Women tell UN to give them a seat at peace table

UNITED NATIONS - Two women from war-torn countries have chastised the United Nations for failing to back up its commitment to involve more women in peace efforts with action.
The rebuke came as the UN Security Council adopted a revamped version of a 15-year-old resolution that highlights the role of women in peacemaking and calls for measures to increase their participation. “Women are the first victims of war, but they hold the key to peace,” Julienne Lusenge, who heads a coalition of women’s organizations in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, told the 15-member council. “There will never be lasting peace without the participation of women,” she said during a special debate on women, peace and security. Lusenge said women from North Kivu province had asked to take part in peace talks with M23 rebels in 2013 but were told that there were only two sides to the conflict: the government and the rebels. “You need to take up arms to be at the peace table,” she said.
A review of progress made since the resolution’s adoption showed that between 1999 and 2010, only 11 percent of peace agreements reached in the world mentioned women or gender issues.
That figure has since climbed, but very few women have taken part in negotiating peace accords, according to UN Women.
That holds true in Libya, where the United Nations is leading an effort to form a unity government to pull the country out of the chaos that followed the 2011 fall of Moamer Kadhafi.
Alaa Murabit, a woman’s rights activist in Libya, said the United Nations and member-states continue to “ignore the one tool that has never been more urgent for us to utilize: the participation of women.”
In 2011, Murabit formed an organization, The Voice of Libyan Women, which has been advocating against violence and extremism.
“As men vied for power or property, it was women who began to piece the country back together,” she told the council.
One example of more gender-balanced peacemaking is Colombia, where a recent peace deal negotiated with women in some key roles includes a no-amnesty clause for sexual violence crimes.
Murabit praised the Colombian example, arguing that bringing women to the negotiating table “humanized the war”.
US Ambassador Samantha Power suggested that giving women a more prominent role in UN peacekeeping could help forge relations with communities and improve one of the missions’ core tasks, the protection of civilians.
Currently, 97 percent of UN peacekeepers are men, and there is only one woman serving as a force commander out of the 16 missions worldwide: Major General Kirstin Lund in Cyprus.

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