NO New Nuclear Weapons... NO New Nuclear Targets... NO New Pretexts For Nuclear War... NO Nuclear Testing...
NO Star Wars... NO Weapons In Space...
NO All Types Of Weapons, War & War Culture...
We have only one WORLD yet! If we destroy it, where else will we go?
Peace Women:
Dialogue Among Academics,
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 lingo."

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," she said.

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 without justice".

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 versus south.

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.

_ . _

Related links:
Peace Women
Reaching Critical Will

This issue dedicated to such distinguished author Karen ARMSTRONG &
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