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“Building peace in the minds of women and men – Global Values.” Part 1 of 3.

A report of the panel discussion at the meeting of WAC-UNA on 9.12.16.

First Lesley Abdela  MBE gave an excellent and astute analysis of the state of women’s empowerment globally and in the many countries she has been to.  Of particular concern is the lack of women participating in peace processes in post conflict and transition countries.   She says that men are not good at peace-making or peace-building –since  50% of deadly conflicts break out again within 10 years; over 90% of civil wars recur in countries that have had them before; poverty rates in conflict affected countries are twice as high as in other low-income countries.   Women from conflict countries are disempowered from participating as equal partners with men.

Peace talks map the future of the countries and their communities.  Lesley said that these flawed processes exist because of the “Parallel Universes” in which men and women operate.”  Thus in one universe mainly male leaders gain access to formal political and economic power and impose their agendas top down,  examples are warlords, extremist religious leaders, high ranking military officers, government ministers, diplomats, Mafia types and business men.  The female universe is mainly of women who are leaders in civil society, community based, NGOs, women’s wings of political parties - like a Greek chorus heard faintly off stage calling out an alternative script from the wings.

Lesley found in Nepal that the peace process was male-conducted, top down – a Dalit woman said “The peace is for the power groups – if they asked me I would tell them, build a peaceful village, a good village ”.   So the ceasefire or peace agreements rarely include women’s financial and peace-building needs.  Only 5% of peace funds go to women and gender; only 6 of 45 cease-fire agreements in major conflicts was sexual violence included as a prohibited act.   Gender equality is women’s right and a way of ensuring peace and security for all. 

UN SC 1325 from 2000 calls for the participation of women and civil society at all levels in the peace process and implementation of the agreements, for the protection of women in conflicts. Some 60 states including the UK have therefor National Action Plans. But the resolution is not observed, it has no targets, time-line, nor penalties.  Still only 2.4% of signatories of 21 major peace agreements are women. Women feel marginalised, pushed out of formal peace talks – even though in conflicts the women are courageous, and active in bringing about sustainable peace.

In recent peace talks in Geneva the Syrian women were put in a separate room as an advisory group rather than as equal partners in the peace process.  

Lesley said that the UN desperately needs to overhaul its attitudes about women, and although it wants to have 50 / 50 gender parity, at the current rate it will take 110 years!  Changes in staffing are easy to do now. She recommended the some actions for WAC-UNA.