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Peace Is Possible: Include Women

By Ellen Friedman

It can be hard to read the newspaper or listen to the news these days. The devastating human costs of conflict are more apparent than ever, as families are fleeing their homes due to civil war, violent extremism, and militarized responses to those seeking reform and change in their countries. Many are making dangerous crossings over land and sea to seek safety and the world has been challenged to respond to the numbers of refugees seeking shelter. The rhetoric on the US political stage makes nuanced conversation about threats to peace and the US role in the world near to impossible. This should be a moment where we seize the opportunity (and, one might argue, respond to the moral necessity) to ensure that the full range of human experience and expertise are integrated into our military, aid, and diplomatic strategies to end conflict and bring about a more peaceful world.

Security and foreign policy approaches that explicitly include women and their experience have been demonstrated to be more effective at preventing violent conflict and promoting lasting peace; however, this perspective has been integrated into US foreign policy and national security in only limited ways. Women are not only victims of violence and conflict; they, too, can sometimes be perpetrators of violence, and they also often play important active roles in advancing peace and security, including conflict resolution and peacebuilding. We believe there is an opportunity to change the policy conversation to include proven strategies that lift up and invest in women and families at the community level, at policy tables, in targeted military action, in negotiations to halt conflict, and in peacebuilding. It is not only a more effective path to peace; it is the right path to peace.

Around the world, non-violent movements for peace, many of them spearheaded by women, are working diligently in very dangerous environments to reverse the tide of extremism and violence and lay a foundation for lasting peace and opportunity. In recognition of the importance of women’s participation and gender perspectives in managing conflict in 2000, the UN Security Council unanimously passed UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security.  This was possible because women who were on the ground, engaged in conflict resolution in their countries, joined with international activists to pressure governments to stop ignoring the gendered dimensions of war and sidelining the peacebuilding efforts of women.

These women, along with many male allies, understood that conflict prevention and sustainable peacebuilding are only possible when both women and men are engaged in finding solutions. Yet the foreign policy and national security community in Washington DC has been slow to operationalize the women, peace, and security (WPS) agenda.

The Compton Foundation has established a new Women, Peace, and Security Initiative to integrate a holistic, gendered perspective into mainstream US national security and foreign policy decision-making over the next 2-3 years.

Our objectives are three-fold:

  1. to leverage the presidential transition to ensure WPS is prioritized in the new presidential administration by strengthening relationships between WPS thought leaders and influential policymakers;
  2. to bridge divides between WPS organizations and mainstream national security and foreign policy leaders; and
  3. to work with key partners to communicate a compelling case for inclusion during and following the November elections.

In the spring of 2016, we awarded the first set of grants to six organizations engaged on these issues. These grants are intended to mobilize change during a unique window of time:  a presidential election year and transition to a new administration. This is a moment when national security and foreign policy receives more media coverage and scrutiny, the search for successful solutions is in high gear, campaign teams are developing their policy priorities and approaches, and a new cadre of policy officials starts to move into the highest rungs of government—a timely juncture to push for a gender-responsive foreign policy framework.

Our core principles are collaboration, communication, and relationship-building—to create new champions for this agenda, advance a strong inclusive security narrative, develop more effective advocacy strategies, and establish the foundation for grantees to work together to weave women, peace, and security into the foreign policy and national security establishment.

This moment could not be more important, as the United States struggles to address the consequences of pervasive violence around the world. Compton hopes that the WPS initiative will result in new and energized engagement and partnerships among policymakers, influencers, advocates, and funders to support an alternative for US foreign policy:  a transformative, global, inclusive movement for peace.

Handwritten signature of Ellen Friedman


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