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Upcoming at GA66: mediation, dispute settlements and the role of women

18 Aug

The role of mediation to reconcile opposing claims and appease resentment was recognized in the 1907 Hague Convention. The concept continues. The upcoming opening General Assembly debate the role of mediation in the settlement of disputes by peaceful means, chaired by Qatar, will build upon the Assembly’s  June 2011 Resolution on strengthening the role of mediation – recognizing the importance of: women’s participation, resources from member states, quality mediation, continued SG support and UN capacity, international, regional and subregional organizations and civil society.

Qatar has put the role of mediation as a “key priority” during its term as president as the “high-level debate” is to be held at the opening of the Assembly’s 66th session.

There is an abundance of literature on peace mediation best practice. Going by the evidence, the General Assembly’s resolution is on the right track – at least in rhetoric –  especaily with its recognition of the the gender dimension:  increased participation of and leadership of women in mediation.

However, the UN itself might be a good place to start. GAPW is a member of the Working Group on Women Peace and Security (NGOWG). In an open letter to UN member states, NGOWG  stated that despite the UN recognition of the important role of women in mediation, they remain:

“overwhelmingly excluded from mediation efforts, and their rights and concerns are not consistently and concretely included in regular mediation practice. At the international level, the United Nations has still never appointed a women as a high level mediator, as called for most recently in A/RES/65/283, OP 9.

Given the continuing barriers that women in particular face in gaining access to these processes, and the differential impact that armed conflict often has on women, we encourage you to emphasize the following key points in your statement at this year’s General Debate:

  • The importance of ensuring women’s rights are fundamental to all guidelines and good practice established regarding mediation;

  • The necessity of embedding women’s rights in content of all peace agreements, and the role of mediators in assisting negotiating parties as to how this can be done;

  • The central role women can play in all prevention efforts, and the need to support and promote women’s participation in all these efforts;

  • The urgent need for the UN to appoint senior women mediators appointed by the UN, which would set an important example for promoting women’s participation in peace policies and processes; and

  • It would be particularly striking for you to speak of any examples of support your country has given to women’s inclusion in mediation processes and ensuring women’s rights in peace agreements. Publicizing women’s engagement in mediation would send a strong signal to the international community of your national commitment to women’s empowerment.”

If the UN is sincere about this issue, action over rhetoric is required. Can the UN deliver? Will the role of women in mediation be properly addressed?