Women Take Lead Toward Mideast Peace
WASHINGTON—While it's encouraging that two women—Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni—were key
players in the Annapolis conference last week, the fact that women are
central in the negotiations will only have an impact if the subsequent
talks are structured to maximise women's contributions to the peace
process. Done right, these steering committee meetings could leverage
women's particular talents as peace builders.
Though women generally make up a very small minority of participants in
peace negotiations, there is compelling evidence that they add
particular value. In Guatemala and Northern Ireland, for example, women
successfully advocated for greater attention to key social and economic
concerns in peace accords. Women also have played an important role in
ensuring negotiators are accountable to the general population and that
information about negotiations filters back home. In Liberia, women from
civil society ensured negotiators stayed at the table until talks
concluded with an agreement. In Uganda and Sudan, I work with women to
ensure that locals are updated about ongoing talks so that communities
feel involved and invested in peace.
I have seen first-hand how pragmatic women can be in negotiations. The
Initiative for Inclusive Security facilitates programs in which women
develop common platforms to advocate the end of conflict. Women from the
most divisive conflict areas— Iraq, Colombia, Sudan—never fail to
develop a common agenda. These women are different in more ways than
they are alike; yet they unite around an agenda because they believe
that the shared goals of peace and prosperity take precedence.
Some of the key players in international peace and security already
recognise the importance of women's participation. Secretary Rice, for
example, has consistently endorsed the role of women in peace building.
On International Women's Day this year, she said, "the empowerment of
women is irrevocably tied to the safety, security, and prosperity of the
world. Women are essential agents in bringing about change and are an
often overlooked resource in the preservation of human security, in
overcoming transnational dangers, and in managing threats arising from
tyranny, trafficking, poverty, and disease. Advancing democracy,
prosperity, and security worldwide is not possible without the
empowerment of women."
In the case of Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), it
would be easy to act on that recognition and commitment. Through
Amendment 4 of the Law for Women's Equality, Israel passed legislation
in 2005 guaranteeing women a substantial role in all peace-building
efforts and negotiations. In September 2005, PNA President Mahmoud Abbas
similarly decreed, "The PNA…fully supports the full and equal
participation of women in all and various efforts undertaken to promote
and preserve peace and security, and shall endeavour to implement them."
In the Mideast, there are many qualified, well-educated women leaders in
government and civil society. For example, a delegation of prominent
Palestinians and Israelis visited the United States earlier this month
to share their views on the renewed peace process. The International
Women's Commission for a Just and Sustainable Palestinian-Israeli Peace
(IWC) involves members of the Knesset and the Palestinian Legislative
Council, as well as prominent academics and non-governmental leaders who
work together to push for an end to the conflict. The IWC is precisely
the kind of organisation to be constructively and substantively involved
in post-Annapolis dialogues.
In structuring steering committee meetings, both Israelis and
Palestinians should ensure that women comprise a significant percentage
of each party's negotiators; women are likeliest to have an influence
when present in substantial numbers. A role for civil society, one that
prominently features women, could also be defined in the process, thus
ensuring a robust range of perspectives is represented and reflected in
Israelis and Palestinians have an historic opportunity to create a model
peace process that gives women their due voice and influence, while
allowing them to demonstrate the difference women's participation can
make. Hopefully they will seize that opportunity.
* Carla Koppell is director of the Initiative for Inclusive Security.
This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service and can be
accessed at www.commongroundnews.org.
Source: Common Ground News Service, 06 December 2007,
Copyright permission is granted for publication.