Returning to the city of Addis Ababa where the very first mission took place in 2009, the conference provided an opportunity for the participants, women leaders and grassroots activists from over seven countries in the region, including Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, Djibouti, Somaliland, Puntland and South Central (Somalia) to share and discuss peace and security developments both in their individual countries and in the region as a whole. Alongside strategic planning sessions focusing on National Action Plans to implement UNSCR 1325 and practical training sessions on conflict resolution, Early Warning Systems, the conference also provided an opportunity for the participants to engage directly with regional and international bodies such as African Union (AU), Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), UN Women and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
The mission culminated in a high level roundtable on Thursday 14th June at UNECA headquarters, entitled ‘Women Peace and Security in the Horn of Africa: Looking Back, Going Forward’, which was led by Rt. Hon Kim Campbell, Prime Minister of Canada (1993) and Club de Madrid Member. In front of an audience consisting of vital policy makers in the region, the participants of the project, known as G40 group of women leaders, presented a series of gender responsive recommendations aimed at advancing peace and security and ensuring the participation of women in both conflict and post conflict settings across the region.
The G40 recommendations highlighted the following vital issues: the deadlock in negotiations between North and South Sudan, the humanitarian situation for refugees in South Sudan, the fragile peace in Darfur, the ongoing border tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the presence of Al Shabab militia in Uganda, the harassment and intimidation of women activists and the real lack of women’s representation at leadership levels. Aiming their recommendations at local governments, regional and international bodies and civil society, the session culminated with the presentation of a G40 Signatory Campaign calling for the advancement and implementation of UNSCR 1325, which promotes the equal participation of women in all decisions regarding peace and security, the protection of women and girls in conflict and an increased gender perspective in post conflict processes.
As the current phase of the ´Women Leadership for Peace and Security in the Greater Horn of Africa´ project comes to an end, the G40 will continue its work as a vital alliance and platform for women from across the region, sharing information and resources on vital issues regarding gender sensitive human security. After three years working together, the G40 is now placed to act as an independent advisory body with significant on-the-ground knowledge of the situation of women and the mechanisms needed to ensure their full involvement in the processes that both ignite and put an end to wars.
Presenting the G40 at UNECA, Margaret Akullo Elem from Northern Uganda spoke for all the women present when she said, “We have gone a long way since 2009 and via the Club of Madrid we have been empowered, we have learned lots of skills and utilised these skills to get our space as women in our various countries. We have come to take stock of what we have done, what we haven’t done and what we still need to do. We want our friends in the international community to take note of these immediate planning issues, we want you want to take them back with you and take action.¨