By Stacey Schamber

At a time of significant global foreign policy challenges, the Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues is stepping up their game with a focused effort on the implementation of the U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and the U.S Department of State Plan to Implement the U.S. Strategy on WPSAmbassador-At-Large for Global Women’s Issues Kelley E. Currie joined a weekly Zoom meeting with the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL) on August 27, 2020.   

Women peacebuilders continue to work under difficult conditions such as in Libya, where access to electricity, water, and cash is limited, and the government has cut off internet access to quell protests. Despite their on-the-ground knowledge and representation of their communities, women peacebuilders from Libya, Yemen, and Afghanistan raised how they’ve still been excluded from peace processes. In the words of a peacebuilder from Sri Lanka, “it’s critical to have women involved from the design of the peace process. If we miss it at the outset, women are not included later, and they are essential to the implementation of any agreement.”   

Recognizing the colossal task and challenges faced by the few women on the government delegation in the intra-Afghan peace talks, an Afghan woman peacebuilder who has been mobilizing communities, emphasized the need for an independent delegation of women peacebuilders. She asked the Ambassador, “could we start next week with these talks, to bring an independent delegation even if it’s not part of official talks?” Ms. Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini MBE, the founder and CEO of ICAN, provided an international perspective. “We have a responsibility to protect and at the local level women peacebuilders take on this responsibility, so why are we allowing violent actors to determine the future without representation from their communities? We need peace delegations on equal footing with war delegations at the table…if we redesign, it would really shift the moral center of the international community.” 

“It’s critical to have women involved from the design of the peace process. If we miss it at the outset, women are not included later, and they are essential to the implementation of any agreement.”

A woman peacebuilder from Uganda shared her experience of how women started walking as a peace delegation to Juba until the private sector provided transportation for them. These women peacebuilders influenced the peace agreement and its implementation. More recently, they have been institutionalizing the WPS agenda in Uganda by working closely with local governments and councils to develop national action plans to address conflict and ensure that local community solutions inform the government’s development plan. “It’s difficult to work with governments that are intolerable which is why we need protection.” A woman peacebuilder from Pakistan concurred that the effects of the WPS strategy and agenda need to trickle down to women on the ground. She has drawn the parallels of UNSCR 1325 and religious texts to localize the WPS agenda. It’s critical to train embassy staff (the Women, Peace, and Security Act requires training for appropriate State Department and USAID personnel deploying to countries or regions considered to be at risk of, undergoing, or emerging from violent conflict), identify specific WPS issues like protection, and provide flexible funding to local organizations.   

“We need peace delegations on equal footing with war delegations at the table…if we redesign, it would really shift the moral center of the international community.”

As part of the ICAN/WASL She Builds Peace campaign and call to action to stand with women peacebuilders, in addition to ensuring their safety, promoting appreciation of and resourcing their work, states in particular can fulfill their obligations to systematically include independent women peacebuilder delegations in all aspect of peace processes. To realize this goal, Ms. Naraghi-Anderlini shared three concrete recommendations with the Ambassador regarding the current process with Afghanistan which apply to all peace processes.

  1. Would the US be willing to facilitate an independent delegation of women peacebuilders talk to the Taliban?
  2. Could the US talk to the parties in advance about what we expect to see as outcomes? As we have seen in many parallel processes, women often negotiate the issues.
  3. Third, if it’s not possible for women peacebuilders to be present, could the US and others say that we will not fund your agreement unless women peacebuilders think it’s a good agreement?

Summaries of the rest of the calls can be accessed here

The WASL calls are held weekly on Thursdays at 9am EDT.

For more information please contact Melinda Holmes, WASL Program Director

melinda.holmes@icanpeacework.org.

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