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Swiss press on with women’s peace efforts

Few women are involved in peacekeeping, also in Switzerland Keystone

The Swiss are at the forefront of efforts to support a United Nations resolution which underlines the often forgotten role of women in conflicts and peacebuilding.

This content was published on September 7, 2007 - 08:07

But there have been mixed views on the success and viability of the resolution from both Switzerland and abroad.

The UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, adopted in 2000, is the first of its kind to explicitly mention the effect of armed conflicts on women and girls, and to call for more women to participate in peace efforts.

Switzerland, a signatory state, has taken it a step further - as recommended by the UN - and drawn up a National Action Plan on implementing the resolution. It is one of only a few countries to have done so.

This is a natural move for Switzerland, says Thomas Greminger, head of the political affairs division on human security at the Swiss foreign ministry.

“Switzerland is among those countries which have been the most active in conflict resolution and promoting peace worldwide in recent years,” Greminger told swissinfo.

The ambassador was speaking on the sidelines of a ministry conference last week to introduce the Swiss plan – first launched in March - to a wider audience, especially civil society.

Swiss measures

For Greminger, increasing women’s participation in the peace process was not just reserved to conflict zones – it also applied to Switzerland.

Around 40 per cent of the ministry’s peace process specialists are women, he said, but few are active in areas such as civilian police and mediation. More recruiting and training of women was needed.

Greminger also hopes the plan will act as a catalyst for the resolution. “If there is not an obligation to really look after the implementation, it remains just a piece of paper,” he explained.

Opposition, he said, was most likely to come over funding, with some political parties arguing the country already spends a lot of money on aid and development.

Rightwing Swiss People’s Party parliamentarian and security expert Ulrich Schlüer – who also attended the conference – is critical of the motives behind the resolution.

“The campaigners claim it’s about implementing peace. But the real aim, as it has been mentioned here, is empowerment – in other words, taking power and undermining the traditional role of the Swiss army,” said Schlüer.

Success or failure?

There were also mixed views on resolution 1325 among the conference’s international participants, all of whom work in the promotion of women and peace in conflict zones.

Rita Thapa, a feminist activist from Nepal, told swissinfo that in many ways the resolution was a continuation of work that was already being done.

“What it now does, as the tool of the UN, is provide the possibility to put real pressure on governments and responsible agencies,” she said.

For her part, Safaa Elagib Adam, a Sudanese activist on peace and gender issues, said the motion had been invaluable.

She said it had enabled her to participate in Darfur peace negotiations as a gender expert. This helped redress the fact that women, mainly the victims of war, tended to be forgotten during such talks, added Elagib Adam.

But Rachel Amram spoke of how her non-governmental organisation Isha L’Isha in Israel had stopped working with the Israeli government over implementing the resolution because it felt the authorities were frustrating the process.

This was, however, disputed by the Israeli ambassador to Switzerland, Ilan Elgar, who said during question time that Amram’s view was not entirely representative of the situation and the project needed more time.

Amram later told swissinfo that such comments summed up the type of opposition she had encountered.

swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson and Urs Geiser

Swiss National Action Plan

The plan aims to ensure gender aspects are considered in peace policy and peacebuilding. This means considering the different ways women and men are affected by armed conflicts and their resolution.

UN Security Council Resolution 1325 lists three aims, all supported by Switzerland.
1. greater involvement of women in peacebuilding
2. prevention of gender-based violence; protection of rights and needs of women and girls during and after armed conflicts
3. gender-sensitive approach to peacebuilding efforts

The Swiss plan was officially launched on March 8 this year – international women’s day.

Other countries with action plans include Britain, Canada and Swiss neighbour Austria.

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1,000 Peace Women

Safaa Elagib Adam from Sudan and Nepal’s Rita Thapa have each been nominated as one of the 1,000 PeaceWomen Across the Globe.

The project was born from the Swiss-run 1,000 women for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize campaign.

PeaceWomen’s aim is to build a network of women’s peace efforts around the world.

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