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

Sunday, August 07, 2011

See The Whistleblower

CJ with director LarysaThe Whistleblower is a political thriller starring Rachel Weiscz. It is now playing in LA and NYC, with more cities being rolled out in the coming weeks.

Larysa Kondracki, the director and co-writer of the film spent two years researching the reality of peace-keeping operations in Bosnia before writing the script. Weiscz plays Kathyryn Balkovac, a Nebraskan cop who goes to Bosnia as a Dyncorp employee, part of the international police task force. Like many people, she chose to work overseas because of the high pay without taxes.

C.J. met director Larysa Kondracki at a special screening of The Whistleblower on Wednesday, August 3.

The first time I saw the film, I was overwhelmed with horror. It was more difficult to watch than any film on a battlefield, because the war in this movie takes place on the bodies of enslaved women. Years ago, I heard that there were more slaves in the world today than at any point in human history. I thought that was hyperbole until the cold truth was dramatized for me.

Even more shocking is that the drama is true.

Everything that is portrayed in the film actually happened. It did not necessarily happen to those characters, but it happened. The sadness and the tragedy is that not enough was done. --Madeleine Rees, former Head of Office in Bosnia and Herzegovina, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Ms. Rees is portrayed by Vanessa Redgrave in the film. Though it may be unclear from simply watching the drama, she was instrumental in shining light on the situation in Bosnia. So much so that she was pushed out of the UN and filed a discrimination lawsuit. While Rees was able to find employment after leaving the UN (she is currently the Secretary General of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom), Balkovac is struggling to find meaningful employment, though she did publish a memoir of her experience.

Join the WILPF campaign to challenge the idea that immunity equals impunity.

Rees explains how human rights has framed her work and what she's doing now to challenge the idea that immunity equals impunity:

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Executive Committee Elected, Program Discussed, Departure

This post was written by Catia Confortini, WILPF US Representative to the International Board.

This is my last blog report from the 30th WILPF International Congress. Today was our voting day and I am glad to report that we elected as new International President Adilia Caravaca from Costa Rica. The four Vice Presidents elected were Martha Jean Baker from the UK, Ila Pathak from India, Neelima Sihn from India and Kirsten Griebaeck from Sweden. Nancy Ramsden will continue to be our International Treasurer. We also approved a number of resolutions and the International Program, all of which will soon be published on the international congress website.

WILPF Secretary General Madeleine Rees has committed to revise the international program she and WILPF staff drafted by the end of September 2011 to incorporate the good suggestions received at congress. She insisted that Program and Resolutions are empty words if not for us who will translate them into action. During the discussion the UK representative Lorraine Mirham suggested that, once Madeleine has produced the final version, we make sure the program is circulated among the branches and members, and that could also make part of the packet that we send to new members when they pay their first membership fee.

I will make sure to circulate the program to the branches list and on WILPF website and this blog, but it is up to you to bring it to each other attention. If you are a contact person for your branch, make sure these blogs as well as the international program and information from the congress website reaches your members!

I forgot to mention in my previous reports that we had a very productive meetings of the Americas, where we decided to create a quarterly bulletin describing the activities of our sections and branches and linking them to international program, in particular with the two WILPF projects in New York. The bulletin will be bilingual. I will send you more information about the decisions taken at this meeting when the minutes are approved and translated.

Last night we were treated to a vegetarian, organic dinner organized by the Costa Rican Section and prepared and served by volunteers from a network of women’s cooperatives that serves to empower rural women in Costa Rica and help them find markets for their products. Many of us bought souvenirs and food products to bring home with them. Who knows, next time you go to one of your WILPF sisters’ house you will be washing your hands with Costa Rica organic fairly traded soap! It is here that I would like to thank the Costa Rican section (and in particular our new International President) for the marvelous organization, for their hospitality and tireless work and the new ties of friendship develop in San Jose. I also would like to thank the International staff and the Swedish section for having generously donated time and resources to make this possible. In particular, big kudos go to young WILPFer Karin Friedrich who, on her own time and money, went from Sweden to Geneva to put this congress together. Her attention to detail, dedication to WILPF, and many many hours of work made all run incredibly smoothly. Young WILPFer Jennifer from the UK Section is going to set up a Flick’r account where pictures from Congress will be posted hopefully very soon!

As final commentary about congress, I would like to commend and thank the US delegation for having positively contributed to this congress in so many ways and for their commitment to the work of WILPF International. Look for more news about the congress on the next issue of Peace and Freedom, where many of our delegation members will be contributing articles on the different subjects discussed at congress and on the wonderful developing contacts with WILPFers around the world!

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Five New WILPF Sections, PeaceWomen and 100th Birthday Planning

This post was written by WILPF US Representative to the international board, Catia Confortini.

Today five new sections were admitted into our WILPF sisterhood: the DRC, Spain, Mexico, Pakistan, and Nigeria. Last night Molly, Kristin, Morgan, Alicia and I had a fabulous meal at a downtown restaurant together with the representatives of one of Nigeria. These two young women, Adanna and Joy, have done an amazing work to form the new section, with 30 members and a impressive range of activities. You can read their report and see some of their photos on the international congress website.

Earlier today we listened as Maria Butler described the work she is doing as director of the PeaceWomen project. Maria pointed out how PeaceWomen's work is about monitoring and accountability to the commitments express in 1325, offering a library of information, advocacy, and outreach, while keeping local contexts and local differences present in our mind, but also seeing as proper of our organization, the connections and similarities in our lives and the lives of women around the world. A really important task we have is to increase section collaboration, a part of PeaceWomen's work that needs fostering. PeaceWomen works in coalition and integrate our work with disarmament and other thematics. Outreach is done in a variety of ways, one of the most important ones being the translation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 into over 100 languages. Now 1325 is the most translated resolution ever in local languages, and this also talks about the ownership of the resolution by women's organizations who use it in their contexts. PeaceWomen have also started 1820 translation, so if any of us has expertise in a language that we don't have please contact Maria at PW to offer your expertise toward the translation of 1820.

Among the amazing number of activities that PW organized was a civil society space in NY in occasion of 1325, a week long fair organized on the theme of prevention, with a women's march to the UN Security Council to let them know that this is the women's resolution and we will keep ownership and enforce its application.

As a final highlight of Maria's speech, PeaceWomen has also done a comprehensive analysis of the UN Security Council to analyze how and to what extent the SC has adopted gender language and gender analysis in its work. They also included recommendations to what kind of language and analytical framework to use. Now there is also an iPhone app that can be downloaded.

The afternoon program was devoted to the welcoming of new sections and to a description of the events to celebrate the 100th anniversary of WILPF on April 28, 2015. An international steering group is working on it, including our ex Secretary General and US member Susi Snyder. We are going to meet at the Peace Palace from April 22 to April 25 and have a big anniversary event for the jubilee at the World Forum on April 28. The steering group has already started working, talking to Hague officials, writing grants, securing web domains and spaces, but there is still a lot of work to do. A steering group is set in place coordinating with secretary general and with some subgroups with specific tasks. There will be a group on our story, which will collect the wealth of information and published material on our story and present it. A fundraising group will contact potential donors, individuals, foundations, governments to donate to this campaign. A logistics group will deal and sort out lodging, food, scheduling, travel, etc. Media and publicity will tackle publicity and media relations. Communication will look inside and outside WILPF to make sure we all talk to each other and to our international partners, providing materials for local partnerships. The Program group will organize the workshops, speakers, the gala event, the film event etc. We need to look forward, find people who can help with fundraising or donate, people who want to help with the organization, have events to advertise it. We are looking for members to make up the Committee of 100 who will commit to donate or raise one thousand Dollars, Euros or Swiss Franks toward the Congress. The easiest way to donate is through WILPF International website.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Reaching Critical Will: Challenging Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons

This post was written by Catia Confortini, the US Section Representative to the International Board of WILPF.

Official day 2 of International Congress! We started with a report from Ray Acheson, director of the Reaching Critical Will project. Ray is helped in this by Beatrice Fihn in Geneva, who couldn't be here as she is due in one month and couldn't travel. Ray beautifully summarized the excellent work that RCW is doing, which is unique to WILPF, as we bring gender and economic, social and environmental justice analysis to disarmament and militarization issues. RCW works with other organizations, with academics to produce reports and analysis that supports local branches in their local actions, but also does advocacy at UN treaty bodies and supports the advocacy of local branches. Ray asked that we let her know of any action that any section or branch undertakes and how RCW can support them. They are currently working on a number of specific areas, including work with the Conference on Disarmament, the Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the NonProliferation Treaty and many others. Her email is on the RCW website at http://reachingcriticalwill.org. I would also suggest you visit that website regularly to see the wealth of information the project has assembled. Ray also mentioned the work of our own Carol Urner, of the LA and Portland, OR branches in conjunction with RCW on disarmament. RCW is also trying to lobby for an Arms Trade Treaty that will put obstacles to the trade in arms, rather than facilitate it as some countries would like to, and to add a gender perspective to such treaty. The negotiations for this treaty are going to start in July and that gives us some time to get our voices heard. If anybody is interested in working with RCW on this, they should contact Ray. Finally, Ray talked about WILPF's work against nuclear energy, on which WILPF's position has long been that it cannot be separated from production of nuclear weapons. WILPF has a unique role to play in challenging militarism, saying that there is a two way street between militarism and many of the problems of the world. Violations of women's rights are linked to militarism. Disarmament is human right.

Following Ray we had a moving presentation from Japanese Section delegate Kozue Akibayashi who described the tragic consequences of the recent earthquake, in particular the radioactive spillover from the damage at the Fukushima power plant. There is a government coverup of the real data on contamination and its present and future effects on human health and the environment. With great difficulty and contrition, Kozue moved everyone to tears when she said the following: "My country is greatly responsible for damage to the environment and to future generations. Radiation cannot be seen, so we don't know how this will impact the future generations but we know that nobody will be safe." The Japanese section is asking for sister sections' solidarity and for local work against nuclear energy, especially against the 'Atoms For Peace' campaign, which is in reality, the Spanish section later pointed out, a political masquerade that ends up supporting the production of nuclear weapons. Robin Lloyd of the Vermont branch succinctly explained WILPF's and other civil society organizations' efforts to close down the nuclear plant in their state. These kinds of actions are, it seems to me, an important opportunity to link the work we are doing locally to Reaching Critical Will and the work of WILPF International.

The second part of the morning was occupied by the International Treasurer report. Our own Nancy Ramsden stressed the excellent program fundraising job that RCW and PeaceWomen are doing. They are financially healthy parts of our organization, but the rest of WILPF badly needs to step up our fundraising efforts, not only through grant writing but also through local help and support for international. Madeleine needs an office director in the Geneva office and the NY Office also would need one, but we need people who are qualified and competent professionals, because we have had bad experiences with well meaning help who however was not qualified to do that kind of work. We have now 3-4 months worth of money now left in Geneva for operating budget (which includes Madeleine Rees' salary) and only 2,000 dollars left in the UNO office. We have, however, a number of outstanding grant applications that might help our international office extend our financial sustainability. But programs can be funded through grants, but office work and operating budget is much harder to raise money for. There is a really urgent need to raise money from the sections if we want to save WILPF. Madeleine Rees, WILPF International Secretary General, stressed that we need to be a membership driven organization that doesn't need to raise money for its operating budget.

The fundraising workshop addressed precisely these issues. Petra Totterman Andorff, the secretary general of the Swedish section, showed the very effective tactics that enabled the section to go from 1/2 person employed to 4 people employed and the capacity to support other sections and international as well as well as with a vibrant number of young committed members. Petra stressed that having good, strategic projects to start with that connect the local branches, the national organization and the international is an essential part of fundraising, because it gives visibility to the organization and attracts program money from where we can start building capacity. She mentioned US WILPF in particular, citing the 1325 campaigns (the Whistleblower campaign and others) as good examples of projects that get us started toward creating a stronger organization. we are getting excellent feedback from international and other sections on these plans, so I urge you take engage in them to the best of your capacity! If your branch has not yet replied to Tanya's inquiry about your willingness to participate in our Whistleblower campaign, do so! I also want to stress that a number of other sections are also doing actions both around the Whistleblower and on Security Council Resolution 1325. You will have the opportunity to see how 1325 relates to WILPF's International Program once the Congress approves it. Our US campaign is wonderfully in line with it and I felt very proud that it was mentioned by the Swedish section representative.

This is again it for today. More will come tomorrow!

WILPF International Congress Begins

This report was written by the US Section Representative to the International Board, Catia Confortini.

Hello from WILPF International Congress in Costa Rica! This is your incoming IB representative's first email from Congress, and I hope this will not be the last, hopefully I will have some time each day to write a little something. The US delegation is 25-member strong and many of us have committed to write up short pieces from Congress for the next issue of Peace and Freedom, so watch out for it in the next couple of months.

I arrived on Saturday July 30, so I missed the apparently very rich and interesting Gertrude Baer seminar, but don't worry, you'll hopefully be reading all about it in Peace and Freedom!

During my first full day in Costa Rica we were delighted to go on a very interesting trip to a coffee plantation where we learned a lot about how coffee is grown, picked (by hand, mostly by migrant workers), and dried to be ready for export. Of course being WILPF women we all asked the difficult questions of our guide: how much do the workers get per basket of berries, do they get benefits, are they unionized, are they documented, do you spray the trees, how sustainable is your estate, etc. I have to say that, although workers are mainly Nicaraguans and often without papeles, they receive free housing and electricity from that employer as well as medical attention and schooling for their children for free from the government.

During the trip we also had the chance to start filming short videos, asking WILPFEers to explain what security means to them, as part of our 1325/Whistleblower campaign. They will be available shortly on the Facebook page of the campaign (which I encourage you to 'like' and make use of, including filling out the survey about security).

Later in the day we had a meeting of the US delegation, to get to know each other, brainstorm and help each other understand the subtleties and sensitivities of intercultural communication, but also to divvy up tasks and journalistic assignments for Peace and Freedom. We have a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable group, eager to contribute to International as well as communicate what happens at this Congress to their respective branches.

My second day began with a very interesting lecture by anthropologist Anna Arroba who talked about the history of patriarchy and the destruction of early civilizations' matriarchies due to the needs of war making. Sarah Masters, of IANSA, the International Action Network on Small Arms, pointed to the need of alliance between WILPF and IANSA across common action points, using the the women, peace and security agenda to work on the gendered impact of small arms in our communities and in the world. During the second part of the day we all attended several workshops. Because our delegation is so much bigger than other sections (the second largest section being Sweden, with 15 members. We make up in fact about 1/4 of the entire congress I believe), we made an effort to spread ourselves across all different workshops. You will also have the chance to read about some of theses workshops on Peace and Freedom.

Today is the third day and as I write I am multitasking and listening to the very interesting presentation of the new sections, namely the DRC, Nigeria, Mexico, Pakistan and Spain. These new sections were created through the support of other sections and the work of WILPF Vice-President Amparo Guerrero. Earlier we had a very interesting morning, where the French delegate presented her somewhat controversial vision for WILPF, followed by a response by WILPF Co-President Annelise Ebbe and then small group discussions.

This concludes my email from Congress for today. Let me however thank my two predecessors, Darien DeLu and Audley Green for mentoring me into this task and patiently put up with my inexperience and mistakes. I hope I will live up to their legacies!