‘Peace is not a project, it is a necessity’
Are the peace missions and Security Sector Reform (SSR) programmes in which the Netherlands is involved, effective? And do they reflect the local people’s, including women’s and youth’s, needs? As the Dutch parliament in the following months has to decide on the follow-up of existing and new peace missions, as well as on the integration of development programs in the same regions, these are important questions to raise.
To feed this debate, on August 24th Cordaid and WO=MEN, Dutch Gender Platform, will organize a roundtable with members of the Dutch Parliament and local human rights and peace building experts from Afghanistan, Burundi, DR Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic (CAR). Countries in which the Netherlands – being part of a larger international community (EU, NATO or UN) – was or is involved in peace missions and security sector reform (SSR). The experts have extensive experience in mobilising local women´s and youth´s organisations to participate in peace and security processes in these countries.
The roundtable will start with an information session for the Members of Parliament. We warmly invite other experts and interested persons to join and to participate in the open discussion afterwards.
14.30 – 15.00 Entrance
15.00 – 15.05 Welcome by Hetty Burgman (Cordaid) & Edith van der Spruit (WO=MEN)
15.05 – 16.00 Roundtable Dutch members of Parliament & the Gender, Peace & Security delegation: Flora Kwizera (CAR), Triphonie Habonimana (Burundi), Fabien Mayani (DR Congo), Said Shamsulislam (Afghanistan), Irine Ako (South Sudan)
16.00 – 16.10 Coffee break
16.10 – 17.00 Open discussion: Inclusive Peacebuilding: From Insiders’ Stories to Outsiders’ Strategies
17.00 – 17.30 Drinks & bites
Effectiveness of peace processes
From the perspective of local human rights defenders and women and youth peace activists, transformation of recent peace missions and SSR programmes is definitely needed. As they state: far out the most peace processes do not involve local civil society´s, let alone women´s and youth´s, demands. Due to a lack of capabilities, but more often due to a lack of political will or to conservative powers that prevent youth and women to gain power. As an example: in Afghanistan only 14% of the participants of the peace councils is women. Also in South Sudan women and youth are barely involved in the national peace talks. Moreover, these peace talks are not linked with local peace processes and partly take place outside the country1. Therefore, peace often leans on a very small base of trust in society and might become instable again in a minute.
Also in SSR processes women’s voices are still insufficiently heard. As a women rights defender in Rumonge, Burundi, explains: ‘At the community level, women still face violence, though hidden somehow. It’s still challenging for local women to efficiently play our role in peace and security, because we remain limited in terms of opportunities at the local level. Men do always stand for us because they have the means.’ Overall there is a lack of focus on women’s and youth security and the root causes of gender based violence in SSR. Just recently the world witnessed the outburst of sexual and gender based violence by (governmental) security forces in (former) Dutch focus countries Burundi and the DR Congo.
The Netherlands does advocate a integrated approach of peace building and stabilisation of conflict in which development, diplomacy and defence go hand in hand. Moreover, the Netherlands specifically advocates the participation of youth and women in peace and SSR processes2. In fact the Netherlands (and many other countries) adopted UN Security Council resolution 1325, which acknowledges the important role women play in peace & security. It points out that women and men have different needs and perspectives with regard to security, during and after conflicts. And therefore should equally participate in peace and security processes.
The Netherlands also adopted resolution 2250 (in 2015), which acknowledges local female and male young leaders as important partners in the prevention of violent extremism. Empowering youth to act as peacebuilders is a key step to prevent their involvement in violent extremism. Young people, including previously radicalized youth, are already working as role models and engaging their peers in peaceful conflict resolution and addressing grievances in their communities.
Closing civic space of women and youth groups
In the meantime, there is continuous public and political pressure to shift focus from development and prevention to short term interventions and to decreasing security threats. As a consequence, current donors of women’s and youth groups worldwide shift their budgets from prevention and stabilisation to security and defence. A clear example is the US’s budget-cut of development aid and their larger investment in homeland security.
Additionally an increasing number of (inter)national laws and regulations are adopted by the Netherlands and other countries to decrease fraud, terrorism financing and extreme violence. However, some of these regulations have a negative impact on women and youth groups and violate the freedom of speech and assembly4. Some regulations even decrease the possibility for peace activists to get access to decision-making spaces such as Brussels and New York (EU, UN Security Council). Spaces in which the international community decides on their countries’ peace processes. In sum, the political and financial space of women and youth groups that ensure that local voices bring in their needs and demands in local peace.
New hierarchy in geopolitics
Worldwide the hierarchy in geopolitics is changing and the Netherlands has to re-think it´s position. Minister Ploumen has showed the world that global solidarity can overcome US´ budget cuts on sexual and reproductive health and rights. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the French President Macron have shown that the free world isn´t per definition led by the US. In 2018, the Netherlands will occupy a temporary seat in the UNSC. Can the Netherlands take a leading role in better organizing an international integrated approach in peace and security, with full participation of women and youth?