By Hannah Ondiek
The International Day of Peace on 21st September 2012 themed ‘Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future’ will be a time to celebrate achievements in the area of peace and also seek solutions and find the way forward regarding peace. We cannot have a sustainable future without sustainable peace. The theme was set around the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development.
What is peace and can we achieve it? Peace cannot really be defined since it is not merely the absence of war. It is something that we constantly strive to achieve, be it in our families, relationships, workplaces, communities, countries, globally and even within ourselves.
On 13th September 2012, the General Assembly Convened the High-Level Forum on ‘Culture of Peace’, with Education, Youth Outreach, and Women’s Empowerment highlighted as the keys to more peaceful world. The meeting was set at an opportune time as the discussions lead to a better future for peace in the world. The phrase “A culture of peace,” the theme for the High-Level Forum is a heavy phrase. Culture as we know is practiced and not just by an individual but by a community. Assembly President Al-Nasser stated that “If we are to come out of the shadows of conflict and make a new beginning, all members of society must be inspired by the culture of peace.” Miss Cora Weiss, President of the Hague Appeal for Peace noted the importance of a ‘Bottom up Approach,’ which means involving the community from the grassroots moving up as the best method for sustainable peace. We need to involve women from the woman farmer in the village, to the teacher, the nurse, the public servants, the young women, the women members of parliament and the list is endless.
The “UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security,” reaffirms and highlights the importance of involving women in prevention and resolution and in the peace-building process and stresses the importance of equal participation. It urges governments to involve women in decision making processes at the national, regional and international institutions.
Are governments heeding to the call?
An interesting article by Global Development, “Who creates harmony the world over? Women. Who signs peace deals? Men” highlights the way women have been sidelined from the peace process. Another article “Women’s Participation in Peace – how does it compare?” gives a breakdown of the data from a survey done in 5 countries (Afghanistan, Liberia, Nepal, Pakistan and Sierra Leone). According to a report by the UN Development Fund for Women, less than 1 in 40 of the signatories of major peace agreements since 1992 are women and there have been no female chief mediators in UN peace talks. We have wonderful policies on paper that ensure participation of women in the peace process but the policies remain on paper. In 2011 the Nobel Peace Prize winners were 3 women; Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Peace activist Leymah Gbowee and a Human Rights activist Tawakukul Karman who all represented the strong voice of women seeking peace, safety of women and full women’s participation in the peace building process. They represented the millions unsung women peace heroes or should we say ‘She-roes’ all around the world who are building peace in families, communities and nations.
Another noteworthy example are the Women is Somalia who on 18th September 2012, gathered at the UN Open Day themed “Partnerships for Peace” facilitated by UNPOS’ Gender Affairs Unit with support from the UN Country Team , namely UN Women, UNDP, UNFPA, UNHCR and OCHA. During the meeting it was noted that women in Somalia which as we know is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a woman are still left out of the peace process. Activist Hawa Ali Jama noted that “Extremists have been opposing women’s development and empowerment, and that while there are cultural barriers that impede women’s livelihoods, rights and education, now we can speak publicly, before we could not express ourselves.”
Women cannot experience and enjoy peace when issues like sexual and gender based violence are rampant, persisting multi-faceted gender inequalities, limited opportunities of education, including social, political and economic opportunities and lack of freedom of information and access to information.
The joint statement by Civil Society Organizations stated that it is imperative to bring peace into the post-2015 development framework. They called for a post-2015 framework that builds on the vision for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and upholds the rights of all people to enjoy peace as an essential element of sustainable development. As the world looks to achieving peace.
We urge you to join in the peace process wherever you are. As I reiterate the words of Mr. Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary of the United Nations “Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something”
Happy International Day of Peace 2012!!
Hannah Ondiek, is a Communications Intern at the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET)