The Stockholm Declaration on Addressing Fragility and Building Peace in a Changing World was presented at an international high-level summit in Stockholm on Monday, 5 April. The Declaration is part of a broader international framework aimed at strengthening international efforts to prevent conflict and build sustainable peace. The Swedish Minister for International Development and Cooperation, Isabella Lövin, has a leading role in the process as co-chair of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (IDPS).

In short, WILPF Sweden comments the Stockholm Declaration:

  • We welcome the overall focus on conflict prevention as the most effective way to build long-term sustainable peace.
  • We welcome that the Declaration clearly points to the need to address the root causes of war and conflict.
  • The Declaration focuses on long-term work and the importance of moving from short-term emergency relief to long-term processes and structures, which is key to conflict prevention efforts.
  • We also welcome that the declaration includes clear references to the Women, Peace and Security agenda, with a focus on women’s participation at all levels.
  • It is a flaw that the Declaration does not contain any references to disarmament or arms control despite a number of existing instruments making this link, such as the new sustainable development goals (Agenda 2030) which acknowledge the proliferation of small arms as a threat to inclusive peace.
  • The shift from conflict reaction to conflict prevention requires a reallocation of resources from military spending – now increasing for the first time since 2011 – to investments in social justice, gender equality, disarmament, anti-corruption, and other critical means of building sustainable peace. The Declaration does not address this critical issue.

Press conference on the Stockholm Declaration. From left: Dan Smith (Director of SIPRI), Jan Eliasson (Deputy Secretary-General of the UN), Isabella Lövin (Minister for International Development Cooperation), and Emilia Pires (Special Envoy of the G7+ group). Photo credit: WILPF Sweden.

Stockholm Forum on Security and Development

The high-level summit was held in conjunction with the Stockholm Forum on Security and Development, organised on 5-6 April by the Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and the Swedish Foreign Ministry. The forum brought together political leaders and government officials, UN representatives, academics and civil society representatives from all over the world. WILPF representatives from the DRC, Nigeria and Cameroon attended the meeting and spoke at a number of sessions and panels, such as the high-level panel on Agenda 2030 where WILPF Nigeria’s president Joy Onyesoh participated with amongst others Sweden’s Minister for International Development and Cooperation, Isabella Lövin, and the UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson.

“During the past year, a number of UN studies suggested that efforts to prevent war must be strengthened. To focus on the root causes of conflicts is the only viable strategy to break the circles of conflict. From our experience, working on the ground, we saw the indicators for violence in Nigeria were high years ago. Even though Nigeria isn’t in active conflict, women’s organisations have persistently drawn attention to the need for preventive mechanisms against violence and the creation of enabling environment for women’s rights. The world’s attention was drawn to Nigeria first after the kidnappings and thousands of displaced victims became a reality. This shouldn’t be the case. We should take more preventive actions to build more inclusive societies and save thousands of lives,” said Joy Onyesoh, President of WILPF Nigeria.

The Stockholm Declaration as well as Agenda 2030 recognises that existing systems for building peace must be strengthened. Unlike the Millennium Development Goals, the new Agenda 2030 explicitly includes a goal on building peaceful societies and preventing violence and conflict. The need for preventive efforts is critical in many regions of the world, and increasingly so in Cameroon:

“Women’s rights activist have been drawing attention to the development in Cameroon and calling for preventive action. Just like our sister section in Nigeria struggled to get attention to their situation, we are now trying to make the world realise that the violence and the risk of conflict increases dramatically in Cameroon. We must do something now, not in five years. We must prevent and teach peace to change the mind-set namely by working with young people and strengthen women’s rights, but we have a huge lack of resources,” said Sylvie Ndongmo, President of WILPF Cameroon.

Increase in military spending

At the same day as the Stockholm Declaration was agreed on, SIPRI released their annual world military spending statistics. They show that military spending in 2015 amounted to nearly 1,700 billion US dollar, an increase for the first time since 2011. This makes it even more striking that the Stockholm Declaration does not contain any reference to disarmament.

“Weapons contribute both directly and indirectly to violence and the outbreak of war. Stopping the spread of small arms and light weapons is therefore key for building peace and security. While we are overall very welcoming of the Stockholm Declaration, we see the lack of references to disarmament and arms control as a missed opportunity for a more holistic approach. This clearly demonstrates why organisations like WILPF are needed; to remind decision-makers that militarism is a key obstacle to peace building and women’s rights, and that we cannot shift the system without demilitarisation,” said Malin Nilsson, Secretary General of WILPF Sweden.

Women’s peace work in fragile states is very poorly funded. In 2012-13, about 130 million US dollars went to women’s equality organisations and institutions in these settings. Both the Stockholm Declaration and the global development goals highlight gender equality and women’s participation in peace building as a critical factor.

“We often hear that women’s community-based peace work is effective and that more of this work is needed. But compare the annual military spending of 1700 billion US dollars, to the money that goes to women’s rights organisations’ work to prevent conflict and build sustainable communities. Are the leaders ready to reprioritise?” asked Sylvie Ndongmo, President of WILPF Cameroon.

“With the implementation of the Women’s Situation Room during the 2015 general elections in Nigeria, WILPF Nigeria and our sister organisations showed the power of preventive work. The elections went down in history as the most peaceful in Nigeria’s history. Now we hope that states will provide support for women’s rights organisations in more countries that want to engage in this type of work. It must not stop at fine words,” said Joy Onyesoh, President of WILPF Nigeria.

Written by WILPF Sweden.