"War is an international business." These words of our WILPF sister, Annie Matundu-Mbambi (President of WILPF- DRC), resonated throughout the 2012 AWID International Forum on Women’s Rights and Development held in Istanbul, Turkey.
The past month has been an exciting time for WILPF, with sections from Colombia, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan and Sweden all taking part in AWID 2012. I have also just returned from Cairo, Egypt where I met with women and human rights activists to discuss gains and challenges provoked by the revolution, as part of WILPF’s Middle East and North Africa project.
Representing WILPF at AWID, Annie explored and exposed the links between the global economy, the international peace industry and the on-going exploitation, corruption and injustice present in her home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Annie reminded us that when we - global feminists - discuss “transforming economic power to advance women’s rights and justice” (the theme of the AWID Forum), we must challenge the increasingly dominant political economy of war and militarism. These critical links, on which WILPF has focused, were discussed during in-depth sessions on Militarism, Violence and Conflict and also in a series of very important articles on the same theme. A must read is Cynthia Cockburn's article "Peace movements: violence reduction as common sense". WILPF also facilitated a session specifically on women’s security and militarism, with a focus on promoting women’s active participation in security politics in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Costa Rica, and Colombia. Madeleine Rees (WILPF SG) reflected on the conference as an "incredible experience" for her and WILPF and reminded us that "understanding the economy has been one of WILPF’s main concerns since 1915, and I believe it is of crucial importance for us to keep prioritizing, exploring and growing our knowledge in this area." To find out more about the Forum, please click here.
With energy from my experiences in Istanbul, I traveled to Cairo where I spoke with women and human rights activists about the role of women in post-revolution Egypt. These women expressed their apprehension regarding the upcoming May 23-24 Presidential elections. They also emphasised the importance of ensuring a gender sensitive Constitution. Amongst other things, we discussed the politicisation of Islam in the changing landscape of Egyptian politics, strategies to increase women’s role in decision-making, and enduring, effective security sector reforms.
This trip to Cairo was part of the WILPF Middle East and North Africa (MENA) project, involving national discussions with experts and grassroots activists from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen. The outcome of the project will be the selection three participants from each country to come to Geneva to present and discuss the results of these local consultations in connection with the 20th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) taking place in June 2012.
In other news, the UN Secretary-General is currently recruiting for a new Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict to replace the current SRSG Margot Wallström. WILPF NY, Geneva and our national sections has worked together with Margot Wallström and her office since the formation of the mandate 2 years ago. We believe in the importance of this senior UN position to work with civil society to address the root causes of sexual violence and focus on prevention. We expect the Secretary-General to appoint an individual who can challenge the status quo and also legitimately represent and respond to the demands of those affected by conflict. WILPF as a member of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security signed on to a joint letter to the Secretary-General expressing the need to select a qualified replacement with demonstrated work experience for the role.
Finally, the CEDAW Committee is currently doing regional consultations on proposed general recommendation on women in conflict and post conflict. For background on this see here. >>
This issue of PeaceWomen/WILPF E-news includes further reading on Security Council monitor article, work by WILPF's Reaching Critical project, and articles and news from peacewomen.org.