“Where is the State?”
With a deficient response from, and sometimes the complete absence of, governments and the international community, civil society and women peacebuilders across the world are taking the responsibility of responding to their communities needs.
However, they need the resources, recognition, and support of their governments and the international community. In the words of a peacebuilder from Cameroon, “civil society is there ready to take the lead, but by what means and by which roads.”
The fifth weekly virtual meeting of the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL) focused on women peacebuilders’ humanitarian response with guests including H.E. Ambassador Kåre Aas, Norwegian Ambassador to the US; Luc Duckendorf from the Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Amjad Saleem from the International Federation of the Red Cross.
Read the full summary of the meeting.
How can people stay home when they are dependent on daily wages to feed their families? How can they wash hands if there is no soap or water? From Cameroon to Yemen, women are making soap, and tackling the lack of water. As first responders, women peacebuilders are trying to fill the vacuums and urgent basic needs in terms food, sanitization and security such as mediating ceasefires and calling for prisoners’ release.
On April 23, 2020. Assistant Secretary General Asako Okai, UNDP’s Crisis Bureau Director, and her colleagues joined the ICAN-hosted call with some 45 women peacebuilders across Asia, Africa, the Arab World and Latin America to discuss health care, livelihood and crisis management in the time of Corona.
Read the full summary of the meeting
The second weekly virtual meeting of the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL) continued the discussion of what women peacebuilders around the world are doing to respond to COVID-19. The conversation also revealed emerging trends in the way the pandemic is impacting peace and security, from reinforcing authoritarian practices to providing fuel for extremist narratives.
The discussion in the third WASL virtual meeting addressed the question: how is the pandemic exacerbating or alleviating xenophobia, ethno-nationalism, religious or other extremisms and are there gendered dimensions to this?
Around the world, women peacebuilders report an uptick in hate speech, xenophobia, and extremist messaging. In The Maldives, for example, extremists are recruiting by brainwashing people into believing the pandemic is the wrath of God for not following religious instruction. In Sri Lanka, Islamic burial rites are being denied despite complying with WHO guidelines and Muslims are being portrayed in mainstream media as spreading the disease. Elsewhere it is the government’s poor or biased response that is feeding into extremist narratives. In Cameroon, for example, responses threaten to exacerbate the conflict because only prisoners from certain regions were given clemency to alleviate the crowding in prisons.
As we watch our own leaders react, we at ICAN are reminded and humbled by the strength and dignity of our partners in the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL). For years they have faced the threat of war and militarism, of displacement and life-threatening diseases, and at each turn, they have stepped up to the plate to be the first responders in their communities. To support them, we are adapting our activities to respond to the current crisis, while retaining our focus on inclusive peacebuilding and prevention of violent extremism.
Please read the statement to know how ICAN is responding to COVID-19.