Download “The Nobel Women’s Initiative’s First International Conference: Women Redefining Peace in the Middle East & Beyond” conference report:
- Acknowledgements & Table of Contents
- Appendices Part One
- Appendices Part Two
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(L to R: Conference participants Wangari Maathai, Anne Carr, Ann Patterson, Shirin Ebadi, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Bronagh hinds, Betty Williams and Jody Williams. Photo: Judy Rand)
(Dublin, Ireland, 1 June 2007)
Women Nobel Peace Prize Recipients Pledge to become a Global Voice in Tackling Violence against Women and in Peace Advocacy
The women recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize have said that they intend to use their collective voice to advocate for a more prolific role for women in securing peace and combating violence around the globe.
Speaking at the conclusion of the first international conference of the Nobel Women’s Initiative in Ireland, today (01.06.07), the Nobel Laureates said that heretofore women’s work in building peace was marginalised and largely unrecognised. They said it was now their intention to leverage the prestige of the Nobel Prize to focus on violence against women, and advocate for recognition of the many ways in which women prevent, combat and survive violence.
The Nobel Women’s Initiative which was established in 2006 comprises six out of the seven living women Nobel Laureates. The only Laureate unable to join the initiative is Aung San Suu Kyi, who is still imprisoned in Burma.
This week in Ireland the Initiative held its first conference on the theme of Women Redefining Peace: The Middle East and Beyond. It was held in closed session and was attended by over 70 women from around the globe, including human rights activists, disarmament experts and ex-political prisoners.
According to Nobel Laureate, Prof Jody Williams (USA, 1997), arising from our deliberations in Ireland this week, we feel strongly mandated by some of the most prolific women peace activists to advocate at the highest level for greater roles for women in achieving peace and combating violence.
Women are often the faceless and voiceless victims of conflict. Gender inequality is the root cause of this. Governments and those in positions of power are reluctant to face this down, and as a result, when women articulate their concerns and try to negotiate resolutions, they are mostly ignored.
Over the coming weeks and months, the women Nobel Laureates will be making representations to Governments and global institutions to realise the important contribution that women can play in combating violence and securing peace.
During its first year, the Nobel Women’s Initiative has been particularly concerned about the mounting challenges that face women in the Middle East, and in particular in Iran and Lebanon. In August, Nobel Laureate, Dr Shirin Ebadi (Iran, 2003) and her colleagues were threatened with prosecution for carrying out their human rights work. Furthermore, earlier this year, Iran Authorities blocked access to the website of a landmark campaign initiated by women to collect one million signatures demanding and end to legal discrimination against women in Iranian law.
According to Williams, the hostilities and serious threats that are being experienced by women in Iran is just one demonstration of how women’s engagement in peace resolution is hampered. We realise that events such as those in Iran are not isolated. Our ability to confront such actions against women requires us to engage with Governments and work as a strong global force with other women so that we can strengthen our response strategies.
Addressing today’s event in Dublin, Ebadi said that she felt that despite the difficulties she and her colleagues faced in Iran, there was some reason to be optimistic. From our deliberations at our conference this week, we feel that Iran and the wider Middle East can act as an important model for how women’s rights, human security and peace issues can be addressed globally. We are a live example of applying different approaches in dealing effectively with fundamentalism and securing rights for women. As our work continues in the Middle East, we can create models of best practice that can hopefully be applied by women in other global settings.
Apart from creating best-practice approaches to conflict resolution, we are also cognisant o the fact that women are victims of violence, be it through rape, beatings or honour killings. A big part of the work that we now will undertake as Nobel Laureates is to highlight this violence and secure actions by Government to protect women from such abuses.
Today’s event was also addressed by Nobel Laureates, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire (Ireland, 1976). According to Mairead Corrigan Maguire, it is by no means insignificant that Ireland was selected as the location of the first international conference of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. For three decades, women in Northern Ireland have played a consistent and progressive role in securing a lasting settlement. Our work can hopefully act as an inspiration to other women who are living in conflict situations. The recent achievement of a devolved government in Northern Ireland is a demonstration that efforts can be rewarded. And while significant credit has gone to the main power-brokers in securing this devolution, the role which women in Northern Ireland played at all levels cannot be underestimated.
OpenDemocracy.net covered the conference in a series of podcasts, blogs and articles by participants which are being published on openDemocracy.net. Visit: http://nobelwomensinitiative.opendemocracy.net/
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Media article: The Independent
Closing Statement to Participants at “The Nobel Women’s First International Conference: Women Redefining Peace in The Middle East & Beyond” (Download the statement below)
We would like to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to come to Galway to participate in our first international conference. We have come together here out of our shared concern for the state of the world today the spiraling violence, terrorism and anti-terrorism begetting more violence, always and increasingly borne by women and children.
We have been here together to share our experiences and the lessons learned in our various responses to violence against women. We know that our ability to confront this violence depends upon our ability to understand the causes and linkages as well as learn from the hope, the positive responses of resilience and nonviolent creativity of women in the Middle East and beyond.
We have talked about the continuum of violence at the local, national, regional and international levels and that we respond to that continuum of violence on the local, national, regional and international levels as well. We know that all of our work is linked, whether we acknowledge the linkages or not, and that all of our work is contributing to building cultures of peace.
Listening to you all, sharing together, we have heard many not liking the word peace. We have discussed how peace has been hijacked as a meaningful word and has become synonymous with weak. We know that working for peace is anything but weak it is hard work every single day.
We have heard from women throughout the Middle East that conflict will not end without dialogue dialogue built on inclusion, human rights, justice and equality and we heard of the dialogue that you are engaged in daily proving that it is not only possible but necessary. Indeed it is impossible for countries under occupation Palestine, Iraq to meaningfully participate in that kind of dialogue. As one participant said, In order to co-exist, we must first exist.
We have heard you ask that people of the United States work on real democracy at home. Even when the people of that country vote the party of invasion out of the control of Congress, the Democratic Party has stepped back from legislation to bring an end to the occupation of Iraq.
We would also like to thank all of the women here for sharing with us your ideas as to how the Nobel Women’s Initiative can use our combined visibility and access to power to advance some of the issues addressed here. We will take these suggestions with us so that the NWI can assess how we can respond to the broad array of action we might take.
We would also like to ask all of us who have shared this experience together to think, perhaps, about peace in terms of human security. That all of the work that we do individually and collectively contributes to human security. Human security is a world where people recognize that sustainable peace, human rights, and sustainable development are indivisible parts of global security security based on meeting the needs of the peoples of the world and meeting their needs with justice and equality.
More weapons will only make us less secure; meeting the needs of the peoples inhabiting this tiny planet is what will make us more secure. Human security not national security.
We also ask that when we talk about violence we recognize that violence is not just part of human nature. Violence is a choice. Whether it is the violent choice of a man to beat the woman he supposedly loves; or the violent choice of a community to ghettoize people who are different racially or ethnically; or the violent choice of illegal invasion; or the violent choice of occupation. Building a culture of peace is learning and teaching that there are different choices. We as individuals do not have to choose violence. We as societies do not have to either support violent choices or participate in making them.
We as women can and must redefine peace in the Middle East and beyond.