AU-ECOSOCC harps on women inclusion in conflict resolution for improved Social Cohesion

As the surge in insecurity deepens, the African Union Economic Social and Cultural Council (AU-ECOSOCC) has stressed on the need for inclusion of women in conflict resolution, mediation and peace building for improved social cohesion.

This was made known on Thursday in a speech delivered by its Nigerian representative, Dr Tunji Asaolu during a press conference in Abuja on “The role of Nigerian women in conflict resolution, peace building and mediation.” 

Dr. Asaolu said that the conference is aimed at rebuilding and strengthening Women’s Leadership to play a more active role in Africa’s transformation in line with the African Union visions, its aspirations and by extension, reawakening the spirit of Culture and Pan Africanism. According to him, the African Union places a very high premium on the issues of women. Hence, Aspiration 6 of the African Union Agenda 2063 which emphasizes on women and youth driven development.

He highlighted various efforts by the AU to ensure effective inclusion of women in mediation, peace negotiations and conflict prevention which he said, led to a campaign on women, peace and security and as well the UN’s adopted resolution and the Somalian Gender-Mainstreaming Strategy that has been a benchmark for future AU missions.

He said, “The role of women is generally the same all over the world. Women are not only at the center of development but are central to the development of the continent and so the African Union places a very high premium on the issues of Women. That is why the African Union Agenda 2063, Aspiration No. 6 places specific emphasis on “An Africa whose development is people driven, relying on the potential offered by people, especially its women and youth and caring for children”. 

“AU has been working hard to put in place mechanisms to enable women’s effective participation in conflict prevention, mediation, peace negotiations, and recovery besides building capacities to protect women from violence. It’s for this reason that the Union reaffirms its commitment to the UN Resolution on roles of women in Peace and Security. 

“This has further led to a campaign on Women, Peace and Security in Africa which was launched on November 4, 2020 at Mogadishu by the African Union Commission (AUC) Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, Ms Bineta Diop. The campaign aims to speed up Actions for Peace in Africa in line with the United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 1325. “The UN Resolution, adopted in 2000, reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building,

peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction. It also emphasized the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts to maintain and promote peace and security. “In another development, The AU Mission in Somalia (AMISON) is also an active regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the approval of the UN Security Council. Since 2013, AMISOM has been implementing a Gender-Mainstreaming Strategy that has been important not only for AMISOM’s work on gender but also as a benchmark for future AU missions. “It may also interest you to note that this mission has been implementing the UN Resolution through increased women participation across its military, police and civilian components. These hard working women officers have, in turn, been playing a major role in gender mainstreaming across Somalia.” 

He further said that beyond mechanisms put in place by the AU, Governments, UN and other organizations have to play relentless roles to encourage and assist women. He therefore gave recommendations which will enhance women’s inclusion.

“For us in the AU, a lot of mechanisms are being put in place to define the space of women in peace building and conflict resolution. Don’t also forget that the whole year of 2020 was also declared as a year of Silencing the Gun: Creating Conducive Condition for Africa Development. But to achieve more results, all hands must be on deck i.e. the UN, all governments and civil society organizations therefore have a lot to do to encourage and assist women in developing their role in post-conflict resolution and peacebuilding activities. Governments and international institutions should work toward the following recommendations: 

“Ensure that women play a key role in the design and implementation of post-conflict resolution and peacebuilding activities; Support and strengthen women’s organizations in their peacebuilding efforts by providing adequate and sustained financial and technical support; Strengthen the protection and representation of refugee and displaced women by paying special attention to their health, rehabilitation and training needs;  “End impunity and ensure redress of crimes committed against women in violent conflict, enforce and bring to justice culprits involved in rape as a war crime; Establish mechanisms for enforcing and monitoring international instruments for the protection of women’s rights in post-conflict situations,” he said. 

Adaora Onyechere, Head, Women Affairs and Gender Cluster Committee AU-ECOSOCC, hammered on the importance of dialogue over war as a viable means of curbing the insecurity surge and bringing lasting peace in Nigeria as the absence of peace has impacted harshly on women and children which she said the AU-ECOSOCC Nigeria is committed to assisting Government achieve.

She decried the alarming increase of Nigerian women who are being widowed as a result of their husbands dying in wars and also the number of families whose whose children lost their lives.

She therefore appealed to the youths to see their voices as a stronger weapon, through dialogue rather than take to the violence.
She also appealed to the Government to enhance the lives of the teaming youths through the local skill sector to avert a continuous depopulation of youths and young people.

She said, “The African Union ECOSOCC Nigeria has it as its prerogative and mandate to commit  to the peace and security of the Nigerian state. An overview of the various treaties of which Nigeria is a signatory to, upholds the principles of fair hearing and dialogue in view of this we want to also call our attention to the consequences of choosing vices other than dialogue in conflict resolution in a democratic state which will impact harshly on the vulnerable citizens – especially our women and children. 

“Women have the right to peace and so should also have a right to peace building and conflict resolution as citizens because they are the first group of burden bearers and the outcome of violence at  all levels of the society affects them the most. therefore all the conversations on peace mediation and resolution should involve women because they are the primary and the singular individuals at the center, at the receiving end of be it a community  crisis, banditry and terrorism. 

“It is also important to note that the number of women who have been widowed due to the death of their spouses while on duty or fighting terrorism  has increased.The number of families whose children have been killed and left childless either by accidental bullets or collateral damage has also increased. 

“We are also appealing to the youths to also understand that their voice is more powerful than the bullet and should apply reason in thinking dialogue, dialogue is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength, a sign of communicating intentionally, strongly of the things that matter so that there can be resolutions not reactions  for and from both section of the parties involved.

Also that they understand the level of unprecedented destruction of infrastructure and poverty that could be the post effect of aggression and so violence and taking lives is not the answer at the end of the day. 

“We are appealing to the federal Government to look at the need to strengthen the local skill sector at the community level in other to provide employment for the teaming youths and reduce the casualties of those  lost to armed banditry and criminalities  as a means of survival or else we will see the depopulation of  our young people especially our young men if this is not resolved.”

 She urged African leaders to resort to women inclusion in peace building, mediation and conflict resolution owing to the different degrees of displacement and death of young people in its various countries battling from insecurity and other forms of instability resulting from violence because women are the burden bearers of insecurity.

“We don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note. Only notes that are different can harmonize,” she said.

Also speaking, Comfort Lamptey, UN Women representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, said that the UN women Nigeria has made significant investments in the past 5 years in skills and capacity building of hundreds of women in local and state levels and therefore restated its commitment to supporting stakeholders develop a collective conflict prevention action plan on the various major crises and conflicts, including a roadmap to 2023 Elections.

She further insisted that an improved social cohesion would be achieved as if there is a heightened women inclusion in peace building and sub-National mediation dialogues
She said, “UN Women Nigeria has made significant investments in the past 5 years in the individual skills, knowledge and capacities of hundreds of women peacebuilders at local and state level.

This has also included support to the formation of mediation and dialogue networks in 8 states and more recently investing in a partnership with the National Women Mediators Network to undertake a nation-wide assessment of women’s mediation and dialogue capacities.

“Through national and sub-national mediation dialogues and networks, women can play a key role in creating greater social cohesion, respond to emerging issues, provide cross-state experience sharing and play enhanced conflict prevention role in their communities. Moving forward, these capacities can be consolidated, ‘repurposed’, and reorganized to better respond to emerging issues and provide cross-state experience sharing. For instance, women who have engaged in the farmer-herder conflict in the Middle Belt and provide support to women in the South where the conflict is shifting and new issues emerging.

“Moreover, the road to 2023 presents a critical opportunity for strengthening the role of Nigerian women in conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and mediation. UN Women is seeking to support stakeholders to develop a collective conflict prevention action plan on the various major crises and conflicts, including a roadmap to 2023 Elections which works towards the establishment of the Women’s Situations Room, that will work to mitigate electoral violence and ensure the inclusion and participation of women and youth.”

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