Regional consultation on:
Enhancing Women’s Participation in Peace-building
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
23-25 April 2001

Statement by

Ms. Yakin Ertürk

Division for the Advancement of Women
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
United Nations

Distinguished guests,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to the regional consultation that addresses the issue of "Enhancing Women’s Participation in Peace-building in Africa".

Her Excellency, Ms. Tadelech Haile-Michael Minister for Women’s Affairs of Ethiopia, has honoured us with her presence and opening statement. I am most grateful for her support and sincere commitment to women’s advancement and equality.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to Mr. Amaoko,the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, for hosting this meeting in Addis Ababa. My special thanks goes to Ms. Josephine Ouedraogo, Director of the African Center for Women and her team who have worked closely with us at all stages of preparations. Without their hard work and support this meeting would not have been possible. I would also like to thank Mr. Sam Ibok, Director of the Political Affairs Department of the Organization of African Unity and Ms. Diop of the African Women’s Committee on Peace and Development for their support and collaboration.

Finally, the participation of DPA, DPKO and so many distinguished representatives of other international organizations, governments as well as non-governmental organizations at this consultation is most welcomed as their contributions will be invaluable in building a solid foundation for the current project, initiated by the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), that aims to strengthen women’s capacity to effectively participate in peace initiatives in Africa.

Our common interest in achieving sustainable peace not only in the region but the world at large is a goal which is well grounded in the founding principles of the United Nations. On 26 June 1945, the Charter of the United Nations was singed to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women, and of nations large and small, and to promote social progress and better standards of life …".

More than half a century has passed since the sighning of the Charter and yet the ideal contained in its principles is far from being realized. While the global transformations of the past two decades have offered opportunities towards ending some of the long lasting conflicts of the world, particularly those experienced through the cold war era, at the same time, new areas and forms of conflict, involving new actors have emerged giving way to what could be called ‘hot peace’ all over the world. As a result, more civilians have become victims of dispersed violence, including armed conflict and sysmatically targeted by state forces or militia groups. Women and children are the most severely affected by consequences of armed conflicts, which often result in displacement, loss of home and property, family fragmentation, exposure to severe violence and poverty.

Although most of the conflicts encountered today are deep rooted in history, their new forms of manifestation are very much linked to conditions and forces of globalization. The process of globalization is charaterized by equally strong but divergent trends : universalizing global markets and parochial ethnicity. Both of these trends embody an inherent danger of socio-cultural fragmentation and conflict at every level of social reality. A salient consequence of the globalizing world has been an increase in poverty in a world of plenty. Inequality and growing disparity among countries, the poor and the affluent and women and men are, no doubt, the fundamental factors that underly the increased discontent of the peoples of the world and the often violent manifestations of this discontent within and between national states. The promise for a global community based on equality, development and peace appear to be out of reach for the majority of the world’s population.

The implications of these conflict wridden trends are particularly alarming for women as they are often drawn directly into the domain of conflict as targets and even as actors. There are all too many examples of otrocities committed against women in recent conflicts in both inter as well as intra-group confrontations and examples of ‘heroic’ women who have been actively involved in the struggles of their people are also all too common. The experiences of the 20th Century, whether in national liberation movements or intra-group conflicts, have shown that situations of conflict are paradoxical for women’s status. Women may become empowered through the involvement in non-domestic and non-traditional spheres of activity in times of conflict, however, the need to support the wider cause of the group often reinforces structures and values of patriarchal power. In the process, women’s quest for equality becomes belittled and deferred to some undefined time in the future.

In short, the changing nature of conflict, which has moved from the frontlines to all levels of social existence and which has brought on to the scene of combat non-state actors, involves new risks as well as new opportunities for women and for gender relations. Growing visibility of women being drawn into conflict as targets or actors and more importantly, the global women’s movement and numerious women’s groups which addressed the root causes of inequality and worked together to eliminate discrimination and violence against women, have raised new awareness and interest in women’s role in conflict resolution and peace-building. Women’s groups in various conflict zones have for long been engaged in efforts to produce alternative approaches to overcome and manage conflict and build sustainable peace. The recent progress achieved at the international level in the recognition and acknowledgement of women’s role in peace initiatives is largely a consequence of the tireless effors of women around the world.

We need to learn from women’s actual peace-building activities so that we may be able to develop and extend, through the current project, activities that have the potential to enhance women’s peacebuilding capacities. This meeting provides an excellent opportunity to exchange views and experiences in this regard. I am confident that your deliberations in the next few days will contribute towards expanding our understanding of the issue, in identfying capacity building needs and provide guidelines for developing effective strategies and methodologies to respond to these needs.

I hope that the consultation will be an enriching experience for you all. I wish you a fruitful meeting.

Thank you !