This year marks 20 years since the signing of the United Nation’s landmark resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. To celebrate, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office brought together women mediators from the WMC network to examine progress made in the last 20 years, and consider what more still needs to be done. The event was also an opportunity to discuss commitments from across the Commonwealth to promote and protect women mediators. Baroness Scotland, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, shared her appreciation for the women mediators,
“Thank you to the Women Mediators across the Commonwealth for your enormous work fostering this most important of Commonwealth values. The promotion of peace across the Commonwealth has never been more resonant as it is today.”
The meeting provided WMC members with a chance to share their vast and varied experiences of being women mediators with representatives from over 25 Commonwealth states. Their experiences range from mediating conflict between governments and armed groups as part of official peace process, to mediating community-level conflicts. Elizabeth Solomon, a WMC member from Trinidad and Tobago, said,
“I can think of no other network with as wide a range of peacebuilding skills and spanning so many countries. The support of the FCDO has evolved into a critical partnership that has seen the growth of the WMC network into an incredibly valuable meeting of peacebuilding minds.”
The meeting was also attended by Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex, who has been an active champion of the UK’s work on women, peace and security, and of the WMC network:
“To every woman involved in inching this important agenda forward, I thank you, for these are often dangerous and thankless endeavours.”
During the event, The Countess of Wessex presented WMC member Etong Fanny Bessem with the Commonwealth Points of Light award, on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen, for her important work in Cameroon. The award recognises outstanding individuals who are making a change in their community. On presenting the award to Fanny, The Countess of Wessex said,
“Fanny has demonstrated the values of this award in her work with the Women Mediators across the Commonwealth network, and in particular in relation to her work in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.”
Lord Ahmad, Minister of State for the Commonwealth, facilitated the event and emphasised the UK Government’s continued commitment to support and protect women peacebuilders around the world. The UK recently announced funding for a new Women Peacebuilders Protection Framework, the first international guidance developed specifically to protect women peacebuilders. During the event, Canada and Rwanda added their support to this framework. Philip Parham, UK Government Envoy to the Commonwealth, spoke about the need for governments to recognise and value the crucial role women mediators play in peace processes:
“Speaking up comes with personal risk. No woman should have to risk safety to heal their community. […] We must give them the support, profile and safety that they need.”
WMC is a network which brings together women from different backgrounds and with different experiences of mediating conflict to learn from each other. Hosted by Conciliation Resources, the network advocates for greater recognition of the crucial work done by women mediators at all levels - from the local to the global.
Women Mediators across the Commonwealth is hosted by Conciliation Resources and funded by the UK Government's Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, in support of the commitments made during Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2018.