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Conference on “Women, Peace and Security”

On Thursday, February 28, Cynthia Petrigh, an expert on gender, security and development, gave a conference at Casa Árabe, attended by representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense, the Spanish cooperation agencies AECID and FIIAPP, and several NGOs.

March 06, 2019
The conference formed part of what is referred to as Agenda 2030 for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals promoted by the UN, and in particular Goal Number 5, for the achievement of gender equality. On this occasion, the conference focused on the role of women in conflict prevention and resolution, recognized internationally for the first time in the year 2000 under Resolution 1325 of the United Nations Security Council.

Cynthia Petrigh has extensive experience as a member of teams for conflict mediation and resolution, as well as in training combatants about respect for human rights, with a special emphasis on the gender-based perspective and sexual violence. As the founder and director of the Beyond Peace Foundation, she completes these tasks with the cooperation of many governments and entities, including the UN, the EU, the OSCE and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Goal Number 5 and Resolution 1325
The 17 goals in Agenda 2030 are tied to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and were adopted by the United Nations’ General Assembly in 2015 as a continuation of the Millennium Development Goals, a plan which had guided the efforts of the UN and the international community over the preceding 15 years. Both the Millennium Development Goals and Agenda 2030 place a special emphasis on ending poverty, with the specific goal of doing away with extreme poverty all over the world. One of the Millennium Development Goals involves gender equality and was included once again within Agenda 2030. Amongst the specific objectives sought in Sustainable Development Goal Number 5 is that of achieving the full participation of women in public life and ensuring they have a presence at every level of decision-making in both political and economic arenas. 

Enacted within this context was Resolution 1325 of the United Nations Security Council, which was intended to include a gender-based perspective in the arenas of peace and international security. That resolution acknowledges the unique, disproportionate effects which conflicts have on women, and the role women play in preventing and resolving conflicts, and in upholding the peace.

At her conference, Cynthia Petrigh performed an evaluation of this resolution’s implementation over the nearly 20 years that have elapsed since its enactment. Some cases have been success stories, like the peace process on Mindanao, in the Philippines, in which she participated (as the only woman at the beginning of the negotiations), then managing to have other women’s voices included in the process, allowing it to move forward after an impasse. However, such cases are in the minority, and the Secretary General of the United Nations himself acknowledged a few months ago that not enough progress is being made, and that there is a lack of financing and political support holding back progress.

Real Impact
The inclusion of a gender-based perspective in security is not just a matter of justice, because security is something which concerns us all. Through the training work that Cynthia Petrigh carries out, security forces become more effective, because basic measures on how to treat the civilian population improve relations between the army and the citizenry. The inclusion of women in those security forces also makes the missions more successful, because the civilian population has a different perception of female soldiers and these soldiers themselves contribute a different perspective to security forces.

In the case of Arab countries, the recognition given to women’s voices in conflict resolution attempts remains low, despite the fact that in countries like Yemen the contribution made by women in matters such as humanitarian aid distribution is vital, with women taking on great risks to their own safety. The major obstacles to the inclusion of women in security continue to be preconceived notions and stereotypes, a lack of creativity in peace processes and mere inertia, which leads even those processes managed by the UN itself to simply forget to include women in their teams, with the idea that security is a topic which only concerns men.

Public representatives had the opportunity to listen to Cynthia Petrigh’s experiences in the field and then debate over how to promote these types of initiatives out of Spanish institutions. Promoting gender equality has become an important goal in Spanish foreign policy, as Spain has become one of the most active in making efforts to promote Goal Number 5 internationally.
Conference on “Women, Peace and Security”