25. September 2020

UNESCO Webinar: “NGOs’ voice: global citizenship to spur inclusion and diversity” on 14 September 2020

My understanding of global citizenship very close to what Mrs Barbieri said in her introduction: it is to think in categories of solidarity instead of othering, to profit of intergenerational learning and intersectional exchange instead of buying and selling weapons, to see added value from sharing and commons instead of closing doors and national borders – chances that we desperately miss in this Pandemic. We need more!

Feminist perspectives widen the horizon on global citizenship”.
Clearly articulated, they offer vital insights into the issues that shape our lives. I will try to make them visible here!

  1. Inclusion and diversity cannot be separated from equality, equal rights and a critical analysis of power relations.  As feminists we question connections between patriarchy and militarism deeply rooted in our societies; we do it as academic researcher, grassroots activists and political lobbyists with a focus on 3 key elements: Protection, Prevention and Participation. Perhaps you discover the famous 3 “P” laid down in the WPS Agenda from the year 2000.
  2. A flashback on history to explain that the approach is not new: Our organisation WILPF was founded in 1915 as a movement to stop war “because women can never be protected in war”. The consequence was and is to invest our energy in de-militarisation and meaningful participation of women on all levels of negotiation and decision making. Remember, it was the time when women got voting rights in many countries. Women since than in parliaments and in global as well as local networks, struggle not just for parity and equal pay. Women raise awareness about the continuum of violence – from domestic violence to SGBV in conflict, adequate shelters for women refugees and gendered discrimination. The women who met in The Hague in 1915 and in Zurich in 1919 were united in a strong will to request justice only in combination with universal disarmament (not taken up by the male negotiators in Versailles). They were convinced that women overcome nationalism and formulated principles for the League of Nations, later pleaded for the Charta of the United Nations and still stand for multilateralism. They discussed colonialism and systemic racism in a very early stage and still do so- also with a growing number of sections in Africa, defend women HR defenders and peace builders, engage for black lives matter, discuss trafficking and modern slavery working conditions. LGH, one of our founding mothers formulated that “the economy has to serve the needs of the people and not those of profit and privileges”. 100 years later, WILPF raises a voice for a feminist political economy “building platforms for justice and recovery and divest from a capitalist and purely profit orientated to a sustainable and care orientated economy”. And let me be emotional: What a stupid investment in killer robots instead of using the money for health and educational infrastructure!
    The Pandemic is like a magnifying glass under which we see the transformative urgencies for “system relevant” jobs and societal challenges  such as poverty and splitted societies – as a benefit for all (inclusion and diversity!).
  3. In our feminist analysis, we define “security” as a complex “human security” because access to food and clean water, to health – including reproductive health- to education and preservation of cultural heritage are not luxurious add-ons. Weapons cannot provide this security: they destroy, kill and eat resources urgently needed for hungry and poor people often forced to flee. Women are major victims of violence, eviction, marginalisation and destruction. This is the reason why women are also major actors: disarmament initiatives are justified for small arms in cases of domestic violence as well as against weapons of mass-destruction. This is why a feminist organisation such as ours collected already in 1932 6 million signatures for the disarmament conference in Geneva (Russia and Germany refused to accept). This is why we  want to stop weapons production (mostly in the North) feeding wars in the Global South, why we mention in CEDAW and UPR review conferences weapons’ export as attack e.g. on women in Mexico and Yemen, why we push stakeholders to sign the Nuclear ban treaty  and to invest in SDGs. 25 years ago, WILPF participated actively in the women’s conference in Beijing on and put a great effort in the Action Platform on equality/ development/ peace – a truly integrative approach which has 25 years later a follow-up compact in the Generation Equality Forum. Women’s movements struggled to get the WPS Agenda and respective NAPs for UNSCR1325 and ensure now accountability for its implementation. And not to forget: It is a daily challenge to get Syrian, Ukrainian and Colombian women with their expertise on peace tables for the only then sustainable negotiations and back them with political initiatives in Germany, the US, Italy, Armenia.
  4. A major point of our feminist struggle is to give priority to conflict prevention. This means: analysing with a feminist lens root causes and alarming indicators of poverty rates and societal splits, exclusion of CS and critical media by authoritarian leaders, suppression of freedoms. Prevention is to strengthen early warning mechanisms, stop racist, nationalistic and fundamentalist movements in an early stage, and provide information on “real needs”. Prevention is also support for climate justice movements – largely represented by young women in FfF and Extinction rebellion, backing women struggling in DRC against the exploitation of minerals with politics initiatives in the North to change neo-colonial economic relationships, avoiding extractivism, stocking of poisonous materials (Lebanon) and waste export. Prevention is moving the money from a war-torn investment into education and health, including a critical reflection on consumer attitudes at the cost of destruction.
  5. My last point is the growing importance of a caring economy. The EU promotes actually a “New Deal” to compensate the consequences of the Pandemic. What a chance for a transformative agenda with a Green Deal and a Care Deal! We have to use it!
  6. Let me finish with a positive sentence: a committed Global Civil society from Generation Equality, interconnected, working locally, thinking locally and globally, respecting inclusion and diversity can make a change. As a feminist movement we stand for UNESCO’s ambitious programs – thank you!

by Heidi Meinzolt