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And the Nobel Peace Prize Goes to…

12 October 2012

The overwhelming reaction at WILPF International to the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize winner today was one of shock, with more than a few choice words being thrown around the office!

Certainly, the decision to award the prestigious accolade to the EU was not something we were expecting, given its current social and economic instability.


But let’s not be too quick to judge! If we compare the reasons why our founding sisters created WILPF to the EU’s original framework, we can see some striking similarities.

WILPF was created with five main concepts in mind. They were:

  1. Universal disarmament. The WILPF founders identified immediately the necessity for regulation and reduction of arms. At their 1919 Triennial Congress, they emphasised the importance of trade treaties between countries.
  2. The recognition that the root causes of conflict is social and economic injustice.
  3. The desire to create an international economic order founded on the principle of meeting the needs of people and not those of profit or privilege.
  4. The political enfranchisement of women.
  5. Equal access to human rights.

Now let’s take a look at the reasons the EU was formed. It was established to bring about peace and end wars between neighbouring European countries – a goal that WILPF itself was founded upon. And in that respect, the EU’s been successful!

It was also made with the idea in mind that economic interdependence would strengthen peace, a nod to WILPF’s idea in point 2 above (that the root cause of conflict is economic injustice). The Schuman Declaration was formed in 1950 to create a common market where the raw materials coal and steel would make EU countries economically integrated – something that played a big part in its peaceful history.

Let us not also forget that the EU was founded on a commitment to respect human rights, democracy and the rule of war. It has an excellent human rights framework, one that resonates clearly with WILPF’s wish for equal access to human rights. 

Lastly, in recent years, the EU has turned its eye to the issue of the arms trade, and has issued embargoes that are legally binding to its member states. This acknowledgement of the negative effects of arms is a step forward in WILPF’s aim for universal disarmament.

So actually, the original intentions of the EU parallel those of WILPF more than we’d expected.

Importantly, however, although we might agree with the EU’s original intentions, their implementation is perhaps a different matter. It has, of course, been very successful in establishing peace within its body. But it has done little to exert external pressure. At a time when the MENA region is plagued by conflict, Syria being only one example, the human rights framework that the EU imposes amongst its member countries should be enforced abroad.

So although the Nobel Peace Prize is an acknowledgement of the EU as a model framework, it should also be a reminder to the EU that it must deliver on its ideals. Now, more than ever, we need a real arms agreement between the EU based on principles they put forward for the control of arms. We need action rather than talk if we are going to be able to look back on this historic moment and truly feel that the Prize was deserved.

And, as ever, in awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU, the governing committee have ignored the countless international achievements of women worldwide.  We can think of more than a few women worthy of the Prize this year…

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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