The need for including women in peace processes is widely acknowledged, yet, most mediation processes have nonetheless not offered enough scope to encourage the voices and representation of women. In response to this challenge, ACCORD, under its Peacemaking Unit's African Union (AU) Mediation Support Capacity Project and in collaboration with the AU Peace and Security Department, convened an African Women Mediators Seminar in Johannesburg, South Africa from 2 - 3 May 2012.
The seminar brought together a selection of high level practitioners, policy makers, academics and political leaders to deliberate on the importance of the role of African women as mediators and active participants in peace processes. The seminar provided a platform for experienced women mediators, amongst others Minister Betty Bigombe from Uganda, and Ambassador Lindiwe Zulu from South Africa, to share their experiences. The keynote address was delivered by Mrs. Graca Machel, Chairperson of ACCORD's Board of Trustees.
Despite women constituting a demographic majority in population composition in Africa, they remain minimally included in key processes that influence the social, economic and political spheres of their lives. One such area is conflict resolution on the continent. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security calls for the active participation and inclusion of women in peace processes and their protection in armed conflict. A review of peace agreements by the United Nations Development Fund for Women indicates that since 1992 women mediators have accounted for only 2.4 percent of signatures on peace agreements and the United Nations (UN) is yet to appoint a woman as a lead mediator. Women have been found to strengthen peace accords by increasing attention to women's priorities and security issues on the ground. It is within this context that there should be specific work aimed at creating an enabling environment for women to take lead of peacemaking initiatives on the continent.
A key output of the seminar is the Statement of Action. Acknowledging the need to address the challenges to peace and security on the continent and identifying ways of accelerating the participation of African women as mediators and participants in peace processes, the statement sets out recommendations for the UN, the AU, Regional Economic Communities, member states as well as civil society. Looking forward ACCORD reiterates its commitment to share information electronically and otherwise on the importance of the role of African women as mediators and active participants in peace processes, and will continue drawing on the wisdom, best practised and experiences of stakeholders and partners towards generating knowledge that will inform future peace processes.
This seminar was funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.