Women Politicians: a global force for peace
by Ms. Eugenia Piza-Lopez
Head, Policy and Advocacy Department, International Alert
We must understand that conflict, per se, is not the problem. Indeed, many positive changes in world history have occurred as a result of conflict. The problem we are grappling with is the violent expression of such conflict. Protracted social conflicts today are characterized by:
- The presence, always, of structural root causes that have been described as economic and technological underdevelopment, and un-integrated social and political systems, producing insecurity and distributive injustice;
- These features provide the infrastructure for the inability or unwillingness of the state to fulfill those societal requirements for individual and social development: security, identity, recognition and participation;
- The denial of human needs and the fears, anxieties and insecurities created as a result, produce social cleavages that often form around the issue of social identity, of which ethnicity has become the most prominent manifestation. These exist within and across state boundaries sometimes making artificial distinctions between domestic and international politics;
- On the basis of these structural deficiencies, more agency-based and immediate causes, developed through psycho-social and psychological dynamics, can lead to the violent escalation of a particular conflict situation;
- Women are particularly affected by gender specific forms of violence and tend to contribute considerably to conflict transformation and reconciliation of the ground, yet they are largely excluded from high level negotiations and the decision-making processes leading to peace.
Peace building attempts, in order to promote sustainable peace, need to address and transform structures which not only refer to the system of access and distribution of resources, but also social and political institutions, situations and relationships. In this process, principles of democratic participation, human rights and gender equality are crucial elements for the longer-term process of building peace based on social justice and equality for all.
An alternative vision is that of positive peace which encompasses a vision of what society should be. It requires that not only all types of violence are minimal or non-existent, but also that the major potential causes of future conflict are removed. In other words, the root causes and major conflicts of interests, as well as their violent manifestation, need to be resolved. The details of such vision often remain implicit, and are rarely discussed. But they require:
- An active and egalitarian society
- Inclusive and democratic political structures
- Open and accountable government
Peace building in the long run has to include a wide range of measures to promote types of social, political and economic change, justice and recognition of human rights abuses that move closer to the ideas of positive peace in specific and concrete circumstances and contexts. There is a need for a wide set of policies that address inequalities and social divisions, policies that address specific needs of women and incorporate a gender perspective into reconstruction, reconciliation and security. A gender sensitive perspective of security will focus on these 4 priorities:
- Sustainability to ensure that ecological dimensions and consequences should be considered for every policy decision;
- Vulnerability as the premise to ensure that policies do not result in further depravation of the weak, the poor, the discriminated and the marginalized;
- Equity, to ensure that policy making is carried out in proportion with the people affected by the policy and to further and promote the participation of women in decision making processes, as well as proper representation of other minorities and oppressed groups;
- Protection, which means defense against harm in all its forms.
Positive interdependence is the ideal: from it follows that promoting creative and non-violent conflict resolution and establishing a culture of peace are more important than ensuring the maintenance of, for example, a defense capability and the re-arming of societies. There are 3 questions all women decision makers must ask themselves:
- Will my decision threaten or cause harm to others?
- Will my decision strengthen or weaken positive, constructive relations?
- Will my decision detract or add to the security of all?
If we recognize that human security is a value and a principle to strive for in peace building, we are moving away from security that focuses on the primacy of the state (to be protected from external aggressions or as protection of national interest in foreign policy) to the security of all people. Human security has two key components at its heart: freedom from fear and freedom from want.
Canadian author Beth Woroniuk, has described 6 CRITICAL APPROACHES TO ADDRESS PEACE BUILDING FROM A HUMAN SECURITY PERSPECTIVE:
- Shifting the emphasis from the security of the states to the security of people, so that, we move away from the state as the basic building block of the international community with sovereignty and territorial integrity as the main concern towards the security of people. This brings women and other ordinary citizens into the international arena.
- Re-emphasizing the obligation of the state of ensure the security and protection of the citizens including access to assets and productive and remunerative work.
- Recognizing the inter-relatedness of people and that many issues cross borders and boundaries. Many problems have no passports and cannot be stopped at political borders.
- Valuing and recognizing the importance of non-state actors such as civil society and women's organizations and other movements working for peace and seeing them as effective contributors to and having a greater responsibility towards promoting human security.
- Requiring that those responsible for violations of human rights and humanitarian law are held accountable and human rights abuses taken into consideration in peace agreements and reconciliation processes.
- Having a greater understanding of the complexity of security, reinforcing the need for multi-faceted responses which require coordination and collaboration amongst a wide range of actors-- with an increasing reliance on the use of the powers of persuasion and negotiation rather than the powers of coercion and military hardware. Recognizing the importance of powerful ideas over powerful weapons.
WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF ALL THE ARGUMENTS ABOVE FOR WOMEN PARLIAMENTARIANS WORKING FOR PEACE? WHAT CAN YOU DO? WHERE CAN YOU START? HOW COULD YOU MOVE FROM PRINCIPLES INTO ACTION? IN MY VIEW, THERE ARE 4 WAYS IN WHICH YOU COULD DO THIS:
- Set the agenda - define the contents of the peace building process, what should it be about, who should participate in the debate and what must be prioritized. It is about you being able to call upon the expertise that will help you design a political framework that:
- While addressing immediate priorities, structural issues and inequalities are not ignored;
- Specifically assesses and addresses gender needs in peace building and reconstruction, from the provision of basic services to the reconstruction of more egalitarian legal frameworks and the development of policies that address access and control over resources for women and the marginalized;
- Mainstreams gender into the reform of institutions particularly those in charge of security such as the police and the army;
- Re-train and promote gender awareness in men and put gender at the heart of male leadership.
- Map and transform your political terrain - This is about assessing how representational power can be used to keep the agenda alive and how to promote the critical actions to make it a reality. It calls for women parliamentarians to recognize where the dangers of co-option and tokenism lie and to identify how to use the powers persuasion and negotiation for the full benefit of positive peace. How to deal with allies and opponents in such a way that the clear vision and direction of purpose is not lost. It calls for an ongoing assessment of the political environment to use opportunities and openings to push for peace objectives.
- Build strategic alliances with women's movements - Women cannot stand in isolation. Their accountability and responsibility towards their constituencies is the basis for a great deal of their political power and legitimacy. Women politicians can draw from and support the efforts of other women and women's organizations working for peace, especially those organizations that have wide participation and/or strong connections to the majority of people. Of course, building alliances also means working with men as change agents in societies. Supporting them as peace activists and with those who have a commitment to equality and gender equity to develop them as role models for new forms of leadership. They are critical in the building of positive peace.
- Create gender sensitive spaces for peace - by promoting policies that will bring other women peace activists to the forefront, by facilitating women's inputs into the parliamentary process, by consulting them on the setting of agendas and by gaining their support to change the political terrain.
Transforming Approaches to Conflict Resolution
by Dr. V. Mohini Giri, Chairperson
Guild of Service, India
This is an edited version of the paper.
The complete version can be downloaded either as a Microsoft Word file or an Adobe Acrobat (PDF) file.
Women have and will continue to make significant contributions towards building a culture of peace. They can nurture positive cultural practices and non-violence through the following means:
1. Engaging in cross cultural dialogue and exchanges.
2. Ensuring that creativity is not bound by the limits of ethnic and political differences.
3. Advocating against social stratification and stereotyped gender roles that portray women as sex symbols or with weak personalities.
4. Promoting positive interaction among different groups leading to social bonding and consequentially non-violence.
5. Promoting conflict prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts.
THE FOLLOWING RECOMMENDATIONS WERE MADE AT A NATIONAL MEETING HELD IN NEW DELHI FOR THE PROMOTION OF PEACE IN SOUTH ASIA
For International Agencies
- Create a network to disseminate peace efforts at various levels - locally, nationally and internationally.
- Lobby with international organizations and sensitize non-government organizations (NGOs)/women's groups belonging to other countries of the world on issues pertaining to total nuclear disarmament, the restriction of arms sale from industrialized nations, increasing aid and equitable trade to create the environment within which peace can flourish.
- Women's initiative in international institutions should be encouraged specially for making policies regarding matters relating to peace keeping, preventive diplomacy and in all stages of peace mediation and negotiations.
- Encourage the exchange of experiences in peace initiatives, inter-country visits and peace studies.
- Formulate lobbying strategies with the government for the purpose of furthering peace and equality in the sub-continent [as well as in the region] and also for conflict resolution.
- Frame a national policy that promotes secular values and constructive nation building attitudes among the citizens and an ethos of peace by strengthening the family as the basic unit.
- Enact and enforce legislation against the perpetrators of practices and acts of violence, particularly those on women and children, and support the efforts of NGOs and community organizations to control these practices.
- Provide access to information on peace treaties and defense budgeting.
- Ensure women's participation in all international and national committees set up to deal with armed conflict, peace resolution and security matters.
For Civil Society
- Promote a strong network of groups and organizations working to ensure peace.
- All human rights and social organizations must campaign to awaken people to the dangers that communalism, racism, cross border conflict, etc. pose to the struggle for equality and social justice.
- Equality, partnership between women and men, and respect for human dignity must permeate all stages of the socialization process.
For Educational Institutions
- Ensure that all curriculum and textbooks are free of racial bias, prejudice as well as refrain from stereotyping but instead propagate a culture of gender equality.
- Ensure that the culture of violence does not begin in the early years through toys and children's literature.
- Draw from all spirituality and Gandhian principles to promote literature and other media that will help develop better understanding among people from different countries, races and religions, thus removing misconceptions, distress and suspicion.
For the Media
- Strong actions against those indulging in printing and publishing inflammatory literature and prevent the misuse of media.
- Change the distorted images of women and the marginalized in media. In most countries, media does not provide a balanced picture of people's diverse lives and their contribution to society in a changing world. Violent and biased media products negatively affect the relationships of people and under the ongoing trend of consumerism, people are primarily portrayed as consumers only.
- Create a forum to lobby against and educate public opinion of the negative consequences of the objectification/commodification of the human body and psyche.
For the Family
- Emphasize women's role as providers and peacemakers in both normal and crisis situations.
- Promote egalitarian attitudes in the family and promote democratic family relations in place of authoritative, male dominated family.
- Promote the values of equality, peace and justice in the family. The family unit should be strengthened by highlighting the values of respect, dignity and interdependence.
- Relationships within the family should be governed by the principle of justice wherein the rights and responsibilities of its individual members are properly understood and safeguarded.
The Women's Initiative for Peace in South Asia has been a spontaneous coming together of women and men in the cause of peace and non-violence. It needed no external funds or support to demonstrate the strength of the ordinary people to speak out for what they believe in and what is right.
Women and Transformative Politics in Cambodia
by Hon. Sochua Mu
Minister for Women's and Veterans' Affairs, Royal Kingdom of Cambodia
Conflict Resolution: the Vietnam Experience
by Hon. Tran Thi Kim Thoa
Vice Chairman, Committee for External Affairs of the National Congress of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam