Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Day 3, Geneva

Fun fact: the menu at the top of this page is in German... ;)

So, Monika and I separated this evening, so I'm posting this one alone. But she will probably want to add a bit of her own later, and most of what I have to write we did together.

We woke up early to get through security at the UN before the panels began at 9:30. The welcome was done by Tim Caughley, director of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, followed by a talk by Cynthia Cockburn on Women, Peace work and WILPF. This was especially exciting for me because she is the reason I came to WILPF in the first place. Her research has been an invaluable resource for me. Afterwards I was able to speak with her for a few minutes, which was very exciting.

The next panel was entitled "Resolution 1325 & Human Security: Limiting or Expanding our Political Horizon?" and included Christiane Agboton Johnson of UNIDIR (UN Disarmament Research Institute), International Vice President Felicity Hill, PeaceWomen Project Associate Sam Cook, and Eugenia Piza-Lopes of the UN Development Programme. They spoke about UNSCR 1325 in the context of how it can be used to serve "human security" as an alternative to the current focus on "national security." They stressed that the full implementation of this resolution does not mean adding more women to the ranks of the military, but rather the inclusion of women at all levels and in all arenas of conflict resolution and prevention, recognizing that all areas of security (economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community, and political security) are interconnected.

Did you know that the global military expenditures in 2007 amounted to 202 dollars per capita? That is, the world spent $1339 BILLION on militarism in the last year alone. Just to get a feel for what a billion means...one billion seconds ago was 1961...one billion minutes ago Jesus was walking around telling us to be nice to each other...one billion hours ago was the stone age...and one billion days ago the world was populated by only a few small squishy things. That is ONE billion. Last year this world spent ONE THOUSAND, THREE HUNDRED AND THIRTY NINE billion dollars on war.

To meet the millenium development goal of gender parity in education globally would cost approximately three billion dollars. That's how much it costs to occupy Iraq for nine days. How will our grandchildren see us?

After lunch, we heard Kerstin Greback (WILPF International President), Madeline Rees (head of the Women's Rights and Gender Unit at the OHCHR), Maha Muna (currently UNFPA, formerly in UN mission in Sudan) and Annie Matundu Mbambi (WILPF DRC group) speak on the topic of peacekeeping and enforcement. This is a very sticky topic for many peace activists, and it was fascinating to hear the different stories and opinions of so many people, including those who spoke afterwards during the question and answer period. One characterization of the "festival of ad-hockery" that is peacekeeping that stuck with me is this: Peacekeeping missions are in effect putting men with guns between two groups of men with guns. The type of mandate they have determines whether or not they are allowed to use them.

I personally struggle with the ethical dilemma of the reality of peacekeeping troops. On the one hand, I believe strongly in the rights of all people to deal with their own internal problems, without foreign interference. On the other hand, I want human rights to be implemented and enforced. So I am left with a difficult contradiction, which I resolve (like most things) with a metaphor. If you will forgive the well-worn comparison of national structure and family, we can see the government as the parent and its citizens as the children. Different parenting styles are fine, and not my business even if I may not agree with everything. However, if the parent is at all abusive (by, in this case, denying the citizen any of the factors of human security addressed above) the child can not remain in this condition and it is the responsibility of all to either re-educate the parent or provide for a better living situation for this child. A bit of a strained metaphor, I know. But it works for me when I get bogged down in technicalities and the intricacies of human rights law...:). Thus, the international community has a responsibility to our common humanity to intervene. But perhaps it is not taking the proper approach when women are trafficked into the country in conflict for the express purpose of serving the peacekeeping troops. I still strongly believe that solutions can only come from within the community/country/region concerned. But we must help facilitate this process. AHHH!

From there Monika and I went to a meeting of PADWIC, the committee freshly formed to deal specifically with African and Diaspora issues. We spoke for only a few hours, although I'm sure there is much more to come. We came away with a plan for action (which is currently in Monika's notebook, away from me), specifically concerning the conflict in the DRC and the mineral coltan (used in cell phones and many other electronic devices), the mining of which is at the heart of the conflict. More to come on that.

Sorry to write so much. This is only a small slice of what I have learned today. I realize I say this every time, but I never cease to be amazed and honored to be here with so many amazing women. Each and every one of them is a wonder, and posesses an endless wealth of knowledge and experience in everything that I care about! I can't wait to start again tomorrow!


  • Just a short note to Robin and Monica: Thanks so very much for all of your important work - and for taking the time to write up these informative reports via the blog. I agree that the more one knows about WILPF and WILPF women and men, the more amazing it is. The two of you are no exception. THANK YOU and safe travels.......
    Jennifer Pitino
    Santa Cruz WILPF, CA, USA

    By Blogger Jennifer, at 5:16 PM  

  • Fantastic metaphor - it really makes you think doesn't it how simple things can be but silly people make silly rules which not many can agree with but implement anyway. Sounds like the Geneva meeting went great. i couldn't be there but I'm glad my fellow WILPFer Ella Page got a mention.

    Talyn Rahman
    London WILPF, UK

    By Blogger blazeryu, at 4:29 AM  

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