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Peace Talks to End Syria’s War Need Women

As official talks were held today in Vienna to negotiate an end to Syria’s four-year war, MADRE re-asserts that a diplomatic solution is the only durable path to peace and that peace cannot be achieved without women.

These talks have been rightly recognized for their inclusion of all foreign countries that have backed armed groups and fueled the conflict, and for the first time, Iran was at the table.

But the continued exclusion of women’s voices as key civil society leaders is a fatal flaw, which undermines prospects for these talks to generate lasting peace.

To achieve a sustainable peace, women organizing at the grassroots level to protect lives and promote peace are indispensable to successful negotiations. They have firsthand expertise in confronting the specific violence that women disproportionately face, including rape as a weapon of war. These local women leaders have deeply-rooted knowledge of the most urgent needs of communities, derived from years of urgent grassroots mobilizing to provide humanitarian aid. They can bring this knowledge to the negotiating table, ensuring that a peace settlement reflects the needs and experiences of the majority of the population. Furthermore, they can play a crucial role in implementing peace measures on the ground, where they have been organizing for years.

MADRE works with Syrian women’s rights activists and organizations, giving them opportunities to strategize, share lessons, and amplify their demands together. In January 2014, we joined with allies to push for women’s inclusion at the languished Geneva peace talks. Just this month, we brought together Syrian and Iraqi women leaders to exchange and hone their solutions for peace. These are the expert voices on which a successful negotiated agreement depends.

Meanwhile, as attention turns to today’s breaking news that the Obama Administration plans to deploy US Special Forces on the ground in Syria, we maintain that military action only deepens violence, when the only effective path forward will be found at the negotiating table.

The timing of today’s talks is notable; tomorrow is the anniversary of the 2000 UN Security Council Resolution 1325. This landmark document called for governments – including those around the table in Vienna – to ensure the participation of women in peacebuilding efforts. Fifteen years later, world leaders are still falling short, with devastating consequences.

Syrian women and families have endured massive violence, have seen their homes destroyed and loved ones killed, and have been forced to flee by the millions in a humanitarian disaster that is growing daily. To end this catastrophe, we need women peacebuilders.

October 30, 2015  / Middle East / Syria / Building a Just Peace