Women are rarely involved in peace negotiations, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, but their voices are a crucial factor in achieving lasting solutions to conflicts. UN Women promotes the political participation and networking of peace activists in the region. A new mobile database is now also contributing to these efforts.
A smartphone display lights up. An activist scrolls through a list of peace agreements from all parts of the world, from Ireland through to South Africa and Colombia. She has a veritable ‘peace database’ at her fingertips: the mobile PeaceFem app. It gives activists around the world access to valuable knowledge from a whole host of negotiations. The focus is on women who are committed to peace and whose voices have not really been heard up to now.
There are almost 3.9 billion women worldwide, around half of the world’s population. In many parts of the world they are not listened to enough, and this is also the case in the Middle East and North Africa. The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women – UN Women – therefore aims to foster political participation and boost the involvement of women in this region in peace processes. A joint project with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has developed an effective and rapidly accessible information service for women peace activists, with a focus on Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Syria.
Digitalisation makes knowledge available everywhere
The PeaceFem app is part of these efforts. Aneesa Walji is Programme Manager for Inclusive Peace Processes at UN Women. She welcomes this new approach of using digital solutions in negotiations: ‘As users can now access comparative data using their phone in an instant, the app fundamentally changes the way negotiations are conducted.' Women activists and civil society organisations on the ground benefit directly from this: ‘Thanks to the app, we can share important information with each other. Having all these resources and information in one place was extremely helpful,’ says a woman peace activist from the Middle East.
To ensure that women activists can access the compiled knowledge at any time and from any location, the programme has developed its own online portal, the ‘Peace Agreement Database’. The portal contains strategy documents, studies and training materials and links country-specific information on peace processes, legal texts and agreements. The PeaceFem app is also linked to the database, providing peace actors and negotiating teams with important tools for their day-to-day work. Digital learning and exchange formats are proving to be particularly useful amid the restrictions on social contact due to the coronavirus.
Achieving peace through joint action
However, in order to take shape and be effective, peace processes need widespread support within society. With this in mind, regional conferences are being held in which peace actors can network and build mutual trust. Training is also part of the programme. One of these regional conferences held in Beirut in September 2019 was especially well received. The knowledge gained in the workshop was a useful way to learn what is going on in other countries, said one participant.
Promoting the participation of women has long been on the international political agenda. With Resolution 1325 in the year 2000, the United Nations Security Council called for greater participation of women in political processes. However, in the four countries mentioned, which are all in a state of war, the resolution has so far changed little about the social reality. Together with women peace activists, the project is now taking important steps to bring about a long-term transition towards stability and gender equality. The PeaceFem app is also contributing to this, and can be used with ease from any location via a smartphone.
Last updated: December 2020