Expert Group Meeting on “Peace Agreements as a Means for Promoting
Gender Equality and Ensuring Participation of Women
– A Framework of Model Provisions”
(10 – 13 November 2003)
PRESENTATION BY MR. YOUSSEF MAHMOUD,
DIRECTOR, AFRICA II DIVISION
DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS
1. Let me begin by welcoming you all to this very important Expert Group Meeting, which the United Nations Department of Political Affairs is pleased to be co-sponsoring with both the Office of the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women and the Division for the Advancement of Women. I also wish to extend special thanks to the experts who are here to share with us their expertise and collective wisdom as we all work to achieve the stated objectives of this week’s meeting, namely: to (1) identify good practices and lessons learned for inclusion of gender perspectives in peace agreements and the processes preceding such agreements, and (2) to establish standards to be met in peace agreements with regard to incorporation of gender perspectives.
2. The convening of this meeting is quite timely as it comes on the heels of the celebration of the third anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000). A celebration, which was marked on 29 October by a very informative and reflective Security Council Open Debate on “Women, Peace and Security” and which culminated in a high-level Panel Discussion on “1325 – Reality or Fiction.”
3. The straightforward political message emanating from these two events is that while some progress has been made since the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1325, much still remains to be done by all actors charged with its implementation, including the United Nations, governments, and the international community as a whole. [The implementation of the recommendations of the Secretary-General’s 2002 report to the Security Council on Women, Peace and Security is still in progress.]
4. This Expert Group Meeting is an important step in following up on our collective commitment to take the necessary measures to ensure, inter alia, that women have a chance to be heard and to become more active partners in peace processes; that women’s concerns and perspectives are factored into peace negotiations; that women participate as equal partners in post-conflict societies and that their rights are protected under the law.
5. Peace agreements have an important role to play in this context because they define the political, civil, economic and social structures in post-conflict societies. Indeed, peace agreements should aim at not only addressing the immediate consequences of war but also preventing the recurrence of the root causes of conflict. As John Paul Lederach put it, “peace accords are often seen as a culminating point of a peace process. In the language of governments and the military, the accords are referred to as an end-game scenario . . . . In reality, the accords are nothing more than opening a door into a whole labyrinth of rooms that invite us to continue in the process of redefining our relationships.”
II. Importance of promoting gender perspective
8. Let me start with the first question that underlies mainstreaming a gender perspective in peace agreements: What is the rationale behind promoting gender equality in peace processes? Why is it so important to insert specific language in peace agreements that could facilitate women’s formal participation in peace and political processes? I can see three main justifications for mainstreaming gender perspective in peace agreements. These justifications are all related to the serious negative impact of armed conflict on the condition of women and to the basic requirements for sustainable peace and stability.
9. First justification: the need to facilitate the attainment of the intended objective of peace agreements: As we all know, peace agreements are usually intended to lay foundations for rebuilding shattered societies and promoting national healing. This objective cannot be achieved in a sustainable and irreversible fashion unless due consideration is given to address the special needs of those who suffered most from armed conflict, in particular women who represent almost half of the populations in many countries. Indeed, as prime targets of armed conflict women and girls suffered disproportionately – particularly as gender based violence have become weapons of warfare and one of the defining characteristics of contemporary conflicts. Moreover, women and girls represent the majority of refugees and internally displaced persons. As a result, special needs of women and girls can be best addressed only if women are closely involved in the decision-making processes both at the negotiating table and in the implementation of peace agreements. As we also know, those needs include preventing domestic violence in the aftermath of conflict; reversing the trend towards exacerbation of inequalities between men and women and girls; addressing the multiple health consequences of armed conflict on women and girls; removing discriminatory measures and laws against women, especially with regard to land and property rights.
10. Second justification: the importance of utilizing the comparative advantage of women in peace-making: As both witnesses and victims of the most horrendous war-related atrocities and other gross human rights violations, women more than anyone else can testify to the high human and material cost of war/conflict and the rationale behind promoting peace and stability. They can also serve as the best advocates of peace because they know what needs to be done to address the immediate consequences of war and to avert the relapse into conflict. In this connection, it is worth recalling those inspiring words of wisdom uttered by the late Eisenhower and I quote: “The people who know war, those who have experienced it . . . are the most earnest advocates of peace in the world.”
11. Third justification: the need to formalize the demonstrated ability of women to make peace: From a historical perspective, women’s roles in conflict situations have shifted from the traditional pattern of carrying out domestic tasks, as well as relief, educational and other humanitarian activities to the modern and more challenging status of peace promoters. Indeed, women have proved to be the uncompromising guardians of social and cultural values during conflict, in particular the preservation of the family cell. Most importantly, women have gradually managed to force their way to the negotiating table, as well as to the implementation of peace agreements, especially post-conflict rehabilitation, reconstruction and development. Women entered the political arena with the expressed desire of showing a more proactive way of addressing the most immediate consequences of war.
13. Sierra Leonean women were represented at those negotiations by a delegation of prominent human rights activists and women’s associations that was instrumental in facilitating an early agreement on granting amnesty to all warring parties in order to give peace a chance. In doing so, the women were fully aware that this major concession was the high price to pay to end the untold suffering of civilians and to resolve the conflict peacefully.
14. In Liberia, women relentlessly advocated for a peaceful settlement of the conflict, stressing that the early conclusion of a cease-fire agreement between all warring parties was the most immediate requirement towards restoring peace to the war-torn country. During the peace negotiations between the concerned Liberian parties, GOL, LURD and MODEL, political parties and civil society organizations (Accra, Ghana, 4 June-18 August 2003), Liberian women were represented by a delegation comprised of the Liberian Chapter of the Mano River Union Women’s Peace Network (MARWOPNET) and the Liberian Women Initiative. Despite limitations to their participation, the delegation was instrumental in ensuring that the 18 August Comprehensive Peace Agreement does not grant amnesty to perpetrators of gross human violations nor allows warlords to hold senior positions in the Transitional Government. The women also advocated for the creation of a secure environment to facilitate the safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance to the needy.
16. Women’s demonstrated ability to constructively influence peace processes is today an incontrovertible reality. The over-riding objective is to achieve equal and full participation of women and girls at all levels of society. Promoting gender equality and facilitating women’s participation in peace and political processes through peace agreements should not be seen as an after thought. There should be a clear recognition of the significant contribution that women can make towards achieving successful peace and political processes, and of the unique perspective they bring to these processes, both as war victims and guardians of social and cultural values in their communities. Their concerns and perspectives must be reflected in all stages of peace negotiations, and in peace agreements to guarantee their full and equal participation in post-conflict societies. Indeed, the time has come to create a legal framework that would enable women to move from ad hoc/informal peace-making activities to fully participate in informal and formal peace process.
17. In order to enhance women’s role in conflict resolution and peace-building, peace agreements need to incorporate the relevant rights of women as enshrined in several international instruments, including the Beijing Platform, Security Council resolution 1325 (2000). This is a responsibility that each of us shares equally, whether we are UN entities, parties to conflict, governments or civil society.
18. Past experiences of peace negotiations have shown that gender mainstreaming proved to be more successful when integrated into both the preambular and operative parts of peace agreements. The preamble could incorporate the following elements:
20. In addition, specific guidelines should be developed for use by the Secretary-General Special Representatives and/or Envoys leading UN-facilitated peace negotiations or participating in non UN-sponsored peace talks to ensure that women are part of drafting/working groups or commissions of the peace negotiations.
V. Specific gender related provisions to be included in peace agreements
21. Key areas, which need to be addressed have already been identified:
- Political structures and electoral systems
- Constitutional and legal systems
- Judicial systems and access to justice
- Reconstruction of social structures and civil society
- Reconstruction of economic systems
- Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration
22. These are critical areas, which must be looked at through a very clear gender lens to ensure that women and men share equal rights and have equal protection under the law in these rebuilt societies. While it is recognized that in every conflict area there are different customs and traditional norms, this should not become an excuse for continued discrimination against women and girls. Indeed, customs and traditions which impede the full and equal participation of women in society and which deny them equal protection within the law must be addressed and taken into account when peace accords and agreements are being negotiated. Women’s access to land and property, their right to participate fully in the electoral process, their participation in transitional governments -- these are all issues, which must be addressed within the terms of peace agreements.
23. In addition to those critical areas, it would be useful to make provision for the participation of women in any follow-up/monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the peace agreement.
24. As road map to the restoration of peace and political/binding instruments, peace agreements are expected to develop mutually acceptable transitional arrangements involving power sharing, rules for political competition and new governance standards or policies. It is therefore essential that negotiating parties take into account the potential impact of the terms of these agreements on the lives of women and girls.
25. In order to maximize women’s participation in post-conflict political structures and electoral systems, peace agreements should go beyond simply securing a number of leadership positions for them to guaranteeing a permanent position in decision-making structures. In this regard, the following measures should be provided for: a) raise women’s awareness and knowledge of their stake in peace-making through literacy programmes and the translating of existing national, regional and international norms and standards on the rights and protection of women protection of women, e.g. CEDAW and the Beijing Platform for Action, into local languages so that women can better inform themselves; b) provide opportunities for leadership capacity-building through training courses for female leaders to enable them to participate in the electoral processes as candidates for the presidential, legislative and local elections, as well as members of the National Electoral Commissions, judges, police officers, voter registrars and voter educators. This may require the elimination of discriminatory electoral laws; c) ensure that the mandates of government institutions implicitly involve a gender perspective, especially in ministries for economic policy planning, agriculture, commerce, education and health.
26. In addition, the mandate of UN peacekeeping operations should also include language regarding training and empowerment of women for elective offices.
27. Reconstruction of social structures and civil society can be best achieved by involving women in national reconciliation commissions, poverty reduction and alleviation programmes, rehabilitation of social infrastructures. In this connection, negotiating parties should focus on the special needs of women and girls during repatriation and resettlement, rehabilitation, reintegration and post-conflict reconstruction. They must respect the civilian and humanitarian character of refugee camps and settlements, and take into account the particular needs of women and girls. Moreover, measures should be put into place which would support local women’s peace initiatives and indigenous processes for conflict resolution and which would involve women fully in the implementation mechanisms of peace agreements.
28. Special attention should be paid to providing counseling and other assistance to women and girls suffering physical and emotional scars of conflict, to help them resume life in their communities and to assume their often changing social roles as female heads of households in traditional societies.
29. Article 10 of the recently adopted Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa supports these proposals by urging States Parties to ensure the increased participation of women “ in all aspects of planning, formulation and implementation of post conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation” while Article 19 of the same Protocol requests States Parties to take all appropriate measures to “ ensure the participation of women at all levels in the conceptualization, decision-making, implementation and evaluation of development policies and programmes.” The priority needs of women should be identified in peace agreements and funds allocated to re-build institutions such as health and educational facilities through which women will re-gain access to their right to health, education and the opportunity to earn an income.
30. As was the case in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and many other countries in Africa, women’s associations regrouped under the umbrella of civil society organizations have proved to be useful instruments for promoting conflict prevention and peace-building. Peace agreements should therefore provide for specific support to those women’s associations, particularly in the area of capacity-building and resource mobilization.
Disarmament, Demobilization and Re-integration (DDR):
31. Disarmament, Demobilization and Re-integration (DDR) programmes are increasingly becoming a key requirement for removing the culture of violence and facilitating the process of national healing. One way to address the specific concerns of women and girls in DDR programmes is to ensure equal treatment of men and women ex-combatants for selection and allocation of the incentive package. Measures should also be developed to address the specific needs of female ex-combatants, as well as those of wives and widows of ex-combatants. In a number of former conflicts such as Angola, it was noted that women and girls did not qualify for DDR programmes because they could not surrender a weapon.
32. The status of children has been addressed by the Cape Town Principles, which expand the definition of child soldiers to include those who play secondary roles in conflict. A similar arrangement could be found to cover those women who play a secondary role in conflict. Even in cases where women have been directly involved in conflict they may be excluded from the benefits of DDR programmes if their ‘commanders’ refuse to admit to having had women and girls in their ranks or if the women themselves feel too intimidated or embarrassed to reveal their military past for fear of social disapproval as was the case in Liberia. An additional danger of exclusion arises if, as is the case for Liberia, the DDR criteria exclude any retroactive admission of candidates either because the news about the DDR programme is not conveyed to them on time or if they cannot escape from the clutches of their ‘commanders’. Peace agreements should contain separate sections devoted to addressing the specific concerns of women and girls in national DDR and in any subsequent DDRR programmes.
33. Moreover, women should participate in the formulation and implementation of DDR programmes. In this regard, they should be duly represented in the National DDR Commission and its sub-committees. Recognized women organizations should also be empowered to implement reintegration programmes involving not only ex-combatants but also local communities.
34. Peace agreements must give priority to rehabilitating the severely dilapidated socio-economic structures and services on which women and their families were used to rely before the war.
35. Economic empowerment of women should also include the creation of income-generating activities, training on financial management and proper use of credit or flexible access to soft loans which would enable women to gain the financial independence needed to participate in politics as candidates.
Judicial systems and access to justice
36. The negotiation of peace agreements provides an opportunity to revamp legal systems and redress gender inequalities such as laws that discriminate against women’s participation in national political life either as candidates or as voters. For example, the possession of identification cards, academic qualifications or bank balances which do not necessarily reflect the reality of women in a particular society and which can be used to exclude women from participating in the political process.
37. As was the case in the 18 August Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the concerned Liberian parties, the criteria for selection of judges and magistrates should be gender-sensitive and should contain specific provisions for the appointment of women judges or make provisions for training and raising awareness of gender specific issues among male judges. These criteria should also anticipate training and raising awareness of gender-specific concerns amongst legal practitioners, police and military personnel. Particular attention should be given to handling victims who are already traumatized by conflict. This could include setting up legal clinics to advise women about their legal rights, Gender Units in police stations to handle cases of rape victims, prosecuting perpetrators of such crimes and reviving positive traditional methods of conflict resolution and reconciliation.
38. Peace agreements should also provide for the inclusion of women in decision-making regarding the composition and functioning of transitional justice mechanisms such as Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. In addition, women should be given guarantees to air their views and experiences freely before transitional justice mechanisms, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Special Court.
Constitutional and legal systems - Human rights
39. Provisions in peace agreements for constitutional and legal system reforms should aim at removing all discriminatory impediments to women’s participation in all aspects of the governance of the country, including development of legal, judicial and constitutional instruments, participation of women in the electoral process; access to education; protection of human rights of women; development of a legal framework to address some of the particular crimes experienced by women and girls in armed conflicts such as rape, enforced prostitution, trafficking and enslavement, all criminal offences which are defined as war crimes and crimes against humanity. In this connection, women should be fully involved in the drafting of Constitutional and other laws.
40. Human rights provisions in peace agreements should include the following references with regard to gender mainstreaming:
41. Human rights provisions in peace agreements should also include:
Follow-up to the implementation of the peace agreements
42. In order to facilitate/guarantee the effective implementation of the provisions for mainstreaming a gender perspective in the peace agreements, the follow-up/monitoring for the implementation of the agreements should comprise an agreed number of women representatives. Provision should also be made to facilitate partnership between the signatories and the international community in the execution of training, sensitization and other programmes designed to promote gender equality and facilitate women’s participation in the post-conflict peace process.
43. The holding of this important meeting represents in itself an ambitious but concrete step towards developing a model for peace agreements. This challenging exercise will require a great amount of imagination to formulate implementable recommendations, drawing both from the progress achieved in the advancement of women and from good practices observed in this regard.
I look forward to a very productive and successful meeting.