2015 marked the 20th anniversary of the UN’s Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action which focused on women’s empowerment, and 15 years since the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1325 on women peace and security. In 2015, after a long journey, 193 countries agreed to a set of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), replacing the UN Millennium Development Goals. The role and significance of women features strongly in these fresh SDGs. Continentally we are at the midpoint of the African Women’s Decade and just over a decade has passed since the AU adopted a Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, which for the first time placed ownership of gender mainstreaming at the highest level, calling for the implementation of gender parity in the AU and at national level, the ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, and the protection of women against violence and discrimination.
Over the last few decades it has become apparent that supporting women’s capacities to actually participate in peace processes is a crucial part of their advancement and ability to contribute to peace, development and security. The efforts of civil society and policymakers are visible and every year sees another incremental step forward. ACCORD is honoured to be contributing to these efforts through dialogue forums, training women as mediators, generating knowledge for practice, and supporting efforts to use mainstreaming as a tool to bring gender into the equation within peacekeeping and peace and security frameworks in Africa.
The Gender Dimension in ACCORD’s work
Over the past twenty years since its founding, ACCORD has gained experience and expertise across the conflict management spectrum, including a dedicated focus on gender and its nexus with peace and conflict. ACCORD’s cumulative experience has contributed towards building the capacity of African women leaders through training, facilitation and research. ACCORD has partnered with a number of national, regional, continental and international gender networks and organisations working in the field of women, peace and security. These include the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (UN Women), African Union (AU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and civil society organisations such as Femmes Afrique Solidarite (FAS).
ACCORD is involved in on-going efforts to highlight the role of gender in peace and security. For example, ACCORD’s Peacemaking Unit, in collaboration with UNICEF, supports women peacemakers from South Sudan in their various roles and stages of the peace process. The Knowledge Production Department is, among others, engaged in long-term research on gender and peace processes in Africa. The Department explores various calls for mainstreaming gender, and solutions directed at increasing the number of women in leadership positions. Reflective assessments of initiatives on gender have included a High Level Seminar to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the UNSCR 1325 in 2010, leading to the Durban Statement on UNSCR 1325. ACCORD is involved with gender mainstreaming on the continent and in recognition of its work received the Tombouctou Award in 2006 for work in gender mainstreaming in Africa.
Cumulatively, ACCORD in its twenty four years of existence, has become a strong advocate of the gender dimension in peace and security programmes. Within existing programmes of the two major departments at ACCORD, namely the Interventions Department (ID) and Knowledge Production Department (KPD), gender is a cross –cutting theme and variable.
Current experiences with gender in ACCORD’s programming include:
- The Interventions Department at ACCORD (comprising Peacebuilding, Peacemaking, Peacebuilding and Training Units) engages participants using strategic “gender lens” not only ensuring that women are involved at all levels, but also guaranteeing that programme interventions considers the differential impact on men and women;
- ACCORD consistently advocates the operationalisation of specific gender instruments including the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000), the AU Women’s Committee on Peace and Development’s Durban Declaration on Gender Mainstreaming and the Effective Participation of Women in the African Union (2002) and the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development (2008), among others;
- Madam Graça Machel (Chair of ACCORD’s Board of Trustees since December 2008), is a strong advocate for the prominence of gender equality on the agenda of ACCORD’s programming. As a result, all interventions at ACCORD are subjected to scrutiny from a gendered perspective by a Gender Cluster within ACCORD, which comprises representative of all units and departments;
- ACCORD’s Knowledge production Department is consistently engaging in academic and policy research focusing on gender specifically or integrating gender in its analyses. Recent publications by KPD include collaboration with HRSC Press on an edited volume, published in early 2016, on “Deconstructing Women, Peace and Security: A Critical Review of Approaches to Gender and Empowerment”; a Policy and Practice Brief, published in May 2016, on “Protecting the rights of women through community-focused approaches to strengthening gender in African peace support operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic”; a piece in the May 2016 edition of ACCORD’s quarterly magazine, Conflict Trends, focused on the “Prevention of and Response to Conflict-related Sexual Violence, Exploitation and Abuse by Peacekeepers in the Great Lakes Region of Africa”; and a piece in the December 2015 edition of Conflict Trends on “Conflict, Peace and Patriarchy: Female Combatants in Africa and Elsewhere”.
Various publications relating to gender mainstreaming, women, peace and conflict issues have been produced by ACCORD and are available on request.
Chronology of ACCORD’s engagement in women, peace & conflict initiatives