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PRESS CONFERENCE ON WOMEN'S ROLE IN CONFLICT PREVENTION

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

20 July 2005

Women as peace builders were vitally needed to draw up policies and spark dialogue on post-conflict activities at the grass-roots level, the representative of a West African non-governmental organization told correspondents today at a Headquarters briefing.

Speaking during the ongoing three-day civil society meeting of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, Christiane Agboton Johnson, of Senegal’s Movement against Light Arms in West Africa (MALAO), said grass-roots women’s groups in her country, where conflicts had been raging since 1982, had finally said “that’s enough” and begun to take part in peace and security work.

Now women were working to revise small arms legislation at the national level, ensuring that it considered gender issues, she said. They had also been coordinating with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in an effort to make the small arms moratorium a more legally binding instrument, perhaps a convention.

She added that the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) was helping Senegalese women to build up their advocacy and lobbying skill, so that they could take part in negotiations and post-conflict peacebuilding processes. “If we can really help women in post-conflict situations, we are helping the whole community and building a better future.”

Describing women’s efforts in the Pacific, Helen Hakena, of the Bougainville Pacific Women’s Delegation and the non-governmental organization Leitana Nehan, said they had become actively involved in peacebuilding, consulting regionally on gender issues and working towards innovative solutions. Pointing to increased rape in post-conflict situations, rising cases of HIV/AIDS and malaria, and social, as well as economic, insecurity, she said women in her region must increase their participation in decision-making, overcome male supremacy, and combat gender-based violence.

Maha Muni, Acting Adviser on Peace and Security for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), noted that the Women’s Caucus had brought together civil society organizations concerned about gender equality at the Partnership meeting, to determine how women’s groups could support the Global Action Agenda for Conflict Prevention, as well as the proposed United Nations Peacebuilding Commission. The Caucus had also examined the priorities of the gender perspectives and women’s human rights working groups, and considered how they could be fed into final recommendations for the outcome document.

Responding to a query on the working groups, Ms. Muni said they covered different aspects of the Global Action Agenda’s recommendations, reflecting two years’ work at the regional level. The remainder of the Conference would be devoted to civil society work in implementing the Agenda, which would often be carried out in close collaboration with the United Nations and MemberStates.

To a question on funding, Ms Muni said the gender perspectives working group had highlighted the need for sustained and flexible resources for peacebuilding. Funding arrived for the emergency stages, they noted, but was often lacking during the transition phase, due to disinterest or donor apathy. Hopefully, the Peacebuilding Commission’s $250 million fund would help to close that gap.

Asked whether governments were doing enough to support civil society groups in peacebuilding, she said they supported initiatives, but that many non-governmental organizations did not receive donor funding.

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