Category Archives: Syria

WILPF News Update ACT Branch

Updates from WILPF International

Women’s Power to Stop War

Women’s Power to Stop War is a new movement created and led by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

Those joining the movement, will be part of an international community of courageous activists, who believe conflicts and wars cannot be stopped without the participation of women – and that it is time that women focus on and use their power to stop war.

Its aim is not just to stop war on women, but also to stop war on all human beings, who wish to live a life of peace and freedom.

Keep checking the WILPF International website as more will be posted including blogs, videos, our Anniversary Atlas and all the details on the events of 2015.

Centenary of WILPF

In 1915, 1136 visionary women came together in The Hague, the Netherlands, to stop World War I and on April 28, they founded the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

In 2015, 1136 visionary women will again come together to participate in the second women’s peace and security conference of a century, uniting the global movement, ‘Women’s Power to Stop War.

The conference will take place from 27-29 April in the World Forum in The Hague. Keep an eye on this website as the Conference Programme, ticket registration pages and loads of other information will come up soon!

Join the Movement now and Sign the Pledge, Donate, and Come to The Hague in 2015

A Letter to all WILPF members from the WILPF International History group

Dear WILPF sisters in most of the corners of the world:

The WILPF Centennial 2015 is rapidly approaching and preparations are under way. All sections have been asked to work on their own history as a contribution to the large and impressive history of WILPF as a whole. The IB has established some working groups and given them specific tasks. The “History Group” is one of them. We have been given the mandate to

  • Support the Sections’ work on their story gathering
  • Coordinate and gather information from the Sections that could be used for printed

Material, exhibitions etc. at the international Triennial Congress and International

Conference (in 2015)

  • ‘Plan “Our Story” exhibition at The Hague and coordinate with the Arts and entertainment working group.

While all national sections are “branches” on the many-splendored WILPF tree we are united in the principles of our Constitution. All sections are committed to engage in common activities, but they differ in size, resources, geographic location and political environment and have to adjust their activities accordingly. Each section should write its story in the way that suits best their narrative, the highlights and – if any – the failures. If we shall be able to learn from the past, we need to look at both ends of the scale.

However, we need a common overview and a few facts for the whole organization, as a framework. For that reason we would ask all Sections to send us the following:

  • Your Section’s major historic events. This includes your founding date, at what time your Section had its largest membership, as well as any major historic highlights you want to tell us about. These stories can take any shape, form or length you would like. They can be highly personal or strictly descriptive, but please include the (most) exact date and location of the events you describe, so we can include them in our Anniversary Atlas.
  • Work you are already doing on your own history. We have heard many Sections are already engaged in discovering and celebrating their own history, but we want to know about it! Tell us if you have already done any work on your history or are planning to do so. If these include any specific events, like a lecture organised specifically on the history of your Section, please, again, include the (most) exact date and location of such events.

WILPF Questions especially for sections outside Europe

WILPF International is asking individuals, branches and sections to consider their priorities using a set of 6 Questions.  They have explained the purpose of this as follows:

Nearly 100 years ago, founders of WILPF, in 1915 drafted 20 resolutions to influence policy and decision makers.  ALL sections have an opportunity to contribute to this discussion on WILPF’s political priorities and future direction. In preparation for the 2015 WILPF Centenary, the Working Group on Political Content is given the task of identifying the political priorities for our work now and in the future.

In January 2013 the International Board meeting in Madrid commissioned Cynthia Cockburn, UK member to draft a Manifesto for 2015.  With her work, we now have a second draft based on input from, and conversations with, many WILPF members.

We need your help. The draft manifesto is a very good job combining the effort of some of our members and through interviews. However, we want to ensure input of missing perspectives, especially from the various knowledge and experience at a local level and in armed conflict areas. We want to hear from countries outside Europe and North America, if not yet included, so that these experiences can be added or made more visible.

Note I am sending out a separate email to all WILPF ACT members outlining the progress we have made to date in responding to these questions and seeking further input.

Reports of interest: Syria

 Maria Butler, PeaceWomen Programme Director reports on the Syrian Peace negotiations:

 This is a difficult time for peace advocates. How can we talk about women participating at the peace table when talk has not translated into action? How can we discuss the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda when, despite rhetoric, goodwill, ministerial support, UN mediation, advocacy, campaigns, Syrian women are not even present at the opening session of the Geneva II talks, not to mention at the infamous “table”?

Over the past few weeks, I have heard diplomats tell me, with a tone of insider arrogance, “this is not a round table; it has two sides only”. I have heard Ambassadors agree and agree and then agree again with each other that women must be part of the Geneva II process but then their States have not delivered. I have heard colleagues try to convince themselves that negotiation “observers” are actually “at the table”. Next holding a conference two weeks ahead of the Peace Talks will count as “participating”! All in all, we, as an international community of States, NGOs and UN bodies, have failed – failed to implement the WPS agenda and failed to find mechanisms to include women. Despite this collective failure, we will not resign. To the contrary, we, as WILPF for sure, will redouble our work, rethink our efforts and recommit our support to push forward women’s full, equal, and meaningful participation and rights in this peace process and others.

 Friday January 17, 2014 was indeed a historic day for Syrian women, despite now being in the shadow of the failures in Geneva. Three Syrian women civil society leaders briefed the UN Security Council in a special closed Arria Formula meeting demanding women’s meaningful inclusion in the Geneva II peace talks and ongoing transitional peace processes. “We want peace and we want to be part of it. This is the bottom-line,” said a representative of the Syrian Women’s League to the highest body on international peace and security. PeaceWomen planned and organized the women peace advocates’ trip, a side event and the historic Security Council meeting. A powerful moment came when one of Syrian women looked up at the Ambassadors of the Security Council and pleaded “Do not leave your resolutions in a drawer, they do not deserve only lip service” The three Syrian women, who risked their lives to speak truth to power, demanded passionately: 1) an independent women civil society presence at the Geneva II talks; 2) 30% women on all negotiating bodies; and 3) strong and effective gender expertise to ensure that gender is mainstreamed throughout all outcome documents and processes. Read more

Events of Interest

 21-25 April: Canberra Peace Convergence.

An extended gathering of peace activist and peace makers to reflect on the state of peace in our times, to build movement and to plan and take action for peace in this time of militarism, government lies and preparations for war.

Events will include

  • The first national meeting of IPAN on 21 April. Likely at a Canberra venue.
  • A one-day conference hosted by IPAN on 22 April covering such themes as militarism and sustainability, the cost of the US alliance, the Asian Pivot and US bases. Venue and program to be announced.
  • Movement response to the Gallipoli centenary 2015.
  • A three day, open forum retreat at Silver Wattle
  • A direct action together likely on morning of 24 April
  • Participation in the Anzac eve Peace Vigil at the Australian War Memorial 24 Apr
  • Participation in the “Lest We Forget” the Frontier Killings Anzac Day March at the Australian War Memorial.

Costs $50 or $25 concession

Register your interest in attending at ipan.australia@gmail.com

 25-27 April 2014. : WILPF Asia-Pacific regional meeting, Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand

Theme:  Militarisation in the Pacific: women, peace and security

Draft programme

Friday 25 April

  • Welcome at 12 noon, followed by lunch
  • Informal information sharing session where people will be able to speak about the situation in their country.
  • Friday evening there will be a public screening of the documentary Noho Hewa about militarisation, historical and ongoing colonisation, and its devastating effects on Kanaka Maoli, the indigenous people of Hawaii, and their land.

Saturday 26 April

  • Mixture of workshops, plenary presentations and panel discussions.
  • Public Meeting – details to be confirmed

Sunday 27 April

  • Morning session: WILPF business, in particular, the 100th birthday in 2015 and the possibility of the Asia-Pacific WILPF sections working together as a regional grouping within International WILPF.
  • We would also like to develop a project that the Asia-Pacific WILPF sections could work on together – there are likely to be ideas for that from the sessions on Friday and Saturday.

Articles of Interest

Simon Jenkins: Germany, I apologise for this sickening avalanche of first world war worship, The Guardian, Friday 31 January 2014

The festival of self-congratulation will be the British at their worst, and there are still years to endure. A tragedy for both our nations.  Highly relevant to Australia re ANSAC Centenary.

Report by Cynthia Enloe on Geneva each day of the Syrian Women’s Peace Talks in Geneva: Prelude to the Official Syrian Peace Talks. Monday, January 20, 2014

Books of Interest

Gender, Violence, and Human Security: Critical Feminist Perspectives Edited by Aili Mari Tripp, Myra Marx Ferree, Christina Ewig, Amazon Books 2013

The nature of human security is changing globally: interstate conflict and even intrastate conflict may be diminishing worldwide, yet threats to individuals and communities persist. Large-scale violence by formal and informal armed forces intersects with interpersonal and domestic forms of violence in mutually reinforcing ways. Gender, Violence, and Human Security takes a critical look at notions of human security and violence through a feminist lens, drawing on both theoretical perspectives and empirical examinations through case studies from a variety of contexts around the globe.

This fascinating volume goes beyond existing feminist international relations engagements with security studies to identify not only limitations of the human security approach, but also possible synergies between feminist and human security approaches. Noted scholars Aili Mari Tripp, Myra Marx Ferree, and Christina Ewig, along with their distinguished group of contributors, analyze specific case studies from around the globe, ranging from post-conflict security in Croatia to the relationship between state policy and gender-based crime in the United States. Shifting the focus of the term “human security” from its defensive emphasis to a more proactive notion of peace, the book ultimately calls for addressing the structural issues that give rise to violence. A hard-hitting critique of the ways in which global inequalities are often overlooked by human security theorists, Gender, Violence, and Human Security presents a much-needed intervention into the study of power relations throughout the world.

Programs of Interest

Honest History on the ABC

Starting Tuesday, 4 February, 10.05 am on 666 ABC Canberra, mobile and online: Honest History fortnightly segment opening with Professor Joan Beaumont (Broken Nation) talking about the aftermath of World War I.

Honest History is a new regular segment on 666 ABC Canberra Mornings with host Genevieve Jacobs. Shibboleths will be shafted and myths will be busted during a robust and honest history discussion.

The segment is in cooperation with Honest History and the participation of various distinguished historians.

Tune in to Mornings with Genevieve Jacobs, weekdays from 9–11am on 666 ABC Canberra. Radio. Mobile. Online.

Websites of Interest

The Honest History site promotes balanced consideration of Australian history, by making contesting, evidence-based interpretations available to students, teachers, universities, journalists and the public. We challenge the misuse of history in the service of political or other agendas.

Advertisements

WILPF Statement on Syria, Chemical Weapons and Avoiding Military Intervention

Statement: The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) welcomes the decision by the British Parliament to refuse the endorsement of military action against Syria. Parliament upheld the principle that the use of chemical weapons can never be justified, but reasserted the importance of international law and the UN Charter in dictating any response by the international community. However, media reports indicate that the US government is still intent on a military strike against Syria, even without UK support.

It has been WILPF’s position since the first reports of use of gas that the use of chemical weapons is a serious violation of international law, regardless of which party to the conflict perpetrated the attack. But the use of chemical weapons, however abhorrent and illegal, should not be used as a pretext for military intervention. Other options are available and must be pursued.

Chemical weapons and international law

There is no doubt that the use of chemical weapons in armed conflict is a violation of international law. The 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons in war. Furthermore, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) outlaws the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer, or use of chemical weapons. While Syria is party only to the 1925 Geneva Protocol and not the CWC, legal experts and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have pointed out that these agreements have created a principle against the use of chemical weapons through customary international law.

This means the prohibition against using chemical weapons is just as binding as a treaty and is similarly binding on armed groups. Consequently, if either the government or a rebel faction that uses chemical weapons, they can be held accountable for this violation of international law. The alleged use of chemical weapons must not be used as a pretext for military intervention.

Against military intervention

Rather than rushing to military intervention or war, the international community must respond in conformity with international law. International legal obligations permit military intervention only under specific circumstances, none of which are applicable in this situation.

The rhetoric of the governments pushing for intervention is more akin to retribution and punishment than justice in accordance with international law. It presupposes both the “right” of Western governments to act as global police and the legitimacy of the use of force to resolve international problems.

The consequences of military intervention are inevitable: collateral damage, exacerbation of the conflict and suffering of civilians, radicalization of forces in the region, and making the prospect of a peaceful negotiation even more remote. Military intervention will not help the Syrian people secure relief from the violence nor will it result in a peaceful transition to a democratic and accountable government. A dialogue must happen and it must happen with the voices of those who advocate a nonviolent solution.

Alternative options

Alternatives to armed force have been carefully constructed over decades and there are systems in place that could and should be used.

1. Ensure effective investigation of the attack through an extension of the existing mandate of the UN inspections. The UN inspections must be allowed to be completed. The inspection team has so far collected samples and interviewed victims and witnesses. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has argued that the team must be allowed to do its job and establish the facts, pushing back against the US and UK government’s assertions of “certainty” about the facts of the case and their demands that the inspection team leave the country. Once the inspectors have determined whether chemical weapons were used and perhaps the origins of these weapons, the international community should then act in accordance with international law in its response.

2. Seek a UN Security Council resolution to secure the hand-over of any WMD in the possession of any party to the conflict. The first obligation on the UN Security Council is to ensure the prevention of further chemical weapons use. Consequently, it should promulgate a resolution to facilitate the seizure of the prohibited weapons. This could get the support of the Russian government, which has supported the prohibition of use of chemical weapons and which seems to have considerable influence over the Syrian government. Because of Russia’s strong participation in the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, (which has a larger geographical mandate than just Europe), the OSCE may also be able to secure the hand-over of the weapons.

3. Request the UN Security Council refer the matter to the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC has been established to bring justice when a state is unwilling or unable to do so, as would be the case here. There needs to be an investigation into the identification of the perpetrators and the nature of the command responsibility. Syria is not a party to the ICC but the UN Security Council can and should refer the matter to the office of the prosecutor and ensure that funds are available for investigation and indictment.

4. Support a political solution through inclusive peace talks. The political process developed to provide a political solution to the Syrian crisis through “Geneva I” talks in 2012 and planned “Geneva II” talks this year have been established to provide a political rather than military solution to the crisis. The first set of discussions developed a plan for a transitional government in Syria involving both government and opposition members. This discussion needs to be continued in Geneva II talks with strengthened support from permanent UN Security Council members. Pressure also needs to be strengthened for an inclusive process involving women on all sides as well as nonviolent humanitarian and women’s groups to ensure a strong peace process and outcome.

In the meantime, arms transfers to the Syrian government and rebel forces must stop. These arms flows have achieved only more bloodshed. In calling for those providing weapons to either side to stop, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon notes, “The military logic has given us a country on the verge of total destruction, a region in chaos and a global threat. Why add more fuel to the fire?”

Moving forward

Some will question where the justice is in simply completing inspections and securing the weapons. Law is not about quick “fixes” often demanded by governments, or the immediate justice that is wanted by victims. However, it provides a process which is critical to engage with if we want to move away from violent retribution and towards processes of peace and justice.

WILPF calls, yet again, for choosing peace over violence, and political over militarized solutions. Sustainable peace cannot be built on more violence.

http://www.wilpfinternational.org/syria-chemical-weapons-and-avoiding-military-intervention/

WILPF International statement on ENSURING SYRIAN WOMEN’S PARTICIPATION IN THE PEACE TALKS

On November 11, The UK Foreign Secretary William Hague committed the UK to securing the participation of Syrian women in the future of their country: in the peace talks, in the future government and in the rebuilding of Syria and called on other countries to help to make this a reality.

“Good! This is right as a matter of law, of policy, morality and common sense. Peace agreements brokered only between warring factions simply do not work. It is unconscionable that the majority of the Syrian population, in other words the men and women who continue to oppose bloodshed and sectarianism, can be excluded from discussions as to the future of their country. They are being held hostage by those who choose violent conflict to retain or gain power. By failing to recognize the voices of the non-violent movement, the international community has been colluding in silencing them.” commented Madeleine Rees, Secretary General of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

WILPF has consistently been advocating for non-violence and real engagement with Syrian women as part of the international community’s commitments on Women, Peace and Security and supported the mobilization of civil society. Today, there has been a serious step forward in these efforts to ensure women’s rights and participation in international peace and security.

This is a first step towards breaking that mold and the Foreign Secretary should be encouraged in his commitment. There is much to be done and we call on all governments to now really engage in a peace process for Syria that will end the horror of conflict through a political negotiation which ensures the voices of the Syrian people are heard.

Syria Statement from the International Crisis Group

The International Crisis Group is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation Set up in 1995, it is committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict.

Today it issued a statement on the Syria situation and US deliberations.  The following is an extract

Assuming the U.S. Congress authorises them, Washington (together with some allies) soon will launch military strikes against Syrian regime targets. If so, it will have taken such action for reasons largely divorced from the interests of the Syrian people. The administration has cited the need to punish, deter and prevent use of chemical weapons – a defensible goal, though Syrians have suffered from far deadlier mass atrocities during the course of the conflict without this prompting much collective action in their defence. The administration also refers to the need, given President Obama’s asserted “redline” against use of chemical weapons, to protect Washington’s credibility – again an understandable objective though unlikely to resonate much with Syrians. Quite apart from talk of outrage, deterrence and restoring U.S. credibility, the priority must be the welfare of the Syrian people. Whether or not military strikes are ordered, this only can be achieved through imposition of a sustained ceasefire and widely accepted political transition. 

To precisely gauge in advance the impact of a U.S. military attack, regardless of its scope and of efforts to carefully calibrate it, by definition is a fool’s errand. In a conflict that has settled into a deadly if familiar pattern – and in a region close to boiling point – it inevitably will introduce a powerful element of uncertainty. Consequences almost certainly will be unpredictable.

and 

Whether or not the U.S. chooses to launch a military offensive, its responsibility should be to try to optimise chances of a diplomatic breakthrough. This requires a two-fold effort lacking to date: developing a realistic compromise political offer as well as genuinely reaching out to both Russia and Iran in a manner capable of eliciting their interest – rather than investing in a prolonged conflict that has a seemingly bottomless capacity to escalate. 

In this spirit, the U.S. should present – and Syria’s allies should seriously and constructively consider – a proposal based on the following elements:

1.     It is imperative to end this war. The escalation, regional instability and international entanglement its persistence unavoidably stimulates serve nobody’s interest.

2.     The only exit is political. That requires far-reaching concessions and a lowering of demands from all parties. The sole viable outcome is a compromise that protects the interests of all Syrian constituencies and reflects rather than alters the regional strategic balance;

3.     The Syrian crisis presents an important opportunity to test whether the U.S. and the Islamic Republic of Iran can work together on regional issues to restore stability;

4.     A viable political outcome in Syria cannot be one in which the current leadership remains indefinitely in power but, beyond that, the U.S. can be flexible with regards to timing and specific modalities;

5.     The U.S. is keen to avoid collapse of the Syrian state and the resulting political vacuum. The goal should thus be a transition that builds on existing institutions rather than replaces them. This is true notably with respect to the army;

6.     Priority must be given to ensuring that no component of Syrian society is targeted for retaliation, discrimination or marginalisation in the context of a negotiated settlement.

 

Such a proposal should then form the basis for renewed efforts by Lakhdar Brahimi, the joint United Nations/Arab League envoy, and lead to rapid convening of a Geneva II conference. 

Debate over a possible strike – its wisdom, preferred scope and legitimacy in the absence of UN Security Council approval – has obscured and distracted from what ought to be the overriding international preoccupation: how to revitalise the search for a political settlement. Discussions about its legality aside, any contemplated military action should be judged based on whether it advances that goal or further postpones it.  

http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/publication-type/media-releases/2013/mena/syria-statement.aspx.