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No funding for peace talks unless women are at the table

Stephen Lewis at the 10th annual Policy Forum of The Institute for Inclusive Security in Washington, D.C.

This is a difficult speech to make: timing, content, language, rhythm. It's almost sacrilege to attempt to put words to paper after so remarkable an inaugural address, and the subsequent waves of incandescent euphoria.

But this is a most serious gathering, and it may also be perfect timing, coming as it does right at the outset of an administration of which so much is hoped and so much is expected.

And there is for me --- and for the organization I represent, AIDS-Free World --- another unanticipated happenstance. I had not met Ambassador Hunt before today, nor --- however embarrassing the admission --- did I know much of the Institute for Inclusive Security (IIS), or indeed, the work of Women Waging Peace that preceded it (albeit I'd certainly heard the name on many occasions). But I have to say that reading the material that was sent to me spawned an instant sense of solidarity, and my colleagues and I really felt drawn to the advocacy on behalf of women that lies at the heart of the IIS. It's an advocacy that we not only endorse, but that sustains our own work, and frankly I feel more than a little foolish to have come to this discovery so late.

And by the way, I'm not shamelessly currying favour; I'm too old to curry favour.

As I read through the avalanche of briefing notes that Jacqueline O'Neill sent to me on behalf of the IIS, two things struck home. First, the simple, unvarnished truth that men make war, and women lead lives without resorting to violence, so it makes unassailable logic to have women at the centre of peacemaking and peacebuilding initiatives. They are indispensable to negotiating peace agreements that last, and indeed, will never be sustained without the leadership of women.

But the other item was in a way transformative. In a Christian Science Monitor op-ed back in October, 2007, written by Carla Koppell, Director of the Initiative for Inclusive Security, she argues, and I quote "We could reserve seats at the table for those who have not borne arms but have a stake in peace. Most radically, mediators could invite non-belligerents to the table first and have them set the agenda for talks." It means, says Carla " that those who haven't picked up weapons get to choose priorities."

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Country: United States of America
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When: 09/2/2009

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