Securing Women’s Role and Partnership in the Process of Peace- Building



Kerstin Greb?ck

Co- President, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom


Women are consistently and significantly under-represented in peace negotiations or are often entirely absent. The engagement of women in the Six Party Talks, in denuclearization talks and in peace building efforts in the North East Asia region is therefore a key element to ensuring the long term success of these negotiations. Women’s full involvement in all peace negotiations and discussions is the only way to bring about any form of sustainable peace in the region, and peace in the world.


WILPF is especially encouraged to be a part of this conference, as we have called for a nuclear free world since the first splitting of the atom. WILPF recognizes that nuclear weapons are a greater threat to security than they are a protector of it. WILPF also recognizes how important it is for women to be engaged in peace and security discussions, and was a key player in the lead-up to and adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325.


Although women - at least on paper -have begun to play an important role in conflict resolution, peace- keeping and defense and foreign affairs mechanisms, they are still underrepresented in decision-making positions. The equal access and full participation of women in power structures and their full involvement in all efforts for the prevention and resolution of conflicts are essential for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.


In the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, the world’s governments agreed to a minimum quota of 30% women in positions at decision-making levels, a target that is far from being realized in peace and security decision-making bodies. This is particularly noticeable when discussions revolve around weapons of mass destruction, and especially nuclear weapons abolition. During the course of the Six Party Talks, the number of women involved has been nowhere near the 30% recommendation.


In 2000, the UN Security Council recognized that women’s involvement in all levels of decision making, especially when it comes to peace-building efforts is necessary. Men and women experience conflict differently, and the perspectives provided by women offered during peace negotiations ensures that the negotiations take a more rounded approach to providing lasting security for all. In passing Resolution 1325, the Security Council reaffirmed "the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace-building, and stressing the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security", and formally recognized the added value of these perspectives.


 Women’s engagement in the six party talks has been minimal, at best. Few of the top negotiators from the Koreas, Japan, China, Russia and the US are women, and even fewer formal consultations with civil society or women’s groups have been held. Global and regional Non Governmental Organizations have put forward specific recommendations for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the promotion of a nuclear free Northeast Asia. While the recent shifts from isolation towards greater dialogue and openness are a welcome change by the six-party negotiators, informed analysis provided by NGOs could provide different thinking in the process and encourage more diplomatic engagement, as well as adherence to commitments already made.


The Six Party Talks could be a step towards an official armistice agreement between North and South, and an official conclusion to the war that has not yet technically ended after more than fifty years. Peace processes and negotiations are not isolated events. The negotiations begin during war and persist throughout the various stages of changeover to peace. Peace agreements can include the following: power-sharing arrangements, economic reconstruction, demobilization and reintegration of soldiers, legislation on human rights, access to land, education and health, the status of displaced people and the empowerment of civil society. Therefore, they provide a unique opportunity to transform institutions, structures, and relationships within society, and can affirm gender equality through constitutional, judicial, legislative and electoral reform. There is also an opportunity to ensure national level understanding of and adherence to international human rights standards and norms.


Since 2003, the talks have included more than standard concepts of militarized security. Recognizing that a military tactic is illogical and not likely to provide peace, solutions have broadened to focus on underlying causes fueling insecurity. The packages now offered to the North in exchange for getting rid of their nuclear weapons programs have included economic incentives, fuel, food and other humanitarian aid. The humanitarian crisis in the North continues to worsen, and the resources put into place for the nuclear program should therefore go towards providing food security for the people. WILPF welcomes the shutdown of the reactorat Yongbyon and encourages more bi-lateral diplomatic engagement between North and South.


One of the aims of WILPF, since it’s inception in 1915, is to study and make known the root causes of war and armed conflict. WILPF recognizes that the gender inequality and economic injustices are two of these root causes, and in moving forward towards a peaceful resolution to the current nuclear dilemma on the peninsula, WILPF recognizes that economic incentives are a necessary component of the negotiations and striving towards economic stability is an integral part of securing peace. The Beijing Platform for Action recognizes that "Peace is inextricably linked with equality between women and men and development." In order for peace to reign in northeast Asia, it is necessary to examine all aspects of security, including economic security and its impact on human security.


The normalization of relations between North and South Korea, and between other state actors in these negotiations is an attempt to bolster the economic situation in the North and prevent a catastrophic humanitarian situation as a result of continued poverty and economic distress. The provision by the US of heavy fuel oil, as laid out in the 3 October 2007 agreement is a welcome step. However in order to normalize relations, the US must take the DPRK off of the State Sponsors of Terrorism list in order to allow other nations to resume trade relations and bring some economic security back to the North. In addition, if women are to play an equal part in securing and maintaining peace, they must be empowered politically and economically and represented adequately at all levels of decision-making. All parties in these talks should look at whether or not their national laws and practices encourage this. In incorporating economic incentives, specific attention must be paid to the inclusion of programs that promote women’s economic empowerment.


Women’s economic empowerment programs that increase literacy and provide access to reproductive health technologies promote overall community health. As argued by Rae Lesser Blumberg in her paper "Women’s Economic Empowerment as the "Magic Potion" of Development?", when women have control over income and other economic resources (including land and animals), they tend to contribute directly to the wealth of their nation, and indirectly to their country’s national income growth. The education of women, and increases in women’s literacy in particular are one way of empowering women economically. This has been recognized by all governments in their agreement to address the gender education gap as a primary strategy for achieving the third Millennium Development Goal to promote gender equality and empower women.


With greater economic power, women gain more say in household decisions and tend to promote ? and spend their own money disproportionately on ?the nutrition, health and education of daughters as well as sons. They also have more influence over their reproduction, and generally tend to have less children. Statistically, national income growth is inversely related to fertility, the more children the lower the national income. Moreover, women’s economic empowerment is linked to less corruption and armed conflict and, over the long run, less violence against females.


The inclusion of women as equal negotiators in the Six Party Talks is an important first step toward the attainment of lasting peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and for the wider Northeast Asian Region. Broadening the inclusiveness of the negotiations affords space for the consideration of new avenues towards a solution and an opportunity to examine the underlying causes of conflict ?ultimately insecurity and inequalities in power ? but inequities which cannot be addressed by military means. Women have a vital role to play in bringing about greater human security for all parties, and must be consulted and included in all of these peace processes.


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