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Jakarta Post

Women, peace and security and Indonesia's foreign policy

Jakarta   /   Tue, July 7, 2020   /   08:15 am
Women, peace and security and Indonesia's foreign policy Women of strength: Indonesia’s Lt. Col. Ratih Pusparini (right) and Norway’s Maj. Gen. Kristin Lund (center) attend a session of the United Nations’ Special Committee for Peacekeeping Operations (C-34), in New York, the US. (Courtesy of Foreign Ministry) (Foreign Affairs Ministry/file)

The issue of women, peace and security is one of the priorities of Indonesia’s foreign policy. This priority is manifested also in our support for the empowerment of women as agents of peace.

Last year, Indonesia held two major initiatives to promote women’s contribution to peace and security.

The first was an event called Regional Training for Women, Peace and Security held in Jakarta from April 8 to 9, 2019. The training, attended by 60 young female diplomats from the region, was aimed at strengthening their capacity in peacemaking processes.

The second was the Dialogue on the Role of Women in Building and Sustaining Peace, held from Nov. 26 to 30. A platform designed to support Afghan women’s participation in their country’s peace process, the event was attended by 38 Afghan women from different backgrounds and regions, including conflict regions.

As a concrete follow-up to the dialogue, I inaugurated the first meeting of the Afghanistan-Indonesia Women’s Solidarity Network in Kabul on March 1, 2020. Needless to say, I was moved by the determination of Afghan women to play an active role in their country’s peace process, refusing to only be victims, and opting to be agents of peace.

I witnessed similar courage during my personal interaction with women affected by conflicts in different parts of the world, from Palestine to Rakhine state in Myanmar.

Women have unique skills and perspectives to offer in peace processes. They can build trust between parties, help reduce confrontation and communicate better with victims of conflict. Involving women will also help ensure their specific concerns are addressed in peace processes.

When given the opportunity, women deliver results. Research shows that women’s participation increases the probability of a peace agreement lasting at least two years by 20 percent, and lasting 15 years by 35 percent.

Indeed, there has been growing recognition for women’s important role in peace and security.

This year, we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the landmark UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which reaffirms the role of women in conflict prevention and resolution and calls for their equal participation and full involvement, including at decision-making levels.

Regrettably, we continue to see different realities on the ground, where women remain under-represented in peacebuilding efforts.

According to figures compiled by the UN Women, between 1992 and 2018, women only constituted 13 percent of negotiators, 3 percent of mediators and 4 percent of signatories in major peace processes.

Currently, women only make up 6 percent of uniformed personnel in the UN Peace Operations. We risk losing a bigger chance of peace if women are not afforded equal opportunity.

The state of our world right now has the potential to breed more conflicts.

Geopolitical uncertainty has become a reality for some time. Great power rivalries are intensifying. Trust between countries is diminishing. More countries are resorting to unilateralism, undermining of rules-based order and international law.

We are looking at the possible need for more peacemakers in the future. And this time, we must include more women throughout the whole spectrum of peace, from prevention to resolution.

I propose three important ways to do this.

First, changing the culture and mindset. Many societies still have structural barriers to a greater participation of women.

Education is important in raising awareness and understanding on women’s contribution to peace and security.

Support from the closest people, including the family, is very important. Without my family’s support, I would not be the women I am today.

Next, we have to change the mindset of our male counterparts, convince them that together we can achieve many feats. A safe and enabling environment is important, and this is where affirmative action by the government is needed.

Second, enhancing women’s capacity to contribute to peace and security.

Preventing and resolving conflicts are not easy undertakings. Constant improvement on capacity, experience and credentials is needed.

This is the rationale for the regional training Indonesia organized last year. I am hoping to see the deployment of female mediators from our region to conflict situations in the future.

Indonesia is also the proponent for enhanced training for female peacekeepers. There are currently 159 of them from Indonesia in seven UN Peace Operations. We are committed to improving their capacity to effectively fulfill their mandates in the field.

Third, fostering networks of like-minded people.

Women must support and empower other women. This is where networks are relevant, to provide a platform for mentoring opportunities, exchanges of lessons learned, training and other forms of collaboration.

The regional training course last year was meant to kick-start the preparations toward the establishment of the Southeast Asia Network of Women Peace Negotiators and Mediators later this year.

Recently, no fewer than 800 people took part in a seminar Indonesia held to promote regular dialogue on women, peace and security in the region and explore possible contributions of the Southeast Asia Network to our regional peace and security.

Many other regions already have their own women mediator network: Africa, the Arab world, the Mediterranean, the Nordic countries and the Commonwealth. It is about time our region had its own.

The Southeast Asia Network will reinforce the existing ASEAN Women Peace Registry, which already maintains a pool of female experts in peace processes.

Moving forward, Indonesia will continue promoting women, peace and security issue, both at the regional and global levels.

We will strive to mainstream this issue in ASEAN. Just two weeks ago, I proposed to include it in the action lines of the ASEAN Political and Security Community Blueprint.

Meanwhile, at the global level, we will continue our active involvement on this issue in the United Nations and the Women Foreign Ministers’ Network.

 ***

The writer is Indonesian foreign minister.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.