In furtherance of its third thematic report on “Eliminating sexual violence against women and children in armed conflicts”, the African Union (AU) Panel of the Wise and its counter parts from the RECs, under the Pan-African Network of the Wise umbrella, convened the African Women Mediation Workshop, with the support of the Office of the Special Envoy of the AUC Chairperson on Women, Peace and Security. The Workshop titled “Silencing the Guns by 2020: Women’s’ Inclusion in Pre-Conflict Mediation, at the Peace table and in Social Cohesion Mechanisms” was convened in partnership with in partnership with UN Women, the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) and Femmes Africa Solidarite (FAS). The African Women Mediation Workshop took place against the backdrop of the request of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) calling for the Commission to develop a terms of reference for the establishment and operationalization of an association/network of women in mediation, as well as in furtherance of the ten year action plan of Agenda 2063 on Women’s Empowerment adopted during the January 2015 General Assembly of the Union (i.e. the AU Summit of Heads of State and Government). The seminar took place in Constantine, Algeria, from 12 to 13 December 2016.
The workshop took stock of the developments since the adoption of UNSCR 1325 on women, peace and security and other existing mechanisms regarding women in peace and security. The workshop noted that the involvement and inclusion of women in formal conflict resolution and mediation efforts remains underrepresented. Over the years, a number of women leaders have emerged in the track one mediation efforts in the continent. Participants appreciated the vast experience that exists on the continent and maintained that women’s participation needs to be reinforced and institutionalized. The participants discussed the women’s engagement in formal mediation process as well as the long-term engagement of women at community and national level efforts. This was reflected in the experience sharing by women who have supported different mediation and peace processes in Africa including former head of state, former deputy head of state, national level mediators, AU and UN special Envoys, community level mediators amongst others.
Participants furthermore highlighted the need to link women’s engagement in mediation to Agenda 2063 and SDGs; to strengthen experience sharing and Knowledge exchange amongst women mediators; to invest in the capacities of young women in mediation and build capacity for all women in mediation processes; to document the experiences and achievements of women in mediation at all levels; to promote respect for human dignity and human rights in mediation practices as well as gender mainstreaming in all aspects of mediation. Moreover, the role of women in countering violent extremism was extensively discussed, including approaches to the reintegration, justice and support to survivors of SGBV in conflict situations. Finally, indigenous mechanisms and the role of religious leaders (including women religious and traditional leaders) in mediation were emphasized.
Going forward, the participants discussed and developed the modalities of the African Women Mediators Network which will be expected to coordinate, unite, evaluate, and offer documentation of the mediation experiences by women in Africa.