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 Engendering Peace Agreement Processes: Preparation for the Commission on the Status of Women 2004
 PeaceWomen, International
 November 21, 2003
 

The Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security was unanimously adopted on October 31, 2000.

For the text of the resolution please visit: PeaceWomen.

1. Engendering Peace Agreement Processes: Preparation for the Commission on the Status of Women 2004
PeaceWomen Project
November 2003

The UN Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), in collaboration with the UN Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues (OSAGI) and the UN Department of Political Affairs, recently concluded an Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on peace agreements as a means for promoting gender equality.

The EGM, hosted by the Canadian government in Ottawa from 10-13 November, [2003] was held in preparation for the upcoming Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which will hold its annual session, the 48th, in the first two weeks of March 2004, at New York Headquarters. This year the CSW will focus on two thematic issues: the role of men and boys in gender equality (Theme #1); and women's equal participation in conflict prevention, conflict management and conflict resolution and in post-conflict peace-building (Theme #2).

The EGM is the first of two, which are meant to prepare substantive recommendations and recommended language on the theme: women's equal participation in conflict prevention, management, and conflict resolution and in post-conflict peace-building for consideration by the CSW delegates.

The use of the Expert Group Meetings is recommended in resolution 1987/24 of the UN Economic and Social Council as a means for the Commission to obtain advice on the priority themes for the CSW each year.

Thirty-five women and men from local, national and international non-governmental organizations, academia, the United Nations and government participated in the EGM roundtable. Of the thirty-five, ten were experts from Kabul, Phnom Penh, Freetown, Monrovia, Kinsasha and Dili, to name a few. The experts and the civil society, UN and government observers with the consultant, Christine Chinkin, considered and held discussions on a total of twelve expert papers, the consultant background paper and three observer statements before breaking into working groups to formulate recommendations.

The following are just a few of the concerns and considerations raised in the plenary sessions by the experts and observers.

Inequity in Peace Agreement Processes

An unjust gap exists between women's involvement in informal peace processes and formal peace agreement processes. There thus needs to be a concerted effort to create a nexus between these two currently parallel processes. A few of the experts remarked that women, during the conflict, need to be preparing themselves to be in positions that will allow them to be active participants during post-conflict processes. One example of this is women's leadership in political parties during armed conflict, which is, in many to most cases, a struggle in and of itself.

Related to the marginalization or exclusion of women in formal peace processes, there was concern among the experts that the wrong people are at the table. Warlords should not be able to determine the path towards a new society. Women are the stakeholders, as educators, mothers, community leaders and farmers, among others. The concept of power-sharing among the warring factions, which is supposed to be delineated in peace agreements, never allows for resolution among the actors. As Lois Bruthus of Liberia said, "You either have power or you don't." As a result, 'spoilers', who are still armed, continue to tear the social fabric because they didn't get what they wanted at the peace table.

Because of the lack of representation of the people of the country, and in particular, women, in the formal peace processes and the history of armed conflict and corruption, et cetera, there is distrust that substantial political will exists in transitional governments to follow through with the implementation of the agreement and the development of the rule of law.

Those who spoke on the Latin American cases noted that land and property reform are essential to societal transformation after peace agreements, but often those at the table have little to no interest in these types of reforms; thus, the same social injustices that caused the armed conflict still persist in the post-accord period.

As one observer noted there is too much emphasis on peace agreements. The agreement that the UN and international community treats as the 'final' agreement should be weighed like a ceasefire agreement. Because agreements have never been based on gender equity, but rather, on ending the fighting among the belligerents, it would be better to hold a meeting of a representative body that would decide the direction of the country, such as the provisions for the establishment of verification and monitoring bodies, constitutional commission and electoral processes.

Women's Legal and Physical Security in the Language and the Implementation of the Agreement

Many experts and observers raised concerns about the failure to disarm, demobilize and effectively reintegrate combatants after the signing of peace agreements. It was reiterated in the plenary discussions that women need to be active participants in these processes.

Peace agreements must provide for mechanisms and institutions that will immediately address violence against women in the public and private sphere. There can be no impunity for those who perpetrate violence against women.

For women, it is of great importance to have affirmative action and special measures, as well as clauses to the effect "full and meaningful", to ensure their participation in the implementation of peace agreements and the transitional governance system that develops from agreements.

Societal Transformation and Ownership of Peace Agreements

Repatriation, resettlement, reintegration and reconstruction, as provided for in peace agreements, are misleading concepts in that the "re-" suggests going back to a time before the armed conflict. These concepts do not necessarily reflect what women have in mind for the future of their society.

Women need free and open spaces in which to talk amongst themselves. Long histories of physical and psychological violence have played a role in shaping women's concept of who they are and what is required of them in society. Many of the experts spoke to the complicated issue of informing women of their rights so as to mobilize women to demand equal participation in formal agreements, only to find resistance from "dirty politics" or "man's work."

Women and men need to learn about gender equality together. Claudine Muyala Tayaye Bibi of the Democratic Republic of Congo showed many participants at the EGM her photos of community workshops on gender equality that included women and men on the panels and in the audience. She noted the importance of providing food and a per diem stipend for participants at these kinds of gatherings in order to ensure that they do not have to worry about leaving their work, and as a consequence, their inability to provide for their family that day.

Many peace agreement processes take place outside the country. Because they are not invited to the table as stakeholders, women often have to find their own money and resources and take account of the responsibilities they have within the home or in the field in order to go where the formal agreements are taking place. Even if women are supported financially by UNIFEM or a civil society group, like Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS), often they are unable to stay the entire time because it is in the interest of the pampered warlords to prolong the process. In the case of Liberia, the talks, held in Accra, Ghana, went on for three months, although they were initially intended to conclude in three weeks.

Further, the fact that peace agreements happen outside the respective country makes it hard for communities to feel as though they are stakeholders in the implementation of the peace agreement. Women who directly participate in agreements or participate as observers or monitors to peace agreements have taken on the responsibility to go back to their communities to tell others what happened and to distribute the agreement.

The Role of the International Community

Money and other resources from donors, including individual nation states, the UN and international financial institutions, need to be coordinated and allocated using an engendered framework that promotes gender equality.

International mediators and negotiators need to be held accountable to international law, and in particular, to the Beijing Platform for Action, Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and UNSC Resolution 1325.

There was critique of the international community's lack of commitment to help ensure the full implementation of the agreement. Oftentimes international NGOs and United Nations staff do not engage the local population of a country, but instead, they monopolize the limited services and inflate local prices. As one expert said, "They can leave and we are left, and the warriors will come back to kill us. We are the ones dying and starving."

In ensuring gender equality, all actors involved in peace agreements need to recognize their comparative advantage and then, not cross over into domains where inappropriate.

Creation of the EGM Outcome Document

The experts and observers divided themselves into four working groups to write recommendations on the following themes:

* Obligations of negotiators, facilitators, funding entities and their processes
* Obligations of peace agreement content with regard to legal, political and physical security
* Obligations of peace agreement content with regard to social and economic security
* Obligations for the implementation of the peace agreement

On the last evening, an outcome document was adopted. DAW is currently working to finalize the document for its submission to the Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women and the UN Secretary-General. PeaceWomen will provide more feedback on the recommendations after DAW releases the outcome document in December [2003].

The PeaceWomen Project of the WILPF-UN Office participated as an observer at the Expert Group Meeting and made a statement addressing the meeting's theme entitled, What are and can be the roles of international NGOs committed to the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325?

The next Expert Group Meeting that will address the same CSW theme, women's equal participation in conflict prevention, management, and conflict resolution and in post-conflict peace-building, will be focused on enhancing the role of women in electoral processes in post-conflict countries. It will be held in New York, 20-22 January 2004. The Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues (OSAGI) is organizing this EGM. OSAGI is currently still looking for suggestions for experts. Please send names to burns2@un.org.

From 1325 PeaceWomen E-News, Issue #33, November 21, 2003.