Thursday, December 10, 2015

‘Women´s participation and leadership in conflict: from theory to practice’


On November 4, 2015 ,Gender/Post-Conflict Specialist Lesley Abdela spoke at an International Forum at the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki, Greece. Her presentation was titled 'UNSCR 1325: Progress and Shortcomings after 15 years of Implementation by Organizations and Governments'.



Her Conclusions: 

The reason persuasion and advocacy has failed is simple: 1325 contains no carrots and no sticks – no incentives, no penalties, no sanctions and no time-frames. These are the weaknesses built into 1325 which need to be addressed - urgently.



Remedies: the UN and its Member States should only provide resources and funding to peace talks where at least 40% women (and 40% men) are participants at all levels of negotiation including the top table. 

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The failings of UNSCR1325 and the continued exclusion of women’s voices from top-level Peace negotiations.



Some 50% of  conflicts break out all over again within 10 years. The saying ‘All conflicts contain the seeds of future conflict’ should be rewritten as ‘All Peace agreements contain the seeds of future conflict’.

Peacemaking and peace-building ought not to be left so overwhelmingly to men, for one practical reason: evidence shows that men on their own are not very good at it!


The current practice is that if you are a man responsible for blowing up people, maiming, murdering, bullying, intimidating and grabbing power, money and assets (viz the Sudans, Afghanistan etc) you will be included at the peace-tables deciding on the future of your community.  In addition to a few decent honourable men, Warlords, business mafia, extremist religious leaders are invited in.  Women civil society leaders and peace-campaigners are shut out.   


Ceasefires and demobilization were the main focus of peace processes. However, today it is recognised that peace is something far more than the ‘absence of violence’. Conflict prevention and resolution, as practiced today, continues to focus on neutralizing potential spoilers and perpetrators of violence, rather than investing in resources for peace.


One of the lessons I have learned is that quick-fix stabilisation using current paradigms for peace may bring temporary absence of fighting but not long term-peace and prosperity.


The current reality is that even in cases when women are included they are elbowed out from being the key decision-makers -  in 15 of the 16 national dialogues examined for the recent UN study it was found that decision-making was left to a small group of male leaders.


Despite UNSCR1325 and hundreds of conferences, speeches and declarations, significant barriers remain to the full integration of a Gender perspective in conflict prevention and peacebuilding processes.


In 2012, a study by UN Women showed that out of a representative sample of 31 major peace processes between 1992 and 2011, only 2% cent of chief mediators, 4 % of witnesses and signatories, and nine per cent of negotiators were women.



Parallel Universes.

Women have always participated in peace negotiations and peacebuilding but always at the informal level and rarely visible to the formal peacemakers and keepers. My Bosnia and Kosovo experiences and a stint in Sierra Leone a few weeks after the rebels were driven from the capital  Freetown, and my time in Afghanistan and Iraq has led me to the existence of a phenomenon I call the ‘Parallel Universes’.



The Male Universe:

:

One universe is composed of formal hierarchies. This universe is mainly colonised by those who hold or have access to political and economic power:  



Senior diplomats, Political Party leaders, high-ranking Military officers,  Warlords, Government Ministers. These are mostly men who maintain the majority of their contact with counterparts of the same rank. The peace processes from the start are top-down, leaving almost no space for women’s voices to be heard. 



No-one in this universe seems to hear even, let alone listen to, inhabitants of another, parallel universe, mainly women leaders in Civil Society, community-based organisations, NGOs, advocacy groups and women’s wings of political Parties despite their heavy involvement in informal peace initiatives.





A major challenge for 1325 is how to bridge the parallel universes? 

In country after country, from Sri Lanka to Sierra Leone and Kosova to Nepal persuasion and national/international advocacy on 1325 has been ineffective for bringing women into top level peace-talks. 

United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, writes in the foreword to the latest global study the depressingly accurate words, “there remains a crippling gap between the ambition of our commitments and actual political and financial support.”

Unless we make a big noise Syria will be yet another example of this pattern in which women are excluded from being equal partners in a meaningful way in the formal talks on the future of their country.

The reason persuasion and advocacy has failed is simple: 1325 contains no carrots and no sticks – no incentives, no penalties, no sanctions and no time-frames. These are the weaknesses built into 1325 which need to be addressed - urgently.



In the 15 years since 1325 was passed, the Security Council has since adopted a series of additional ‘daughter’ resolutions on women, peace, and security.


The latest daughter resolution of UNSCR 1325 is resolution 2122 (2013) in which the Council reiterated its intention to convene a High-level Review to assess progress at the global, regional and national levels in implementing resolution 1325 (2000).


The overall participation of women in peace processes is inching upwards in parts, albeit at far too slow a rate. In 2014, women in senior positions were found in 75% of peace processes led or co-led by the UN, compared with only 36% in 2011.



There has been a rise in the number of references to women in the text of peace agreements. 50 % of peace agreements signed in 2014 included references relevant to women, peace and security (up from 22% in 2010).



Conclusions: The reason persuasion and advocacy has failed is simple: 1325 contains no carrots and no sticks – no incentives, no penalties, no sanctions and no time-frames. These are the weaknesses built into 1325 which need to be addressed - urgently.



The UN and its Member States should only provide resources and funding to peace talks where at least 40% women (and 40% men) are participants at all levels of negotiation including the top table.


Lesley Abdela,   MBE  is a British expert on women's rights and representation. She has worked as an adviser in 40 different countries to governments and IGOs (United Nations, CoE, IOM, OSCE), NGOs and the European Commission. She is also a Journalist, broadcaster, public speaker and women's rights campaigner.

lesley.abdela@shevolution.com

http://www.entwicklung.at/uploads/media/Abdela_From_theory_to_practice.pdf

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