Women Still Kept Away From Peace Talks, Contrary to U.N. Resolution, Study Says

October 26, 2010 - 5:42 AM

United Nations (AP) - The goal of a U.N. resolution adopted 10 years ago to put women in decision-making positions at every level of peace-making and peace-building is not being met, according to a year-long study in six countries.

The study was released Monday, the eve of a ministerial meeting of the U.N. Security Council to review progress toward implementing the resolution on women, peace and security. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Austria's Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger are among those expected to speak at Tuesday's open meeting.

"Member states are not fulfilling their obligations," John Tirman, executive director of the MIT Center for International Studies, which helped organize the study, said in a statement. "This is a resolution that is both realistic and innovative, covering half the population of the world. It is important, and it is being ignored."

The U.N. resolution was the first to recognize "the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace-building" and "the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security."

It also called for the prosecution of crimes against women, increased protection of women and girls during war, especially against rape and sexual violence, and the appointment of more women to U.N. peacekeeping operations and field missions.

The 50-page study focused on six countries or regions still in conflict or emerging from it -- Indonesia's province of Aceh, Colombia, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Liberia, Sri Lanka and Uganda. The researchers said it was based on extensive interviews, government documents, press accounts and the experience of the study team.

According to the study, which was organized by the MIT Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Washington-based International Civil Society Action Network, governments in the six countries failed to take steps to ensure women's participation in resolving conflicts.

In some countries, the report said, legislation was enacted but not implement and in others, special advisers or commissions were established but were ineffective, politicized or diverted resources from organizations promoting women's issues.

"The way things are, as long as women are not a security threat, their concerns and interests will be sidelined," Sanam Anderlini, the study's principal author and co-organizer, said in a statement. "Peace processes are about cease-fires and power deals, not real peace."

The study found that in Aceh and the Middle East "women were the first to engage publicly and directly on peacemaking. Yet national and international actors made no concerted effort to include them in formal processes."

"In the Middle East too, there has been persistent exclusion of women from the formal peace making efforts, all of which have failed to date," it added.

In Sri Lanka and Uganda, the study said, women were included in delegations to peace talks and achieved some gains but these were negated by the failure of the talks.

On a more positive note, it said, "Liberia's current peace -- problematic as it may be -- is largely thanks to the mass action of its women literally sitting outside the negotiations, and not giving up on peace." And in Colombia, women's groups "are among the leaders of public peace movements and have been an essential means of challenging the militarization perpetuated by the state, paramilitaries, and left-wing guerrillas," it said.

The study concluded that the U.N. resolution didn't prompt an education campaign about its aims, which is "crippling effective implementation." It also accused governments and international mediators of "not doing their job," and donors of "not practicing what they preach," because they have failed to support and include women's participation in peace-related activities.

"Violence remains a key criterion for participation in peace talks," the study said. "Entry to talks is still based on the `Who are you? Do you have an army?'"

The researchers urged the U.N. to help develop education campaigns tailored to individual countries, to insist that the agenda of peace negotiations include the impact on civilians, and to set global standards by endorsing mediators and appointing gender advisers who will implement the resolution and ensure that women are represented at peace tables and in other peace-related discussions.