Swedish Women’s Mediation Network. Photo: Moa Haeggblom
Fifteen women with extensive diplomatic and peace-building experience have been specially appointed to mediate in some of the world’s most serious conflicts. They are part of the Swedish Women’s Mediation Network, whose aim is to contribute to peace processes and support women’s participation and influence in peacebuilding – before, during and after a conflict.
The initiative to create a Swedish women’s mediation network was taken three years ago by Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström. This arose from the fact that most peace negotiators were still men, despite the fifteen years that had passed since the adoption of UN Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.
“Increasing women’s participation in peace processes is an important part of our feminist foreign policy. More women are needed in international operations around the world. This is a matter of justice, but it is also a fact that gender-responsive and inclusive peace processes contribute to sustainable peace,” says Ms Wallström.
The Swedish Women’s Mediation Network has counterparts in several other countries. The Women’s Mediation Networks in the other Nordic countries and the Swedish network join forces on advocacy activities to promote greater gender equality in peacebuilding processes around the world.
In addition these advocacy activities, the Network’s mission includes field operations on the ground, so far in countries including Afghanistan, Burundi, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Yemen and Syria. Assignments vary from sitting at the negotiating table or otherwise ensuring that women are included in peace and mediation processes.
“I was part of the responsible mediation team in both Somalia and Sudan. There, peace mediation experience of this type of peacebuilding dialogue is used to facilitate contact between opposing parties and to attempt to reach consensus around how to achieve sustainable peaceful solutions,” says Marika Fahlén, one of the members of the Women’s Mediation Network.
Why is it so important that women are part of peace processes? Margareta Wahlström, who is a member of the Women’s Mediation Network and has 35 years of humanitarian and peacekeeping experience, says it is important for sustainability.
“One of the reasons that new-found peace often collapses is that peace agreements are not inclusive. If peace is to be sustainable, all social stakeholders must accept the consequences of peace,” she says.
Ms Fahlén adds: “Women’s perspectives are often completely different from those of armed groups, for example, or from those representing the regime. They can have different and complementary perspectives on the root causes of the conflict, on how to solve it or on how a future constitution should be designed. We need to take that into consideration.”