ICAN and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) convened a two-day workshop on 11-12 February 2020 which highlighted the experiences of women peacebuilders and those supporting them to identify the gaps in existing protection policies and mechanisms—from threat assessment and security planning, to urgent response and long-term support of affected individuals, their families, colleagues and organizations. The meeting sought to develop practical guidance and policy recommendations for governmental and intergovernmental actors seeking to play a proactive role in the protection women peacebuilders. This guidance will include the “do’s” and “don’ts” of engaging with peacebuilders to ensure their safety while also enabling their meaningful participation, and outline what to do in case different forms of threats materialize.
The workshop was conducted in the format of a Global Solutions Exchange (GSX), a civil society led mechanism that seeks to bring policymakers and practitioners from different sectors and perspectives together to share knowledge and develop practical and gendered solutions for the critical peace and security challenges of our time. ICAN and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) invited 54 key stakeholders who are actively engaged in this area of work from across sectors and contexts, including 15 government representatives, 15 participants from multilateral and international civil society organizations, entities administrating existing protection programs, researchers, and 13 women peacebuilders who are members of the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL). It also provided opportunities for partners to have bilateral advocacy meetings while in London. HRH the Countess of Wessex, also attended to better understand the experiences of women peacebuilders and how she could advocate for their protection in forums such as the Munich Security Conference.
Participants appreciated hearing directly from women peacebuilders from Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas, and gaining a better understanding of gaps and challenges and the roles of different stakeholders across the international community. The diversity of such experience in the room provided opportunity for honest and practical discussion. Participants identified ways in which governments could provide in-country support to women peacebuilders to assess the risks they face and how to mitigate them and ensure their safety. For instance, they suggested ways in which members of parliament could partner with them and strengthen legislation and protection mechanisms, while embassies and multilateral institutions can offer protection through convening meetings, issuing joint statements, and practicing diplomacy with the host government. Participants also discussed ways in which actors can provide additional protection to women peacebuilders before, during, and after their participation in international forums and peace processes. While such opportunities can protect women peacebuilders by calling attention to their interests, they can also increase risk from parties in conflict who are threatened by their work. Finally, they also identified concrete action items for when women peacebuilders need temporary relocation for protection of themselves, their families, and their work, such as facilitating visa access, providing funding and psychosocial support.