"Women Organize for Peace and Non-Violence in Africa"
A Pan-African Women's Conference on a Culture of Peace
Zanzibar (United Republic of Tanzania), 17-20 May 1999
UNESCO is organizing a pan-African women's conference on a culture of peace and non-violence, in co-operation with the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the African Women's Committee for Peace and Development and other inter- and non-governmental organizations, that will take place at the Bwawani Hotel in Zanzibar, 17 to 20 May 1999.
Drawing from African women's experience, knowledge and skills, this Conference will focus primarily on women's contribution to a culture of peace, make women's initiatives and potential for peace-building and conflict transformation more visible and strengthen women's peace efforts, notably through capacity-building and networking.
In 1998, 14 of the 53 African states were embroiled in armed conflict, accounting for more than half of war-related deaths world-wide. UNHCR's latest statistics estimate the numbers of displaced persons in Africa at approximately eight million, out of which 70-80% are women and children. With the rise of intrastate warfare, the civilian percentage of war related casualties in Africa, as in other continents, stands now at approximately 90%, a clear indication of the tragic dimensions of violent conflict on the continent and its great human cost.
Faced with the ever increasing number of armed conflicts and persistence of violence in the world, UNESCO is convinced that it is more humane, less costly and more efficient to undertake preventive measures rather than to intervene after the suffering and destruction have occurred. As such, UNESCO addresses the root causes of violence, notably poverty, injustice, ignorance and social exclusion, the violation of human rights and mobilizes women and men in favour of a "Culture of Peace".
Although women and men share a common concern for the increase in violence and armed conflicts, women’s perspectives, experience and capacities as peace-builders remain largely ignored and under-utilised outside the family context. In most cases, their sphere of influence is limited to matters that concern the daily lives of their families and are visible only in the confines of their homes. Though this family responsibility should not be under-valued women are nonetheless broadly excluded from the decision-making processes that determine their overall conditions of existence. Although too little is known of their strength and potential, women are speaking out and taking action in Africa.
Today, throughout the entire continent, there are many national, sub-regional and regional women's groups that are actively advocating peace and creating alternative communication networks that are opening new spaces for non-violent resolution of conflict and new forms of solidarity both between women and between women and men. These innovative and inspiring initiatives need to be strengthened and given visibility. Women are retrieving their power to say no to war and UNESCO is determined to help them in this endeavour.
"Only together, women and men in parity and partnership, can we overcome obstacles and inertia, silence and frustration and ensure the insight, political will, creative thinking and concrete actions needed for a global transition from the culture of violence to a culture of peace"
(UNESCO Statement on Women's Contribution to a Culture of Peace, 1995)
UNESCO's CULTURE OF PEACE INITIATIVE
The conference is an important part of a continuous effort to mobilize women and men for the transformation of societies away from expressions of war and violence towards a culture of peace and non-violence. This process, initiated by the UNESCO transdisciplinary project Towards a Culture of Peace, is rapidly involving new partners and generating new impetus in connection with the year 2000, proclaimed by the UN General Assembly as the International Year for the Culture of Peace, with UNESCO as the lead agency.
The ultimate goal of this Conference is to provide a forum for African women to co-ordinate their actions for peace in order to have an effective and significant impact on decision-making processes on the continent and serve as an early warning mechanism.
"The Culture of Peace is a transition from the logic of force and fear to the force of reason and love"
(UNESCO Director-General, Federico Mayor)
The Conference builds on major UN conferences, decisions and achievements, notably the Beijing Platform for Action (1995) that have contributed to creating a global consensus around the understanding that equality, development and peace are closely interconnected.
"The empowerment of women and equality between women and men are prerequisits for achieving political, social, economic, cultural and environmental security among all peoples".
(Beijing Platform for Action, 1995, para. 41)
Based on relevant UN resolutions it pursues in practical terms, the mainstreaming of a gender perspective in areas often considered "gender neutral" such as disarmament, peace, security and other legal and political matters.
"...the need to mainstream a gender perspective systematically into all areas of their work, in particular in areas such as macroeconomics questions, operational activities for development, poverty eradication, human rights, humanitarian assistance, budgeting, disarmament, peace and security, and legal and political matters..."
(ECOSOC, July 1997)
Women organize for peace and non-violence in Africa is in pursuance of the UNESCO Audience Africa Conference (February 1995), the UNESCO Statement on Women’s Contribution to a Culture of Peace (1995) presented at the Beijing Conference as well as the UNESCO Special Project on Women and a Culture of Peace in Africa (1998-1999).
As an African Women's Conference, it also builds on regional agreements and women's peace conferences such as:
FOCUS OF THE CONFERENCE
ÄSession 1 Impact of violent conflicts in Africa
The Conference will first discuss the effects of armed conflict on African societies in general and on women in particular, in order to measure the resulting economic, political, social cultural and environmental damage. From this analysis of the "costs of war" from a gender perspective, the participants will look at ways in which women can change the sustained and commonly held belief that violent conflicts are inevitable.
ÄSession 2 The role of women in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peace-building in Africa
On the basis of the initial discussion, participants will discuss the gender-related factors that hamper or inspire a development towards a culture of peace in Africa. They will formulate strategies for overcoming poverty, ignorance and desperation, confronting the factors which contribute to the acceptance and legitimisation of wars and violent conflict. Basing themselves on women’s traditional mediating and peace-building practices and skills, participants will formulate a Women's vision of what would be a living culture of peace in their present-day societies.
ÄSession 3 Capacity-building and networking for a Culture of Peace in Africa: innovative and practical measures
During this session the participants will discuss in workshops how women can organize their action for a culture of peace as well as continue in their efforts to enhance their empowerment. The workshops will focus on a variety of areas such as education and training (including peace education), networking arrangements and mechanisms through the media (e.g. radio, newspapers, television) and the internet at the inter-communal, inter-collective, inter-regional and sub-regional levels. This would enable participants to more comprehensively articulate their needs, experiences, concerns, and commitments, and in this process, acting locally and thinking globally.
ÄSession 4 A Women's Agenda for a Culture of Peace in Africa, including preparations for the International Year for the Culture of Peace (year 2000)
The Women's Agenda for a Culture of Peace in Africa will be the sum result of the discussions held during the four days. It will reflect the strategic thinking of the participants as well as outline concrete actions to be implemented by the participants themselves, non- and intergovernmental organizations and governments in order to build a gender-sensitive culture of peace in Africa, using the occasion of the International Year for the Culture of Peace and the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World.
A Women’s Agenda for a Culture of Peace in Africa, including concrete suggestions for activities to be implemented at local and national levels and in relation to the International Year for the Culture of Peace (Year 2000), the UN Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010) and the draft UN Programme of Action for a Culture of Peace;
The Women’s Agenda for a Culture of Peace in Africa will be broadly disseminated and also presented to the African Heads of State and Government, within the framework of the OAU, in order to solicit political commitment and support for concrete follow-up activities. It will also be disseminated to other national, regional and UN bodies, including the governing bodies of UNESCO.
Approximately 200 participants are expected to attend the conference. They include women leaders, politicians with experience in peace building, gender and peace researchers, national and community based activists, media professionals and information brokers known for their commitment to peace and non-violence. Coming from all the different regions of Africa, the participants will speak in their personal capacities.
Other organizations of the UN System, Non-Governmental Organizations and regional institutions are also being invited to actively participate as partners or observers and produce substantive papers.
The travel costs and living expenses of one participant per country will be covered by the organizers.
PROVISIONAL PROGRAMME and METHODS OF WORK
Registration will start on 15 May 1999.
Morning sessions : 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Afternoon sessions : 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Monday 17 May
Tuesday 18 May
Wednesday 19 May
Thursday 20 May
At 3.30 p.m. Closing Ceremony
The conference will be organised by UNESCO in co-operation with the OAU, the African Women Committee for Peace and Development, the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania with the support of other regional and UN organisations such as the ILO, UNDP, UNIFEM and the WHO and NGOs, such as: ‘Advocacy for Women in Africa’, the Institute for Security Studies and the Forum for African Women Educationalists.
For more information please contact :
The Women and a Culture of Peace Programme (WCP)
The Unit for the Promotion of the Status of Women and Gender Equality (WGE)
The UNESCO Office in Dar es Salaam
P.O. Box 31473
Dar es Salaam
United Republic of Tanzania
Tel: 255 51 112799-801 (UNDP)
Fax: 255 51 113 272 (UNDP)
Cable: UNDEVPRO DAR ES SALAAM