Tuesday was the last day of the International Women’s Summit in Zurich, Switzerland as part of the YWCA World Council. The theme on Tuesday was Women, Peace and Security. This is a theme that I’ve been interested in since university, where I studied international relations.
The speakers were all fantastic and mainly spoke about Security Council Resolution 1325 which mandates women’s involvement in peace and nation-building, while denouncing violence against women during war-time. It also calls for peace with justice.
I’ve heard people speak about why SCR1325 is important but I’ve always wanted to find out what the next step is.
Not only was there discussion about the implementation of SCR1325, and the actions taken by governments such as Switzerland and the role of the Human Rights Council, but the speakers went a step further to speak about the prevention of war and conflict. A number of people spoke about early warning signs, especially in relation to rates of violence against women but also about more governance-oriented issues such as free elections, free press.
I felt that the speakers articulated an emerging theme of moving away from seeing conflict, focusing on conflict and dealing with conflict as a way of reaching peace, to actually articulating what peace should be built upon. It is an idea of a qualitative peace that is more than just an absence of conflict. For example, a peaceful society respects women. A peaceful society has a strong civil foundation. A peaceful society does not buy or sell weapons that could fuel civil conflict. Rather than deal with conflict through greater exertions of power on those committing violence, it is better to address the governance and civil society issues that precipitate violence. For example, inter-community dialogue and reconciliation should be identified as a necessary step to ameliorating conflict long before violence erupts.
It was also clear from the speakers that there are a lot of areas that need to be engaged in order to make preventative peace and peace with justice a reality. Efforts to implement early warning sign procedures and promote the implementation of SCR1325 require monitory by an independent authority, advocacy by grass roots and civil society organisations, collection of data, the provision of women’s leadership, empowerment of people and resourcing of initiatives. When it comes to peace and conflict, there needs to be a systems view taken of the health of a society – rather than simply a focus on the people holding the guns.
In closing, women must be partners in strengthening their communities and society. In all of the things I’ve mentioned above, women need to be decision-makers and meaningful stakeholders. Not only do they bring a unique perspective, but they are also the ones who suffer the most during conflict and who are often responsible for protecting children and old people. Women must also be integral decision-makers in times of peace to prevent conflict. A complete peace cannot be built on half of society.
This article was first posted on YWCA Victoria’s website