Gender, Peace and Security: What Happens Next?

Saturday, November 21, 2015 - 01:45


Delivered at the National Women’s Summit on Strengthening Women’s Political Participation for Inclusive and Democratic Governance Towards Equitable and Sustainable Development, held at Miriam College, Quezon City

By Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles, Presidential Adviser on Peace Process

16 November 2015

Dear Sisters,

Good morning.  Assalamu aleikum.

The last few days – weeks – have been full tragedy.  So I hope we all woke up this morning with a sense of greater resolve and courage to not be overcome by the dark, to persist in holding up the light.

It is an odd pairing you have assigned me for a topic: a triple imperative coupled with deep uncertainty: Gender, Peace and Security: What Happens Next?

But, on second thought, the open-ended question simply reflects something on almost everyone’s mind: the fact that national elections are half a year away and their results can strengthen or undo our best efforts of the past six years.

And, thus, living on the existential edge, as a woman in the Third World, where reports of armed violence and political buffoonery are served daily with breakfast, I accept the assigned topic with gratitude and with gusto.

With gratitude because the topic compels a more gendered reading of armed conflict in the country and with gusto because this gendered reading has undergirded a more gendered writing of the narratives of war, and peace, in the country.

What do I mean by gendered reading?  Simply that we must count women, hear their voices, touch their faces, honor their demands.  And what do I mean by gendered writing?  That we must make women count as they turn from victims to survivors to leaders, aggregating their strength and saying – No more killings!  The land must be sanctified by life.

In the next 15 minutes or so, I shall share with you the story of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security – NAP WPS, or just NAP – which encapsulates government’s concern on gender, peace and security.  I shall cite some of its achievements, and also the challenges it must face to survive beyond May, 2016.

Recognizing the disproportionate impact of war and armed conflict on women and girls, the United Nations Security Council in 2000 adopted Resolution 1325, underscoring the need to protect women from gender violence in situations of armed conflict, calling on parties in conflict to prevent violations of women’s human rights and to promote their participation in peace building and post-conflict reconstruction, and to include the gender perspective in peace and security processes and mechanisms.  In a word, UNSCR 1325 institutionalized women, peace and security as a global agenda.

In 2010, the Phippine government adopted its National Action Plan, or the NAP, on Women, Peace and Security, the first country in Asia to heed the call of UNSCR Resolution 1325 and other related resolutions. Initiated by civil society advocates, the Philippine NAP rests on four pillars consisting of two targeted outputs – briefly identified as (1) Protection and Prevention, and (2) Empowerment and Participation; and two cross-cutting support processes – namely, (1) Promotion and Mainstreaming, and (2) Monitoring and Evaluation.

At this juncture, you may ask: what do all those lofty intentions and hifalutin’ language mean on the ground?  Are those words devoid of meaning or do they, in fact, make a difference in women’s lives?  For starters, let me cite the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, or CAB, signed by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in March 2014.  The CAB is historic not only because it signaled the end of a long-standing war in Southern Philippines but also because it is the first agreement of its kind in the world to bear the signature of three women, including GPH chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, the first woman in the world to sign a major peace agreement as chief negotiator.  And they are not mere icing on the cake: nearly 70% of the government panel secretariat, and 60% of the legal team, are women and they are young – in their 30s.

The need for gendered reading, and writing, of the narratives of war and peace in Mindanao is also reflected in the Framework Agreement of the Bangsamoro, or FAB, which explicitly upholds the “Right of women to meaningful political participation, and protection from all forms of violence.”  As well, the Annexes to the FAB, specifically on Power-Sharing, on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing, and on Normalization, respectively, as well as the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law pending in Congress carry concrete gender-sensitive provisions.  In fact the only positive amendments introduced and adopted in the House substitute bill pertained to the enhancement of the provisions on women’s rights.

The over-arching goal of NAP WPS is for “women in conflict and post-conflict situations (to be) protected, empowered and play a decisive role in peace and security mechanisms and processes.”  Big words, yes, but doable.  And doable because we owe a debt to the past.

The NAP story would not have been possible without the backstory of women’s organizing in the 80s maturing to legislative lobbying in the 90s and electoral politics in the new millennium.  Women’s struggles, always painstaking, often heartbreaking, bore fruit in landmark gender legislation and the adoption of gender mainstreaming as government strategy in pursuit of gender equality.  One could say it was a whole-of-government approach a few decades early. Not that it has resulted in a genderized bureaucracy.  Not yet.  But it lay the seeds, the infrastructure if you will, for NAP.

Consider just two things: the GAD Fund, which was enacted through the passage of the Women in National-Building Act, and the Magna Carta of Women. The Gender and Development, or GAD, Fund enjoins all instrumentalities of government, NGAs and LGUs alike, to allocate at least 5% of their budgets for projects, programs and activities with gender impacts that change women’s lives for the better.  Critics will say that, in large part, the GAD Fund has been misused, abused, and unused.  Fair enough.

But that precisely is the point.  The tragedy of Philippine legislation is that we have too many good laws that remain unfunded and not implemented.  NAP will not go that way. I think our generation of senior feminists has learned that lesson well.  And so NAP, in a tour de force, identifies the GAD Fund as funding source for peace building that empowers women.

But what about the vehicle itself – its  core, its raison d’etre?  Well, the Philippine NAP is anchored in and provided legal basis by Philippine law starting with the Magna Carta of Women or MCW and including recent national legislation adopting human rights and international humanitarian standards.  The MCW, if I may add, is touted as the Filipino women’s “bill of rights” and took nearly three Congresses to pass, as have other landmark gender laws.

The NAP employs a quasi-whole-of-government approach through a National Steering Committee or NSC composed of heads of nine government agencies that are on the frontlines of matters related to women, peace and security.  Moroever, heads of eight agencies have been added to the NSC – agencies which are involved in the government’s PAMANA program. PAMANA delivers development and good governance programs and services in conflict-affected areas.  PAMANA is present in 46, or more than half, of our 82 provinces.

By ensuring funding and harnessing existing structures, NAP avoids the fate of many good programs that lie by the wayside or wither in the vine.  Implementation of the Philippine NAP is an arduous process because we want to cover all bases: policy, planning, implementation and monitoring mechanisms, and budget.

Modest initial results are now being reported.  We have mentioned the strengthened presence of women in peace negotiations and the implementation of peace accords.  Then there are the “women friendly spaces” in refugee camps and evacuation centers to ensure a measure of privacy and safe space for internally displaced women and girls.  And the adoption of explicit gender equality polices and mechanisms as an integral part of the governance of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; culture-sensitive trauma healing programs for Muslim women; the inclusion of WPS issues in the training of our foreign service officers.  And, finally in this initial listing, the plan to establish a dedicated team of public prosecutors for cases of sexual and gender-based violence in situations of armed conflict.

As well, local government units in conflict-affected areas have been capacitated to develop their local versions of the NAP with major funding support from their own sources.  And, recently, we launched the first Government Executive Course on Women, Peace and Security in partnership with the Ateneo de Manila University Political Science Department.  Participants were drawn from national government agencies and a second such course is being planned for participants from LGUs.  The aim is to build the human infrastructure needed for as long as there is a need for NAP.

Yes, indeed, NAP is changing women’s lives on the ground – for the better.  A young Muslim wife, emerging from an FGD in a “woman friendly space,” marveled at the fact that husbands can be sued for “economic harrassment” if they prohibit women from seeking a livelihood outside home.  DFA has set up mobile passport units in Mindanao to help shield women and young girls from trafficking.  And, in an upland indigenous village in Maguindanao, site of local NAP implementation, barangay women launch beauty contests not based on youth and looks but on weight, age and character.  Truly, gender, peace and security is a volatile mix for it is poised to redefine anything and everything, especially and including fundamental concepts of beauty and politics.

But NAP has not yet reached scale which is one measure of empowerment so let me cite the 4Ps, or conditional cash transfer program of government.  In spite of what detractors say, studies have shown that 4Ps has changed the lives of the 4.5 million women in its rosters, not only by putting food on the table and sending children to school.  But also, and especially, by empowering women, changing men, and strengthening families.  At the risk of sounding sexist, may I say that putting money where the women are is an investment in good governance.

But the clock is ticking and therefore, in the few minutes I have left, let me tackle three points: first: the GO-NGO, nexus; leading to the second point: the need for sustained peace building; and thirdly, and finally: the need for women to claim the ramparts of politics.

In the past, the GO-NGO interface, filled with healthy and dynamic tension, has yielded the first fruits of landmark gender equality laws, the GAD Fund, and the Magna Carta of Women, among others.  Following in that history and in a kind of déjà vu, the NAP was birthed by mothers both GO and NGO.

Now, as election fever grips so many of the populace and as war’s alarms ring again for political mileage, all the more we need to keep the peace and build the peace.  And how do we do this?  Let me count the ways.  The most obvious challenge is, of course, the Bangsamoro Basic Law and how to keep its spirit and its letter intact.  On this all-important imperative, we all know that we are now navigating a very short and narrow, even imperiled, runway.  But we who have been working on the peace process all these many, long years are not known for giving up.  We have not reached this far by giving up when we face a road block.  And we are not backing off now.

But along with the BBL, we must ensure that women sit on the table as negotiators, sift through the fine print as lawyers, consult with constituencies as regional executives, and energize communities as project managers.  This holds true as well for the other peace tables, such as those with the CPLA and the RPA, to make sure that the women are up front and not left behind.

Sustainability is the name of the game: to ensure that the gains from the peace tables and the gains of NAP are not reversed by what happens, or does not happen, in May.  NAP has sought to cover all the bases such as mandates and policies, structures and working groups, localization and training.  But there is one base that is a condition sine qua non: the condition without which we cannot move forward.

That condition, or precondition, is women in politics: as electorate, as candidate, as executive, as pressure group.  Peace is something too precious and too fragile to entrust to one sex (or shall I say gender).  And gender equality, my goodness, certainly cannot be entrusted to the opposite sex.

We see the rot that is eating away at our political system, at our very psyches.  How do we begin to change?  Where do we begin?  The task seems too daunting.  Well, let me tell you: nothing could be more daunting than birthing, and raising, a child.  But we women do it all the time, now and forevermore.

It should be the same with politics: we should now claim politics in the name of everything that is true, that is good, that is beautiful.  Some choose to wait this one out because none of the presidentiables meet their standards.  May I be blunt and tell you that nothing can be gained from remaining a political virgin.

We have come this far in melding gender and good governance, in infusing peace with gender because, first of all, women activists and advocates staked everything in challenging martial rule and the ruling ethos, or ethic, of machismo.  And, second of all, because some of us in the women’s movement crossed-over to government, made political decisions in order to carve out gender space from within, to enlarge that space, to make waves here, and to cascade there.

It has been no walk in the park but let me tell you: we have to put our stakes in politics – right here, right now.  Do not wait for the perfect moment, or the perfect candidate.  Our generation of grandmothers can say, there is no Mr. Right or Prince Charming.  We make the man right, we seize the day, the hour, the moment so that next time around, in 2019, we have a candidate more to our specifications.  We cannot just leave everyone to slug it out and may the best slugger win.  That is the rule of the jungle, the way of the caveman.

Dear sisters, once more we stand on the threshold of change.  The call of the hour is electoral politics.  How do we count women, and make women count, if we do not get our feet wet?  How do we get a gendered reading, and writing, of history if we do not dirty our nails?  We must engage in, even embrace, politics in order to change it; there are no shortcuts.  But what if politics changes us?  My dear sisters, we have been long enough in this game to know that if politics changes us, it will certainly be for the better.

Thank you and good morning.