TODAY is the twelfth anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, on women and peace and security. The resolution reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.
Resolution 1325 urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspectives in all United Nations peace and security efforts. It also calls on all parties in conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, in situations of armed conflict. The resolution provides a number of important operational mandates, with implications for member States and the entities of the United Nations system.
As part of this year's "birthday" of 1325, the UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security, under the presidency of Guatemala will, for the first time consider the specific role played by women's civil society organisations in conflict prevention and recovery.
The theme for this open debate is, "The role of women's civil society organisations in contributing to prevention and resolution of armed conflict and peace building".
Those who have contributed to Pacific member States' contributions to the debate are two Fijians, my sister Sharon Bhagwan Rolls and Veena Singh Bryar, both of FemLINKPACIFIC and scheduled to also speak at CSO side events.
Hurricane Sandy may have closed New York down and with it the UN, putting on hold the open debate. Here in Fiji, we who are no strangers to hurricanes and cyclones, while remembering the people on the eastern seaboard of the US in our prayers, can also reflect on the need to not just address the status quo or the barriers but to also ensure the participation of women's civil society participation in areas of peace building.
Coinciding with the UN Security Council Open Debate was a gathering of regional gender focal points (co-ordinators) of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict.
As Hurricane Sandy closed in on New York, Sharon wrote that: "Building on the theme of the debate the gender focal points network have reflected on the issues they are dealing with from Durban to Seoul, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, Georgia and the West Balkans as well as the Pacific and Canada to amplify the call to enhance the visibility and connections to the network of peacebuilders which GPPAC brings to the global peace and security architecture on issues."
Working on issues from the development and production of media initiatives and community media activism in Georgia, Fiji, the Balkans and Canada as well as initiating and undertaking dialogue in South Korea, women's peace activism is demonstrating how the work goes on sometimes under the official radar and with limited resources.
"There is also a need to ensure women's peace activists can offer their expertise to building and enhancing institutional frameworks and mechanisms to support the implementation of "1325" at national and regional level through implementation and monitoring plans and policies, as well as ensuring women, peace and security is not just limited to sexual and gender based violence but further integrated into the development and human security agendas," she added.
This means connecting and building women's rights interventions on security sector governance programs at national level and ensuring "1325" is essential in the civil society oversight such as for police and military personnel training particularly for fragile states.
"Transforming cultural practices and overcoming violence against women are also the keys to ensuring that the upcoming Commission on the Status of Women ensures peacebuilding and conflict prevention approach to not just the discussions but also ensuring "1325" is integrated in the agreed conclusions of CSW and connecting to upcoming General Assembly debates and resolutions."
The GPPAC gender focal points network also enhances global south-north collaboration among women's peace activists and is a valuable opportunity to share practices as well as build a political constituency for change and the shift from reaction to prevention.
"Another challenge for women's activists working within the broader civil society movement is that quite often they are sidelined from the "mainstream of the women's movement" and agencies addressing gender equality and women's rights and connected with tangible conflict prevention strategies including dialogue and mediation, human security, preventive action and peace education."
Last week, at the launch of the Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum said that: "â€¦. (Pacific Peacewomen) â€¦ represent the many women and girls of our region who have and continue to contribute to peace building processes of our region. While you may not receive near-enough recognition or acknowledgement of your hard work and commitment to a peaceful and secured Pacific, you have the sincere appreciation of a grateful region".
As part of the open debate, following the reflections of UN member States, a public panel organised was to highlight civil society reflections on the roles of women in conflict prevention and peace building from Africa, the Western Balkans and Asia-Pacific; discuss the role of women in dialogue and mediation processes, and reflect on experiences with engaging (as) men in gender-sensitive conflict analysis and advocacy around UNSCR 1325, and related challenges for both women and men.
For more on Pacific Regional Action Plan on women, peace and security which was developed by the Regional Working Group on Women, Peace and Security co-chaired by FemLINKPACIFIC, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the UNDP visit http://www.femlinkpacific.org.fj/.
As we reflect on Hurricane Sandy and the storms — natural as well as those made by humans — that have raged across our islands, let us never forget those who, often silently, not only bear the brunt of adversity but work to put the pieces back together. In our tendency to look at the "big picture" let us always be mindful of those whose lives are not captured in that snapshot, but without whom the picture would be incomplete.
"Simplicity, serenity, spontaneity"
* Reverend JS Bhagwan is a Masters in Theology Student at the Methodist Theological University in Seoul, South Korea. Visit the blog http://thejournalofaspiritualwonderer.blogspot.com/ or Twitter.com/PadreJB. The views expressed are his and not that of this newspaper.