ICAN partnered with the German Foreign Office and the Center for Feminist Foreign Policy for the event: “The Missing Ingredient: Women Peacebuilders as Critical Allies in Strengthening a Fragile Peace,” at the Library of the German Foreign Office, Berlin on June 25, 2019. This event explored the added value and contributions of women peacebuilders and civil society organizations, the threats they face, as well as the effective strategies for states and other entities to support and protect this sector.

Susanne Baumann, Head of the Directorate-General for International Order, the United Nations and Arms Control, Federal Foreign Office, introduced the event, calling for women, peace, and security networks to stand together for a progressive agenda: “Full and effective participation of women peacebuilders contributes to more sustainable and resilient peace.” Vanessa Prinz, Division on Human Rights and Gender Issues, Federal Foreign Office chaired a panel discussion among three members of the Women’s Alliance for Strategic Leadership (WASL): Mary Akrami, Executive Director of the Afghan Women’s Network; a peace activist from Syria; and Rosa Emilia Salamanca, Director of Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económia (CIASE) in Colombia. They shared their work, the challenges they face, and the role of international civil society in talking with governments and supporting the work of local actors. ICAN’s Executive Director, Sanam Anderlini, also spoke on the panel highlighting the need to recognize the critical role civil society plays in seeding a culture of peace and transformation. “In conflict settings women’s organizations have a chain of influence at international, national, provincial and super local levels, assuming women are “resilient,” but we can’t take them for granted…wherever we are we should be holding our own governments accountable.”

Sanam Anderlini and Rosa Emilia Salamanca

ICAN has identified four pillars of protection, reflective of the kinds of threats women peacebuilders encounter:

  • Physical/psychological
  • Political/legal
  • Sociocultural
  • Financial

Participants discussed the ways in which our understanding of protection threats needs to be grounded in local context as do the solutions. The importance of building trust, developing relationships with the media, having training on digital security, and channeling funding to women peacebuilders all emerged as key discussion points. Rosa Emilia Salamanca shared the challenge of peacebuilding work, “For peacebuilders, we have very fragile contexts where you have to put yourself with different hands in different places to talk with everyone. When you are a bridge, everyone goes through you but nobody sees you.”

Those in attendance participated in one of three working groups to explore the role of civil society, multi-lateral organizations, and states in protecting peacebuilders. They shared recommendations with each other including for example civil society to sensitize international and local media actors and to train activists on digital literacy and security measures. States should focus on understanding the types of threats peacebuilders face and building networks and mechanisms that can be activated for their protection. Finally, multi-lateral organizations should ensure robust, conflict sensitive and gender responsive policy setting at all levels and consult with women led civil society organizations to include their programming, set quotas for grant funding, and expedite visas and procedures for emergency protection.  

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