Brief Remarks of Irene M. Santiago on #WomenSeriously, the Global Campaign on Women, Peace and Security

Brief Remarks of Irene M. Santiago
Lead Convener, #WomenSeriously, the Global Campaign on Women, Peace and Security
Launch of the Women’s Peace Tables Worldwide
Dublin, Ireland; 10 September 2016

“Talk to me, not about me”.  That is the powerful message on the opening page of the web site of our campaign.  For in spite of numerous Security Council resolutions and endless advocacy by women and men of goodwill from around the world, women’s equal and full participation in all political efforts to resolve numerous conflicts has been either completely absent or grossly insufficient .  Women’s participation and voices continue to be marginalized notwithstanding the existence of volumes of well researched and persuasive documentation to support both the value and critical role women play in preventing, stopping and resolving violent conflicts.  Your own former President Mary Robinson, a staunch advocate for women and their critical role in peace, has said:  “We have seen first-hand in countries from every region the critical role women play as peace-builders, as community organizers, as voices for those who are marginalized. We are convinced that strengthening women’s leadership at every level is key to advancing peace, sustainable development and human rights in the 21st century.”

The example of Syria highlights a particular collective failure of both governments and the UN. Maria Butler, program director of Peace Women, said this when peace negotiations on Syria started in Geneva started a couple of years ago: “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 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, 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”.

Although the UN brokered Syrian peace talks was another missed opportunity to put principles into action, three Syrian women civil society leaders, supported by the persistent advocacy of allied women’s organizations, successfully pushed forward demanding equal and meaningful participation and rights in the peace process. This is a clear example of how the women’s peace movement and civil society continue to be the driving forces in advocating and advancing the WPS agenda. This momentum within the movement is becoming increasingly visible and instrumental in framing international discussions and actions directly impacting both women’s lives and the public at large.

From Afghanistan to Syria, Myanmar to Thailand, South Sudan to Libya,  women’s voices are organizing to be heard but there needs to be a more powerful engine to drive women’s voices to the center of the discussion on peace.

Almost 16 years after the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security was passed, only 60 out of 193 countries (and this includes Ireland) have National Action Plans (NAP), or roughly 31 percent, only a third of the total. That is too slow a progress.  There is a need to mobilize more people to influence the key people to think that this is unacceptable. #WomenSeriously offers itself as a global movement that will bring together different groups within the women’s and peace movements to amplify women’s voices to deliver the message: “If we are serious about peace, we must take women seriously!”  

Today in Dublin we launch Women’s Peace Tables worldwide.  Our aim is that Women’s Peace Tables will be set in countries around the world during the whole month of October this year and every year thereafter until 2020 when we shall hold a Global Women’s Peace Table.  The symbol of a table is an appropriate one for women:  a table is where we have conversations, talk about and solve problems, laugh, share, nourish ourselves and our families.  Women’s Peace Tables are going to “denounce and announce”.  They will denounce what makes women and their families and communities feel insecure and unsafe. But they will not stop there.  They will also “announce” the alternative, the solution they propose to bring about peace and security not only for themselves but for their community and country.

Our Conveners’ Group invites you all to form Women’s Peace Tables.  These eminent leaders are Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Laureate; Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury; Ambassador Melanne Verveer; Ambassador Swanee Hunt; Winnie Byanyima of Oxfam International; Madeleine Rees of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; Baroness Mary Goudie of the UK House of Lords; Luz Mendez of Guatemala; Ruth-Gaby Vermot of PeaceWomen Across the Globe and Anne-Marie Goetz of the Center for Global Affairs, New York University.  

Men are welcome to sit at the Women’s Peace Tables.  As will young people.  Thus will inclusive  Women’s Peace Tables power a social movement for peace in our lifetime and beyond.

Women Seriously is the title of our campaign.  Our aim is not just for women to sit at the table.  Our aim is nothing less than to change the nature of power from one of domination and conquest - which is at the root of war - to power as the potency to act for what is good.  Through this campaign, women are poised to participate in whatever discourse is necessary to create a peaceful world.  Join us and we will have our part matter. For it is  the public will that shall influence the political will to make this world a peaceful one.  Indeed. Women. Seriously.