After a lively and productive two weeks, the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women has officially ended.
WILPF International, alongside peace activists from all over the world, joined thousands of representatives civil society, UN Staff, and Member States, among others, at hundreds of events and informal discussions. Together, we explored and defined how social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure can foster gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
Building on this energy and looking forward to the milestone year of 2020, we reflect on the good practices, challenges, and opportunities shared at CSW63.
WILPF ACTION AT CSW63
WILPF amplified the experiences and work of our partners and Sections on investing in social protection systems, public services and sustainable infrastructure, to #MoveTheMoney from war to gender equality and peace. We ensured that the rights and participation of local women are the core of peace and development priorities.
On 12 March 2019, we co-hosted a workshop with the Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights. It brought together women civil society leaders and scholars to show how a feminist analysis during the reconstruction process in post-war can empower women. Activists from Cameroon and Ukraine underscored the importance of redesigning and funding the political and economic systems that shape our daily lives. These systems are founded on militarism and are designed to prioritise trade interests. A sustainable contribution to regional peacebuilding is required to respond to the needs of local women’s groups and to adequately assess and address environmental impact.
On 13 March 2019, WILPF, together with leaders from the Korean Women’s Movement for Peace, Women Cross DMZ, and the Nobel Women’s Initiative, launched in New York our global campaign #KoreaPeaceNow. The campaign mobilises for the negotiation and ratification of a peace treaty between the Koreas by 2020 and a disarmed Korean peninsula. Highlighting the timeliness of this campaign, one activist emphasised that “… in the current context of the peace process between the United States and the DPRK, it is crucially important to build a solid foundation [for peace] through women’s participation,” as it is women’s inclusion in peace talks “that brings peace to reality.”
We also worked with our partners, MenEngage Alliance and ABAAD, to understand the role of masculinities and militarism for realising the transformative intent of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. During a parallel event on 20 March 2019, we identified good practices for engaging men to transform received narratives surrounding masculinity and power. Anthony Keedi, of ABAAD, emphasised this need to change our framework of from “power over” to “power with.” He underlined the importance of changing men’s individual behaviours and the masculine institutional structures that entrench toxic masculinities and ensure women’s exclusion. Emphasising that women’s exclusion is built into the design of peace and security, Abigail Ruane, WILPF’s Women, Peace and Security Programme Director, said that “… Security Council Resolution 1325 was not about adding women to the war system, but about ending the war. Engaging men as allies on WPS requires that individual men support and be held accountable for women’s leadership, but that they also are allies in shifting political systems away from militarism and war, and towards nonviolence and justice.”
WILPF partners from Yemen, Palestine and WILPF Sections from Lebanon, Colombia, Nigeria and Cameroon have also organised and joined discussions to strengthen a feminist movement for peace and to #MoveTheMoney from war to peace.
- Our partners from Yemen shared their work to support gender analysis in the ongoing peace process.
- Our partners from Palestine brought attention to the impact of the Israeli occupation on women’s livelihoods.
- WILPF MENA Regional Representative, Shirin Jurdi, highlighted the multidimensional insecurities faced by women in the region.
- The President of WILPF Colombia shared the experiences of women human rights defenders who continue to be targeted in Colombia.
- Our Africa Regional Representative, Sylvie Ndongmo, addressed the current conflict in Cameroon and outlined the ways in which women are working to address violence between Anglophone and Francophone communities.
Together, we brought to light the importance of addressing root causes of violence, advancing women’s equal access to resources, and ensuring their participation in decision-making as the key principles of successful implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda ahead of 2020.
In addition to hosting events, WILPF monitored 40 events. These events focused on women’s lived experiences and the recognition of the need for an integrated approach founded on these experiences (particularly those of women in conflict).
The Agreed Conclusions represent a step forward in identifying and removing barriers to women’s and girls’ access to public services. The Conclusions contain notably stronger language on the need for increased investment in social protection, public services and sustainable infrastructure to support the productivity of women’s work, including in the informal economy.
Though discussions varied widely, the civil society movement and Member States joined together in their call for:
- acknowledgement of the synergies between and among sectors;
- a holistic, intersectional, and intersectoral approach to peace-building and security;
- and a recognition of the implementation of such approaches as a precondition of sustainable peace.
Member States highlighted concrete initiatives as clear and concise frameworks for the implementation of an integrated approach to economic and social development at both national and international levels. Examples of these initiatives include: the National Social Protection Policy in Zambia, the Social Cohesion Fund in Morocco, feminist international agendas, like France’s Feminist Foreign Policy and the 100% ODA Plan of the UAE.
There was strong recognition that policies, projects, and initiatives must grow from local culture and reflect the diversity of women’s experiences. Under these conditions, they will have a lasting impact. There was widespread agreement amongst grassroots feminist leaders that this cannot be accomplished through the ad-hoc, short-term, siloed projects that remain the typical silos of international funding. A cohesive strategy incorporating initiatives should be conceived by those on the ground. For example, the Ashland Culture of Peace Commission is one of many civil society organisations advancing a national and global strategy by effecting meaningful and lasting change at a local level. This community-wide movement is dedicated to fostering behaviours and institutions that encourage social harmony. Building capacity for movements and civil society organisations like the Ashland Culture of Peace Commission — and ensuring that their expertise is integrated into decision-making at all levels of action– are critical for bringing about a sustainable peace.
Ensuring women’s participation was the top priority for civil society organisations and Member States. Some, including the Secretary-General, suggest that women’s meaningful participation will flow naturally from gender parity and equal representation. Civil society organisations qualified this assertion, adding that women’s presence alone will not change the outcome of decision-making unless they are empowered to effect meaningful change. Civil society leaders also stressed the related need to incorporate gender expertise at all levels of decision making, including in such controversial areas as financing, justice and disarmament.
We also identified the challenges (some new, most persistent) that we must overcome to achieve our collective vision of a durable and sustainable #FeministPeace. As Anthony Keedi, of ABAAD, noted, “Men’s sense of power is linked to violence.” This relationship –between militarism, violent masculinities, patriarchy and arms trade, and outsize corporate influence– impacts access to resources. Tax injustices remain an undeniable and persistent challenge for achieving sustainable peace. At CSW63, many participants honed in on corporate power, including corporate human rights abuses, as key drivers of conflict and called on governments and activists to arrest the steady shift of our social contract from state-citizen to state-corporation.
One of the most effective means of decreasing corporate influence and solidifying our political systems is through developing responsive and accountable governments and the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. Ahead of 2020, this implementation remains a challenge due to significant under-prioritisation (reflected in underfunding) of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, along with other relevant peace and development initiatives at both the national and international levels. Though some regions showed signs of progress, without commitment, financing and frameworks for accountability, transformative change may prove elusive.
Visa denials and the growing backlash against women human rights defenders represent significant and persistent barriers to opportunities for strengthening women’s rights and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. Specifically, WILPFers from Uganda, Sudan and Syria were barred from joining the WILPF Delegation. The International Service for Human Rights sent a communication to the Commission on the Status of Women, stating that visa denials run contrary to the obligations of the U.S. as host country of the United Nations, violate the right to access and communicate with international bodies, and limit the participation of women in the human rights system. Coupled with our current context, in which women human rights defenders face increasing attacks and operate in increasingly precarious situations, CSW63 failed in one of its primary objectives: the creation a safe space for all to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality.
In line with our commitment to advancing political economies of peace and redefining how the international community operates in regards to disarmament, funding, taxation, and women’s participation, WILPF recommends that the international community reviews existing priorities and, ahead of 2020, commits to:
- #MoveTheMoney from political economies of war to political economies of gender equality and peace, including by supporting gender equitable social protection systems and reassessing, reducing and redistributing military spending;
- Reorient peace work around local women’s experiences and amplify local voices to bring about nonviolence and justice;
- Shift the balance of power with our international financial architecture to address systemic issues and advance the necessary preconditions for ensuring the respect, protection and fulfillment of human rights, including women’s human rights;
- Recognise extraterritorial obligations, including around regulating arms transfers that increase the risk of gender-based violence; and
- Strengthen coordination and policy coherence among the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, sustainable development, disarmament and other areas of work within the security space.
As we head back to our communities, we have the opportunity to translate what we have learned and experienced into concrete action. Now, the real work begins. Join us, and make your voices heard!