Press Release: Building sustainable peace: Importance of gender inclusive peacemaking – Regional Dialogue Conference on 9 December 2021, Thessaloniki, Greece


(Thessaloniki, Greece December 9, 2021) The Regional Women’s Lobby in South East Europe (RWLSEE) with support of UN Women and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden held the Regional Dialogue Conference“Building Sustainable Peace: Importance of Gender Inclusive Peacemaking” on 9 December 2021 in Thessaloniki, Greece.

The Regional dialogue conference served as a track two peace process, providing a dialogue space for women politicians and parliamentarians from Kosovo and Serbia and entire region, which is going on for 10 years. The Conference looked at the gender perspectives in formal peace processes and peacebuilding. The special focus was given on gender perspectives of the anticipated final agreement expected to be reached in the EU facilitated dialogue on normalization of neighbourly relations between Kosovo and Serbia (Brussels Agreement). Participants discussed on this important topic pointing out that peace dialogue has no alternative and called for speeding up the negotiations to reach the final agreement, considering it as a key contribution for lasting peace in the region.

The dialogue and exchange of views between women parliamentarians of both countries was developed in a highly tolerant and constructive spirit, where women emphasized that the Brussels Dialogue should be finalized as soon as possible, in order for government of both countries seize using ‘nationalism’ card as cover for their failures in good governance, and start working for the benefit and wellbeing of their citizens and countries.

Participants also focused on gender equality and equal role of women in track one peace processes, while calling for their vision should be fully integrated in the peace agreements and implementation. In this context, they examined and discussed the following topics: gender inclusive processes and sustainable just outcomes, ensuring gender inclusivity in formal peace processes, implementation and peacebuilding, gender inclusive provisions in peace agreements, best practices of gender inclusive peace agreement as a model to be followed for the anticipated final Brussels agreement between Kosovo and Serbia.

Participants from all seven focus countries of RWLSEE and international participants came up with recommendations that aim at changing unfavourable reality in this area, namely the absence of gender provisions in all previous peace agreements reached in the Western Balkans, in a period of more than 25 years and dramatic underrepresentation in peace negotiating tables. Women leaders, politicians, parliamentarians and civil society leaders expressed joint commitments to working hard for changes that ensure full and meaningful participation of women in track one peace processes and gender inclusive peace agreements.

In the second part, the Conference worked in a breakaway session, through three working groups which prepared recommendation on respective topics: gender inclusive participation in formal peace processes, gender inclusive provisions for anticipated final Brussels Agreement, and gender inclusive monitoring, evaluation and accountability. The Working Groups presented their findings and recommendation at the end, which will be included in the final document to be prepared by the RWLSEE and submitted to the Brussels Dialogue authorities.  

This RWLSEE’ event is part of the Swedish Government supported longer-term initiative aiming to support peace-building efforts in Kosovo and the entire region of Western Balkans and contributes to promoting the UNSC Resolution 1325 and WPS agenda regionally in the Western Balkans.

The results of this Conference contribute to the first phase of implementation of the RWLSEE project titled “ Guide Book on Gender Inclusive Peacemaking” which aims to provide a knowledge base to future women peace negotiators and mediators, and is part of commitment making by the RWLSEE to the WPS-HA Compact of the Paris Forum on Generation Equality, to which the RWLSEE is a signatory partner. The RWLSEE remains committed to follow up with other phases of this project which was discussed thoroughly with the Deputy Director of the UN Women ECA, Blerta Cela, who participated in this conference and offered support for it.

The Conference was opened by key note speeches of Edita Tahiri, RWLSEE Chair, Blerta Cela, Deputy Director of UN Women Europe and Central Asia and Ulrika Richardson, UN Resident Coordinator in Kosovo.

Edita Tahiri, RWLSEE Chair, opened the Conference by reminding that during the last twenty-five years women remained largely underrepresented in formal peace processes and that only a few numbers of peace agreements succeeded to have gender inclusive provisions. She spoke how in the region of Western Balkans, despite women’s major role in liberation processes and peacemaking efforts of ending wars and conflicts, the participation of women in peace processes was minimal, as out of ten peace agreements, in war and peace times between 1991 to 2020 there has been: one woman in international peace negotiations from Kosovo (herself Edita Tahiri) and one woman in internal peace negotiations, from Croatia (Vesna Skare Ozbolt). As this is no more tolerant, she called for continued efforts to equally include women in formal peace processes as a matter of democracy, as matter of inclusivity in diversity and as a matter of equality in decision-making. She said that there is credible evidence that when women are at negotiating tables the outcomes are more sustainable, because the peace agreements are more inclusive to the needs of citizens not only to states. Therefore, the Regional Dialogue Conference this year will aim to provide gender provisions on peace agreements from the Balkan women perspective that will be submitted to the Brussel Dialogue authorities, to the EU, US, Kosovo and Serbia.

Blerta Çela, Deputy Regional Director of UN Women ECA, greeted the participants and congratulated RWLSEE on this important Conference while said she is privileged to be part of the ongoing efforts to advance women’s participation in peace processes, security, regional cooperation and sustainable development. Cela said that she is committed to work with lobby and engage to bring more partners around the table and especially to Brussel’s platform, and other initiatives so as to include women and their voices. She reminded that the UNSC Resolution 1325 achieved some progress however is not where should be, due to limited funding of women’s organization globally and particularly the Covid-19 pandemics that has exacerbated the challenges. She further stated how UN Women highly appreciates the crucial role that women played in peace processes, building stability and prosperity and that they will continue to support RWLSEE and strengthen women’s regional initiatives and particularly such platforms that provide regionally mediated dialogue between women MPs from Kosovo and Serbia “ I believe in power of network, and this is an opportunity to focus in these areas as commitments have been made through resolutions  and it is critical to join in various peace process within the countries and working regionally”. Lastly, she thanked Sweden for contributing and financing this event.

Ulrika Richardson, UN Development Coordinator in Kosovo, emphasized the need to ensure gender inclusive peacemaking through discussion platforms between MP’s as elected persons to advocate, work and influence decisions. She appraised the work of Lobby and particularly the Regional Dialogue that contributes to track two peace process while encouraging the discussion between women politicians and parliamentarians from Kosovo and Serbia and developing a platform of regional dialogue in support of the Brussels Dialogue, that is crucial to peace and stability in the region. Richardson lastly said amplifying women’s voices at national and regional level while ensuring gender inclusive peace agreements, at this stage are essential to both the success of peace efforts, and in shaping policymaking and peace agreements in ways that better reflects stability of the region and sustainable development.

The Conference provided dialogue for peace, between politicians and parliamentarians from Kosovo and Serbia in efforts of trust-building and reconciliation. MPs from Kosovo and Serbia that were present on this Conference: Hykmete Bajrami, Natasha Mihajlovic, Time Kadriaj, Olena Papuga, Xhevahire Izmaku, Katarina Strbac discussed topics on women’s perspectives on the importance of finalization of the ongoing Brussels Dialogue and regional cooperation as a key to track two peace process.

Furthermore, participants discussed topics on gender inclusive peace processes and sustainable just outcomes; ensuring gender inclusivity in formal peace processes; gender inclusive provisions in peace agreements and best practices to be followed for the anticipated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. The moderators and speakers were: Vlora Tuzi Nushi, Nada Drobjak, Elona Gjebrea, Nada Golubovic, Isabela Kisic, Edlira Qepani, Memnuna Zvizdic, Irina Pockova, Arjeta Rexhaj.

Lastly participants engaged in a workshop on “Gender perspective on formal peace processes- with the focus on anticipated Brussels Agreement”. The recommendations coming out of the working groups will generate concrete results as well as provide a framework of gender inclusive provisions that will be sent to the EU Special Representative for Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and to the office of both Prime Ministers, Kosovo and Serbia.

This Regional Dialogue Conference brought together women leaders in politics and civil society, MPs from Kosovo and Serbia, and the region of Western Balkans, representatives from governments, RWL SEE Steering Committee and all members from the RWLSEE focus countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia) and international representatives from the UN Women, Embassy of Sweden in Kosovo, other UN Agencies and international organizations.

Participants of the Conference included: Blerta Cela, Deputy director of UN Women ECA, RWLSEE Chair: Edita Tahiri, Ulrika Richardson, UN Development Coordinator in Kosovo, Vlora Tuzi Nushi, Head of UN Women Kosovo,  RWLSEE Steering Commimtte members: Eglantina Gjermeni, Nada Drobnjak, Sonja Biserko, Memnuna Zvizdic, Irina Pockova; from Albania: Mesila Doda, Edlira Cepani, Elona Gjebrea; from Bosnia and Herzegovina: Nada Tesanovic, Nada Golubovic, Dalida Demirovic, from Serbia: Isabela Kisic, Olena Papuga, Katarina Strbac, Vera Didanovic, from Croatia Vesna Skare Ozbolt, Tamara Vukicevic, from Kosovo: Time Kadriaj, Hykmete Bajrami, Luljeta Vuniqi, Xhevahire Izmaku dhe Arjeta Rexha, from Montenegro: Ljubomirka Asovic, Zejka Zvicer, from North Macedonia: Savka Todorovska, Mirjana Davidovska.

Regional Women’s Lobby in Southeast Europe (RWLSEE) continuously advocates for enhanced collaboration among women from the Western Balkans and increased empowerment of women in democratic governance and peace-building processes. In addition, the Confernce was attended by RWLSEE Coordinator Diana Cekaj-Berisha and Executive Assistant Nita Bakalli-Istrefi. 

For further information, please contact Diana Cekaj-Berisha, RWLSEE Coordinator at email: 

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