Summary of the seminar: Peace Agreements +10 years

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Seminar speakers and organizers. Photo: Paula Fincke

Finnish Asia Europe People’s Forum AEPF, Finnish 1325 Network, The Finnish NGO Foundation for Human Rights KIOS, Gender Studies/University of Helsinki and Finnish Cultural Foundation funded Scraps of Hope collective organized an afternoon seminar addressing gender and women’s issues in post-conflict settings. This was done by reflecting upon the Global Study on the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and the two ongoing peace processes in Asia: Aceh peace process (2005–) and Nepal peace process (2006–). The seminar was moderated by Ms. Fadumo Dayib.

Vice-chair of Finnish AEPF Network, Mr. Kalle Sysikaski, welcomed all to the seminar, introduced the organizations behind the seminar and gave an overview of the importance of cooperating with civil society in peace processes.

Elisabeth Rehn. Photo: Paula Fincke

Ms. Elisabeth Rehn, a member of Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims at the International Criminal Court and a member of the High Level Advisory Group for the Global Study on the of implementation of UNSCR 1325, gave a key note speech on the key questions and recommendations raised from the Global Study. Rehn highlighted the urgent need for implementation and the responsibility of leaders at the UN level and elsewhere to ensure this. The understanding of gender issues should be ensured at the highest level by meaningful training. Women should be present at the peace negotiation tables from the beginning – since there is no “later on”. As there is “no later” with justice either. The Study found out that there is different understanding of 1325 and women’s issues in relation to peace and security in north than in south. In north, women’s participation was a key issue that was addressed in Global Study consultations whereas women in south expressed the need for economic empowerment, access to justice and support for surviving in everyday life. As practical recommendations, Rehn mentioned that the Study suggests an establishment of an independent tribunal for UN personnel’s misbehavior and the Security Council should include consultations with the human rights and women organizations during every field visit they undertake. Read the the Global Study from here.

Ms. Donna Swita from an Acehnese NGO called Solidaritas Perempuan summarized the challenges of the Aceh peace process in her presentation. The peace settlement (MoU) between Indonesian Government and Aceh Freedom Movement (GAM) was signed in Helsinki in 2005 and the legislature of Aceh was supposed to build on the universal principles of human rights, as agreed in the MoU. However, female victims of conflicts are still waiting for access to justice and basic rights to be fulfilled even though Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has been ratified in Indonesia. Impunity in cases of violent crimes and discrimination against women, especially against refugee women, ex-combatants, are forms of repression that persist and are inherited from the conflict era. One of the challenges in Aceh is that the rise of religious movements perceive any anti-discrimination advocacy and campaigning as ‘western’ and aiming to weaken the implementation of Islamic law in Aceh. As a result, the position of civil society movements and women’s groups in Aceh is vulnerable to pressure and violence. This includes a systematic effort to return women to the domestic realm through the implementation of discriminatory policies. Women are not considered as an essential part of the peace and political processes in Aceh. Solidaritas Perempuan advocates for gender equality and campaigns to increase public awareness on the harmful and discriminatory laws and to encourage policy change. Support for promoting gender equality in Aceh is needed from (foreign) governments and civil society. See Swita’s full presentation from here.

Eka Srimulyani and Donna Swita. Photo: Paula Fincke

Ms. Eka Srimulyani, Professor at the State Islamic University Ar Raniry, Banda Aceh, continued from Donna Swita’s presentation and reminded that women’s movement emerged and consolidated during the armed conflict between Aceh Independent Movement and Indonesian government. Yet, there was less engagement of women in the high official peace talks – only one woman participated the Helsinki peace talks. Thus, the Helsinki MoU does not address the women’s issues. The whole process was not inclusive and also the substances discussed were not comprehensive which affected the derived documents from the MoU, including the local bylaws. The women’s movement in Aceh received support right after the conflict ended and during the post-tsunami disaster recovery periods but after the recovery period terminated, many women’s organizations in Aceh seized their functions and are currently inactive. Eka Srimulyani pointed out that locally developed women’s right charter, and the bylaw on women’s empowerment are not well-known nor fully implemented. Also, the community, including women, does not understand the relevance or meaning of resolutions, such as UNSCR 1325 for their daily struggles. Other challenges are, for example, limited financial resources and other technical support and a political mindset where only the conflicting parties are thought to be the main stakeholders of the peace process. Furthermore, there are only little efforts in promoting sustainable positive as well as inclusive peace through education and peace mainstreaming in development and empowerment programs. Eka Srimulyani suggests that reconsolidating, strengthening and extending the networks towards sustainable inclusive peacebuilding should be the way forward. She also sees potential in few operating women’s organizations and women’s religious leaders at the grass roots level who are interested in post-conflict issues. See Srimulyani’s full presentation from here.

Ms. Pilar Domingo from Overseas Development Institute gave background on the evidence of women’s voice and agency in peacebuilding processes and summarized the key opportunities and obstacles for women’s voice and agency in peacebuilding and statebuilding. She emphasized that promoting gender equality is important for its intrinsic value but also for its instrumental value since it is linked to improved economic, development and peace outcomes. Women’s experience in peacebuilding and statebuilding is a powerful measure of the principles of inclusivity, participation, responsiveness and accountability in state society relations. There are gaps in knowledge-based linkages between peacebuilding and statebuilding processes and gender-responsive approaches but we do know, for example, that facilitating reform coalitions among relevant stakeholders can advance both women’s voice and gender equality goals, and that women’s presence in politics is important – though not enough. Donor agencies and international organizations’ challenges are their siloed ways of working and ‘depoliticized’ approaches to gender. In practice, gender (and other inclusion agendas) come second to security and economic interests of donor countries. Domingo reminded that integrating gender approaches is deeply political. The support given in promoting equality and inclusive peace should be multi-level, multi-institutional, multi-actor approach, for example, by supporting legal and institutional reforms, agents of change and enabling trust-building and strategic alliances. There is also a need for adaptive learning, flexibility and realism to be embedded when planning and programming donor engagements. See Domingo’s full presentation from here.

Ms. Bandana Rana, Executive Director of a Nepalese NGO called Saathi Nepal and also a member of the High Level Advisory Group for the Global Study on the implementation of UNSCR 1325 analyzed women’s movement in Nepal after the peace agreement signed in 2006. She identified that after the conflict women were busy rebuilding their and their families’ lives. In addition, there was a fragmentation of women’s movement which led to the loss of women’s power right after the conflict. However, in 2009 a High-level Steering Committee was appointed for drafting the National Action Plan (NAP) on UNSCR 1325. Civil society was involved in the process and advocated their views immensely. Key successes in the formulation of the NAP has been that Nepal has a specific budget line for gender and 1325 implementation and women are involved in local peace committees. Also, localization guidelines have been produced for local implementation of the Nepal’s NAP. Referring to what Srimulyani mentioned about many women not understanding what 1325 is and means, Rana highlighted that there is no need to understand what the 1325 means – only the contents of the resolution are important to understand at the local levels. This means awareness, for example, on the right for meaningful participation of women on local levels, access to relief and recovery services and justice and prevention of violence. There are many challenges in the implementation of the NAP in Nepal and there has not been a drastic change for example in preventing sexual violence and women’s access to justice. Rana hoped for a continued collaboration between Nepal and Finland on improving the NAP implementation in the future.

Ms. Tiina Kukkamaa-Bah from DEMO Finland (Political Parties of Finland for Democracy) commented the Nepal session presentations and noted that politics cannot be sidelined from peacebuilding and statebuilding. For this reason, she emphasized the importance of cooperation between CSOs and political leaders and between political parties and youth organizations. DEMO promotes the participation of women in democratic decision-making, since (young) women often have difficulties in achieving leadership positions. DEMO’s program in Nepal has succeeded in supporting the participation of women in democratic decision-making and especially women parliamentarians by offering training, mentoring and companionship. Women who have taken part of the DEMO’s programs have run for higher leadership positions in Nepal.

Panelists from left to right: Élise Féron, Bandana Rana and Minna Saarnivaara and moderator Elina Multanen. Photo: Paula Fincke

The seminar discussions continued with a panel discussion. Ms. Bandana Rana, Ms. Minna Saarnivaara from the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission and Ms. Élise Féron from the University of Tampere participated the panel which was moderated by Ms. Elina Multanen from Finnish National Committee for UN Women. The panelists highlighted the multi-layered work of peacebuilding and discussed challenges and successes of the role of civil society in supporting women’s participation in peacebuilding and statebuilding. As challenges, it was noted that 1325 activities are often not seen as political but a charity work done by women. Furthermore, it was mentioned that there are linkages missing between female political leaders and women’s organizations and that within 1325 women are usually categorized as one which means that gaps e.g. between rural and urban women are often ignored. Key issues and recommendations by the panelists were: 1) ensuring quality training in 1325, mediation, reconciliation and especially in the countryside, 2) offering protection to whom in need and 3) associating men with all these activities. Yet, ensuring that new spaces of oppression are not created. It was highlighted that the presence of women is important on many levels and it is a stepping stone for meaningful participation. Women who participate need to be capacitated. There was also a suggestion on compiling data and listing women organizations who are capable of giving support in peacebuilding and in the promotion of gender equality when needed. Among panelists, it was seen important that common spaces should be created where voices from top down and bottom up could be linked during the peace process. Radio and media can be used many ways in advancing the ideas of gender equality and peace.

Feedback and thoughts from the seminar audience:

“I learned that cross-organizational knowledge of gender is vital.”

“Looking forward to the debate advancing from ‘ensuring implementation’, where it has been for a while now, into ‘impact’”.

“[I learned] the importance of political economy analysis in peace building and statebuilding, aimed at development work and need to ‘politicize’ the context, to understand power relations and structures.”

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