Carolyn Handschin, the EUME coordinator of International Association of First Ladies for Peace and the president of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, Geneva, thanked co-host H.E. Nayla Moawad and supporting organizations UN Women; NGO Committee on the Status of Women, Geneva; and Soroptimists.
Rejecting the view that violence and confrontation are an inevitable outcome of deteriorating relationships, Mrs. Handschin noted that the tragic consequences, for all parties, of war and conflict should urge everyone to actively seek peaceful solutions.
The webinar’s eminent speakers from the United Nations, European Union, public and private sectors and NGOs would enlighten the audience on women’s work in preventive diplomacy and neutralizing triggers of violent conflict, Mrs. Handschin said. In addition, they would clarify more effective methods of working in greater solidarity, drawing on previous notable successes.
Alluding to her personal experience as the mother of a large family, Mrs. Handschin reminded the audience of the value of family relationships as a training ground in preventive diplomacy and neutralizing triggers of tensions. Success there was more likely to be achieved through commitment, love and belief in the innate goodness of the perceived offender, she said.
Dr. Julia Moon, the president of WFWP International, director general of the Universal Ballet (1996- ), and vice chairwoman of the Sun Hak Educational Foundation, said that the world’s current conflicts shake humanity’s confidence in achieving sustainable peace.
However, Dr. Moon said she sees reasons to hope. The world’s response to the passing of Queen Elizabeth II is an example of the power of one woman to touch the hearts of many people beyond religious or political leanings. Seventy years ago, the queen vowed to serve God and her people, and she remained faithful to that vow despite tremendous challenges. Thus, she demonstrated how the power for change in society is rooted in the heart of loving service for others.
WFWP asserts that human beings are created to seek peace and harmony and are naturally inclined to work toward a peaceful world, Dr. Julia Moon said. She spoke of Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon and the late Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon, her beloved parents-in-law, who founded WFWP in 1992 to encourage women to develop leadership qualities and skills in the quest for sustainable peace, recognizing that their experiences as mothers and daughters, sisters and wives prepare them well.
Dr. Moon encouraged participants to find true freedom through taking responsibility for their lives. She reminded the audience of the motto “Peace Starts with Me”—so simple, yet not so simple to realize. In conclusion, she expressed her appreciation for being able to partner with the great women and men she was meeting today, charting together a course for a sustainable culture of peace.
As a co-organizer of this conference, H.E. Nayla Moawad, the first lady of Lebanon (November 1989); founder and president of the Rene Moawad Foundation (1991- ); member of Parliament; and minister of social affairs (2005-2008), congratulated WFWP Europe and its associated organizations for their continued efforts to promote a culture of peace.
Mrs. Moawad emphasized women’s crucial role in promoting peace. Women, particularly mothers, tend to be more compassionate, she said. Due to their sensitive nature, they are more likely to collaborate with and listen to one another. They play a key role in creating harmonious families and raising children. Thus, it is crucial to have women leaders work side by side with men in building a peaceful and prosperous society.
These kinds of webinars and online gatherings are invaluable in encouraging women to proactively create a culture of peace in their societies and nations, she said.
Olga Algayerova from Slovakia, the executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) (2017- ) and a former UN ambassador in Vienna, described various platforms that enable women to take substantial leadership and negotiation roles in support of governments.
Because of vast economic differences between regions, some countries are dealing with existential uncertainties—turmoil due to conflict and post-conflict situations. Communicating beyond political differences and sharing lessons learned is of great importance, she said. To find solutions, sustainable cooperation within all aspects of society, and between women and men, is much needed.
UNECE collaborates with international organizations and civil society to ensure that women are equally represented in decision-making bodies, she said.
Session moderator Carolyn Handschin, drawing on her own experience, referred to Ms. Algayerova’s ambitious efforts to cooperate with NGOs in order to demonstrate more effective methods of engaging with their governments.
Adriana Quiñones Giraldo, director of the UN Women’s Liaison Office in Geneva; a former policy advisor in Asia and Latin America; a manager in New York of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women and Girls, highlighted the multiple global crises—food insecurity, climate change and conflicts—that have increased in the wake of the COVID pandemic. By the end of 2020 the number of forcibly displaced persons was more than twice that of 2010, she said.
Twenty-two years ago, the UN Security Council approved Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). The WPS Agenda was then established with the aim of increasing women’s participation in decision-making and peacebuilding. It strives to ensure protection of girls and women in conflict-ridden zones and to prevent sexual and gender-based violence, in addition to implementing relief and recovery measures.
Mrs. Quiñones advocated for increasing WPS funding while reducing military spending. Gender equality projects have a positive impact and yield a high return in peace dividends, she said, while military spending in post-conflict settings puts peace at risk. Generally, conflict-ridden countries spend two or three times as much on defense as on health care. More women need to participate in decision-making processes for peace and security and for defense and security expenditures, she said.
Mrs. Quiñones emphasized the positive impact of women in uniform, such as UN peace-keeping troops. They increase trust-building within a community, which is critical in supporting reconciliation efforts, stability and the rule of law.
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