Happy UN International Day of Peace, everyone! What a great opportunity to think about WILPF and peace. What is that “magic ingredient” that has made it such a success story?
In 1981, the United Nations declared today, the 21st of September, as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. The ways in which people can engage in the day are endless – through thinking, speaking, acting on strengthening the ideals of peace.
We at WILPF see this as an opportunity to reflect, not only on our understandings of peace, but also on its relationship to international institutions and to ourselves. In order to do this, let me first walk you through WILPF’s legacy and structure, which is inextricably intertwined with the promotion of peace building.
WILPF: A CENTURY OF WORKING FOR PEACE
To start, the clue is in the name: Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. As the oldest women’s international peace organisation in the world and one of the world’s oldest NGOs, WILPF has been around the block in terms of being involved in debates on peace. But what is it about WILPF that has allowed it to remain active for so long?
According to Mary Meyer in her book Gender Politics in Global Governance, WILPF’s founders “sought to institutionalize the international women’s peace movement of the early twentieth century through an organizational structure that combines both mainstreaming and disengaging political strategies” (page 108). This means that the institution is structured and open to discussion at the same time.
THE IMPORTANCE OF INSTITUTIONALISING PEACE…
On the one hand, WILPF is involved as a consultative body of the United Nations (UN) and has a voice in other similar structured institutions. Its involvement in institutionalised methods of peace making gives WILPF the chance to challenge gendered structures within these organisations themselves – if we’re going to listen to big institutions, then they need to walk the talk, right?
…AND OF KEEPING THE DISCUSSION OPEN
On the other hand, with 30 very active National Sections across the globe, WILPF’s structure leaves space for all members’ voices to be heard. Perhaps it is this flexible form of institutionalisation that has kept WILPF active in the fight for peace for the last century. I personally believe that both these routes are key to a sustainable peace.
MY TAKE ON IT
As a self-identifying WILPFer, I have always admired WILPF’s ability to play such a big role in many types of dialogue with many types of people and organisations. I think that this openness is part of what gives WILPF such authority.
SO, WHAT DO YOU THINK?
And now I would like to open up the floor to you, fellow activists!
How would you define peace? What do you think is the role of institutions in promoting peace? And finally, how will you be spending this year’s International Day of Peace?