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International Women’s Day

International Conference, March 8 2007, 3:00pm – Room II

See the Video of the International Conference.
UNESCO pays tribute to women’s contributions to peace building by inviting five exceptional women from Burundi, Canada, Guatemala, the United States, and Switzerland, representing some of the most renowned peace initiatives, to share their experiences at an international round table on March 8th 2007 at UNESCO headquarters, Paris.

In recent years it has become clear that peace building processes without the equal participation of women, their perspectives, aspirations and rights are not sustainable. UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, adopted in 2000, is the direct outcome of this realization. For the first time in the history of the United Nations, a Security Council Resolution officially points to the particular situation of women in the context of war and peace: often they are the first victims of violence, and yet are denied the right to take part in its formal resolution as equal citizens. Thus, the ground-breaking Resolution does not simply dwell on the role of women as victims of conflict, it also highlights the contributions of women working proactively at the local, regional and international levels in conflict prevention, resolution and sustainable peace building.

On the occasion of “International Women’s Day” on the 8th of March 2007, UNESCO will pay tribute to these women whose commitment to peace often goes unrecognized. Five exceptional women from Burundi, Canada, Guatemala, the United States, and Switzerland, renowned for their achievements within the field of peace building, conflict resolution and reconstruction, will present their thoughts and experiences on the issue at an International Conference on “Women Peacemakers”.

  • Ms Sylvie Kinigi is former Prime Minister of the first democratically elected, ethnically mixed government of Burundi. She survived the violent 1993 coup, during which the President, Melchior Ndadaye, was assassinated, only to find herself in charge of a conflict-beleaguered nation. Ms Kinigi bravely went on to become a leader and outspoken proponent of peace and reconciliation. She is currently working as Senior Political Advisor and Coordinator of Programs to the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to the Great Lakes Region in Africa.

  • Ms Luz Mendez is President of the Advisory Council to the National Union of Guatemalan Women (UNAMG). Before this post, from 1991 to 1996, Ms Méndez participated in the Guatemalan peace negotiations which brought an end to 35 years of violent conflict. She was one of the few women at the negotiating table, and succeeded in incorporating women’s rights into the historic Peace Accords. In 1996, Ms Mendez set out to rehabilitate the Union of Guatemalan Women, one of the country’s oldest women’s rights groups, which had been forced to operate in exile during the war. As part of her work with the Global Fund for Women, and UNIFEM, she has contributed to peace processes in Burundi, Iraq, Israel, Palestinian Territories and Colombia among others.

  • Ms Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold is an active member of the Swiss parliament and the Council of Europe, and uses these positions to advocate in favour of women’s empowerment and gender equality. In addition to being a peace activist herself, Ms Vermot-Mangold is also a vocal advocate on behalf of other women peace activists. Through her work as the President of the Swiss Assembly’s sub-committee on refugees, Ms Vermot-Mangold became sensitized to the dramatic impact of conflict on women, as well as to the work that women around the world are doing for peace. It is thus that she founded the 1000 Peace Women Project, an initiative that nominated 1000 women peace activists from around the world to the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize. While the 1000 peace women did not receive the Nobel Prize, they did win world recognition for their courage and achievements.

  • Senator Mobina Jaffer, of British Columbia/Canada was appointed in 2002 as Canadian Special Envoy for Peace in Sudan. Since then, she travelled throughout the region and distinguished herself as a peacemaker by listening to all sides of the conflict: meeting with top government officials, rebel leaders, and refugees alike. She also chaired from 2002 to late 2005 the Canadian Committee on Women, Peace and Security, established to implement Security Council Resolution 1325.

  • Ambassador Swanee Hunt is the founding director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She is also the founder of the Initiative for Inclusive Security which advocates for the full participation of all stakeholders, especially women, in formal and informal peace processes. During her service as U.S. Ambassador to Austria, in the 1990s, Ambassador Hunt hosted negotiations and several international symposia aimed at securing peace in the Balkans. Today, through her work with the Initiative for Inclusive Security, Ambassador Hunt works to connect women peacemakers from around the world through her Women Waging Peace Network, and has trained women leaders and peace builders in almost 40 countries, most recently in Sudan.

The panellists will speak about their personal experiences in the domain of peace building and hopefully inspire the further involvement of women in peace negotiations and post-conflict political processes.
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