The following was written by Patsy George, Honourary Director of UNAC-Vancouver who is at the Hague attending the 100th anniversary of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom http://www.wilpfinternational.org/
I am attending the 100th anniversary of the only global women’s organization still active. It was founded at a conference held at the Hague by women who opposed the First World War. 800 of us who are peace activists along with a large number of U.N officials, ambassadors and media are here. The groups of women represented are from the North and South, particularly from the areas where the conflicts are in full force.
I have had the privilege of listening to women from Lebanon, Palestine, Nigeria, Syria , Columbia and Pakistan. They have experienced war, lost families and seen their communities be completely destroyed. But no one, including the UN, is willing to listen to these women’s proposed solutions. Of course the women are completely against the military solutions and insist on mediation and diplomatic approaches.
I must share my feelings of frustration when a delegate from Columbia spoke about losing her husband and brother in the mines owned and operated by Canadian companies. She and others are organizing to get safer labour conditions but she has been under death threats. She believes that the mining companies hire thugs to go after women active in the community.
The Office of the Indigenous people of the Americas based in Geneva organized a march to the Canadian Embassy at the Hague with 1200 pairs of shoes on Tuesday to remind them of the missing and murdered women in Canada. It is their hope that shaming Canada this way will bring some attention to this issue from the Harper Government.
There is another session examining the role of the UN Peacekeepers who have been accused of sexually violating women and girls and boys in some of the areas where they serve.
So you can see that working for peace involves addressing the root causes of violence and the power structure which does not pay attention to equality and human rights of majority of human beings, particularly the women and girls.
It is great to be with a large group of people who are against wars and are seeking peace building as the only alternative to making sure that we and the planet we call our home survives.
One of the positive reports I heard was from the Secretary General of WILPF, Madelene Reese, was that the organization was able to arrange a meeting between the UN Security council members and a group of women from Syria. This was the first time; it has ever happened.
The women gathered at this conference adopted a new manifesto which concluded saying that violence is not inevitable. We choose non violence as a means and as an end. We will liberate the strength of women and in partnership with like-minded men bring to birth a just and harmonious world. We will implement peace which is a human right.
What is needed is total world wide disarmament; economic systems that will deliver well-being to every human being and other life forms on the precious planet; multinational organizations capable of mediating between states and guaranteeing international law; democratic governments from local to global; social systems that accord no privilege to certain type of people or people of a given physical type, culture or religion; the end of male supremacy; and radical changes to the way we live together and the fulfillment of women’s rights as human rights.
It is important to remember that Peace is possible and Wars must stop and it is the job of each and every one of us to see to it.
Patsy George, Honourary Director of the United Nations Association of Canada – Vancouver Branch.