Women’s Participation, Rights, and Civil Society Essential

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Women’s Participation, Rights, and Civil Society Essential to Peaceful Future for Great Lakes Region and DRC

The NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security welcomed the UN Security Council’s attention to “the full and effective participation of women in conflict resolution and peace building” in today’s high-level meeting on the Great Lakes region, including the Democratic Republic of Congo.

maryrbinetadIn her briefing to the Security Council, UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region Mary Robinson emphasized that women and civil society are at the core of prospects for stable and long-term peace in the region. The UN Special Envoy recently co-chaired a meeting with Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, emphasizing the importance of a regional approach to peacebuilding that fully includes women.

“I applaud the diversity of voices represented at the conference and that civil society and government representatives were able to transcend boundaries to arrive at consensus,” said Bineta Diop of FAS, regarding the outcome of this meeting in Bujumbura. The meeting was held with women civil society actors, high level representatives from the 11 signatory countries of the Great Lakes Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) Framework agreement, including DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda.

NGO birthday pictures 070“This showed that when women mobilize, they can get things done. Women have spoken. It is now up to the international community to fulfill their commitment to peace, security and development in the region,” said Diop.

But these important initial steps will only see true fruition in peace for the region if they are matched with ongoing promotion of women’s rights and women’s participation in the PSC Framework agreement. “For far too long, efforts to bring peace to the Great Lakes region have been absent women’s voices and women’s rights,” pointed out Sarah Taylor of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security.

“Today’s Security Council meeting highlights initial progress that must be built on, through supporting women’s civil society organizations, and with vital political will from the United Nations, the Security Council, and most importantly, the concerned countries themselves.”

The Regional Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 provides an opportunity for essential cross-regional dialogue on peace and stability in an area seeking a sustainable end to conflict.

NGO-womenIn an area where women have been subjected to horrific levels of sexual violence, women human rights defenders continue to face threats, reprisals and even attacks, both from State and armed rebel groups. “The Security Council has a crucial task in recognizing the important role of women human rights defenders and their legitimate work in the defense of human rights, often at the risk of their own lives,” said Nicole Bjerler of Amnesty International.

“By calling for improved protection of these defenders, the Council can help secure the much-needed space for their work in drawing the world’s attention to the human rights situation in the DRC and Great Lakes region.”

Prevention of conflict, and addressing the root causes of violence such as small arms at the root of violence, are an imperative in the Great Lakes region. “Band-aid solutions are not enough. An integrated approach that strengthens women’s rights, gender equality, and reduces militarism and arms is critical for a peaceful society in the long term,” noted Abigail Ruane of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom’s PeaceWomen Project. Humanitarian responses must be strengthened, resourced, and responsive to the rights and concerns of women and girls, particularly after decades of conflict in the region.

The NGOWG on Women, Peace and Security advocates for the equal and full participation of women in all efforts to create and maintain international peace and security. Formed in 2000 to call for a Security Council resolution on Women, Peace and Security, resulting in SCR 1325, the NGOWG now focuses on implementation of all Security Council resolutions that address this issue. The NGOWG serves as a bridge between women’s human rights defenders working in conflict-affected situations and policy-makers at U.N. Headquarters.

The NGOWG coalition members are: Amnesty International; Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights; Femmes Africa Solidarité; Global Action to Prevent War; Global Justice Center; Human Rights Watch; The Institute for Inclusive Security; International Action Network on Small Arms; International Alert; International Rescue Committee; Refugees International; International Women’s Program of the Open Society Foundations; Social Science Research Council; Women’s Refugee Commission; Women’s Action for New Directions; Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

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NGO WORKING GROUP ON WOMEN, PEACE AND SECURITY

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