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Women in Peace Negotiations and Mediation Process: Experiences from Ireland

The speakers highlighted that although the roundtable drew lessons from Ireland, it has also drawn lessons from South Africa, Guatemala, Uganda among others, and the knowledge has been transferred to nations like Palestine and Columbia.


08 February 2019

On 5 February 2019, IPSS and the Embassy of Ireland in Addis Ababa organized a roundtable discussion on “Women in Peace Negotiation and Mediation Process: Experiences from Ireland”.


The discussion highlighted the importance of policy in peacebuilding not just in Africa but around the globe. The panellists included: Prof. Monica McWilliams, Professor of Women’s Studies in the Transitional Justice Institute at the University of Ulster, Diane Misenga Kabeya, Deputy Head of Delegation, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Salome Mbugua, Member, Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Ireland. The session was moderated by Stella Mystica Sabiiti, UN Women Advisor to the African Union’s Network of Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation (FEMWISE-AFRICA).

Prof. McWilliams reflected on her childhood and the religious discrimination she and her family faced, pushing her to join the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition. Women’s contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process emphasized sustainable peace; the importance of civil society in peacebuilding and equal representation. She also noted the importance of implementing the UN Security Council resolution 1325.


Ms. Sabiiti referenced her experience with the peace agreement in Uganda, articulating the importance of female representation at peace agreements and asked how we must draw lessons from previous experiences and turn them into frameworks of impact and longevity that bridge the gap between civilians and high-level representation. She also mentioned that AU-RECs has implemented UN Security Council resolution 1325, through the creation of regional action plans.


Ms. Kabeya reflected on the ICRC’s work in DRC and South Sudan in humanitarian mediation which supports and empowers communities through training in reconciliation and conflict resolution. ICRCs work has built social cohesion and advanced women’s access to peace talks at the local level. In 2018, out of the 296 documented mediated cases, 89 cases involved women to identify threats. Out of 100 threats identified, 72 threats were not carried out although in 19 cases, the threat was carried out.  Engaging the grass root population in mediation is crucial, not only of the directly affected communities but also the neighbouring communities. Based on ICRC findings, it is important to note the differences within the demographic of women like in the case where adult women prioritized economic insecurity over education, and place sexual violence against young girls as a secondary concern. This ideally feeds into the implementation of a working road-map that promotes training and conducts monitoring to ensure that any rising issues are addressed. 


Ms. Mbugua reflected on when she relocated to Ireland in 1994, where she engaged with the Irish women’s movement which has given her the opportunity to facilitate minority contribution in the development of the third phase of the Irish National Action Plan. Since 2015, through a Kenyan non-governmental organization called Wezesha, she has been encouraging African diaspora to contribute back to their origin countries and identify resources that can better the continent, particularly in DRC and Kenya. She emphasized the value African diaspora hold in the arena of peacebuilding both young and old, no one should be left behind.


Participants addressed;


  • If African Women’s contribution to peace and security can be replicated worldwide;
  • The implementation of the UN security council resolution 1325?
  • Ethiopia: transitional process versus uncertainty: what lessons of prevention can we take on as Ethiopia prepares for elections in 2020?
  • When we engage in peace processes, what should be prioritized; human rights or women rights?


The speakers highlighted that although the Roundtable drew lessons from Ireland, it has also drawn lessons from South Africa, Guatemala, Uganda among others, and the knowledge has been transferred to nations like Palestine and Columbia. In the implementation of UN security council resolution 1325, only 79 UN Member States ( 40% of all UN Member States have adopted 1325 National Action Plans (NAPs). Therefore, there is a need to bridge the gap between global and local. To sustain peace women must be involved at every stage of the negotiations.


Furthermore, it was emphasized that women’s rights are human rights. The notion of women’s rights is fundamentally holistic. Although the experience of both sexes is not the same, particularly in conflict, analysis of how conflicts impact both women and men is paramount.


The last remarks were given by Mrs. Michelle Ndiaye, the Director of Africa Peace and Security Programme (APSP) at IPSS, and Head of the Tana Forum Secretariat, who affirmed to the changing in the state of peace and security in Africa and shared the following takeaway from the discourse;

  1. Social cohesion;
  2. The need for prevention to achieve sustainable peace;
  3. Reconciliation, a crucial ingredient within the transitional justice process of communities and countries to move forward;
  4. Leadership is crucial to success within transitional processes;
  5. Language as a critical tool in mediation;
  6. The ICRC approach of humanitarian mediation, a human-rights based approach in empowering the local agency;
  7. Social norms that prevent women from peacebuilding should be countered by the different experiences of African matriarchal societies;
  8. The concept of twinning within mediation that entitles an equal engagement of both women and men at all levels of peacebuilding processes.


Finally, Mrs. Ndiaye expressed gratitude to the Irish embassy for the partnership to co-host the event with IPSS. IPSS facilitates platforms to nurture and duplicate discourses and knowledge on peacebuilding on the continent.


Click here to view photos from the event.