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The 3rd IPCRI Forum on the Current Role of Women in the Peace Process

On September 19th, attendants gathered in Jerusalem for an open forum on The Current Role of Women in the Peace Process and UNSCR 1325. Panelists included Nivine Sandouka, co-director of IPCRI, Netta Loevy, from Itach Maaki, Knesset Member Ksenia Svetlova, and Alexandra Rydmark, the deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Sweden. The event was a sounding success that elicited discussions, debate, and opportunities for partnerships and further discussions. Nivine Sandouka opened up the panel with an introduction to UN Resolution 1325 and an overview of the current situation in the Palestinian society. An expert in gender mainstreaming, Sandouka tracked the history of 1325, the motive behind it, its goal of increasing participation of women and protecting them from violence in situations of armed conflict, and its implementation since its inception. Sandouka then related this resolution to the situation of women in the occupied territories. She gave a historical overview, stating that the participation of women in Israel and Palestine began in the 80s with Israeli women beginning protests against occupation, and continuing on through 1989 when Israeli and Palestinian women met in Oslo to call for a two-state solution before any official representative did. However, female participation got sidelined after Oslo and especially since the establishment of the Palestinian government. Thus, as of 2011, only 15% of the NGOs are concerned with women’s issues, while none of which are focusing on political participation. Therefore, despite its many criticisms, most argue that UNSCR 1325 is beneficial to Palestinian women because it creates a platform for women to approach the UN for ensuring that their voices are heard.

Nivine then presented the current status of participation among Palestinian women. According to her figures, only 13% of the current seats in the Palestinian parliament are held by women, despite the 20% quota. Furthermore, those who are elected usually cannot attend the governmental meetings and thus send a male family member to represent them. Additionally, women currently make up less than 5% of Palestinian ambassadors, 26% of Palestinian university students (despite being half the population), and are constantly facing social barriers to prevent them from participation in government. There is an acute lack of support, both by the community, religion, and by other women in the community for participation, and this leads to the important conclusion and result that women are not represented enough in decision making processes, including the negotiation teams (A link to the full lecture). After the initial introduction, Netta Loevy discussed the effort made in the Israeli public on women’s issues and on 1325. She introduced 1325 as a historic resolution in that it called for full participation of security and peace and commended it because of its holistic approach. The Israeli government itself has not adopted 1325 but has adopted an amendment influenced by it. The amendment committed Israel to making sure women were participating in all security and peacemaking councils, and to making it from all parts of society that were involved. Although this is successful in writing and progress, it has yet to actually be implemented. Beginning in 2012, due to a lack of progress, women organizations gathered and formulated an action plan that was presented to the Israeli government at the end of 2014. The plan advanced women participation in the peace process, and although the government adopted the resolution, it has yet to be implemented. Although it was advanced through the legal phase, it is now going through the second phase of effecting policy change. At its current status, both of the levels are being combined and focused on a grassroots level (A link to the full lecture). Ms. Ksenia Svetlova then continued the discussion by focusing on the government level. She introduced her talk by pointing out the stigma that women and politics do not go together – a stigma that is still constantly being fought. Two of the main Israeli political parties do not even allow women to run or participate in Parliament unless forced to. Additionally, a recent poll states that women provide more security in the family than men due to their prioritizing of others first, and yet they are not involved in Foreign Service and other such organizations. There is a lack of encouragement on the women’s side and a lack of focus on making is plausible for both women and men to be able to successfully maintain a balanced work and home life.

In response to some of these issues, a bill has been submitted would not allowing parties who don’t allow women to be listed to run. Svetlova also stressed the fact that there needs to consistently be a role made available for ‘normal’ women; in other words, participation should not only be accessible for the exceptional women that win Nobel Piece Prizes. Women also need to be more supportive of other women and eliminate the ostracizing of those that do get involved. She concluded by stating that women are less reactive to hate speech and extremism, they are the ones usually initiating and facilitating conversation, are more likely to think practically into the future, and are therefore needed more on a governmental level in all facets (A link to the full lecture). After Sveltova’s firm remarks, Alexandra Rydmark from the Swedish Embassy concluded the forum by discussing the international perspective. She began with introducing the feminist foreign policy of the Swedish government. Since 2014, the Swedish government promoted a systemic approach to the inclusion of women. The policy designed a detailed action plan, which presents specific objectives to be achieved, while it offers the Foreign Service the tools and indicators for a successful implementation. Rydmark continued with presenting UNSCR 1325 as a top priority of the Swedish delegation as “more women meant more peace”. This statement was generated according to a research that analyzed 40 peace negotiations and concluded that women participating was vital in increasing the likelihood of reaching a solution as well as making it more sustainable. Thus, empowering women would be an example of smart politics that considers both the security of women and the region as a whole (A link to the full lecture). This was all brought into summation through the remarks of Reverend Gary Mason, a key negotiator in the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland. He stated that when women were involved in the Irish negotiations, they brought a different dynamic to the table through their reasonableness, understanding, and ability to listen. The forum was a definite success and led to multiple questions over the role of women and the future of UNSCR 1325. This engagement throughout the forum convinced us at IPCRI to take this topic as one of our key objectives for the near future. It is our hope that through forums like this, which address vital topics, interaction and understanding will increase in an effort to develop more partnerships and lead towards a more sustainable future. In the near future, IPCRI will initiate a longer forum for increasing the interaction between the participants and relevant organizations and for identifying potential opportunities for cooperation.

For Further Information and Follow-Ups: -

The Gender Action Portal Comprehensive Action Plan for the Application of 1325 in Israel Information about the Swedish Feminist Foreign Policy What Works: Gender Equality by Design / Iris Bohnet The March for Hope (Initiated by Women Wage Peace) – This March will take place through the beginning of October and is planned to end in October 19 th with a rally in front of the Israeli PM residence in Jerusalem.

A summary of the ipcri forum on the current role of women in the peace process  
A summary of the ipcri forum on the current role of women in the peace process