Activists and UN Officials
Security Council Resolution 1325 has sparked many conversations,
meetings and publications.
An interesting conversation was held at UN HQ
on April 11, 2002, bringing together academics, activists
and UN officials focused on the interpretation and implementation
of this resolution. A celebratory mood was already in
the air on that Thursday morning as the official depositing
of the 60th ratification of the International
Criminal Court occurred.
The inspiration to organize a dialogue grew from conversations
between Felicity Hill (formerly WILPF, now UNIFEM) and
Carol Cohn (Wellesley College). Felicity, having drawn
heavily from Carol Cohns' work on the language and culture
of defense intellectuals, and Carol understanding the
importance of shaping her research to make it relevant
to activists and policy makers encouraged their colleagues
to join them in broadening the dialogue.
Conference Room 4 of the United Nations was filled, on April 11th,
with students from Columbia, Fordham, New York University,
New School University, Queens College, CUNY, Hunter
College, Baruch College, Rutgers University, Jay John
College and Brookyln College. Participants of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
Prepcom and individuals from various UN departments
such as DPKO, DAW, and DPA were present.
The morning session on Women, Peace and Security highlighted the
importance of gender becoming not just an occasional
issue, but a routine component of all processes and
institutions of the UN, academia and activist efforts.
The panelists all brought to the table a different way
to pursue this. Ann Tickner, from Center for International
Studies at the University of Southern California, shared
her perspective and best thoughts to bear on the challenges
and opportunities offered by teaching international
relations with a gender lense.
She stated that she found that only a "tiny
handful of men take her classes on gender" and
saw as her own role as an educator to "have women's
voices and perspectives mainstreamed into her discipline".
Jane Connors of the UN's Division for the Advancement
of Women spoke about the emerging system of international
human rights law, and the reinterpretation of many words
and concepts that were originally defined without a
gender perspective. Cynthia Enloe re-affirmed this point
by stating "this dialogue is important because
many of us do not understand the discourse that makes
sense in different arenas.
I like that we use translation to not only mean
just language but how to understand and learn this institutional
The afternoon session devoted to disarmament focused on the strengths
women can bring to disarmament issues. Betty Reardon
emphasized that women have a very specific role in building
the culture of peace. The fear of disarmament and the
fear that many men have of simply losing and not gaining
something from demilitarization was noted. Rebecca Johnson representing the Acronym Institute focused
on "how defense security depends on the force and
strength of the masculine construct" and on weapons
as "hardware" and women's bodies as "software".
Carol Cohn, from Wellesley College, made an essential
link between armament and masculinity among cultures.
"Weapons are not thought about in relation to lives
but in relation to other weapons", Carol described
the need to reframe discourse on weapons to include
the larger human scope. When we start talking about
the kind of weapons we need, we should start talking
about the starving children and the environment,"
Rhonda Copelon described the ICC as "a standing symbol of
the principle of justice rather an entity that can hear
or try every case". The ICC is a tool to fight
against impunity at the domestic and the international
level. The importance of war crimes against women is
more than just sexual crimes it goes along many levels
and there is room for re-defining these terms. Rhonda
also suggested the possibility of having the ICC as
a deterrent. Rhonda Copelon spoke about the tremendous
possibility for the ICC to assist women's organizations
in raising the legal standards in their own countries
on crimes against women, and in giving greater legitimacy
to women's struggle against violence.
Maria Solis, from Guatemala, contextualized the
court in the global situation. She stated that there can be a "double
moral ethic" because the states situated with more
economic power have a greater capacity to determine
what cases are tried and what issues will be on the
agenda. Rhonda Copelon and Pam Spees warned that there
is also potential misuse of the ICC and for certain
powers to abuse this system of justice. Maria Solis
finished the panel by highlighting the importance of
the ICC because "it is not possible to have peace
The dialogue and exchange between the panelists and the audience,
many of whom proved to have significant expertise and
insights, was a key part of the day. The audience played
an extremely important role by bringing to the discussion
of gender, issues of power distribution, race, and north
The women at WILPF are feeling inspired to organize similar events
for future exchange and they are looking towards rotating
the venue, and holding the next strategic and fascinating
conversation at a university setting. The day was an
interesting beginning on what kinds of resources and
strengths each community can contribute to reinforce
and provide backstopping to the other.
The day organized by the Women's International League for Peace
and was very successful in raising the ideas, issues
and eyebrows of UN Officials, researchers, activists
and peace professionals who require more stimulation,
challenge, hope and partnership to move forward. The exchange of ideas across these different
communities is not usually very easy, but the participants'
ability to provoke this exchange was a stepping-stone
in a dialogue that should be ongoing.
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Reaching Critical Will