Declarations and Recommendations

Edita Tahiri, RWLSEE Chair

International Conference, Istanbul, Turkey, 16 November 2018

Women politicians, members of parliaments, diplomats and civil society representatives from across the Western Balkans together with UN Women, made a strong call for women’s equal participation in peace and security processes.

The conference held in Istanbul on 16 November 2018, highlighted the underrepresentation of women in peacebuilding and democratic governance in the Balkans. Women shared their visions, experiences, challenges, and successes and agreed on common goals. They identified obstacles hindering the peacebuilding processes and reconciliation, while agreeing to withstand them.

Attendees expressed concerns about current security challenges in the region and called for urgent response.

Participants agreed that peace, stability and EU integration is needed to prevent these negative trends gain ground. Women from countries such as Croatia, Kosova, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia members of the RWLSEE and women parliamentarians emphasized that it is crucial to move beyond commitments and make gender-inclusive peace processes a reality.

The conference provided a platform for dialogue among women parliamentarians from Kosovo and Serbia to exchange views on the final phase of the Brussels dialogue. Parliamentarians called for the inclusion of women in the negotiating table, while emphasizing that the final agreement between Kosovo and Serbia should be the one that ensures stable peace in the region.

Local peacebuilding through the empowerment of women, was considered as critical for the consolidation of peace and prosperity, hence participants reaffirmed their commitment to continue to work for bottom-up peacebuilding. Regional cooperation of women is the driving force behind local peacebuilding, reconciliation, development and European integration.

The conference also addressed the relevance of Access to Justice for women and Transitional Justice with a focus on women survivors of conflict Related Sexual Violence (CRSV) stating that for durable peace International Justice should be put in place and perpetrators be punished. Access to Justice for Survivors of CRSV is an urgent priority for women all over the Balkans. RWLSEE is helping forge a unified path toward justice and empowerment.

Women diplomats attending the conference, were congratulated for the tireless efforts and dedication to advance gender equality and to push for a future in which women and men will stand side by side to achieve and preserve stability and peace. They were encouraged to stay in course and continue the noble and peacebuilding mission.

All urged for the effective implementation of UN resolutions on Women, Peace and Security.

The conference was organized by the RWLSEE and UN Women with generous support from the Swedish Government and UN Agencies in Kosovo.

Following a very rich, constructive and forward looking debate, participants agreed on the following declaration:


1. Meaningful Participation of Women in Peacebuilding in Western Balkans
  • Peace in Western Balkans region does not seem sustainable, not only because there are still some interethnic tensions and pending bilateral issues but also because there are new challenges of international character including geopolitical ambitions, immigration fluxes or violent extremism, which does not allow to consolidate the previous achievements towards peace
  • Balkans remain faced with an unfinished peace, fragile democracy, fragile security, corruption, unemployment. The issue of brain drain is affecting the entire region, which is a loss of capacities making it difficult to plan and work for development and prosperity. Inequalities continue in many respects and especially worrisome is gender inequality. Moreover, delays in European and Euro-Atlantic integration of all six Western Balkan countries have put the region in crossroad.
  • We are inspired by the Peace agreement between Macedonia and Greece on the name dispute, which is a significant step forward for peace and stability in the region and the European future
  • We are looking forward to finalizing the Peace Agreement between Kosovo and Serbia under the EU facilitation and US support, which would be a key contribution for peace and stability in Balkans and Europe.
  • We consider that more women in decision-making, peacebuilding and negotiating tables can result in more peace, stability and prosperity. We urge that women should play a key role in the process of deciding on peace and implementing peace and ensuring that peace is sustainable. The time has come to bring ourselves to the forefront where big decisions are being made.
  • The dramatic underrepresentation in peace making, peace negotiations and in peacebuilding cannot be tolerated any longer. A striking statistic that 2% of women currently serve as mediators, so many years after the adoption of the resolution 1325, speaks for itself.
  • We consider that logic and democratic reason call for women at the peace table or in any place in life, however these are not translated into reality. The striking absence of women from formal peace negotiations reveals a troubling gap between the aspirations and the reality of peace processes. Therefore, we call for this reality to change in favor of gender balance, it’s time to move from papers and commitments into actions.
  • We call on women to take up the leadership role in leading the changes for better future in the region and beyond. The contribution of women to make changes from war to peace in the Balkans is increasingly recognized. These women are leaders and activists, while their work demonstrates leadership for the entire region, and serves as an example to learn from.
  • We strongly call for women’s meaningful participation in decision-making, inclusion in all mediation and peacebuilding processes, as well as the inclusion of the women’s vision and particularly the needs of women into peacebuilding processes all levels of the process.
  • Women are represented in parliament to an extent, but not at the governmental level. We call on women to engage much more in a classic power struggle to achieve gender power balance, which requires to be fought from within parties.
  • Aware of the lack of sufficient democratization of political parties or a different set of values between men and women and aware that the Balkans women face challenges when it comes to decision-making because the general landscape is that men fight the war but also make the peace negotiations, we call for increased inclusion of women in political parties and call for more ethics in governance and visa-vie the gender balance.
  • On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Resolutions 1325 and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform, impetus and readiness of governments should be demonstrated while their political will should be put in action for significant advancement of gender equality and comprehensive empowerment of women. International and regional organizations should respond more effectively towards these goals, as words and commitments are not enough.
  • RWLSEE and women members of parliament in the region in joint cooperation are investing significantly for a better and peaceful future of our countries and the entire region. It has shown incredible capacities of women’s leadership, but we call on more support for women, given that they are strategic assets for more development, democracy and peace.
2. Women in peace negotiating table, Brussels dialogue and, role of women
  • The Balkan region has been left behind in terms of inclusion of women in peace negotiating tables despite the history of wars and conflicts in last decade of the 20th century. In the five international peace processes which ended wars in the Western Balkans in the past 30 years, there was only one women in international negotiation table, who is the RWLSEE Chair.
  • Having in mind that the Brussels Dialogue on normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, facilitated by the EU, is entering the final stage, we call on both parties for meaningful participation of women in negotiating table, as a democratic and right thing to do, while urging for gender responsive peace agreements.
  • We support the Brussels Dialogue and call for the final agreement between Kosovo and Serbia to bring lasting peace and stability in the region, closing the chapter of hostilities and opening the chapter of peace. The new generations of both countries should be released of the burden of the past, and be free to build their own futures.
  • RWLSEE as a supporter and promoter of the dialogue, and in particular of the Brussels dialogue will continue to play a role in the inclusion of women at all levels of this peace process, while emphasizing that sustainable peace comes from the engagement in both formal and informal peace processes, in all stages of reaching and implementing the agreement.
  • We consider that peace is to be built on different levels, going beyond the high-level politics but including ordinary citizens at the community level. Empathy as much as reinforcement and encouraging each other as women is crucial. Women should be more included in the peace deals, as they are the pillars of the household and they understand peace and need to put this into function in the process.
  • We call for more support for enhanced mutual trust building through interethnic dialogue and interaction between women politicians/parliamentarians from Kosovo and Serbia organized by the RWLSEE, considering they will be beneficial for progress in the EU facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia (Brussels Dialogue), implementation of the Brussels Agreement and EU Integration processes; while easing tensions and improving neighbourly relations between the two countries.
  • We call on women to be louder and be actors of change, in order to be heard and included in the talks and dialogues. This should be done in order for high political level politicians not to forget or ignore the life of ordinary people and women in particular.
3. Regional cooperation in support Local Peacebuilding
  • We consider that for sustainable peacebuilding it is critical to develop effective local peace-building, which can be successful only when it comes from within and is driven from the people themselves, adopting a bottom up approach.
  • Putting forward the Women, Peace and Security agenda (WPS) and a regional approach in support of local peacebuilding based on experience sharing regionally in post-conflict setting, carried out by the RWLSEE in cooperation with women parliamentarians, presents a unique strategy to promote peace, stability and sustainable development in the Western Balkans. Therefore, it must be supported by international donors and national governments.
  • The RWLSEE plays a key role in providing a platform to amplify some of the concerns that have been brought forward by local women from different communities in these consultations at the local level and to make some of these issues better known. RWLSEE local peacebuilding initiatives so far have been successfully carried out by support of Swedish Government, in ten multi-ethnic municipalities in Kosovo. The RWLSEE plans to include Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia in the future. We support the plans for expanding the geography of such activities throughout the region of Western Balkans because it is a right momentum to focus on building peace from bottom up.
  • Enhanced understanding on linking the regional, national and local peacebuilding efforts with wider, more political (track 1) initiatives/peace processes is as essential as multilevel and diverse backgrounds including arts/journalism/academia/business as it goes beyond the political level aspects of achieving peace. In this context, ideas on building bridges and using bridges will be the center of our focus. RWLSEE and women parliamentarians will build on the ideas implemented by artists in Mitrovica Bridge, so to make progress including the Mostar Bridge. Communities are living next to each other, we will work for them to live with each other.
  • RWLSEE in the forthcoming period will focus on empowering women for local mediation in support of local peacebuilding, which is a crucial component of the overall peacebuilding process. Women play a role as local mediators in daily peacebuilding, however capacity building trainings will help them improve their performance by learning from theory and best practices in this area. Local mediation by women presents a kind of second track diplomacy which helps conflict resolution, peacebuilding and reconciliation horizontally; namely peacebuilding at grassroot levels – “the bottom up” approach of peacebuilding.
4. Access to Justice for women in Western Balkans
  • Having in mind that women continue to be discriminated in access to justice and especially transitional justice, we urge on all actors, national, regional and international to do much more in this direction, because that is one of the pillars of achieving sustainable peace in the Balkans.
  • Access to justice is a basic human right prescribed by numerous UN human rights instruments, also in the chapter of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, it primarily needs to be implemented on a state level, hence, states have the responsibility and obligation to secure that this right is included in constitutions and guarantee access to justice as a fundamental right. Each individual should have access to court institutions and protection from any sort of violence, or injury.
  • While acknowledging many advances in the international criminal justice, we are deeply concerned with many setbacks. This particularly relates with crimes of sexual violence in conflict times, which mostly remains a hidden tragedy. Justice is served when crimes are named precisely, and criminal perpetrators are punished so that the world knows the unique nature of the harm that is inflicted when sexual violence is committed in conflicts. We strongly call for greater commitment and willingness by international and state authorities to address it properly.
  • We urge the international community, primarily the UN, to address the question of international justice to conflict related survivors of violence (CRSV) in Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo and Croatia in times of war between 1991-1999, because this crime against humanity must not remain hidden but on contrary must be put to light for the victims to feel justice while the criminals to not remain unpunished. RWLSEE demanded the UN Secretary General take up on this issue in a letter sent last years and will continue to demand until justice is established to women survivors of sexual violence during war times in our region.
  • Transitional Justice is directly linked to peace and reconciliation in the region of South Eastern Europe, it also is built on mutual respect for each other, mutual dialogue and cooperation, hence, the RWLSEE will remain committed to work for it so that our voice is heard in order to implement the UNSC Resolution 1325 and other consequent ones.
  • We will work hardly to eradicate stigma surrounding CRSV, which is not organic and it does not grow organically from the survivor, but it is imposed by the community, family and legal system. Survivors must be protected legally and socially and not adapt to the legal system, we consider that it is the responsibility of the legal system to adapt and to make sure that the survivors are empowered through their participation in the justice process and social reintegration.
  • We call on gender inclusive and gender sensitive justice systems, nationally, regionally and internationally. The current field of legal practice is so heavily male-dominated, time has come for changes in favor of gender equality in justice.
  • We, the RWLSEE and women parliamentarians, renew our commitments to empower women to play a key role in sustainable peace, development, reconciliation, justice, security processes and for European and Euro-Atlantic future of all countries in the Western Balkans. Women are currently in the fighting phase, and we will win, as it is the only right thing that makes sense in democracy. Time has gone for one gender decision making for the future, because such decisions tackle the lives of all of us, entire society and both genders.

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