WILPF International Initiative: Ending Discrimination and Reinforcing Women's Peace and Security in the MENA Region

This spring, WILPF International, in collaboration with other strategic partners, will be holding a series of national consultations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in (May 2012) and a Conference in Geneva  (June 2012) to advance women’s rights and women’s participation regarding all matters relating to peace and security. Results from national consultations in Jordan, Morocco, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Tunisia will then shape WILPF’s two day international conference in Geneva during the 20th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC); and will also be used to develop a long term capacity building program for organizations working to end discrimination against women and to ensure women’s full involvement in the prevention of conflict and promotion of peace and security.  

The background which led WILPF to organize the MENA advocacy project resulted from a growing awareness that the extremely militarised and non-consultative leadership style  against which ordinary citizens revolted against through popular uprisings known as ‘the Arab Spring,' relied heavily on the exclusion and subordination of women—including from all  discourses on peace and security. WILPF recognized that while women have been key actors in the popular uprisings, the historical patterns of patriarchal exclusion found in earlier regimes were being  re-shaped, and even worsened, by the newly emerging political parties and  male leaders. Although women played vital roles in street-level mobilization to end oppressive regimes, women’s activism was not translating into increased public participation in reform processes—as was strikingly clear in the Tunisian and Egyptian elections.

The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) calls for national action to end discrimination against women, and more recently, CEDAW’s goals have been advanced through UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and the women, peace and security agenda that specifically recognizes the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace building. However, these global  efforts  to  advance  women’s  development  and  promote  gender equality are making little impact in the current events and political transformations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. To counter this damaging trend, women in the region are calling for specific emphasis to be placed on human rights-­based responses through which women’s rights and their meaningful participation in the changes taking place can be advanced.

In order to give attention to ending discrimination against women and to advance the women, peace and security agenda in the MENA region, WILPF and other partners have initiated this regional action agenda to identify obstacles to, and opportunities for the advancement of, women’s rights in the MENA, as mandated in both CEDAW and the women, peace and security Resolutions of the UN Security Council.

Expected Outcomes include:

1.  National consultation process initiated and carried out in all target countries: Iraq, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen and Morocco (by May 2012). A country specific and regional outcome document from the national consultation process will be compiled.

2.   A two-­day international conference in Geneva during the 20th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC). Several thematic HRC public Side Events. A joint submission will be presented to the HRC.

3.   Draft objectives and an action plan for a regional capacity-­building program based on the recommendations from the conference and national outcome documents.

4.   A presentation to the CEDAW Committee on project findings.

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