Civil Society at the Security Council Open Debate

29 October 2005

The week of 5 year on events at UN Headquarters has whizzed past- Thursday the Security Council held an all-day Open Debate on 1325. Besides the statements given by those mentioned in the UN News Wire article, UNIFEM showed a documentary on the peace process in Burundi, which I thought was a great way to liven up the debate. The absolute highlight of the day for us was when two of our NGO WG participants spoke- having civil society sit at the SC table and speak directly to the SC as powerfully as they did, as candidly as they did was just an incredible experience. Sweeta Noori of Aghanistan spoke as did Helene Dandi of the Ivory Coast, who finally joined our program after some visa complications. We are so proud of them- they spoke from their hearts and they were the only ones applauded by SC members and those sitting in the gallery!  Their speeches as well as most of those given by SC members are on the Peacewomen website.

Amongst other things, I thought it was particularly amazing that Sweeta spoke about the failures of the poppy eradication programmes which have been well financed by the international community but which have been utterly gender blind- for these programmes have severe gender repercussions, with indebted poppy farmers settling their debts by giving their daughters or sisters away. Meanwhile Helene, one of the 1000 women nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005, did not shy away from repeatedly demanding 'Pourquoi?' - why for example in the SC Resolution on the Ivory Coast passed earlier this month was there no mention of women, gender or 1325? 

Member State statements were mixed- the US statement was embarrassing, with the female representative speaking about her experience of the El Salvador peace process in which women were integral, because they made up such a large part of the guerrilla forces. To me this sounded like women stand a chance of getting involved in post conflict reconstruction and peace negotiations if they are involved in the armed struggle from the start. So the problem is not that it's the military/ armed fighters who are always at the negotiating table, rather than those affected by the violence, just that there aren't enough women fighting. And then came the brilliant line 'but El Salvador is not Afghanistan'- hmm, this was after Sweeta had given her speech about the realities for women on the ground, which are quite different from what the international community wants to see. Another bizarre one was Israel's statement, the last one of the day, which was not on the original speaker list, but rather was added on during the day, and though it started out so well and promising turned into a WAT political response to Egypt's mention of Palestinian women suffering...

But there were definitely some highlights. Some that stuck in my mind are Benin and Fiji's statements, which really reflected most of our NGO WG recomendations. Several others stressed the need to integrate gender issues and 1325 into the Peacebuilding Commission, such as Canada, Germany and others- this was reiterated by Romania's Presidential Statement. Rather bizarrely Myanmar made a statement which made me wonder whether this had to do with the fact that we brought Ohmar over (and she spoke candidly about the escalating humanitarian cirisis in Burma at the Canadian Mission). It was excellent that both Italy and Germany voiced their support/tribute to Burma's human rights and democracy movement leader Aung San Suu Kyi. These references are however not in the printed version of the statements, but I can certainly vouch for the fact that Germany stated it!

This past Monday, the 24th was the 10 year anniversary of Aung San Suu Kyi being under house arrest. She is now completely cut off from communicating with the outside world- her short wave radio has broken down and not been replaced...


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