This 20th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 is not what we originally envisioned when we set out to plan the celebrations of such an occasion in 2019. This monumental anniversary takes place in a different emerging global context; a context disrupted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and one in which, unsurprisingly, women and girls have once again been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. But in this disruption, we have an opportunity to bring about much needed meaningful progress.
We can anticipate that COVID-19 will exacerbate conflicts, especially at the local level. Thus, conflict prevention and mediation networks is crucial if we hope to build back better @SpeciosaW @sambapanzaTweet
We are well aware of the numerous ways women and children have had to bear the brunt of the disruptions we are witnessing: from increased burdens of care; increased economic vulnerability; and increased levels of domestic and gender-based violence. What has also become evident over the past nine months is that conflicts are not nearing an end. Rather, the United Nations’ Secretary General’s call for an immediate ceasefire, that was also echoed by the African Union Chairperson, was not realized. In fact, we can anticipate that the conditions of COVID-19 will exacerbate conflicts, especially those at the local level. Thus more than ever, the presence of conflict prevention and mediation networks is crucial if we hope to build back better.
Globally, as many set out to commemorate this important anniversary, there are a plethora of activities taking place to take stock of the implementation of UNSCR 1325 and the WPS agenda. The outcomes of these reviews are a mixed bag. The plethora of activities and the sheer amount of conversations that have happened since the beginning of this year, despite the global pandemic, shows just how far we have come to cement the women, peace and security agenda into our international, regional and national conversations and modus operandi. Moreover, since the Global Report on UNSCR 1325 in 2015, we have seen an increase in the number of National Acton Plans signed and with Africa leading on its progress. When it comes to WPS policy commitments, we are not lacking.
With the onset of national and local tensions due to COVID-19, @FemWiseAfrica has galvanized the efforts of African women to participate and play a central role in resolving conflicts at local levels @SpeciosaW @sambapanzaTweet
Yet, despite these significant strides towards meaningful change, we continue to see gaps where progress is still slow or non-existent. For example, we see gaps in policy implementation, gaps in the domestication of policy commitments and gaps in realizing the ideal of having the participation and representation of women in peace processes. Although there has been significant progress in bringing attention to the WPS agenda and its concerns, we continue to see small numbers when it comes to women’s participation and representation in peace processes as mediators and negotiators.
Therefore, we as the Co-Chairs of FemWise-Africa are pleased to share that we have taken this crisis and opportunity and started to build back better: by ensuring the members of the FemWise-Africa network have remained engaged in this period, assessing its strategic benefits, exploring opportunities – but most importantly living up to the mission of conflict prevention and mediation. At the end of 2019, the network made the decision to decentralize and create national and regional chapters across the continent in order to create a more local-based approach to peacebuilding and to galvanize the efforts of African women at the local level. Now, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can see quite clearly how crucial this move has been as the conflict context continues to shift more and more to the local level. It is the efforts and the capabilities of local mediators, especially women mediators, which will play a crucial role in determining whether we come out of this crisis more peaceful or not.
With COVID-19 we can see how crucial it is to build the capabilities of local mediators, especially women mediators, who will play a crucial role in determining whether we come out of this crisis more peaceful or not @SpeciosaW @sambapanzaTweet
The next twenty years of UNSCR 1325 has to be different. Women in mediation cannot and should not be a dream or a vision anymore: it has to be realized. One such way we at FemWise-Africa are trying to achieve such a goal is through the FemWise-Africa Capacity Building Initiative. With numerous virtual offerings of peacebuilding trainings, networking opportunities and knowledge-sharing discussions offered to the members of FemWise-Africa, the network is committed to having mediation skills across all tracks. With this initiative, we will no longer be able to say we do not have any qualified women to take part in these processes. Rather, FemWise-Africa and its members are willing and able to do the invaluable work.
Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe and Catherine Samba Panza are the co-chairs of FemWise Africa.