey for the Global Study (Survey), presented on the findings. The Survey was co-organized by GNWP and WILPF, in partnership with Cordaid, the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN), and the NGO working group on WPS, with input and support from UN Women. The Survey featured a wide range of participants from around the world, some of whom were present at the Prelude. Goldberg stressed that in reality, it is these participants who truly authored the Survey. The process of generating the civil society survey of the Global Study was guided by the need to make it participatory, inclusive, and global. The coordinators wanted to ensure that the voices shared in the Survey and, in turn, in the Global Study, would be authentic and realistic accounts of what is really happening on the ground. As a result, the Survey featured 70 questions which were distributed in English, Spanish, French, and Arabic through grassroots networks spanning 71 countries, representing the full range of stages of conflict. Goldberg emphasized that the only way to realize the promise of the WPS agenda is to evaluate its success at the grassroots level. Ultimately, the main goal of the Survey was to bridge local and national experiences and bring them to the high level panel on WPS and into the Global Study in order to galvanize civil society and celebrate the achievements that have been made.
Goldberg presented some of the main findings from the Survey. Women were asked to rate the success and impact of UNSCR 1325. The average rating was 3.33 out of 6. The Survey revealed that there needs to be recognition of how the resolution has mobilized and galvanized civil society to advocate for Women, Peace, and Security by giving them concrete tools and a platform which had previously not existed. Women also reiterated how there have been shifts in the consciousness of their countries regarding how women are now being viewed as actors rather than primarily as victims. They attribute this collective shift to the resolution. However, there still remains a lack of positive improvements in the lives of women and girls day to day, on the ground.
The Survey also revealed that women rated collaboration between CSOs as the most effective way of implementing WPS initiatives. Working with national governments was rated much lower due to a lack of trust, but many women indicated a desire to work with their governments. The Survey participants identified that their main challenge in working with the UN is the tendency for the UN to work more closely with elite, international organizations. This creates competition that mutes and disempowers grassroots organizations.
In keeping with the theme of making WPS holistic, collaborative, innovative and local, Goldberg revealed that there is a need for a reprioritization of conflict prevention, demilitarization, and demobilization which is at the heart of the WPS agenda. The highest issue for the majority of the women’s organizations was the need for full and equal participation of women in the peace and conflict processes. However, the Survey revealed that as their least effective area of work, due primarily to forms of exclusion.
Goldberg’s closing comments focused on funding. Organizations with limited resources are having to sacrifice programs and jump through hoops due to paperwork and bureaucratic processes. She emphasized the need for rapid, straightforward, and long term funding because trust-building and reconciliation doesn’t happen overnight. She concluded by stating that while there are many daunting challenges, there are also many examples of women who are making differences by changing hearts and minds. These organizations should not be kept on the sidelines; they need a more formal place at the table so that society-wide benefits of the WPS Agenda can be realized.

  • Youssef Mahmoud – IPI

What strategies can we use to move forward?
Youssef Mahmoud, a member of the High Level Advisory Group and Senior Advisor at the International Peace Institute (IPI), presented his suggestions for strategies that can be used to further advance the WPS agenda. Mahmoud reinforced the fact that gender equality is good for sustainable peace and expressed disappointment at the implications of the existing deficits in gender equality.
Mahmoud first addressed the inclusion of men in the agenda. Referencing Solange Lwashiga’s campaign, “Rien sans les femmes”, Mahmoud suggested that we need to look at “rien sans les femmes et les hommes” (“nothing without women and men”). In the high level independent panel, there was a struggle to achieve gender-balanced membership, which Mahmoud asserted was symptomatic of the problem. The panel included three men and eleven “formidable women.”  Mahmoud emphasized that men must be the allies of women in the process of implementing the WPS Agenda, as it addresses social issues that affect everyone. He remarked that this is not a women’s only issue, understood only by women and fought and changed only by women, it has to be a common core society effort. He further stated that effective implementation of WPS would shift the emphasis towards sustained peace security and conflict prevention and away from post-conflict peacebuilding.
Expanding on this point, Mahmoud highlighted three areas of the report which, if implemented, would be a game changer. First, the report emphasized sustainable peace and conflict prevention. Conflict prevention was insisted upon because it gives opportunities to break silos by marrying the three pillars of UN work: peace, development, and governance. He called for the intergovernmental silos to look at the way they do business in terms of Goal 16 of the SDGs. (Goal 16 links peaceful and inclusive societies with sustainable development.) The second area of focus within the report is engagement with governments and speaking to power. Mahmoud asserted that governments must accept that WPS needs to be made a national priority. Finally, the report insisted upon the localization of peace. Peace is already being done at the “bottom,” at the grassroots level. This local knowledge must be brought to the top, or the task of implementing the WPS Agenda will be much more difficult and in another fifteen years from now, we may be lamenting the same deficits.

  • Sharon Bhagwan Rolls – Femlink Pacific

Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, also a member of the High Level Advisory Group as well as the Executive Director of Femlink Pacific, began her presentation by suggesting that we all ought to be weary of the murkiness in counter terrorism references as it may bring in a more securitized approach. However, the reference to climate change in the Global Study is groundbreaking in itself, as it provides an opportunity to link human security, environmental security, private security and community security. She referred to the SG’s commitment at the launch of the Global Study to further opportunities to review the Peace Support Reports and to ensure linkages between recommendations.
Bhagwan Rolls went on to state that demilitarization is key. Just as many of the presenters stressed, there is a need for more attention on prevention. She remarked that the more we talk about it, the more we are going to make sure it happens, suggesting that there is nothing counterintuitive about emphasis on conflict prevention. She also stated that we need to reassert women’s definitions of human security and not the securitization of peace. UNSCR 1325 must be reaffirmed as a women’s human rights instrument, or the resolution will become less and less a part of the larger WPS agenda. She also emphasised a need to protect women’s human rights defenders as well as those in LGBTQI communities.
Bhagwan Rolls stressed that political participation was another key aspect of the WPS Agenda – that it is not just in Parliament; it is about the local government and governance structures. She noted that the Pacific region has dual governance structures, therefore political participation not only involves governmental structures, but it must also include the local villages and indigenous structures. These political processes ought to include the participation of young, local women because if a woman is not able to speak in her family to make a decision about access to water or education or health services, how is she going to go and talk in a political process?
The regional intergovernmental structures were also of concern for Bhagwan Rolls. She noted that there has been an emphasis from the Secretary General on the role of regional intergovernmental organizations. She believes these organizations need to be held far more accountable for women’s human rights. In her region, the Pacific Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security was created but was never resourced sufficiently to incorporate women’s contributions and strategies and it ultimately diffused the WPS agenda for the region.
Bhagwan Rolls identified communication as another key aspect of the WPS agenda. As she stated, this is really where the connection with the Beijing Platform for Action comes into play. She noted that there has not been enough emphasis placed on Action J of the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action (J. Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication) to be brought into the broader movement. Bhagwan Rolls also noted her concern in terms of how women engage with local and commercial media. She suggests that the use of independent community radio and media can be key to ensuring that women’s voices are heard. Resourcing was the final key element identified by Bhagwan Rolls, where she acknowledged the need for sustained funding for women’s peace activism, but that it should not be about state sanctioned security.

3.   Summary of Discussion in the Conversation Circles

A. Holistic Agenda
The Women, Peace, and Security Agenda must be holistic, integrative, and inclusive. “Holistic” means bringing everything together; we must look at how definitions of the peace agenda, women’s participation, and the human rights agenda can all be brought together and framed into one inclusive concept. The holistic Agenda is the first, overarching point that brings all other areas together. To be inclusive, we must take into account intersectionality. Participation is the primarily pillar of the WPS agenda that must be addressed before all else. Too often measurements of participation are limited to numbers, but must also emphasize impact. Additionally, we must not only focus on UNSCR 1325, but also on other tools such as CEDAW and the Beijing Platform. We must address structural barriers. We cannot just keep helping local women to help themselves.

B. Strengthening Action to Prevent Violence and Address Militarism
The discussion on Strengthening Action to Prevent Violence and Address Militarism begun by exploring the meaning of “exhausting all other methods” before entering in an armed intervention. Armed intervention is seen as a last resort; however, how does one know when we are faced with a last resort? What should the “checklist” be of activities that have been tried before armed intervention? This discussion group recognized the need to prioritize the understanding of “exhausting all steps” before moving to armed intervention. The group felt that the international community should focus on promoting nonviolence and negotiations and drop the idea of war and armed intervention as a last resort because they, as the women in these experiences, are seeing first hand the negative effects of war.
The discussion group also explored the question: what do we mean when we say “militarization?” The complexities of militarization must be identified because in many places where armed conflict frequently occurs, people have a militarized culture that is not exclusive to the presence of military personnel. People have insecurities when it comes to talking about demilitarization, security, prevention, and economic interest that coincides with militarization. Because of these insecurities, there needs to have secure spaces for people to talk about these issues. The culture of militarization also puts forward the idea of “heroism”, that being in the army/military is heroic and masculine, which puts pressure on young men and boys in the society to become involved in the military. To help combat this idea, education is crucial. Along with education there needs to be reconciliation at all levels of conflict to enable education to change people’s perspectives and attempt to combat a culture of militarization.
The discussion went on to explore women’s ability to be leaders in WPS sector, which is an important factor to recognize while campaigning for the demilitarization of war and violence. Strengthening cooperation and collaboration between grassroots level women and high ranking women is important to empowering all women to be involved in the implementation of women’s participation in peacemaking and conflict prevention. Policy makers form networks and council assembly so a focus must be places on building their capacity a female leaders so when they stand in their platforms they are representing the voice of local voices.
To aid in demilitarization, key actors perpetuating violence, whether or not they are direct and visible, need to be identified and there is a need to trace arms to identify the countries that are facilitating the flow of arms. Within this approach, identifying allies, especially engaging in dialogue and collaborating with high level people can help mobilize civil society and enable them to advocate for their rights. The discussion group felt that there was a need to develop an early warning system for women at borders, which can enable women to network across borders with other women in different countries.

C. Ensuring Participation
There are few women at the decision-making level. Many of the women who are in politics do not necessarily advocate for women’s rights or for issues related addressed in 1325. Additionally, many women are seen as puppets, which have strong ties to men within the political sphere, or have little to no knowledge of the situation; thus, they mirror the policies and frameworks outlined primarily by men, which do not have a gender focus. Quotas have been set in specific countries, in order to address the issue of lack of participation by women, however, this does not resolve the problem of lack of education and expertise in the field of politics.
The problem of 1325 in countries is that National Action Plans are not launched, regardless of their drafting. Also, 1325 is not seen as a priority by many governments whether civil society and NGOs emphasize its importance. Since these treaties are not legally binding, the implementation is a challenge.
Countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Georgia have outlined the importance of the use of media within the countries. Media is used to promote gender equality and promote women as equal actors. Media can be used to access more citizens, and media can keep public officials more accountable—by asking public figures questions regarding women’s participation, so media can record their responses, as a way to emphasize the activity and the involvement of women in decision-making positions.

D. Preventing Violent Extremism
The conversation around Preventing Violent Extremism begun with a focus on the lack of overall transparency and the lack of services specifically for women during conflicts. Questions on how to empower women and fight extremism followed. The group looked towards education, health and other services to empower women and protect their rights. Extremism limits women’s action in the public space. It was suggested that it is the woman’s responsibility to master concepts and not let different actors have a limiting and excluding ideas of what responsibility means. The proper definition of extremism was debated, as some governments ignore the rule of militias that can be considered extremists. The question “why isn’t all violence deemed as extreme?” was asked, given that the intent of the resolution is to promote women’s rights and prevent violence. The answer was “all violence is violence.” The need for strong national women’s movements is of great importance. More support for holistic grassroots women’s movements over projects was suggested as the latter might lead to taking over and silencing these organic movements all together. The long-term capacity building and supporting of women’s movements may help to counter militarization and state led movements.
In this new era of dominantly violent masculinities, it is essential to work together with men and boys to help combat strict gender dimensions of identity, in order to allow the identities of men and boys to move with society, the community, and the world. The conversation then moved to the marginalization and neglect of youth, who are then vulnerable to joining extremist groups. It was proposed that through social, educational, and economic opportunities, youth can be kept away from extremism. The group discussed how religion can play a major role in violent extremism. The tunnel vision focus on Islamic extremism directed to some countries has clouded mainstream views. Thus, there is a need for a comprehensible approach to reduce the increase in islamophobia.
It was also suggested that the main reason for extremism is the marginalization of society and not because of religion. Marginalization and discrimination creates a host of issues and government campaigns were advised to be more sensitive towards an already compromised population. This leads to a division of society without resolving root issues. The importance of fighting the source of the problem was highlighted. There is strong need to stop victimizing women and infantilizing them, because often women are not seen as legitimate and their voices are unheard. Women’s voices should be heard. There should be active participation for women. Women can be agents in working towards peaceful resolutions to conflict situations.

E. Financing Gender Equality
There is a distinct need for sustainable funding for Women, Peace, and Security and civil society organizations. In some countries, CSOs often have to pay a fee to the government, however CSOs need autonomy to be effective. Funding must be dedicated to strategies such as National Action Plans (NAPs) from the beginning in order for them to work. NAPs are often created without civil society, which is problematic. Women must be included in NAPs from their conception. Focusing on elections and politics, voting was identified as a tool in which women’s voices can matter. Elections should be used as a tool for the promotion of women’s rights by voting for people who will support social justice issues and sponsor such endeavors.
Following the Global Study, many States made pledges to the Global Fund in order to give WPS initiatives a better chance of accessing money. Immediate funding should be provided for needs such as travel. Concern was expressed regarding who would be on the advisory board for the Global Fund as well as what, if any, conditions may be associated with the lending from States. Although those concerns could not be immediately addressed, the program and its arising questions will be explored.

F. Engaging Men and Boys
The Conversation Circle surrounding the Engagement of Men and Boys in the WPS agenda brought forth the sharing of strategies and challenges from countries such as Burundi, Mexico, Nigeria, Somalia, the Netherlands, India and Canada. Thus far, the involvement of women in the Women, Peace, and Security agenda has primarily been confined to delivery and excluded from actual policy development.
It has been proven both factually and anecdotally that women’s participation in all levels of decision-making and negotiation leads to more effective, more sustainable peace. As a result, men and women must work together to create spaces for women’s engagement. Engaging men and boys in all levels of the WPS agenda – both grassroots and state-level – requires creativity and perseverance.
Men cannot be viewed as a homogenous group and given uniform programming. It is essential that we recognize the struggles faced by men and provide them with safe spaces in which to share their experiences. If we are truly aiming for gender equality, our actions and language must be shifted towards greater inclusivity of men. Successful strategies have included facilitating discussions of gender and sexual gender-based violence at a young age, as well as utilizing strong male community role models to promote the WPS agenda and engage other men and boys in these issues.

G. Outside Strategies for Change
The Conversation Circle on Outside Strategies for Change began with a discussion on what is actually meant by “outsider strategy.” It was determined that civil society and women’s organizations are consciously sitting outside of the issues by using nonviolent direct action and other creative tactics from an outside position. Another outsider strategy includes broadening the group of people who are involved in the issue by reaching out to religious communities and independent media. It is important to work both within your own group and to connect with groups globally and locally, building bridges, and finding allis. These networks allow for the sharing of effective nonviolent strategies for change.
The outside space is unsafe. However, those working outside of the issue are not looking for stability, they are looking for change. An example given of a creative nonviolent action was women stripping naked to protest violent forces. Examples such as this teach us that everyone can participate from the outside. Unfortunately, the danger associated with working outside of issues can sometimes force activists to work below the radar to prevent endangering the people they work with.

4.     Prelude Conclusion – Reflection & Next Steps

In her concluding remarks, moderator Ruane expressed her hope that the Global Study will be used as a clear evidence base to accelerate concrete WPS implementation and action.  In closing, Ruane affirmed that it is we — the feminist peace movement — that are the change we want to see in the world.

Last update: October 25, 2015