UN wants more women peace builders
By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS: As the world prepares to mark International Women's Day, the
United Nations is warning that women continue to play little or no role in
post-conflict peace building - be that in Afghanistan , Iraq, Northern Ireland,
Liberia or Sierra Leone.
Their absence - and the exclusion from discussions of their concerns and needs -
can spell the long-term failure of peace agreements, according to the world body
and other experts.
"A review of peace agreements indicates that issues related to gender
equality and positions of women within the post-conflict society are typically
excluded from peace agreements," says UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
In a 20-page study to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, Annan says that
while attention to gender equality is the responsibility of all sides involved,
the absence of women from peace tables results in insufficient attention to and
reflection of their concerns in eventual agreements.
"Furthermore, a peace process that fails to include women in
agenda-setting, substantive talks and implementation raises questions about the
democratic legitimacy of the process and lacks the inclusiveness to generate any
sense of ownership among women," he adds.
"This can undermine the prospects for the durability of the agreement and
sustainable peace," Annan warns.
The commission, which is holding a two-week session through Mar. 12, is
discussing several gender-related issues, including "women's equal
participation" in conflict prevention and post- conflict peace building.
The United Nations will commemorate its annual International Women's Day on
March 8. One of the keynote speakers will be Queen Noor of Jordan.
In the study, Annan says the number of women participating in formal peace
processes remains "very small". "Women are conspicuously absent
from internationally sponsored peace processes, where negotiating teams are
dominated by leaders of warring factions," adds the report.
The secretary-general also suggests that one reason why women are absent from
the peace process is that they are not military leaders or combatants in war.
That is no justification for exclusion, Annan says, adding that gender equality
is an important social goal in itself and a crucial factor for achieving
"No Women, No Peace" is the slogan used by Cora Weiss, president of
the Hague Appeal for Peace, an international coalition of activists.
"For an agreement to stick, women who are the glue that hold societies
together must participate at the negotiating table so that they can also
participate in the interpretation and implementation (of peace
agreements)," Weiss told IPS.
A member also of the non-governmental organization (NGO) Working Group on Women,
Peace and Security, Weiss said the peace agreement that has been most
significantly influenced by the participation of women at the negotiating table
is the Irish Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland.
In that peace process, "the two women (involved) kept returning the
negotiators to human rights issues and made substantive contributions to the
agreement," Weiss said. The Israeli civil society team for the recent
Geneva Accords on Palestine included three women, she added.
Weiss pointed out that token participation of women is not an answer. "We
believe that 'One Woman does not Women Make' - a phrase I use to demonstrate
that we need a critical mass of women to make a difference."
In a report released on Thursday, a coalition of US women's groups said that
despite pledges to include women in rebuilding Iraq, they have been absent from
decision-making bodies controlled by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority
(CPA) in Baghdad.
"The 25-member Iraqi Governing Council appointed by the United States has
only three women members. Only one woman is in the Iraqi cabinet, and there are
no women among the 18 provincial governors," said the study, 'Global
Women's Scorecard on the Bush Administration'.
The coalition, which includes the Feminist Majority, Women's Environment and
Development Organization (WEDO), and the Centre for Health and Gender Equity,
also complained that an all-male committee drafted the interim Iraqi
constitution finalized last week but which still remains to be adopted.-Dawn/
The InterPress News Service.
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sexes) in our vision of Peace?
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