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Support for women resolving conflict

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Women, Peace and Security Focal Points Network meeting, Boris Johnson, funding, Network of Women Mediators, women from the CommonwealthWomen and girls are disproportionately affected by conflict but are also key to its resolution.

About 150 representatives from UN Member States, regional and international organisations and civil society from around the world met in Berlin, Germany, for the annual capital-level Women, Peace and Security Focal Points Network (WPS-FPN) meeting on 9-10 April 2018.

Initiated by Spain in 2015 during the high-level review of the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 and launched in 2016, the Network serves as a cross-regional forum to exchange experiences and best practices to advance the implementation of the UN agenda on women, peace and security, and to improve coordination of funding and assistance to programmes.

Women are still a minority in all peace processes, representing only 4 per cent of the military component of UN peacekeeping missions, and 10 per cent of the police component.

And despite increases since 2010, the percentage of gender-specific provisions in peace agreements declined in 2016.

Violations against women human rights defenders persist and access of women and girls to justice and security remains hindered.

In addition, harmful gender norms and structural barriers continue to contribute to inequalities and violence.

But women in peacekeeping operations have been found to increase the credibility of forces, gain access to communities and vital information, and lead to an increase in reporting of sexual and gender-based crimes.

The meeting focused on “Building Alliances to Advance the Women, Peace and Security Agenda” deepening the discussion on accountability mechanisms for conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence.

Resources, professionalisation of data collection and evidence finding were highlighted as key to promoting accountability, while comprehensive gender-sensitive conflict analysis and budgeting processes were highlighted as mechanisms which would help ensure the implementation of strategic priorities and appropriate financing for the women, peace and security agenda across sectors.

During the meeting, the participants reflected on the critical need for streamlining the different reporting mechanisms and consultation processes on women, peace and security to foster an enabling environment for accountability by Member States and regional organisations.

At the local level, they advise that specific timelines, aligned indicators, adequate budgets and the active involvement of civil society actors would be key components for any successful national action plans.

The Focal Points agreed on key actions for the Network from the meeting, which are reflected in a joint communiqué and issued as an official document of the UN Security Council.

The UK’s Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, announced on 16 April that he has committed £1.6 million of UK money to support to a Network of Women Mediators who will train women from throughout the Commonwealth in practical skills to play an active role in resolving conflict worldwide.

This aims to put championing girls’ education to promote global stability at the heart of UK foreign policy to positively transform the lives of women and girls in conflict.

Commonwealth women who take part in the programme will then work around the world to help resolve conflict.

They will also support and train up women outside the Commonwealth to enter mediation and peace processes and work with grassroots organisations to empower women mediators – thus amplifying the impact of the UK funding.

It has been more than 17 years since the UN Security Council adopted the first resolution on Women, Peace and Security, in which the international community recognised that women’s participation and influence in peace and reconciliation matters were decisive, both in terms of respecting women’s rights, and in order to ensure operational effectiveness.

However, despite that broad political consensus, women continue to be side-lined in peace processes whether as negotiating or mediating parties.

Despite making up over half of the population, too few women’s voices are heard when peace agreements are being drawn up.

Between 1992 and 2017 only 2 per cent of mediators, and 5 per cent of witnesses and signatories to major peace processes were women.

However, evidence shows that when women are a part of peace agreements they are 35 per cent more likely to last at least 15 years.

Announcing the funding, Johnson said: “Conflict affects whole communities, but the fact is women and girls often bear the brunt. Girls are twice as likely to be out of school as boys, and more likely to experience gender-based violence.

“This year one of my main focuses will be to ensure that girls in the poorest countries in the world receive at least 12 years of quality education because this is the single most powerful spur to development and progress.

“To end wars, build sustainable and lasting peace and create stable societies, women around the world must be able to participate in peace processes.

“[This] £1.6 million will empower women across the Commonwealth to rightfully take their seat at the negotiating table.”

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