Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gender Equality as a Key Driver for Sustainable Peace

Image from here
Written by Lawrence R Gelber, vice-president of I Declare World Peace, Inc., for the Red Elephant Foundation towards the 16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women.

Many parts of the world recently rejoiced when the Nobel Peace Prize was jointly awarded to a Pakistani teenager, Malala Yousafzai, and an Indian “senior”, Kailash Satyarthi.  

The International Business Times of India recently reported that Mr. Satyarthi’s organization has determined that the sex trade in India is a £215 billion a year “business” and its primary victims are young girls. Thus, Mr. Satyarthi’s two-sentence statement: “Child slavery is a crime against humanity. Humanity itself is at stake here,” can readily be placed in the context of the need for gender equality.

And, of course, Ms. Yousafzai is famous for saying “education is my right and education is the right of your daughter and son as well. And I’m speaking up for them. I’m speaking up for peace.” Her statement unequivocally ties the notion of peace to equal treatment of sons and daughters, of boys and girls, of men and women.

These views, though expected, because the speakers are lauded social activists, are nevertheless widely supported by ever increasing social research. So the views expressed are more than mere lip-service to advance a cause; they express a demonstrable reality. Accordingly, the need for sex-based equality can no longer be ignored, and its implementation can no longer be delayed, because sustainable peace requires equal treatment of the sexes, socially, academically, and economically. It is literally a matter of life and death.

In a previous article for The Red Elephant Foundation’s “16 days of activism” project, we noted that UNESCO, at the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, China in 1995, stated: “Ensuring equality of educational access and opportunity between the sexes is a prerequisite for achieving the changes of attitudes and mind-sets on which a culture of peace depends."    

Now almost 20 years after that conference in Beijing, with the world population comprised of approximately 3.61 billion males and 3.56 billion females, a research paper by Saferworld and Conciliation Resources called “Gender, Violence and Peace – A post 2015 development agenda” cites to a broad range of research studies confirming the “strong correlation between levels of conflict and gender inequality.” And while the Saferworld paper notes that it is sometimes difficult to tell if it is the inequality that fuels the violence or the violence that fuels the inequality, it pointedly notes that, indeed, “gender inequality can drive conflict and violence, particularly where militarized notions of masculinity are present,” and the paper goes on to provide concrete examples.

A few years earlier, in the United Nations’ “2004 report of the Secretary-General on Women, Peace and Security” the Secretary General, referring to UN Security Council Resolution 1325 said:

Resolution 1325 holds a promise to women across the globe that their rights will be protected and that barriers to their equal participation and full involvement in the maintenance and promotion of sustainable peace will be removed. We must uphold this promise. To achieve the goals set out in the resolution, political will, concerted action and accountability on the part of the entire international community, are required. I urge the Security Council, Member States, United Nations entities and civil society organizations to reaffirm their commitment and strengthen efforts to implement fully resolution 1325, and call for regular monitoring of implementation through the Security Council.  

Thus, the world’s preeminent body for the promotion of peace, expressly recognizes the reality being discussed here – world peace, sustainable world peace, depends on gender equality.  In fact, the UN has regularly reasserted the principles of Resolution 1325.  Most recently, it adopted, on October 18, 2013, UN Security Council Resolution 2122, in which it confirmed two points key to this discussion:  (i) that women’s and girls’ empowerment and gender equality are critical to efforts to maintain international peace and security and (ii) sustainable peace requires an integrated approach based on coherence between and among political, security, development and human rights - including gender equality - issues.

We note that humanitarian movements in the past have developed some enduring slogans, one of the most memorable being “no justice, no peace”. Putting the ever growing numbers of studies aside for the moment, it is crystal clear that the suppression of one-half of the world’s population for no reason other than its sex is fundamentally unjust.  No justice no peace.  If we can muster the collective will to overcome archaic and ignorant traditions, and treat men and women equally, then our chances of achieving an equitable and just human condition will rise dramatically.  And with that justice, and only with that justice, we will have a chance to sustain peace.

Lawrence R. Gelber is a lawyer living in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife Rita. Lawrence & Rita operate the I Declare World Peace project, described at www.ideclareworldpeace.org.