57 th Annual DPI / NGO Conference

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International Secretariat 8 Rue du Vieux-Billard P.O. Box Geneva 11 Switzerland Tel: Fax: Website: 57 th Annual DPI / NGO
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International Secretariat 8 Rue du Vieux-Billard P.O. Box Geneva 11 Switzerland Tel: Fax: Website: 57 th Annual DPI / NGO Conference Millennium Development Goals: Civil Society Takes Action United Nations Headquarters New York 8 10 September 2004 Obstacles to the MDGs: Strategies to Overcome Them Presented by Mme Bineta Diop Thursday, 9 th September I have been asked today to discuss the role of women in peace-building, conflict management and good governance as essential features of the Millenium Development Goal process. Four years ago, a unique partnership was forged between government, the private sector, and civil society in a commitment to eight goals, set out for In this global compact the Millenium Development Goals are all interconnected. You cannot talk about one goal without noting its effects on another. We know today that in Sub-Saharan Africa none of these goals have been achieved. You might wonder, why Africa is the only continent that lags behind, while development flourishes elsewhere? Certainly, there is no comprehensive answer. Yet without lamenting on our problems let us remind ourselves of the historical background of the continent. The exploitation of Africa by external forces goes as far back as the 1500s. For more than three centuries, Africa was ravaged by the brutal slave trade that split millions of families, broke the economic back of the continent, and served to make other countries more powerful and prominent. In 1886, those same countries held the Berlin Conference to carve up Africa in various colonial territories. The Conference set up arbitrary state boundaries that did not take into consideration the natural divisions of the African people (religion, culture, language, ethnicity, etc). The 1960s marked the emergence of African states in the modern system of international relations. As colonialism was combated and receded, the first wave of African countries became independent and started setting up new governments and national institutions. These countries faced huge challenges in unifying their people and creating viable structures for government. The beginning of the Cold War exacerbated the challenges faced by new countries. During that time, Africa was the site of multiple proxy wars conducted by the US and the USSR in their ideological and strategic struggle. Proxy wars were undertaken in complete disregard of their damaging effects on African populations, plunging countries into internal conflicts, some of which continue today. Besides dealing with the consequences of the Cold War, African countries were also struggling with their independence. Seizing an opportunity to claim power and enrich themselves, many corrupt leaders stepped into the political void left by the colonizers, creating a legacy of bad governance. Today, Africa exists within a globalized world where much is often taken from the continent, and less put in. Africa has suffered the loss of its sons and daughters; Africa has been drained of much of its natural resources; its frontiers have been artificially designed. Despite many recovery programs set up in the past for Africa by UN organizations and the international community, there has been little progress; Africans are still suffering and facing extreme poverty. 2 That is why we welcome the Millennium Development Goals, another recovery program in itself. These goals, adopted by 191 member States, in particular stress the special needs of Africa. The MDGs present an opportunity for progress and development, especially as they complement NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa s Development, an initiative that was advanced by Africans themselves. Both the MDGs and NEPAD promote a much needed partnership between governments and civil society. Yet, despite these initiatives, conflict stands as a huge obstacle; it is ravaging the continent. Without peace there is little hope of achieving the goals set out for Leaders are struggling to address the issue of war and insecurity. When the Organization of African States (OAU) transformed itself into the African Union (AU), Heads of State granted the new AU increased powers. The AU Act was adopted, recognizing the AU s right as a collective body to intervene in any of its member state for humanitarian purposes. The Heads of State ratified a protocol creating the AU s Peace and Security Council, which consists of 15 rotating members and holds the mandate to act at all levels of a conflict (prevention, management and postreconstruction). This Council also oversees the establishment of an African Standing Force. Since these decisions, the African Union has gradually been developing its capabilities to fully engage the problems that are plaguing the Continent, ensuring new mechanisms for conflict resolution. Furthermore, the African Peer Review Mechanism (which functions under the auspices of NEPAD) ensures that the policies and practices of participating states conform to agreed political, economic, and governance values holding leaders and states accountable for their actions. The missing link in the issue of conflict resolution is the presence and involvement of civil society. So is there hope for Africa? It seems that as soon as one conflict is resolved, another one lies ahead on the horizon. But YES! There is hope the hope lies in the people themselves. In Rwanda, for example, following the genocide, women s groups undertook to support the orphans and rebuild society. Now, women comprise 50 per cent of the Rwandan Parliament. This brings me to the discussion of civil society if this DPI conference were held in Africa people would be amazed at what civil society, and specifically women s groups, are accomplishing on the ground. Unfortunately, we have few NGOs from Africa here today, and it is Africa that is in most need of attention. While everyone is affected by war, not all are affected in the same way. Women generally bear the brunt of violence and conflict. They are subject to rape and physical abuse, they risk losing their sons and husbands to war; they are often left to act as sole income providers 3 and run their households. Women are disproportionately affected by the spread of HIV/AIDS, and as we have observed with the Sudan crisis, women often represent more than 50% of refugee camps. It is unfair to relegate all women to the status of victim however. They have a lot to say and their input is valuable women deserve a place at the table, actively involved in decisionmaking processes to ensure that human security is prioritized in national policies in Africa. As they are greatly affected by war they should be heard. They deserve to be part of the solution to be included not only as actors but as beneficiaries as well. Women, of course, are not all the same. They have their own differences, they belong to various communities and cultural backgrounds, but at the end of the day women can share a common agenda for peace due to their experiences and exposure. Without such cohesion, it is almost impossible to break into a male dominated sphere. In recent years, issues of women, peace and security have gained increased international attention. One month after the Millenium Summit, in October of 2000, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security, recognizing the impact of war on women. The council made specific recommendations for improving women s protection during conflict and for advancing women s leadership in peace-building and reconstruction. There is clear evidence that women s efforts in peacebuilding are both critical and effective. For example, in 2000 the Mano River Union Women Peace Network (MARWOPNET) was founded by women from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, recognizing that there would be no peace in Liberia without peace in the region. While the men were busy acquiring arms, the women were meeting with leaders and urging them to stop the war. By its early action, MARWOPNET impeded the erosion of human rights and furthered the implementation of Security Council Resolution In December of 2003 the General Assembly awarded MARWOPNET the United Nations Prize for Human Rights in recognition of its outstanding achievement. Today, we have achieved gender parity in the AU with five women commissioners out of ten. In July 2004, for the first time in African history, leaders from 52 member countries spent a whole day discussing gender issues, thanks to the efforts of civil society. The Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa was adopted, integrating a gender-mainstreaming programme at the highest level of the African Union Commission s program. The African Women Committee for Peace and Development (AWCPD), which helped bring about gender parity, was incorporated into AU mechanisms. The Union s recent declaration expressed strong support for the Millennium Development Goals, HIV/AIDS care, and the rehabilitation of child soldiers. 4 An absence of conflict is a necessary condition to promote the Millennium Development Goals. Women s networking for peace under groups such as MARWOPNET has raised the profile of women as recognized peacebuilders. At the same time, it highlighted limits to their effectiveness due to scarce resources and their exclusion from the formal peace process. While 1325 and the AU Declaration are steps in the right direction, we now face the greatest challenge that of implementation. The words of such resolutions and declarations stand empty of meaning without transforming them into action. The AU meeting and even the conference we sit at today is important in its plans to continually review and evaluate the goals of implementation. Evaluation concerns both success and failure. Women throughout the developing world are struggling to have their voice heard they play key roles in civil society and are working hard in that sphere. Despite this tireless work, many women s groups lack both the financial resources and support needed to carry out their activities. We will continue to fight for peace and development. Yet partnerships are essential MDG goal number 8, which emphasizes the role of international community in addressing major global development concerns, is particularly relevant to Africa s advancement. To conclude, the post 9/11 world has undoubtedly transformed all concepts of peace and security. The international community is waging a war against terrorism this war is not helping to resolve the conflicts in Africa. Where will the resources we need come from? Will they be diverted to the war on terrorism before Darfur, Burundi, and other conflicts are resolved? That is the challenge facing Africa today. Security is not about arms or weapons or the military it has a human face. When asked what security means to an African woman, she will mention the basic necessities of food, housing, health, and employment. Above all, people seek protection in terms of human needs, in terms of basic resources needed for survival. Without such things, an environment of insecurity is perpetuated. The African people themselves have a role to play in creating lasting peace. Government and private sector have their own responsibilities as well especially as they work in cooperation with each other. FAS is building a Center for Gender, Peace, and Development in Dakar with collaboration from UNDP and the Senegalese government. We need to see more cooperation of this kind between government and civil society, as well as the private sector with a gender partnership on all levels. An organized and systematic documentation of women s contributions will inevitably impact the way in which the world views peace and security. A focus on human security, in a non-military sense, is essential in order for the Millenium Development Goals to be advanced to their greatest potential; only then can the world be secured. 5 Regional Office Stele Mermoz Immeuble Rose Appt. No 31C P.O. Box Fann Dakar Senegal Tel: Fax:
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