Networks pave the way for women in peace mediation

Published on Friday, 24th of November 2017

Now that United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has put mediation and gender equality high on his agenda, there is renewed momentum for increasing women’s participation in peacemaking. Strengthening professional networks among women mediators is one important step towards this goal.

The Nordic conceptions of pragmatism and egalitarianism form a solid foundation for building professionalism in peace mediation, says Kirsi Joenpolvi who works at the UN. Photos: Riku Isohella.

Experienced women mediators from the Nordic countries gathered in Helsinki on Tuesday 21 November to discuss opportunities and challenges for the meaningful participation of women in peacemaking. The panel discussion was part of the Nordic Women Mediators (NWM) two-day annual meeting.

Although there is evidence that women’s participation in peacemaking fosters more sustainable peace processes, progress in this regard has been slow. The panellists proposed several concrete steps to remedy this. Elisabeth Slåttum, a Norwegian diplomat, emphasised the importance of ensuring that states and international organisations themselves appoint more women as mediators and as members of their mediation teams.

“If we want to get conflict parties to include more women in their delegations, we have to practice what we preach first,” said Slåttum, who recently served as Norway’s Special Envoy to the peace process between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Pernille Kardel, Elisabeth Slåttum, Kristín Ástgeirsdóttir, Lena Sundh and Kirsi Joenpolvi took part in the panel discussion.

Networks serve as useful platforms to share knowledge and know-how on mediation

The panellists agreed that strengthening networks and cooperation among women mediators is an important avenue towards more inclusive praxis of peacemaking. For example, the Nordic Women Mediators network has served as a useful platform for members to share their experiences, knowledge and know-how on mediation.

“This network has been very important to me in helping to reflect on mediation practice from our shared perspective as Nordic women”, said Kirsi Joenpolvi, who works in the Mediation Support Unit of the UN Department for Political Affairs.

According to Joenpolvi, the Nordic conceptions of pragmatism, fairness and egalitarianism form a solid foundation for building professionalism in peace mediation. This Nordic perspective can bring value-added to the UN as it now tries to enhance its conflict-prevention capabilities.

The Nordic Women Mediators Network consists of about 50 women from Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark.

More political will and financial support needed

Pernille Dahler Kardel, the UN Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, emphasised the network’s role in holding politicians accountable to their normative commitments. There needs to be enough political will and financial resources to promote women’s inclusion in peace processes in practice, Kardel said.

“Our aim is also to make the skills and experience of these women easily accessible to the UN and other actors, leaving no excuse for not finding qualified and capable women professionals. And there are plenty of them out there”, Slåttum highlighted.

The Nordic Women Mediators (NWM) is a network of women from the five Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – who have professional expertise relevant to conflict mediation, peacebuilding and negotiations.

Read here the NWM’s joint statement from the Helsinki meeting.

Antti Ämmälä/CMI