WED 19 - 2 - 2020
Date: Apr 17, 2019
Source: The Daily Star
Women shaping the peace deal
Rubina Abu Zeinab-Chahine
As rapidly as musical sequence leading up to a classic sonata, the world is building momentum toward the upcoming 20th anniversary of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action which is quickly approaching in 2020. In this moment where peace is needed to be a real possibility than any other time, sharing thoughts, lessons learned and best practices are extremely essential.

On April 10, 2019, the third meeting of Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Focal Points Network was held in Namibia under the theme “Women, Peace and Security: Toward Full Participation.” “The exclusion of women in peace processes has compromised the quality of peace globally” the meeting stated with a bold underlining of the importance of women’s contribution to peace and security as a more successful response to the multifaceted challenges. The meeting brought together women from more than 40 countries calling for stepping up as women in positions of leadership in all areas of peace and security.

The network’s meeting stressed that conflict prevention and sustaining peace needs “women’s voices and leadership.” Launched in 2016, the network serves as a cross-regional platform for sharing experiences and best practices and enhancing coordination of support programs. Moreover, it aims at aligning national WPS strategies with related strategies targeting the prevention and countering of violent extremism.

Although women’s contributions typically go unrecognized in peace and political studies, many research indicate that peace agreements are more effective and long-lasting when women take part in them. These processes, and especially upon introducing a combination of modes of inclusion, will raise the probability for agreement to last at least 15 years about 35 percent.

Women’s inclusion and participation in peace processes goes beyond basic representation, and consultation reaching phases of participation in decision making and high-level problem-solving practices. Women are powerful agents of stabilization in their societies when engaged efficiently in peacekeeping efforts and decision-making processes.

The network’s meeting tackled the importance of strengthening the role of international and regional organizations in safeguarding women’s meaningful participation in peace processes. It stressed the importance of developing monitoring and evaluation systems, tracking progress, and approaching coordination methods to ensure effective implementation of national action plans.

The U.N. Women reports that between 1990 and 2017, women’s representation in major peace processes was low. Women as mediators were only 2 percent of total number of mediators, 5 percent from total witnesses and signatories, and 8 percent from the total number of negotiators.

The 2018 report of the U.N. Secretary-General on Women, Peace and Security disclosed that the representation of women among military troops is only 4 percent and that of police officers is 10 percent which is unacceptably low. The report also issued a threatening alert that these numbers are at risk of further decrease in the coming years through the looming exclusion of women in several peacekeeping missions.

While women are equally considered in both prevention and recovery efforts in post-conflict processes, creating a space for women to enter into peace processes requires an enabling environment. The building blocks for this positive environment includes protecting women’s rights, equal access to justice and jobs, and equal participation in public decision-making. Women’s participation in peace building and reconciliation is the best way to ensure long lasting peace.

Women are the largest army of peacemakers, keepers and negotiators that have not yet been utilized. Young women, in particular, are leading efforts within their communities to prevent the outbreak of violent conflict, recover from crises, and build peaceful, tolerant communities. However, interventions targeting youth in peace and security processes gives young men the priority and leaves young women blurred behind.

Protester, Alaa Salah, brings global attention to Sudan. She becomes a symbol of Sudan’s political movement after a photograph of her on a roof of a car leading a chant of revolution at a protest has gone viral across the world. “It’s going to be the image of the revolution” according to The New York Times. How did a 22-year-old young Sudanese woman become the symbol of Sudanese protest? What is so special about this snap that makes it so powerful?

It is the participation of youth and specifically young women in the demonstrations that has been commended online. “Roughly 70 percent of protesters in Sudan who helped bring down [Omar] al-Bashir’s 30-year rule were women” the BBC News estimates.

Why are women who are mostly affected by conflict being left out when conflict resolutions are designed? This is a major question that needs to be discussed.

When will statements become commitments? How will intentions become plans? When will we stop discussing the whys and start discussing the how tos? How can we better augment youth and women’s participation in the peacemaking and peace building processes? How can we transform the once formal peace table into more gender inclusive one? Finally, in what ways can we support women to build peace locally? These are more questions that need prompt answers.

The world is witnessing a slow and even negative progress on the implementation of the WPS agenda. With the current pace, our grandkids are likely to discuss the same issues we are discussing today. We as women must realize that we do have the power to intervene and make a difference, but it’s our job to grasp this power.

Rubina Abu Zeinab-Chahine is executive director at the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 17, 2019, on page 3.

The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Arab Network for the Study of Democracy
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