NATO conference discusses women, peace and security in the Middle East and North Africa
Leading NATO officials and female representatives from Tunisia, Jordan, Libya, Yemen, Morocco and Rwanda discussed progress made in promoting the role of women in peace and security at a conference from 28-29 March.
The aim of the conference was to review the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 in the wake of the first anniversary of the start of the Arab Spring.
The two-day talks focused on the role of women in the political processes in the Middle East and North Africa and on the importance of raising awareness of the current human rights violations which many women in the region are still facing. It was also highlighted that women should play a more prominent role during peace and conflict resolution talks.
Sixteen women took part in the event, including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Mrs Tawakkol Karman, from Yemen and peace activist Ms Hibaaq Osman, from Somalia. “Women should benefit from the same opportunities as men and sit at the decision-making table, when it comes to peace building,” Mrs Karman insisted, adding, "we know ten years have elapsed and still all the decisions related to war are predominantly taken by men ."
However, she said she was "still optimistic" that the Arab Spring would one day lead to women playing an equal role to men in peace and security issues. "It is an ongoing process," she stated.
Mrs. Karman and Mrs. Osman also met with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen In the margins of the conference.
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, Deputy Secretary General of NATO concluded the event, praising the work of Mrs. Karman as a, "great champion for women's rights, peace and democracy" on a global scale. He also noted her work as a journalist and activist in leading the fight for greater freedom of the media in Yemen. Ambassador Vershbow said that if women were not active participants in peace-building, reconciliation and redevelopment, "then the views, needs and interests of half the world's population are not represented."
Dr. Stefanie Babst, Deputy Assistant Secretary General for NATO's Public Diplomacy Division, appealed to the conference participants from various Brussels think tanks, embassies and EU institutions stressing that, "UNSCR 1325 is not a women's issue; it is about a democratic and human right that we all need to help implement."
The conference, which took place at the Residence Palace in Brussels, was co-organised by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, NATO's Public Diplomacy and Political Affairs and Security Policy Divisions.