Tag: Gender

What difference do women make?

For the  15th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security, on Tuesday the US Institute of Peace collaborated with five Scandinavian embassies to host the event “Global Security: What Does Gender Have To Do With It?” The event specifically examines what lessons may be learned from Scandinavian successes in gender equality and feminist policies, and comes in the wake of a new global report that explores the continuing – and some new – challenges for gender equality and women’s rights worldwide.

After Ambassador William Taylor, Executive Vice President of the USIP, gave the welcome, His Excellency Geir Haarde, Iceland’s Ambassador to the US, highlighted Scandinavian countries’ successes, including their long history of collaborating and sharing best practices, but also warned that even they must be vigilant against backsliding. This is especially important considering the global climate for gender rights: violent extremism, gender-based violence, systematic rape as a weapon of war, women being formally excluded from peace processes, and many other continuing challenges.

The keynote speaker, Elisabeth Rehn, former Minister of Defense for Finland and instrumental in achieving UNSCR 1325, took a global outlook. Nordic countries have indeed achieved much, but 1325 in particular ‘was born in Africa, in Namibia’. Rehn therefore highlighted the locality of all advancement initiatives. There is a crucial role for the UN, of course, in formalizing and institutionalizing such initiatives, and for world leaders as well, but Rehn pointed out that women the world over – as individuals – have different needs and expectations, and so naturally they need different projects as well.

Rehn also explored one of the central themes of the event: including women in peace negotiations and processes greatly enhances the success of negotiations and the sustainability of peace agreements, and counters violent extremism. Women’s participation can produce creative peace, which pays attention to the psychological aspects of reconstruction as well as the physical, and incorporates social, health, and education issues – especially for girls.

The expert panel featured Brigadier Flemming Kent Vesterby Agerskov of Denmark, who was Director of the Combined Joint Interagency Task Force in Afghanistan; Captain Anna Bjorsson, Gender Advisor at the Swedish Armed Forces Headquarters; Carla Koppell, Chief Strategy Officer at USAID; and Ambassador Dag Halvor Nylander, Norwegian Special Envoy to the Colombian Peace Process.

Agerskov offered insights into how incorporating women into his efforts to fight corruption and increase stability in Afghanistan heightened successes there. Like his fellows on the panel, he emphasized the need for decisive leadership on board with increasing women’s participation in all aspects of peace processes and civil society initiatives. Bjorsson stated that gender equality is a central policy of Sweden’s current government, following the principle that women and men must have the same power to shape society and their own lives. Creating a military with a gender-equal code of conduct and increased female participation makes it more effective in addressing different groups’ security concerns, as well as enhancing its reputation.

Koppell highlighted the relative successes of the USAID agenda on women’s rights in the past three years, with 50,000 women worldwide working for it in some capacity, but also stressed that this program needs to improve. For instance, they are behind on women mediators and dealing with non-state actors in countries where USAID projects are based, as well as in exploring the consequences for gender rights of new threats like climate change.

Nylander concluded with an illuminating overview on how the peace process in Colombia over the past three years has had the most success of any such process in confronting gender issues, such as sexual violence; integrating a gender perspective into all resolutions; and working with numerous women civil society activists and women’s NGOs. Importantly, though at first neither party (the Colombian government and FARC) fully acknowledged the importance of gender issues, they now are both supportive of these steps.

This panel did not have sufficient time to go into detail about local cases, but the speakers agreed on global themes and answered their initial question. UN reports and local experiences have shown that gender-inclusive settings with active participation from both men and women greatly facilitate negotiations and create enduring peace agreements. Women, like men, have roles to play at every level and at every step in the process, even in militaries. Hopefully, the next fifteen years will bring more progress.

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Women in countering violent extremism

Women and CVECountering violent extremism (CVE) has become vital to national security. On Tuesday, the United States Institute of Peace explored women’s role. The panel included Zainab Hawa Bangura, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations, Chantal de Jonge Oudraat, President of Women in International Security, Susan Hayward, Director of Religion and Peacebuilding at USIP and Jacqueline O’Neill, Director of the Institute for Inclusive Security. Kathleen Kuehnast, Director of Gender and Peacebuilding at USIP, moderated the event.

O’Neill talked about the importance of keeping our response to violent extremism in perspective. We often emphasize a securitized response, which undoubtedly is necessary. But a securitized response should not occur at the expense of solving broad, structural issues. We should not allow ourselves to be radicalized when countering extremism. A more appropriate approach would be to work on countering the “violent exclusion” of women and how that feeds into other problems.

Hayward explained the role of religion in CVE. She claimed it was critical to engage religious leaders and actors and use their authority to counter religion-based messages that legitimate and fuel extremism. In particular, she called for more women religious leaders to get involved. They can provide important psychosocial support, recognize radicalization and bridge religious divides.

Oudraat addressed three problems that dominate discussions on women and CVE:

  1. They ignore the gendered nature of security and are oblivious to the relationship between gender equality and status of women on one hand and violent conflict on the other hand.
  2. Many people have a misguided idea of the role and power of women in societies. There is a widespread idea that women are not visible in the public sphere, but are powerful in the private sphere, at home with their families, which makes them great agents for CVE. This is not true—a lot of women lack power even inside their families.
  3. Most of the discussions on women and CVE are not linked to the UN’s Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. Gender equality is core to sustainable peace, so if we’re not linking CVE to the agenda, then we’re not taking the agenda seriously.

Chowdhury echoed Oudraat’s words and reiterated the importance of CVE as a component of the WPS. He said the agenda is centered on three pillars: participation, prevention and protection of women in conflict situations. The most important pillar is the first one, because if we have participation at all decision-making levels, it will ease the need for protection and prevention. Chowdhury emphasized maintaining a longer-term perspective in CVE. We often take the “hardware” approach to CVE by relying on military efforts. But we must also concentrate on promoting a culture of peace in which children grow up learning that they can resolve problems through non-violent means.

Chowdhury also called for a more determined and forceful approach towards inclusion of women. The world has paid “lip service” to women’s equality, but patriarchal attitudes have set us back time and again.

Bangura focused on women in ISIS, which understands better than state actors the importance of recruiting women and including them in governance. While the radical Islamic organization actively enlists smart women, we are still debating whether to include women in counterterrorism strategies. ISIS understands that when it targets women, it degrades, humiliates and destroys a society. In order to fight ISIS, we need to develop creative solutions, because our current tools are not sufficient. One solution is providing space for women in the counterterrorism effort, such as mothers who can provide insight on the radicalization process their children go through in order to join ISIS.

The panelists agreed that the international community must develop a more sophisticated understanding of gender dynamics as part of CVE. O’Neill and Oudraat pointed out that extremist groups’ ability to appeal to a man and woman’s sense of agency drives recruitment.

Chowdhury and Oudraat also stressed the value of National Action Plans (NAP) in future CVE efforts. These are plans that all UN member states are obligated to prepare, but so far only 43 out of 193 member states have prepared a plan. NAPs include each country’s comprehensive CVE strategy and bridge the distinction between what’s happening domestically and what’s happening internationally. These plans allow the international community to hold governments accountable for their CVE efforts, which is one way to extract national-level commitment. Tangible change should begin with serious treatment of women’s issues. Chowdhury warned that so long as millions of women are marginalized and impoverished, violent extremism will continue to spread.

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Peace picks February 23-27

  1. Authorizing Military Action Against ISIL: Geography, Strategy and Unanswered Questions | Monday February 23 | 2:00 – 3:00 | POMED / Wilson Center | REGISTER TO ATTEND | For the first time in his Administration, President Barack Obama has submitted to Congress a formal request for additional authority to use military force. Is his draft Authorization for Use of Military Force against ISIL “alarmingly broad,” as The New York Times worries, or a narrow set of handcuffs? Does it empower the Presidency or create—as Senator John McCain put it—“535 Commanders-in-Chief”? From different angles, many ask: Does the proposed AUMF reflect sound law and sound strategy? Join experts from the worlds of war, law, and Congress to discuss how legislators can shape national security strategy while guarding their constitutional authority to declare war. Speakers include Lt. General David Barno, former First Commander for Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan and currently Senior Fellow, New American Security, Hon. Jane Harman, Director, President and CEO, The Wilson Center and former U.S Representative , and Jeffrey H. Smith, former General Counsel, Central Intelligence Agency. The event will be moderated by Jim Sciutto, Chief National Security Correspondent, CNN.
  2. Turkey’s Asian Agenda | Tuesday February 24 | 12:00 – 1:30 | German Marshall Fund | Since its inception, the Republic of Turkey has been an Asian country with European aspirations. In the face of global trends that have shifted geopolitics from West to East, Turkey is perfectly positioned to capitalize on its central location as the G-20 chair and host in 2015. In recent years Turkey has transformed itself into a globally ambitious player with relationships with Asian giants such as China, India, and Japan. Balancing these relatively new relationships with its historic allies in the West along with regional rivals such as Iran and Russia has become an area of increasing interest, bringing several questions into focus: Is it possible to talk about a Turkish “pivot” to Asia? To what extent does Turkey have the capabilities to turn ambitions into results? Does this shift necessarily imply or result from Ankara’s distancing itself from the European project? Join the German Marshall Fund for a timely discussion on Turkey’s Asian agenda in 2015 and beyond. The discussion features Altay Atlı, Lecturer, Boğaziçi University and Dr. Joshua Walker, Non-Resident Transatlantic Fellow, Asia Program, German Marshall Fund of the United States. Introductions by Barry Lowenkron, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, German Marshall Fund of the United States.
  3. What Works? Promoting Gender Equality and the Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 in Military Operations | Wednesday February 25 | 10:00 – 12:00 | Elliot School, George Washington University | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The year 2015, marks the 15th Anniversary of the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 which established the women in peace and security agenda. One of the most challenging areas to advance implementation is where it is most needed – within military institutions. With a view to the 2015 anniversary and planned high-level review of the implementation of Resolution 1325, this event convenes experts who will discuss gaps in implementation, what works, and what should be done going forward. The panel discussion will include Commandant Jayne Lawlor, Gender, Equality and Diversity Officer, Irish Defence Forces, Charlotte Isaksson, Gender Adviser, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, NATO, Chantal de Jonge Oudraat, President, Women in International Security, Robert C. Egnell, Visiting Associate Professor and Director of Teaching, Center for Security Studies, Georgetown University and Aisling Swaine, Professor of Practice of International Affairs, GW. Continental breakfast will be served at 9:30.
  4. Unpacking the ISIS War Game: Preparing for Escalation | Thursday February 26 | 12:30 – 2:00 | Atlantic Council | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The current US strategy to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS has achieved important tactical successes, but Washington is still far from achieving its stated goals. Even more, the strategy has not yet been fully tested by ISIS. However, events on the ground over the past few months suggest that the likelihood of escalation on the part of ISIS is increasing. Conventional as well as terrorist attacks by ISIS in Libya, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon suggest that it may be only a matter of time before the movement attacks core US strategic interests in the region. An off-the-record, high-level war game recently conducted at the Brent Scowcroft Center’s Middle East Peace and Security Initiative challenged US strategy by analyzing two hypothetical scenarios in which ISIS resorted to escalation. How can Washington and its allies and partners in the coalition better prepare for these contingencies? The Atlantic Council invites to a discussion with Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., Chairman, Atlantic Council, James E. Cartwright, Former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Bilal Y. Saab, Senior Fellow for Middle East Security, Atlantic Council and Julianne Smith, Senior Fellow and Director, Center for a New American Security. The event will be moderated by Gideon Rose, Editor, Foreign Affairs.
  5. War in Syria and Iraq: Effect on the Kurdish Issue in Turkey | Thursday February 26 | 2:00 – 4:00 | Emerging Democracies Institute | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Conflict in Syria and Iraq has entered a new phase after the latest escalation of violence by the Assad regime and ISIS. More than 200.000 have been killed in Syria and hundreds die in Iraq every month since the emergence of ISIS last year. Turkey remains a critical actor for the future of the Kurdish political entities in Iraq and Syria as both countries have sizeable Kurdish populations on parts of territory bordering Turkey.  The successful defense of the town of Kobane in Northern Syria by joint Kurdish forces against the invading ISIS has once again underlined the importance of Kurds as credible actors in the new Middle East. Turkey on the other hand has acted quiet reluctantly in delivery of military and humanitarian support to the fighting Kurdish forces.  Public protests against Ankara’s passivity shook the towns in Eastern Turkey and forced the Davutoglu Government to allow for the Peshmerga to cross over to Kobane. The on-going secret negotiations between the PKK and Ankara are at a critical junction as they are about to go official. Possible peace deal between Ankara and the PKK could be a big step forward in consolidating democracy in Turkey. This panel discussion features Doga Ulas Eralp, Professorial Lecturer, American University, Mehmet Yuksel, Washington D.C. Representative, Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP), Mutlu Civiroglu, Journalist and Kurdish affairs analysts and Nora Fisher Onar, Fellow, Transatlantic Academy of the German Marshall Fund. The panel will be moderated by Reuf Bajrovic, President, Emerging Democracies Institute. The participants will discuss the impact of the wars in Syria and Iraq on the Kurdish peace talks in Turkey along with Turkey’s changing calculations in the Middle East.
  6. Inside the Iran Nuclear Negotiations | Thursday February 26 | 6:00 – 8:00 | Washington Institute for Near East Policy | RSVP to link@washingtoninstitute.org by February 23 | On September 27, 2013, Iran and the United States engaged in direct conversation for the first time since 1979. President Obama and President Rouhani agreed there was a basis for a nuclear deal. But, nearly a year and a half later, a final agreement still seems elusive. The deadline for talks has already been extended twice, with the new deadline set for March. Each side has something to lose if a deal is not made — Iran faces further crippling sanctions and the United States risks a nuclear Iran. Can Iran and the P5+1 overcome their differences to arrive at an agreement with one month to spare? Join LINK as Congressman Ted Deutch and Lane-Swig Fellow Michael Singh provide their insights into the Iran nuclear negotiations. Congressman Deutch is a member of the Democratic party, while Mr. Singh served in a Republican administration.
  7. The Arab Spring@4: What Next? | Thursday February 26 | 6:30 – 8:00 | Project for the Study of the 21st Century | REGISTER TO ATTEND | To celebrate the launch of its PS21 MIDEAST blog, the Project for Study of the 21st Century and Young Professionals in Foreign Policy bring you a discussion on a region in flux. Four years after the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, the Middle East appears as stable as at any point in recent history. What went wrong, what might happen next and what, if anything, can the United States do to influence events? The discussion will feature Sidney Olinyk, former chief of staff, Mideast policy, Department of Defence and current member of the PS21 International Advisory Group, Ari Ratner, Senior Fellow at New America Foundation and Nancy Okail, Executive director, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.
  8. An Effective P5+1 Nuclear Deal with Iran and the Role of Congress | Friday February 27 | 1:00 – 2:30 | Arms Control Association | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Negotiators from the P5+1 and Iran are racing to try to conclude a political framework agreement for a comprehensive, long-term nuclear deal to block Iran’s potential pathways to nuclear weapons by the end of March, with technical details on a final deal to be ironed out by the end of June. Over the past year, Iran and the P5+1 have made significant progress on long-term solutions on several challenging issues. At the same time, key members of Congress are threatening to advance new Iran sanctions legislation and set unrealistic requirements for a nuclear deal. The Arms Control Association will host a special press briefing featuring a former member of the U.S. negotiating team, a former professional staff member of the House intelligence committee, and Arms Control Association experts on the status of the negotiations, the likely outlines of a comprehensive agreement, and the the appropriate role for Congress. Speakers include Richard Nephew, Program Director, Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University and former Principal Deputy Coordinator for Sanctions Policy at the Department of State, Kelsey Davenport, Director of Nonproliferation Policy, Arms Control Association, and Larry Hanauer, Senior International Policy Analyst at the RAND Corporation. The discussion will be moderated by Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association.
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