Archive for the ‘Peace Pacifism’ Category
A women’s peace delegation – led by Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams – wrapped up a seven-day tour of Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories. The delegation of 10 women – mostly American – traveled to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hebron, Haifa and Nazareth, and met with women peacebuilders, as well as the Israeli military, members of the Knesset, lawyers, Israeli settlers, staff from the United Nations and community leaders. Their goal was to learn first-hand the challenges to peace—and how some women are overcoming those barriers.
“We learned that there is a partner in peace,” said Williams. “Against the backdrop of violence and daily humiliations, there are women working on the ground in both Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories who use nonviolent protest and dialogue as a means to building a more just and equitable situation. For real peace to happen, these women must be part of the official peace process.”
The delegation visited the region as the US-brokered peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials—which began on September 2—continued without much substantive progress. Most of the women’s groups the delegation met with have called for civil society, including women’s organizations, to be an integral part of that process. They are also calling for the negotiations to be more ‘transparent’.
“Most of the people in power derive their power from the conflict,” noted one activist from Isha L’Isha, a grassroots organization based in Haifa that includes both Israeli and Palestinian women. “We need to ensure that people without power—but committed to ending the conflict—are also heard in the peace process.”
The group—along with other women’s groups in Israel—has called for no less than 30 percent of direct participation by women in all level of negotiations to ensure greater transparency and more attention to the needs of civilians, including women. As well, they are asking that a plan for reconciliation between the two communities be part of any final agreement.
The women activists in the Palestinian Occupied Territories and Gaza echoed the words of their Israeli counterparts during meetings with the delegation in Ramallah, and during visits to three well known sites of nonviolent resistance to occupation: Bi’lin, Ni’lin and Hebron.
“When I am alone I feel weak,” one woman in Ramallah told the delegation, which was hosted in the West Bank by Palestinian leader Dr. Mustafa Barghouti. “But here together with [all of you] I feel strong.” The delegation heard testimony from 300 women who joined the delegation at a conference on gender justice organized by the Palestinian NGO, Health Development Information Policy Institute (HDIP). The conference also connected with women in Gaza through a video-conference.
Earlier in the weak, staff at the UN told delegation members that the situation in Gaza is a “dignity crisis” and noted that most residents of Gaza are refugees. They estimate that 80% of the people in Gaza are reliant on UN food aid. Babies die at the checkpoints waiting to get into Israel for medical help, and thousands of children are not being educated because of the ban on bringing new building supplies into Gaza to build new schools. On top of all that, with an unemployment rate of close to 45%, Hamas leadership is making things worse by closing businesses that employ both men and women.
Yet, the delegation heard that despite all these obstacles—women are not deterred.
“A high point for me was hearing all these Palestinian women saying ‘Don’t be diverted. We can have peace, a strong democracy’”, said Janaan Hashim, a delegation member and lawyer from Chicago. “Women will be a major part in [making peace] happen.”
Towards the end of the week-long visit to the region, the delegation met with women settlers in Gush Etzion, located in the southern part of the West Bank. Their goal in visiting the settlement was to better understand the scope of the settlement issue.
“The settlements are a much larger machine than I had realized,” said Jody Williams. “They are a massive apparatus—and now I understand much more clearly what a serious impediment to the peace process these so-called ‘outposts’ really are.”
The day the delegation arrived to Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lifted the freeze on building settlements—one of the most contentious issues in the US-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
“A visit to Hebron painfully revealed the way in which the commercial center of this Palestinian city of 400,000 had been virtually closed down by the Israeli authorities in order to protect freedom of movement for 450 radical Jewish settlers, provocatively living in the middle of this Palestinian city,” said Rabbi Amy Eilberg, a delegation member from Minnesota, in an opinion editorial she wrote for the Star Tribune.
Settlement Watch, a project of the Israeli group Peace Now that monitors and protests the building of settlements, estimates that settlers have built 100 ‘outposts’ on occupied territories—at the cost of approximately 556 million dollars a year.
“The route of the wall/separation barrier is frequently determined by the needs of expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank rather than by security needs alone,” noted Rabbi Eilberg. But Eilberg is not discouraged.
“As Palestinians and Israelis alike wait to see whether the latest round of talks will finally chart a course toward the end of the conflict, I leave the region with both deep pain and profound respect for the many unsung heroes on the ground who courageously work for a just peace,” said Eilberg.
Mairead Maguire, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her work in ending sectarian violence and bringing peace to Northern Ireland, had planned to be part of the women’s peace delegation. However when she arrived to Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport last week, Israeli officials refused her entry into the country and tried to deport the 66-year-old activist. Maguire’s lawyers appealed the deportation. Seven days later—in which Maguire lived in a detention cell at the airport—the Israeli Supreme Court refused Maguire’s appeal and she was deported.
The delegation plans to release a full report on its visit to Israel and Palestine.
Coalition of women’s groups calls on PM Netanyahu to name a woman to peace talks team; the appeal comes weeks after High Court criticized Turkel Committee’s failure to include a female.
Weeks after High Court judges harshly criticized the Turkel Committee’s failure to include a woman, a coalition of 14 women’s groups appealed to the prime minister on Sunday to name women to the team handling peace talks with the Palestinians.
Among the signatories to a letter addressed to Benjamin Netanyahu are Women Lawyers for Social Justice, Ahoti Movement, Isha L’Isha, Economic Empowerment for Women, Lobby for Gender Equality, The Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow, and Kolech.
The organizations are demanding that the prime minister appoint a woman in accordance with a law that requires “adequate female representation” on government committees formed by the cabinet, the prime minister, a minister or a deputy minister.
In their letter, the groups said that the law also regards negotiating “staffs” or “teams” as bodies bound by the terms under which state committees operate.
“By dint of the demands of the law, there is a clear, unequivocal obligation to appoint women from all walks of the population in a manner that reflects their proportion in greater society,” the groups wrote. “This clearly applies to the negotiating team, and we expect that the law will be fully implemented.”
In the letter, Anat Thon Ashkenazy, an attorney with Women Lawyers for Social Justice, cited the High Court ruling earlier this month that required the addition of at least one woman on the Turkel Committee investigating the raid on the Gaza-bound Turkish flotilla.
As the U.N. investigates new allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, most troop contributing countries continue to evade accounting for how they handle disciplinary actions.
A senior U.N. official who asked for anonymity told IPS, “Although there have been statistical reductions in the number of allegations, sexual abuse involving peacekeepers is still rampant, despite pronouncements that they have been curbed.”
In DR Congo, two peacekeepers – reportedly an Indian and a Tunisian – have been accused of sexual abuse, although their identities and the specifics of the cases are protected under the U.N.’s confidentiality policy.
According to the United Nations Conduct and Disciplinary Unit, of the 45 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against U.N. peacekeepers brought in the first six months of this year, 18 involved minors.
The charges were reported to the 39 troop contributing countries. However, only 13 governments have responded to the U.N. regarding their progress in investigating the charges and taking action, according to the New York Times.
The year so far…
• Out of the 45 allegations reported for the first half of 2010, 39 are pending and 4 have been substantiated.
• Out of those 45 allegations, 19 involve adults, 18 involve minors, and 8 are unidentified.
• From 2007 to June 2010, there have been a total of 346 allegations against civilian, military and police personnel.
• From 2007 to June 2010, there have been a total of 257 follow-ups with member states, but there have only been 58 total responses.
In 2009, the U.N. sent 82 requests for information on actions taken by national authorities concerning misconduct related to sexual exploitation and abuse, and received 14 responses.
In 2008, the U.N. sent 69 such requests and received eight responses on action taken, while in 2007, 67 requests were made and 23 responses received.
“The U.N. cannot tackle this issue alone,” Anayansi Lopez of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), told IPS. “It needs the full support of all member states to ensure that zero tolerance is a reality.”
Currently, there are about 124,000 peacekeepers deployed around the globe, Lopez said.
However, according to the senior U.N. official, not only are the allegations “a blemish on peacekeeping operations… there could be hundreds more that have been undocumented primarily due to the remote locations of the operations.”
Allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel first came to light in the 1990s in the Balkans, Cambodia and Timor Leste, and in West Africa in 2002 and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2004.
Official reports publicly surfaced in 2004, with the U.N. mission in DR Congo the first to be singled out followed by Haiti, Liberia and other peacekeeping missions around the world.
In DR Congo, approximately 150 allegations were filed against U.N. troops. The offences – some of which were captured on videotape – included pedophilia, rape, and prostitution, according to a classified U.N. report that was obtained by the Washington Post.
Yet comprehensive record-keeping and data tracking of such allegations and subsequent actions did not begin until 2006, Lopez told IPS. This left an approximately decade-long delay in formally tracking the allegations.
One year later, in 2007, the Los Angeles Times reported that in Haiti, “girls as young as 13 were having sex with U.N. peacekeepers for as little as one dollar”.
Some 114 Sri Lankan peacekeepers in Haiti were removed from their posts after those allegations surfaced.
In July 2008, the Department of Field Support launched the Misconduct Tracking System, a global database and confidential tracking system for all allegations of misconduct.
In December 2007, the General Assembly adopted a Resolution on Criminal Accountability of United Nations Officials and Experts on Missions to address the extension of national jurisdiction by member states to cover criminal misconduct of U.N. officials or experts on mission.
However, a high-level source told IPS, “Sierra Leonean and Sri Lankan efforts are the only serious responses to these allegations that are publically known. Most member states lack sincere commitment to eradicate sexual exploitation and abuse as evident by their actions.”
The U.N. has a three-pronged strategy to eliminate sexual exploitation and abuse: prevention of misconduct, enforcement of U.N. standards of conduct and remedial action.
Last month, Under-Secretary-General Susanna Malcorra from the Global Field Support office of DPKO discussed the revision of support strategy in terms of procedure and financing. Her discussion did not include procedures to address the allegations.
* Women not adequately represented at peace jirga
* Concerns that women’s rights will be compromised
* Women given “symbolic” role to lure Taliban
As Afghanistan’s most powerful men arrived in Kabul for a major conference aimed at starting a peace process with the Taliban, many women are worried the event could lead to a compromise of their hard-won rights.
Afghanistan is holding a peace jirga or an assembly of powerful leaders, tribal elders and representatives of civil society to consider plans to open talks with Taliban leaders in an effort to end the nine-year conflict.
A possible return of the Taliban has touched off concern about the fate of women who were banned from schools, the work place and public life during the Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001. “I would not expect the peace jirga to do anything good for women. My hope is that it will recognise their presence and protect their rights equally to men, as presented in the constitution,” said Orzala Ashraf Nemat, a leading women’s rights activist in Kabul.
“I’m really tired of this strategy and plans and jargon. I’d like to see activists from all 34 provinces to come to Kabul and plan a much deeper understanding of what should be done in the future for women,” she said.
The Taliban and other key insurgent factions such as Hezb-i-Islami have not been formally invited to the peace jirga but organisers have said any party that wants to be involved will be welcomed and insurgent supporters are expected to attend.
Women at the peace jirga so far represent a very small number of the 1,400 seats at the event. Between 30 and 50 women are expected to attend, but none are involved in its planning.
“There is a symbolic representation of Afghan women, The organising committee has no women in its structure, only one or two have been identified to be facilitators,” said Ahmad Fahim Hakim, deputy chair of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission.
“The positions of women in high-ranking roles have been significantly overshadowed … One could be cynical and say that the reason there are so few women is to encourage the Taliban to come,” he said.
The Taliban, who are waging an insurgency that is at its deadliest in years, have in the past rejected any moves for talks, saying foreign forces must first leave Afghanistan. They continue to advocate a strict intepretation of Islamic law and have stepped up attacks on schools for girls in recent weeks.
Afghan women say their position in society and in politics is still very fragile and the small advances that have been made in recent years can be easily reversed.
Part of a longer article at http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/SGE64N1PC.htm
Peace with Criminals, War with People!
Statement of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) on “Consultative Peace Jirga”
A five-year campaign to boost the number of UN female peacekeepers is progressing steadily in police units, but “seems to be stuck” at a miniscule percentage in military contingents, Lt-Col Alejandro Alvarez of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), told IRIN.
The UN Secretariat has repeatedly emphasized the proven benefits of having more female peacekeepers, especially in regions where sexual violence has been or still is a serious problem, but there are hiccups.
“The Secretary-General can set any number [of female peacekeepers], but … It depends on the will of the countries that are contributing the troops. They say, ‘We don’t have enough female troops, so we cannot send them’; there is also always the case of countries having the women, and just not sending them, but that is an internal problem,” Alvarez, a personnel officer, said.
The advantages of a strong presence of female peacekeeper in conflict and post-conflict zones include creating a safer space for girls and women who have suffered sexual violence, said Marianne Mollman, advocacy director of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch, a global watchdog organization.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a campaign in August 2009 to lift the percentage of women peacekeepers to 20 percent in police units by 2014, and to 10 percent in military contingents.
Yet only 2.3 percent of the 88,661 military peacekeepers serving in 17 different missions are women, whereas in 2008 they made up 2.18 percent of military contingents, Alvarez said. Approximately 8.2 percent of the 13,221 UN police are women, a figure that jumped from 6.5 percent in April.
In 2000, Resolution 1325 of the UN Security Council called on the Secretary-General to “progress on gender mainstreaming throughout peacekeeping missions and all other aspects related to women and girls.”
Subsequent Security Council resolutions outlined more comprehensive methods for using peacekeeping missions to protect women and girls from sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict zones, including increasing the number of women peacekeepers.
The first all-female Formed Police Unit (FPU), deployed in Liberia in 2007, made a substantial difference to the women victimized in rampant sexual violence during the country’s civil war, said Lea Angela Biason, a DPKO gender affairs associate.
The UN Mission in Liberia noted that after the deployment of Indian female peacekeepers, the percentage of women in the national police force rose from 13 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in 2009.
Women police were often placed in the front lines in riots, as they can reportedly help calm raucous crowds, Biason said, and the presence of women in uniform also appeared to encourage Liberian women to report instances of sexual violence.
The UN Secretariat plans to send an all-female FPU from Bangladesh to Haiti, where reports of sexual violence in the camps for internally displaced persons abound.
Nigeria deploys the second-greatest number of female peacekeepers – 349 women out of 4,951 troops – and has announced plans to send an all-female FPU to Liberia.
In Darfur, western Sudan, 136 female police officers from Ghana, Gambia, Tanzania, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have joined the UN Mission there since February, Biason said. Nearly 200 female police officers in Rwanda recently passed a test qualifying them for deployment.
Comfort Lamptey, a gender adviser to DPKO, told IRIN that gender scenarios in troop-contributing countries were reflected in the peacekeepers they sent. “If we look globally, you see more women in national police units than you do in the military – the countries then have more women to send for their [peacekeeping] police units.”
Alvarez said countries that could send women sometimes refrained out of concern about the conditions they would be working under, and it was not always certain that they would be working alongside their male counterparts. Bangladesh, one of the largest troop-contributing countries, considered women as “low-ranked personnel, and puts them in the kitchen”, Alvarez said.
Women might constitute 20 percent of peacekeeping units by 2014, but Lamptey acknowledged that some officials thought it “completely unrealistic” to try replicating this on the military front.
“It’s a work in progress,” she said. “A lot of member states are beginning to understand that when it comes to peacekeeping missions, you really do need to have both women and men in the military and police equally represented; they are beginning to understand the merits of that.”
Implementing SCR 1325: lessons from Israel.
The attempt to implement Security Council Resolution 1325 after the failure of the Oslo Peace Process revealed a paralysed women’s movement in Israel.
Does the incorporation of women in formal peace processes pose a threat to the possible achievements of women’s grassroots peace organizations in the transition from conflict to peace? Should women insist on joining formal peace negotiations, or maintain feminist resistance from outside? These questions are part of a developing debate concerning the potential of women’s peace activism in times of armed conflict at the beginning of the 21st century, in light of the adoption of United Nation SCRs 1325 and 1889.
Many peace activists and scholars around the world have acknowledged that the public engagement of the Security Council with gender issues has opened the door for new forms of understanding the marginalized placement of women in peace processes. Resolution 1325 has outlined a strategic path to claim women’s protection and participation, promoting an underlying assumption that women’s inclusion in formal peace efforts is a means of achieving gender equality and sustainable peace. As a result, local and international mechanisms ensuring equal representation in peace negotiations were rapidly encouraged during the last decade. But many have also experienced how overcoming the gendered construction of peace negotiations is a difficult task. Currently, the most documented difficulties that women who are involved in formal peace efforts face are: lack of funding, capacity and experience; a dominant masculine political culture and the prevalence of militaristic values among political elites; and the need to overcome gender stereotypes and traditional gender roles.
This is why a decade after Resolution 1325 women’s participation in peace processes still remains a utopian struggle. As stated by the Secretary General in a report submitted to the Security Council in September 2009, “A persistent cause of concern is that women continue to be virtually absent from the peace table and to be severely underrepresented as third-party mediators or even as representatives of the United Nations in most conflict-affected countries. Women’s activism at the grass roots rarely translates into official recognition during peace processes, where they are seldom included in formal negotiations.”
At the International Gender Justice Dialogue held in Mexico last month I wanted to share with participants the limitation of local attempts to implement and interpret international norms concerning gender, peace and security, based on the Israeli experience during the last decade. This is a chronicle of a paralysed women’s movement trying to face the aftermath of a ‘failed peace process’.
To read the full comment piece go to http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/sarai-arahoni/implementing-scr-1325-lessons-from-israel
1. CWP Opens a New Activity Center in Tel-Aviv-Jaffa
After nearly a decade of activity, CWP is finally opening an office and activity center. The new center is located on Yad Harutzim Street, in South-Central Tel-Aviv, and will be open within the next few weeks. We hope that this center will become a home for local peace activists, serve as a space for political meetings and events and encourage new actions and initiatives. We also hope that the new space will be a meeting point for our international friends and supporters and enable them to join our activities and to work with us on joint actions.
2. Call for Action on Global BDS Day, March 30
The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) has issued a call for action to mark the second Global BDS Day of Action on March 30 2010, in solidarity with the Palestinian people and for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli institutions and corporations. This Day of Action coincides with Palestinian Land Day, which marks the struggle against the expropriation and colonization of Palestinian lands and commemorates six Palestinian demonstrators killed by Israeli security forces on the first Land Day in 1976.
BDS is an effective and nonviolent form of struggle, intended to generate international pressure on Israel to end the occupation and to bring justice to the Palestinian people. As Desmond Tutu noted with regards to the end of apartheid in South Africa: “We would not have succeeded without international pressure – in particular the divestment movement of the 1980′s”. The Palestinian call for BDS measures against Israel, issued in 2005, has grown into a powerful global solidarity movement. CWP has decided in its General Assembly in November 2009 to support the Palestinian call for BDS and we see ourselves as part of this international movement.
What can you do?
CWP’s online database, “Who Profits from the Occupation?”, was launched in January 2009 and has since become a leading source of information about corporate involvement in the occupation and a key asset to the global movement of economic activism and BDS. You can search the WhoProfits website to find ideas for action on March 30. Some suggestions:
* Demand that your university, church council, workers union or pension fund divest from Israeli and international companies that are involved in the occupation. The WhoProfits research team can help in surveying investment portfolios to identify these companies. For example, in May 2009, following a campaign initiated by CWP, the Norwegian
Pension Fund declared that it will divest from Elbit, an Israeli company that provides surveillance technologies for the Apartheid Wall.
* Organize a creative action targeting a corporation that is involved in the occupation. Hundreds of Israeli and international companies that violate international human rights law await you at the WhoProfits database. You might like to try: Carmel Agrexco – Israel’s largest exporter of agricultural produce. In a court case in November 2006, the General Manager of Agrexco UK at the time testified that Agrexco markets 60-70% of the agricultural produce grown in Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories. 50% of Agrexco’s shares are owned by the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture and the company serves as a tool in Israel’s colonialist expansion and land expropriation. Agrexco exports are sold in many supermarkets around the world, particularly in the European Union.
Ahava – A privately held Israeli cosmetics company that manufactures products using minerals and mud from the Dead Sea, sold in beauty stores around the world. The company’s main factory and visitor center are located in the Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the occupied West Bank and nearly 45% of the company’s shares are held by the Israeli settlements Mitzpe Shalem and Kalia.
Support existing BDS campaigns facing challenges. Last week, UC Berkeley’s student senate voted in support of divestment from General Electric and United Technologies because of their involvement in the occupation. A week later, the Senate president vetoed the bill. However, the veto can be overturned with just 14 senate votes – and the students need you to email the UC Berkeley senators to let them know why they should overturn the veto. Write a letter to email@example.com (if possible, include firstname.lastname@example.org in bcc). In France, the Israeli lobby is trying to introduce new laws that will deem any BDS activity as “anti-Semitic” and the French Prime Minister and Minister of Justice have been attacking the BDS movement. One activist, Sakina Arnaud from Bordeaux, is facing trial for putting BDS stickers on orange juice at a local supermarket. You can sign the petition in support of Arnaud and against the criminalization of BDS (endorsed by CWP).
3. Universal Jurisdiction Update
In December 2009, following an arrest warrant issued in London against Tzipi Livini for war crimes committed during the war on Gaza, the British government announced its intent to limit the principle of universal jurisdiction, which enables the prosecution of foreign war criminals. CWP initiated an urgent appeal to the British Prime Minister and to the British Foreign Secretary, urging them to not take this dangerous step. The letter was endorsed by 99 feminist peace organizations from 25 countries, among them 20 Israeli and Palestinian organizations.
The letter helped generate international and internal pressure on the British government. In March 2010, the British cabinet announced that it will postpone any changes to universal jurisdiction until after the general elections. We would like to thank all of the people and organizations, who helped us in signing and spreading this appeal.
4. Stay in Touch
We are currently in the process of rebuilding and improving our website. We apologize for the inconvenience, but in the meantime you can receive regular updates about our work through our Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Coalition-of-Women-forPeace/94205446262
For any questions and comments, or to be subscribe to our international mailing list, please write to: email@example.com
The Coalition of Women for Peace
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate and green advocate Wangari Maathai became a United Nations Messenger of Peace with a special focus on the environment and climate change, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced last week.
Ms. Maathai of Kenya was inducted as a Messenger of Peace at a ceremony in Copenhagen, where the UN climate change conference is taking place.
“Professor Maathai’s lifetime record of environmental achievement, education and grassroot activism makes her an ideal choice,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). “This award recognises her tireless work as one of the world’s most effective and persuasive advocates for a greener world, where everyday citizen actions combined with policy go hand in hand to catalyze a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient green economy so urgently needed,” he added.
Professor Maathai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, founded the grassroots group known as the Green Belt Movement, which has planted more than 40 million trees on community lands across Africa and has worked to improve environmental conservation and reduce poverty.
The only African woman to win that award, Professor Maathai has also served as a Government minister, lawmaker, academic and women’s rights advocate over the past four decades.
Messengers of Peace are individuals widely recognized for their talents in the arts, academia, sports, entertainment and other fields who work to help raise worldwide awareness of UN ideals and activities.
“We are delighted by the Secretary General’s choice today as we know that when the Professor speaks, people listen and take note,” added Mr. Steiner. “Ms Maathai with her knowledge, experience and passion is one of the most effective and persuasive voices of the environment today.”
The other Messengers of Peace and their areas of focus include: conductor Daniel Barenboim (peace and tolerance); actor George Clooney (peacekeeping); author Paulo Coelho (poverty and intercultural dialogue); actor Michael Douglas (disarmament); primatologist Jane Goodall (conservation and environmental issues) and violinist Midori Goto (Millennium Development Goals and Youth).
Women peace activists alone share hope for peace
In a joint conference with Itach – Women Lawyers for Social Justice, the International Women’s Commission (IWC) presents a report that provides worrisome insights into Israeli women’s positions on peace and the Israeli – Palestinian conflict.
“Women Confronting Peace – Voices from Israel” is the result of a three-year project, during which the IWC held 13 public hearings to document the voices of women of different backgrounds. The report was presented on December 3, at a conference entitled, “Women, Peace and Political Negotiations – The Voice Unheard“. Women from the Palestinian National Authority, the United Nations and Israel will share their opinions on the pervasive militaristic discourse that shapes the positions of many Israeli women.
The IWC has come to an unsettling conclusion: “Despite the fact that Jewish women are interested in meeting with Palestinian women, they perceive them as less maternal and unconcerned about their children’s safety.” The Commission also finds that “the exclusion of women’s perspectives from the security discourse that dominates Israeli-Palestinian relations prevents the development of an alternative feminist discourse.”
The International Women’s Commission brings together Palestinian, Israeli and international women dedicated to an end of the Israeli occupation and a just peace based on international law [including relevant UN resolutions], human rights and equality. The IWC aims to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through immediate final status negotiations leading to a viable, sovereign Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel on the June 4, 1967, borders. The IWC works for an ongoing and comprehensive reconciliation in order to realize a mutually secure and sustainable peace and co-existence.
One very interesting conclusion of the report reveals that women’s involvement in peace activism increases their commitment to ending the conflict through a feminist framework. These same women activists expressed their frustration at the inability to meet and connect with Palestinian women working for peace because of developments since the Second Intifada. .
“Jewish women in Israel are emotionally trapped inside the militaristic security discourse led by the Israeli political leadership. On the other hand, they are certain this discourse cannot bring peace” says Nourit Hajjaj, IWC member, and a co-writer of the report “Women Confronting Peace”.
The IWC highlights that fact that “for the first time in Israel, women’s voices are being heard, as mothers, citizens and activists; providing a forum of discussion on ways to bring these voices into the ongoing discourse on the conflict and its effect on their lives. Extensive international efforts by IWC aim at settling the conflict not only on the political level, but also through initiating opportunities for renewed hope in peace amidst an Israeli public trapped in a cycle of despair.”
Alongside these worrisome conclusions, the conference addressed the IWC’s appeal for increased representation of women’s viewpoints in political negotiations. This initiative is backed by UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which demands greater representation for women in all spheres and stages of decision-making processes, especially those aiming to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts.
The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution last week urging all countries to increase the ranks of women with a seat at the table when negotiations take place to resolve conflicts and start building peace.
Nine years after the adoption of a landmark U.N. resolution calling for women be included in decision-making positions at every level of peacemaking and peace building, the council expressed “deep concern” at the small number of women in key leadership roles.
According to the UN Development Fund for Women, since 1992 only 2.4 percent of signatories to peace agreements were women, and women’s participation in negotiating delegations averaged about 7 percent.
Ines Alberdi, executive director of the fund, known as UNIFEM, said the “striking absence” of women in peace negotiations meant that they lacked a voice in everything that followed in trying to move their countries from war to peace.
The resolution adopted Monday requests Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to submit a set of indicators to track implementation of the landmark Security Council resolution adopted in 2000. It not only called for women to be included in decision-making at every level of the peace process but for increased protection of women and girls during war and prosecution of perpetrators responsible for rape and other crimes against women.
“It is time for us all to count the number of women at the peace table, the number of women raped in war, the number of internally displaced women who never recover their property, the number of women human rights defenders killed for speaking out,” Alberdi said.
She said targets should also be set for next year’s 10th anniversary commemoration of the resolution – likely to be a ministerial meeting – to start increasing women’s participation in peace efforts.
Alberdi suggested at least a 50 percent increase in the number of uniformed women peacekeepers and an even higher target to boost the number of women mediators and U.N. special representatives in countries emerging from conflict.
“The council must be relentless in its insistence on women as peacekeepers, peace builders and decision-makers,” said Assistant Secretary-General Rachel Mayanja, the U.N. special adviser on gender issues and the advancement of women.
She lamented that women and girls continue to be victims almost a decade after the 2000 resolution was approved.
“Armed conflict and its aftermath continue to account for untold hardship for civilians, especially women and girls,” she said. “These violations – especially sexual violence against women and girls – are pronounced during open hostilities, but they exist even where open hostilities have subsided.”
Mayanja said the Security Council must reinvigorate efforts to put women at peace tables and help countries strengthen their judiciary and security institutions to enable them to hold the perpetrators of crimes against women and girls accountable.
Ireland’s UN Ambassador Anne Anderson recalled that almost 17 years ago she went to former Yugoslavia as Part of a European Union mission to investigate the rape of women during the Balkans conflict, which was being used as “an instrument of war.”
While men have always been victims and victors, waging war and authoring peace, she said, “women have largely been imprisoned in the victim role: the collateral damage of war and, if present at all, a kind of add-on at the peace table.”
To implement the 2000 resolution “means climbing mountains,” Anderson said.
“To get to first base, we need real, transformative, attitudinal change,” she said.
Anderson recalled US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying at a high-level breakfast last month on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly’s ministerial meeting that she is repeatedly questioned about spending time on the issue of women in conflict.
“She has had to explain for the millionth time that these issues are not secondary, but primary; that they are core foreign policy issues,” Anderson said.
Clinton presided over the council on Sept. 30 when it unanimously adopted a resolution condemning sexual violence in war zones.
That resolution creates a special UN envoy to coordinate efforts to combat the use of rape as a weapon of war and directs the secretary-general to dispatch a team of experts to advise governments on how best to prosecute offenders.
US deputy ambassador Rosemar DiCarlo told the council Monday that the US believes its continued focus on women, peace and security “is critical” and strongly supports the newly adopted resolution to include more women in peace processes and post-conflict deliberations.
Mothers for Peace in Iran (http://www.motherspeace.blogfa.com) are a group of women who came together to share their solidarity and belief in peace and harmony in the world and dialogue and understanding rather than violence and war. Today, Sunday, they demonstrated in front of the Palestinian embassy in Tehran.
The ladies were shouting “peace-peace, one two three peace-peace. The demonstration started around 11 am with about 40-50 people, most of them women about my age but there were some younger ones and a few children. On the placards that the ladies were carrying were slogans such as “children are the real victims of blockade and war”, “Unprecedented violence in Gaza – Why Silence?”, “Stop the genocide in Gaza”, “Where is my home?” Mahatma Gandhi’s words “resistance is the right of the oppressed and those who have been occupied”, “women and children are the victims of wars”, and others. These are slogans that we see in the demonstrations that have been taking place right across the world protesting against this most unbelievably violent retaliation and the silence of the superpowers about this catastrophic human tragedy.
The thing that made me more sad was the fact as these women stopped people and cars and gave them their short pamphlets about the war in Gaza, a group started to take over the peaceful demonstration with slogans of war and destruction and their number increased, such that the women moved to the other side of the road. It seems that the warmongers are found everywhere and even a peaceful demonstration by some middle-aged mothers can not be tolerated even if it is in agreement with the government. How many battles people must bear and how much pain can be endured in this world. Please join me and pray for a quick and peaceful solution to the conflict that is going on in Gaza.
First ladies from Muslim countries Saturday condemned the Israeli offensive on Gaza and called on the international community to end the suffering of women and children there in an Istanbul meeting organized by Turkish prime minister’s wife.
Jordan’s Queen Rania, Syria’s Asma Assad, Qatar’s Sheikha Mozah and Lebanon’s Wafaa Sleiman joined the Turkish prime minister’s wife Emine Erdogan to call for an end to hostilities between Israel and Hamas.
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s daughter, Aisha, and the Pakistani prime minister’s wife also attended the meeting entitled “Women for peace in Palestine.”
“We, in the name of mothers who attach great importance to peace and human life, request that the international community press Israel to stop its attacks,” said Erdogan, reading from a joint declaration issued at the end of their meeting.
“Israel must abide by the U.N. resolution (calling for a cease-fire). It must lift the embargo. Israel must immediately withdraw its forces from Gaza,” she said.
All participants wore white shawls with the word “peace” inscribed in Turkish, Arabic and English over their shoulders.
Before reading out the joint declaration, Emine Erdogan denounced Israel’s attacks on Gaza, breaking into the tears as she recounted how children were caught up in the war.
“I hope our meeting will be an instrument of pressure on Israel for the immediate halt of the attacks” on Gaza, Erdogan told participants in the meeting.
She spoke of a “humanitarian drama” in Gaza and urged the international community to put an end “to the sufferings of women and children” in Palestine which “attacked the most basic freedom, that of life.”
“They were killed while riding their bikes in parks. They sought refuge in schools but were killed there too. They were killed inside mosques. They were taken to hospitals but could not escape the death machines there either,” she said.
“I am speaking and expressing my pain as a mother,” she added.
Earlier those attending the meeting had met representatives of Turkish aid organizations operating in Gaza.
Israeli aircraft, tanks and ships on Saturday pounded the Gaza Strip into a third week, as a new round of diplomacy got underway to end a war that has killed more than 800 people despite a U.N. truce call.
In the political dialog regarding Gaza as is so often the case in war and violent conflict, the voices of women who stand in opposition to the reign of terror that is taking place are being all but silenced by both the media and governmental bodies. Despite mandates such as United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 which mandates consideration of the impact of conflict on women’s lives as well as the full participation of women in all peace negotiations, the wisdom and concerns of women are systemically ignored.
As Margot Wallström, Vice-President of the European Commission and Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders Ministerial Initiative, points out,
“We may have accepted in principle that politics should include both women and men, but this has not been adequately applied to foreign and security policy. A recent report by Operation 1325, a Swedish umbrella organisation working for women and peace, revealed that nine out of ten civilians sent to work in conflict areas are men. Women are not regarded as having enough knowledge or competence in security questions and, as a result, European peace-making missions remain a project by and for men.
Given the often determinate role that women’s organisations have played on the ground in conflict resolution, it is absurd that they are so under-represented in the international work in this field. Not only does it reflect an important limitation to democracy, it is also a threat to global security and to women across the globe. By excluding women from conflict management, we exclude a female perspective and experience that could contribute to peace building projects that better correspond to the real needs of all those affected by conflict.”
As the violence and its consequences continue unabated, it is urgent that we listen and pay heed to the brave and eloquent women in Gaza, in Israel and throughout the world who are speaking out and taking action to end the atrocities that are taking place in Gaza.
Feminist groups and pundits were the first to come out against the Gaza operation from its outset. In an op-ed for Maariv/NRG Sunday, feminist activist Dorit Rabinovich called upon Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to oppose the war.
“In a move that is nothing but pure chauvinism and sexism, made up of slogans about invasion, occupation, penetration and a disregard for the will of the public in the country, this is Livni’s time to say ‘enough’ to the government’s rape of society,” she wrote.
Rabinovich predicted that soon, hundreds of thousands would take to the streets against the war, and the pundits will also come out against it. As a precedent she cited the successful protest by women’s groups against the IDF security zone in Lebanon, which was aided by feminist journalists like Shelly Yechimovich (now a Labor MK). That movement is credited with causing then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s decision to withdraw from Lebanon in 2000.
On Monday, a coalition of Israeli women’s groups filed a complaint against Israel to the United Nations Security Council. The groups claimed that Israel is not complying with a law passed in 2005 that requires the participation of women in the Israeli government’s decision-making forums.
Gaza resident Dr. Mona El-Farra is providing updates on From Gaza With Love where she recommends donations to help Palestinian women and children be made via the Middle East Children’s Alliance.
From Palestinian mothers in the UK in a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown:
(W)e want to emphasise that the involvement of women in any peace negotiations is necessary. We would like to remind the UK about that On 31 October 2000, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted Resolution 1325 which recognises the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women as well as recognizing the under-valued and under-utilized contributions women make to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peace-building, and stresses the importance of their equal and full participation as active agents in peace and security. In view of this, we would like to know what steps are being taken to incorporate a gender perspective on any and all peace efforts. Is the UK government ensuring that appropriate women are involved in decision making at all levels in the conflict resolution and peace processes?
We look forward to meeting with you urgently.
The Women’s International League For Peace and Freedom (WILPF) has a statement here that ends with this excellent quote from the Israeli Women’s Coalition for Peace:
“The dance of death and destruction must come to an end. We demand that war no longer be an option, nor violence as strategy, nor killing an alternative. The society we want is one in which every individual can lead a life of security – personal, economic, and social.”
About 200 Indonesian women protested against Israeli military strikes in the Gaza Strip outside the Egyptian embassy on Friday.
Carrying posters showing wounded and dead Palestinian children, they urged Egypt to open its border with Gaza for the delivery of humanitarian aid.
“Implores that women from both sides of the Gaza territories be bought into a peace process. Women from both sides have established peace principles long before men were shaking hands for television cameras. As leaders, mothers, daughters and citizens of their nations they are in the best position to bring about peace, best stated in a 2008 article by Israeli feminist peace activist Gila Svirsky “Our principles went beyond the general assertion of ending hostilities….not just ending the Israeli occupation, but shaping a shared future of cooperation….opposition to militarism that permeates both societies, an equal role for women in negotiations for peace and a society that cares more about education, health, art and the poor than it does about maintaining a deadly arsenal” (Off Our Backs/, June 2008).”
In Israel: Boycott, Divest and Sanction, Naomi Klein examines why an economic boycott of Israel is a potent tool for ending the violence and eloquently rebuts the arguments that have been made against this strategy.
And finally, Women of Colour Network Australia examines why what is happening in Gaza is a feminist issue, examining the following questions:
What is the value of a Palestinian life?
Is the current Israeli bombing of Gaza a feminist issue?
What actions can those of us who are far away from Palestine take to ensure solidarity with the Palestinian people?
The Feminist Peace Network will continue posting the wise voices of women addressing the crisis in Gaza.
Below is a list of earlier posts addressing the current situation. Here also are links to other recent posts regarding Gaza:
Feminist Perspectives On Ending The Israeli Occupation And Getting To Peace With The Palestinians By Gila Svirsky Jewish Women In Toronto: Gaza Is Not In Our Name (video of the sit-in at the Israeli Consulate in Toronto
Gaza: Diary of a Massacre
Jewish Canadian Women Occupy Israeli Consulate in Toronto
When We Are Persuaded That The Safety Of Our Nations Depends On The
Cold-Blooded Murder Of Children, We Have No Future-Tell Obama You Want The
U.S. To Support A Ceasefire In Gaza NOW
McKinney Calls On Obama To Speak Out About Humanitarian Crisis In Gaza
Joint Statement From Israeli Women’s Groups On The Violence In Gaza
Starhawk on Gaza: “I Just Don’t Get It.Or Rather, I Do.”
Statement On The Violence In Gaza
For links to these and other postings go to http://www.feministpeacenetwork.org
Statement of Isis International on the ongoing conflict in Gaza – 8 January 2009
Isis International joins our sisters in Palestine and Israel and around the world in demanding an immediate cessation of hostilities and destruction in Gaza, and the reopening of Gaza to facilitate the flow of much needed humanitarian aid. We extend our solidarity to the innocent civilians, and especially to the women and children, victims of the militarism and fundamentalisms on both sides of the conflict that are causing death, destruction and suffering. We demand that women be integrally involved in building a just and sustainable peace.
Isis International shares and supports the visions of peace and security of both Palestenian and Israeli women. Their voices, visions and aspirations are seldom reflected in the mainstream media. Their stories, struggles, faces and names are hardly known. Yet it is the women who have been speaking of peace between territories for years. It is an ongoing human tragedy that such visions have not been reflected in the formal peace process and agreements.
Today both Palestinian and Israeli women are once more calling for a just and sustainable peace.
The International Women’s Commission (IWC) for a Just and Sustainable Palestinian–Israeli Peace has issued a statement (January 2009) demanding “an immediate cessation of the aggression by the Israeli military forces in Gaza, which has already cost hundreds of lives” and calling for the “immediate resumption of peace negotiations based on the Arab Peace Initiative as the only way of bringing an end to the occupation and achieving sustainable peace between Israel and Palestine, and in the region.” The IWC, comprising Palestinian, Israeli and international women leaders, was established in 2005 under the auspices of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) as part of efforts to implement UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace
and security. (http://www.iwc-peace.org )
The Coalition of Women’s Organizations for Peace in Israel issued a statement on 1 January 2009: demanding “an end to the bombing and other tools of death”, and calling “for the immediate start of deliberations to talk peace and not make war. The dance of death and destruction must come to an end. We demand that war no longer be an option, nor violence a strategy, nor killing an alternative. The society we want is one in which every individual can lead a life of security – personal, economic,
and social. “( http://gazanow.wordpress.com/2009/01/01/ statement-by-womens-organizations-in-israel/ )
Isis International implores that women from both sides of the Gaza territories be bought into a peace process. Women from both sides have established peace principles long before men were shaking hands for television cameras. As leaders, mothers, daughters and citizens of their nations they are in the best position to bring about peace, best stated in a 2008 article by Israeli feminist peace activist Gila Svirsky “Our principles went beyond the general assertion of ending hostilities….not just ending the Israeli occupation, but shaping a shared future of cooperation….opposition to militarism that permeates both societies, an equal role for women in negotiations for peace and a society that cares more about education, health, art and the poor than it does about maintaining a deadly arsenal” (/Off Our Backs/, June 2008).
And so with the knowledge and confidence that women as peace makers can make a difference in this conflict, Isis International reiterates their visions and echoes their voices in this turbulent time.
— END —
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A diverse group of Jewish Canadian women are currently (7 Jan) occupying the Israeli consulate at 180 Bloor Street West in Toronto. This action is in protest against the on-going Israeli assault on the people of Gaza.
The group is carrying out this occupation in solidarity with the 1.5 million people of Gaza and to ensure that Jewish voices against the massacre in Gaza are being heard. They are demanding that Israel end its military assault and lift the 18-month siege on the Gaza Strip to allow humanitarian aid into the territory.
Israel has been carrying out a full-scale military assault on the Gaza Strip since December 27, 2008. At least 660 people have been killed and 3000 injured in the air strikes and in the ground invasion that began on January 3, 2009. Israel has ignored international calls for a ceasefire and is refusing to allow food, adequate medical supplies and other necessities of life into the Gaza Strip.
Protesters are outraged at Israel′s latest assault on the Palestinian people and by the Canadian government′s refusal to condemn these massacres. They are deeply concerned that Canadians are hearing the views of pro-Israel groups who are being represented as the only voice of Jewish Canadians. The protesters have occupied the consulate to send a clear statement that many Jewish-Canadians do not support Israel′s violence and apartheid policies. They are joining with people of conscience all across the world who are demanding an end to Israeli aggression and justice for the Palestinian people.
The group includes: Judy Rebick, professor; Judith Deutsch, psychoanalyst and president of Science for Peace; B.H. Yael, filmmaker; Smadar Carmon, an Canadian Israeli peace activist and others.
We, the members of the Women’s International League for Peace Freedom, are horrified at Israel’s bombing of Gaza.
We join with millions around the world in protests and call for an immediate cease fire.
We are profoundly distressed, knowing that the continuous bombardment will lead to further civilian deaths and suffering, and this massive escalation of violence could spiral out of control and engulf the whole region in war.
The massive air attack is a crime against humanity as it comes on top of the two-year inhumane siege that Israel has imposed on the one and a half million people living in Gaza, the world’s largest prison.
As US citizens, we call on our own government to use its decisive influence on Israel to stop the bombing and pledge not to do a ground invasion of Gaza.
We condemn “Operation Cast Lead,” which began around 11:30 A.M on Saturday, December 27, as 64 aircraft delivered over 100 tons of explosives upon 50 to 100 suspected Hamas targets in the Strip, and is the largest Israeli operation on Gaza since 1967. This operation represents major violations of International law, which forbids the collective punishment of a whole population, the targeting of civilian populations and civilian infrastructure, and the disproportionate use of military attacks against a civilian population which has no national army.
We condemn US complicity, as described by Phyllis Bennis:
“The United States remains directly complicit in Israeli violations of both U.S. domestic and international law through its continual provision of military aid. The current round of air strikes have been carried out largely with F-16 bombers and Apache attack helicopters both provided to Israel through U.S. military aid grants of about $3 billion in U.S. taxpayer money sent to Israel every year… In short, Israel’s lethal attack today on the Gaza Strip could not have happened without the active military support of the United States.”
Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies, December 28 2008 http://www.unitedforpeaceandjustice.org/article.php?id=3994
We also call on President-elect Obama to use his influence to make a positive change in this situation.
We support the demand of the Middle East Quartet for an immediate 48 hour cease-fire fully respected by both sides. We support their call “for all parties to address the serious and economic needs in Gaza and to take the necessary measures to ensure the continuous provisions to address the serious humanitarian crisis.”
We call on the UN to adopt and enforce a binding resolution to ensure an immediate ceasefire, to lift the blockade of the territory imposed by Israel, and to provide immediate humanitarian aid.
As of this writing, more than 400 Palestinians have been killed and over 2000 have been wounded, the majority of whom are women and children, which is the natural consequence of bombing one and half million people enclosed in an area in which 50% of the population are children and 70% are refugees. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaza_Strip#Demographics
While we recognize the incredible military advantage of Israel, we also recognize the need for Hamas to cease firing rockets into Israel, as this threatens the lives of Israelis civilians and is used as a pretext to continue bombing.
We urge all parties to come to the peace table to negotiate an agreement that would restore a just peace, address injustices, and build long-term economic prosperity that would benefit all people living in the region.
Our WILPF Palestinian sisters state: “Israel and the International community should recognize the democratically elected representatives, and lifting all the economic siege imposed on the Palestinian government and people, and the release of all political prisoners among them 45 Palestinian Parliamentarians. Without these measures peace cannot flourish and Hamas cannot abide to the demands of the international community”.
The Israeli Women’s Coalition for Peace, which includes WILPF, states:
“The dance of death and destruction must come to an end. We demand that war no longer be an option, nor violence as strategy, nor killing an alternative. The society we want is one in which every individual can lead a life of security – personal, economic, and social.”
We women’s organizations from a broad spectrum of political views demand an end to the bombing and other tools of death, and call for the immediate start of deliberations to talk peace and not make war. The dance of death and destruction must come to an end. We demand that war no longer be an option, nor violence a strategy, nor killing an alternative. The society we want is one in which every individual can lead a life of security – personal, economic, and social.
It is clear that the highest price is paid by women and others from the periphery – geographic, economic, ethnic, social, and cultural – who now, as always, are excluded from the public eye and dominant discourse.
The time for women is now. We demand that words and actions be conducted in another language.
Ahoti: For Women in Israel
Anuar: Jewish and Arab Women Leadership
Artemis: Economic Society for Women
Coalition of Women for Peace
Economic Empowerment for Women
Feminancy: College for Women’s Empowerment
Feminist Activist Group – Jerusalem
Feminist Activist Group – Tel Aviv
International Women’s Commission: Israeli Branch
Isha L’Isha: Haifa Feminist Center
Itach: Women Lawyers for Social Justice
Kol Ha-Isha: Jerusalem Women’s Center
Mahut Center: Information, Training, and Employment for Women
Shin Movement: Equal Representation for Women
Supportive Community: Women’s Business Development Center
Tmura: The Israeli Antidiscrimination Legal Center
University against Harassment – Tel Aviv
Women and their Bodies
Women’s Spirit: Financial Independence for Women Victims of Violence
1 January 2009
Press Release – 28 December 2008
The International Women’s Commission (IWC) for a Just and Sustainable Palestinian-Israeli Peace demands an immediate cessation of the aggression by the Israeli military forces in Gaza, which has already cost hundreds of lives.
This slaughter can only further fuel the conflict and quash any remaining hope for peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people.
The IWC calls on the international community, and specifically to the Quartet, to immediately deploy an international force to bring an end to this madness, to protect innocent civilians and to alleviate the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
The IWC further appeals to the Quartet, and in particular to the incoming US Administration, to press for immediate resumption of peace negotiations based on the Arab Peace Initiative as the only way of bringing an end to the occupation and achieving sustainable peace between Israel and Palestine, and in the region.
On behalf of IWC Members:
Palestinian Steering Committee
Maha Abu-Dayyeh Shamas
Israeli Steering Committee
International Steering Committee
Today, 10 December 2008, marks the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations General Assembly. The UDHR is a major achievement of the United Nations, setting a common human rights standard for all nations and peoples. Its legally binding International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and their Optional Protocols, as well as the many conventions and treaties to promote and protect human rights for all, form a remarkable body of international human rights law.
In this 60th anniversary year, the United Nations has undertaken an intensive programme of activities leading up to today’s commemoration, under the slogan “dignity and justice for all of us”. It culminates in sixteen days of action against gender based violence.
The implementation of accepted human rights norms remains a significant challenge. Although the international human rights standards and their oversight have been strengthened over the years, forces and trends (by States and private companies) continue to threaten and undermine their application. Too often under the false pretext of protecting women, women are denied the right to education, mobility, the right to their own body and the free choice to plan their own future. All over the world, women have to struggle for basic human rights in many aspects of their lives.
Since its inception in 1915, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) has worked for all human rights to be respected. We have equally worked for the prevention of war and the eradication of militarism, believing that these conditions negate human rights. We are convinced that human rights cannot exist without peace and freedom.
Exercising the right to have an equal voice in international policy-making and the questions of war and peace, The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom calls for:
* the right of peoples to exercise political and economic sovereignty over their land and its resources;
* the right of peoples to live in peace and freedom without fear of violence, occupation or military rule;
* the right of peoples to determine their own systems of economic and social development and relations in harmony with the planet;
* the right of women to receive equal pay for equal work;
* the right of all people to be free from sexual slavery, other forms of bonded labour and exploitation;
* the right of all peoples to participate fully in the social, economic and political life in their country.
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) is the oldest women’s peace organization in the world, established in 1915 to oppose the war raging in Europe. It has been working ever since to study, make known, and abolish the causes of war, and to support human rights and general and complete disarmament.
In an unusual move, Judge Anne Gowora said they should hunt for campaigner Jestina Mukoko in all places of detention where they have jurisdiction.
Police deny holding Ms Mukoko, director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, who disappeared last Wednesday.
The opposition leader said he held President Mugabe responsible for her.
Speaking from neighbouring Botswana, the Movement for Democratic Change’s (MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai told the BBC: “These abductions are deliberate attempts to decimate, intimidate and harass the opposition.”
He added: “I can only say that Mugabe at this stage is responsible for the lives of those people, and that he should release those people. If they die, they are dying on his hands.”
Mr Tsvangirai also said Zimbabwe’s cholera outbreak was “catastrophic”, as it emerged deaths from the epidemic had climbed towards 800.
A total of 774 people have now died and suspected cases have climbed to 15,219, the UN World Health Organisation said on Wednesday.
South Africa’s governing African National Congress party has urged Zimbabwe’s government “as a matter of urgency” to find Ms Mukoko and two other missing Zimbabwe Peace Project workers.
The High Court judge ordered national broadcaster the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation to run radio and television appeals for information about Ms Mukoko, who was allegedly abducted from her home outside the capital, Harare, by 15 armed men on 3 December.
There are reports that two days later the brother of a lawyer working on Ms Mukoko’s case was taken from his home in southern Zimbabwe, while two of Ms Mukoko’s colleagues were abducted on Monday at their workplace.
On Wednesday, members of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights carrying banners protesting against recent abductions marched through the centre of Harare to parliament.
Zimbabwean journalist Brian Hungwe told the BBC emotions were running high but the marchers, who were escorted by police on bicycles, conducted themselves peacefully.
BBC southern Africa correspondent Peter Biles says there is growing concern in Zimbabwe about the number of human rights activists and MDC supporters who have been abducted since October. Some 18 are reportedly missing.
On Monday, an adviser to Mr Tsvangirai was also abducted. Gandhi Mudzwinga was forced into a car by a group of armed men and driven away, said eyewitnesses.
Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party and the MDC have been deadlocked in floundering power-sharing negotiations since September over how to divide control of key ministries.
Mr Tsvangirai has not been back in the country since leaving more than a month ago to attend a summit in Johannesburg – where efforts failed again to set up a national unity government in Zimbabwe.
“Zanu-PF expected that after having messed up the country they expect us to clean up the mess without the authority to discharge our responsibilities,” the MDC leader told the BBC.
Human rights groups demanded an immediate end on Wednesday to the abduction of activists.
“This shows the audacity of a regime that is desperate to stay in power, no matter what the cost,” Irene Khan, secretary general of Amnesty International, said.
“The only way out of this problem is through unified pressure from outside, in particular of African leaders.”
But so far among African nations, only leaders in Botswana and Kenya have called on Mr Mugabe, who has ruled since Zimbabwe won independence in 1980, to go.
South Africa has rejected calls for the 84-year-old to resign, while the 53-member African Union says power-sharing talks are the way forward.
The Zimbabwe government said on Tuesday the cholera outbreak was under control, a week after declaring it a national emergency.
But up to 60,000 cases of the disease could emerge in the country in the coming weeks, the UN children’s agency Unicef has warned.