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UNIFEM Initiative for Middle East Peace
September 20, 2006
A delegation of top Israeli, Palestinian and international women leaders arrive at the United Nations on September 20th to meet with President of the Republic of Finland Tarja Halonen, at a time when Finland holds the Presidency of the European Union, in an effort to
marshal high-level political pressure to restart negotiations in the region.
Joining the President of Finland will be President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of
Liberia, Africa's first elected woman head of state, who traveled to the
occupied Palestinian territory in 2001 to hear the stories of women living
in conflict as part of the Independent Experts' Assessment on the impact of
war on women, commissioned by the United Nations Development Fund for Women
It is hoped that together these leaders, representing both the North and
the South, can begin to focus international attention on the need to
resolve the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict so as to prevent
broader conflict in the region. Taking advantage of the opening of the 61st
Session of the UN General Assembly, they are also meeting with Mr. Amr
Moussa, who heads the League of Arab States, and with critical foreign
ministers, as well as with high-level UN officials.
The International Women's Commission for a Just and Sustainable
Israeli-Palestinian Peace (IWC) convened in 2005 by Noeleen Heyzer, the
Executive Director of UNIFEM, at the urging of Israeli and Palestinian
women leaders, was established to ensure the meaningful participation of
women in mainstream peace negotiations.
IWC maintains that implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which
mandates women's involvement in conflict resolution, is critical to
restarting negotiations and improving their outcomes. The IWC charter
stresses the goal of bringing an end to Israeli occupation through
immediate final status negotiations, leading to a viable sovereign
Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel. Since its inception, IWC
has succeeded in joining women living in different realities and
experiences to speak out on the most difficult political issues in one
Leading the delegation to New York are Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, Member of the
Palestinian Legislative Council, and Dr. Naomi Chazan, former Deputy
Speaker of the Israeli Knesset and professor of political science, Hebrew
University of Jerusalem.
The IWC has agreed to the following principles, which will be presented to
the heads of state in New York:
- Civilian lives, especially those of women and children, must not be used
as bargaining chips in efforts to resolve the escalating conflict in the
- Negotiations and mutual agreements are the only legitimate means to bring
about a just and sustainable solution. Unilateral measures will undermine a
two-state solution and never bring lasting peace.
- The Arab League Initiative of 2002 provides an appropriate framework for
the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and for comprehensive
peace in the region. This initiative could lead to the realization of ''a
new Middle East'' that the people in the region desire, rather than one
that would be externally imposed.
- The escalating crisis demands an international conference be held
immediately to launch permanent status negotiations based on relevant UN
resolutions and international law and to decide mechanisms for
- In the interim, the international community must insist on a complete
cessation of hostilities and protection of people in both Lebanon and the
occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), according to international law. This
should be followed by the promotion of good will measures such as: exchange
of prisoners; free movement of people and goods and the cessation of the
construction of the separation wall in oPt to pave the way to permanent
This article was posted by the Association for Women in Development (AWID), on Sept. 20, 2006.