Women’s role in peace-building — Northern Ireland and beyond: US Ambassador Melanne Verveer
by Charlotte MANSON & Allan LEONARD for Northern Ireland Foundation
6 December 2012
Melanne Verveer, United States Ambassador-at-large for Women’s Global Issues, addressing a conference organised by the Transitional Justice Institute at the University of Ulster, praised the efforts of many women with whom she previously worked with in Northern Ireland, towards building a sustainable peace:
“The kind of efforts you have made here is a lesson for people everywhere working to address the hard questions that need to be asked in order to end conflict, ensure peace and to create a better tomorrow” she said.
By this, she made particular reference to the role of women in mediation, negotiation, and reconciliation.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325
Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security — adopted in October 2000 — lays out the steps towards the full inclusion and equal participation of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict situations. Furthermore, it calls upon Member States of the U.N. to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence in conflict-torn societies.
Ambassador Verveer stated that Resolution 1325 “reaffirmed the role that women must play in the prevention and resolution of conflict”.
She said, “As you showed here, deadly conflicts can be more effectively avoided and peace can best be forged and sustained when women are equal partners in all aspects in peace-building and conflict prevention”.
Speaking with regards to the practical, ground level implications of Res. 1325, the Ambassador said, “When included in negotiations, as you were here, women tend to emphasize issues that are critically important to sustaining a peace agreement”. She made reference to issues such as integrated education and housing in Northern Ireland.
Drawing upon her experiences with women in Afghanistan and Guatemala, Ambassador Verveer described many women as “agents of change because of their status in society – i.e. women can build coalitions against sectarianism where often men cannot do so”.
The United States National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security
Resolution 1325, as Melanne Verveer suggested, provided the impetus for the establishment of a United States National Action Plan on women, peace and security.
Issued in December 2011, The United States National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security represents a fundamental change to the role of women in areas of conflict, the Ambassador explained.
She stated, “The goal of this National Action Plan is to empower half of the world’s population as equal partners in preventing conflict and building peace in countries threatened by insecurity, violence and war.”
Furthermore, “by ensuring their perspectives and considerations are woven into the way we will approach peace processes, humanitarian and conflict prevention including terrorism” as the NAP states.
Ambassador Verveer addressed the four thematic areas of the current U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security as:
1. Conflict prevention
She suggested women are often “canaries in the mind” as they can detect where tensions may arise and how best to address them with avoiding an escalation of violence.
2. Protection for women and girls
Gender-based violence, as Ambassador Verveer explained is “both a cause and consequence of societal breakdown. No country can restore peace when half of your population lives in fear of violence”.
Ambassador Verveer stated, “Women’s participation in global peace processes and peace-building negotiations is at current 8%. The perspective of women along with their on-the-ground concerns needs to ensure that they are at the table and the issues they raise are firmly on the table.”
4. Relief and recovery
The Ambassador stated the aftermath of conflict, or post-conflict, must ensure the full inclusion and participation of women from the community level to the top tier of politics. In addition to this, the protection of women and girls from sexual and gender-based (SGBV) violence is crucial to the relief and recovery of many conflicts.
In the context of Northern Ireland, the Ambassador quoted the 2011 NAP in saying “women negotiators [here] secured commitments in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement including to ensure an integrated education system and integrated housing”.
In her closing remarks, the Ambassador made reference to a number of women that she had encountered and praised their efforts in peace-building in conflict-torn societies. She mentioned examples in Guatemala, Iraq, Nepal, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Georgia among many others.
Following the conference, the question and answer session included discussion on economic empowerment of women in divided societies, the implementation of U.N. Res 1325 in a British context along with thorough debate on women’s rights and Human Rights.
The conference was introduced by University of Ulster Pro Vice Chancellor, Professor Alastair Adair, and by Transitional Justice Institute Associate Researcher, Professor Monica McWilliams. TJI press statement: http://news.ulster.ac.uk/releases/2012/6701.html
The Transitional Justice Institute was established in 2003. Further information: http://www.transitionaljustice.ulster.ac.uk/tji_about.html
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 is available at: http://www.un.org/events/res_1325e.pdf
The U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security is available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/email-files/US_National_Action_Plan_on_Women_Peace_and_Security.pdf