INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE: “From Fragility to Empowerment: 20 years of Women, Peace and Security Agenda”, online, organized by RWLSEE and UN Women supported by Swedish Government
‘GENDER EQUALITY IN DECISION MAKING IS A STRATEGIC DIRECTION TOWARDS A BETTER WORLD’
(On December 15, 2020) The Regional Women’s Lobby in South East Europe (RWLSEE) together with the UN Women and with the support from the Swedish Government organized the International Conference on the occasion of 20th anniversary of adoption of the landmark UNSRC 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security Agenda and, in the context of global pandemics COVID-19.
The International Conference, titled “From Fragility to Empowerment: 20 years of Women, Peace and Security Agenda” provided a platform for discussion and sharing ideas from women of diverse backgrounds across the borders and international advocates and experts in search for new strategies and pathways for accelerating the implementation of WPS agenda and overall gender equality. The international conference was an opportunity to reflect on the past and discuss the future of gender equality. While recognizing today’s achievements, it looked specifically for new ideas and strategies that will shorten the road to gender equality, peace, stability, reconciliation and European and Euro-Atlantic future of the Western Balkans countries and entire region. Main concerns related to unsustainability and fragility of peacebuilding and democracy building in the Western Balkans as a post-conflict setting, which severely constrained the progress of gender equality and effective implementation of WPS agenda in all seven focus countries of the RWLSEE. It was also highlighted how this global pandemic worsened gender inequality and weakened the process of women’s empowerment in the region and worldwide.
The International Conference was opened by the Chair of RWLSEE, Dr. Edita Tahiri, Aliya El Yassir,
Director of the UN Women ECA, Karin Hernmarck Ahliny, Ambassador, Embassy of Sweden in Kosovo, Christoffer Orre, Desk Officer at European Union Department, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Sweden, who welcomed the participants and assessed this conference as a historic event to celebrate achievements and reflect on the past and future of the gender equality agenda and peacebuilding in the Western Balkans and beyond.
In her speech, Edita Tahiri sated “I think of the WPS Agenda and the context of our region that has come out of the wars and, I can say that the fragility of peace building agenda in the Balkans limits women’s empowerment and gender equality. However, this is not the only limiting factor, we have problems with governance, with corruption, unfinished peace, geopolitical tensions, we have increased autocracy and underestimation of liberal values, which in general comprise a group of factors that hamper women’s empowerment and gender equality. And I didn’t mention traditional barriers involving culture and other types which continue nowadays. So, we need to promote peace in a broader meaning which goes beyond the peace as ending violence. We must have peace that includes human needs, human security and there is ‘women factor’ who is much more focused in these types of peace and that is why we should gender peace and security with having women equally at the decision making. This is why gender equality in decision making is and should be considered a strategic direction towards a better world”. She said that RWLSEE and its members played a crucial role in helping peacebuilding and democracy building, including post-conflict reconstruction, healing wounds of tragic wars, transitional justice and reconciliation. Our major focus was in empowering women in politics, decision making and formal peace processes because we believe that women’s voice and political power is a crucial condition for ensuring durable peace and development agendas as well as for achieving gender inclusive policy change and outcome, that benefits both women and peace. Through regional cooperation of women leaders in politics and civil society we succeeded to contribute in advancing the WPS agenda and influenced in shaping policies on gender equality and peacebuilding in countries and entire region. We adopted “WPS and Justice” agenda to ensure transitional justice serving post-war reparations and reconciliation with special focus on redressing and seeking international justice to women victims of rape during wars in Balkan, and for perpetrators to not go unpunished. Our approach to peace is from the perspective of sustainability thus we have been focusing in addressing socioeconomic needs of citizens through localizing peacebuilding and providing inter-ethic dialogue platforms for trust-building and reconciliation. Our work on advancing WPS agenda was part of overall efforts of all relevant actors in the region, and we are proud of our contribution in this joint work, said Tahiri.
Aliya El Yassir, Director of the UN Women ECA, expressed her pleasure to be part of this important conference and, in her highly inspiring speech, among others, she said “I really wished to meet you in person, instead of sitting in different rooms. Let me first start by congratulating the Regional Women’s Lobby for this important event on the 20th anniversary of UNSCR 1325. As you know, UN Women and myself remain proud supporter of these initiatives. We very much support as what you are doing at local level and regional level. Lobby’s efforts and actions transcends national boundaries and brings people/women’s empowerment in peace and security processes, even during these times of ongoing global pandemics COVID-19. Regional Women’s Lobby is a powerful tool towards moving from gender inequality to gender justice, from conflict and violence to peace, and is critical to building prosperous and stable and democratic societies. The RWLSEE offers us an excellent example of regional cooperation among women who have demonstrated commitments and collaboration at the highest level. And the experience of RWLSEE during the last fourteen years, is really at the heart of WPS Agenda. Today, on the 20th anniversary of UNSCR1325, we can all agree that despite the progress, that was achieved a lot more remains to be done. And, despite the fact that peace processes involving women have been recognized as key to lasting peace we do see that women are still excluded systematically from these processes.
Karin Hernmarck Ahliny, Ambassador, Embassy of Sweden in Kosovo, in her speech stated “First of all, I am very pleased and proud that we are such strong partners with RWLSEE, that I think is a very powerful instrument to WPS Agenda. It is sometimes very hard and tragic to remind people about the very fundamentals and obligations about WPS Agenda and to see the results when women are included in peace processes. We are still not there unfortunately; we still need to do the teaching and explain why it is important. Women need to be part of the delegation to peace talks, not only as secondary or tertiary as you said Edita but actually at the table. Those peace negotiations need to be informed by gender perspective so the whole population is considered. We must have the knowledge when we as international actors come to deal with conflict situation when conducting peace negotiations, including gender analysis, consultation with women organizations, to get again the full picture. Security assessments on the ground must also address the security of women including sexual violence, otherwise you have too much of blinding spots. There will not be a good peace agreement without women participation. Women are not the icing on the cake. They are fundamental ingredient in the cake. Christoffer Orre, Swedish Foreign Ministry, said in his speech “First of all, I would like to thank RWLSEE for this event and thank all the participants for taking the time to discuss all these issues. I will take the opportunity to say a few words about the cooperation between Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Regional Women’s Lobby. We support RWLSEE and highly appreciate impressive persistence of the RWLSEE in its work. The agenda of women peace and security is a top priority for Sweden and for our feminist foreign policy. And the partnership that is between regional women’s lobby, UN Women and Swedish Foreign Ministry, apart from that priority, this is the fourth phase of the “Women’s empowerment participation in an contribution to peace and security processes in Western Balkans, that Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs is supporting financially RWLSEE, in order to advance WPS agenda regionally. What we can see now after the challenges of women’s participation during the COVID-19 pandemics, it is important that this work would continue through activities for capacity building that RWLSEE is organizing and events like this today are very important tool to help societies that are seeking women’s full participation and gender inclusive peacebuilding. I would like to wish all participants and organizer best of luck since you work is a resource and I hope that you will have Swedish support towards WPS agenda. I am very happy that you see our work as a sustainability for your organization, and for strengthening the regional cooperation, I am mentioning regional cooperation as it is very needed to be promoted globally and that the lobby could serve as an example for such organization. We would like to share experiences and practices and, in the future to continue not only to share knowledge but also dialogue, opportunity to reconciliate and an opportunity to continue towards common objectives, while tragic past could build a sustainable peace.
The Conference proceeded further with its agenda, whit the panel of international experts including Flora Macula, Head, UN Women in Bangladesh, Mavic Cabrera Balleza, Chief Executive Officer, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, New York, US, Valeria Vilardo, Regional Gender Responsive Resilience and Recovery Specialist, Peace, Security and Humanitarian Department, UN Women, Julia Kharashvili, Chairperson, IDP Women Association “Consent” and Member of High Level Advisory Group on UNSC
Resolution 1325, Georgia. They shared their views, expertise and ideas regarding the progress of WPS agenda in 20 years, while emphasizing barriers and highlighting opportunities to move forward towards the full and effective implementation of the UNSCR 1325 and achieving gender equality.
The RWLSEE Steering Committee members presented the country reports on 20 years of the implementation of the UNSCR 1325 on WPS agenda including the recommendations on way forward, for each of seven focus countries of the RWLSEE. The country reports were presented by Eglantina Gjermeni for Albania, Gordana Sobol for Croatia, Memnuna Zvizdic for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Luljeta Vuniqi for Kosovo, Nada Drobnjak for Montenegro, Irina Pockova for North Macedonia and Sonja Biserko for Serbia.
Following the presentations of country reports, the conference continued with ‘open debate’ giving the opportunity to all members of the RWLSEE other participants including politicians, parliamentarians, and government officials from the region to contribute to the topic of this historic conference. In their interventions, participants offered many interesting and forward-looking ideas as how to strategize and build plans on speeding up the full implementation of WPS agenda and gender equality in general, and how to strengthen peacebuilding and European and Euro-Atlantic integrations in the region of the Western Balkans. They also reflected on the current COVID-19 responses and, challenges experienced by women and identified opportunities towards a more gender-sensitive COVID-19 recovery process.
In the concluding remarks, the RWLSEE Chair Edita Tahiri, expressed appreciation to all participants for their remarkable contribution in this historic conference and for their innovative ideas for way forward. She expressed special gratitude to the international partners of RWLSEE, to UN Women, Swedish
Government, UN Women Kosovo and its director Vlora Tuzi Nushi for being strategic supporters of RWLSEE. She also thanked Diana Cekaj-Berisha, Program Coordinator, Nita Bakalli, Project Assistant, the company PC Lingua and interpreters for their outstanding work and support.
She informed participants that the results of this International Conference will be presented in the three documents: (1) RWLSEE publication – the Report on 20 years of 1325 and WPS agenda in the Western Balkans, which will include regional report, seven country reports and, recommendations (2) Document on Regional Conclusions and Recommendations and, (3) Publication on the Conference Proceedings and speeches of participants.
The International Conference brought together broader list of participants, as women leaders in politics and civil society, parliaments, governments, local governments, national and international experts and advocates on gender equality and women’s empowerment, RWLSEE Steering Committee and all members from the RWLSEE focus countries, representatives of UN Women, Swedish Government and Embassy of Sweden in Kosovo other UN agencies and international organizations
RWLSEE is a unique regional women peacebuilding organization founded in 2006. Our mission is to empower women and promote gender equality in politics, decision making and peacebuilding and formal peace processes and to promote peace, stability and European and Euro-Atlantic integration of the all six countries of Western Balkans. RWLSEE holds that more women represented in the relevant peace and political processes brings better and more sustainable results. Its membership are high profile women from politics, parliaments, governments and civil society from seven-member countries Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia.
REGIONAL WOMEN’S LOBBY IN SOUTH EAST EUROPE (RWLSEE) www.rwlsee.org
EDITA TAHIRI, RWLSEE Chair
DIANA ÇEKAJ-BERISHA, RWLSEE Coordinator
Contact: +383 44 124 466
Office Address: UN Women Office in Kosovo
Hyzri Talla Str. 26/1, 10000 Prishtina, Kosovo
Contact: +383 38 554 645 / 651 / 654