The world has long been plagued by conflict and violence, and traditional approaches to peace and security have failed to provide effective solutions. This failure has been particularly acute in the Global South, where local communities are most affected by conflict and violence but often lack representation in high-level policy-making discussions. This lack of representation of local peacemakers and particularly women has left many voices unheard and has limited the effectiveness of traditional approaches to peace and security.
Dildar Kaya: The Power Shift at Munich Security Conference 2023
However, the recent Munich Security Conference demonstrated a shift in approaching inclusivity to discuss pressing global security issues. Usually, a highly militarized space dominated by global leaders and often missing the perspectives of communities from the ground, this year was highlighted by a focus on voices from the Global South. Recognizing the importance of the presence of women-led organizations - NWI was committed to utilizing its important participation to highlight local peacemakers' voices and advocate for women to be an integral part of peace and security processes.
One of our key initiatives at the conference was a panel, followed by a workshop in collaboration with the BMW Foundation, which aimed to raise awareness about the importance of shifting power and women's participation in peace and security processes. We emphasized the need for women to be included in negotiations and across leadership positions in different sectors. Negina Yari, an Afghan Women's Human Rights defender and panelist, illustrated this on the example of Afghanistan. Women and girls in Afghanistan are facing the worst consequences as they have been deprived of their basic human rights – underlining the international communities’ moral obligation to support the protection of women's human rights in Afghanistan and promote women-led organizations inclusion into peace talks.
A key discussion during the workshop highlighted the importance of a feminist foreign policy - a topic that NWI advocated for, particularly for the implementation of the German Feminist Foreign Policy. Shortly after the conference, we received exciting news that the German government announced their plan to release a strategic vision on feminist foreign policy and appoint an ambassador to lead the efforts. Our workshop facilitated valuable connections between various actors and fostered collaborative efforts across different sectors, including businesses, international organizations, government officials, and civil society representatives.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee spoke with fellow laureate Nadia Murad and others at the main MSC plenary in a session on "Against Lawlessness: Ensuring Accountability". In it she pointed out three cardinal sins in the fight for accountability, justice, and to end lawlessness.
“The first one is how during peace processes; we suspend the entire conversation about Justice in the exchange for the promise of peace.
The second one is the exclusion of women, who make up 55 or 60 % of populations in most countries, but suffer the brunt of the war in these peace processes. And what we see is the exclusion of this group at the beginning of every process, which is setting a new trend that they will continue to suffer.
The third sin is the double standards of Justice in the international community. We are talking about prosecuting Russia rightly, but what about the U.S. and the ICC and all of the other issues we need to talk about. Until we are not addressing issues from local to national and global levels, we will continue to see accountability as a problem. Justice will evade us and our world will continue to suffer in big and small ways.“
A highlight of NWI’s participation was also the screening of our documentary, "Oh Sister!" about women facing the challenges of the ongoing Russian invasion and fighting for peace, justice, and freedom in Ukraine. The screening was followed by a moving dialogue between activists Oleksandra Matviychuk and Tata Kepler, who were also featured in the film. It was the first time both women met - a touching and emotional moment that demonstrated sisterhood, allowing both women working in war to connect and speak about their realities. The audience's emotional response to the screening was indicative of how impactful the stories shared in the film showing the central role women play in facing the challenges of war are.
Nobel Women Initiative’s participation was crucial at the MSC. By being present and enabling other local women peacemakers and activists to access this space, we increased visibility and emphasized the important role that women's organizations and local peacemakers play in promoting peace and security globally. By enabling our Afghan, Palestinian, and Kurdish partners to participate, they were able to connect with high-ranking government, UN, and EU officials to advocate on their communities' behalf - leading to verbal agreements and action points. Our contributions increased understanding and awareness among governments, businesses, and international organizations about the specific needs and perspectives of women in conflict and post-conflict situations. The experience of being at this particular space endowed us with the unique opportunity to forge meaningful connections with essential stakeholders, cultivate relationships, and foster collaboration across regional areas and different sectors that are often difficult to access.
Ultimately, our involvement in the Munich Security Conference was a significant opportunity for learning and spotlighting the crucial role of women’s participation in peace and security initiatives. Our observations emphasized the necessity for women's groups and local peacemakers to be present in these spaces to ensure that the voices and perspectives of marginalized communities, especially women, are heard and integrated into policy-making discussions and decisions. This would ultimately help to promote a more inclusive, diverse, and effective approach to peace and security - one that reflects the needs and perspectives of all communities, especially those most affected by conflict and violence.
Written by Dildar Kaya.
More information about NWI's participation at MSC is available here.