During July 8-12th, 2019, six members of the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL) gathered with ICAN who partnered with Initiatives of Change to host the Caux Forum: Towards an Inclusive Peace. With an emphasis on integrated approaches to prevention, over 100 peacebuilders from around the world gathered in Caux, Switzerland for four days of panel discussions, storytelling, country focused sessions, and thematic workshops. 

ICAN’s Program Director Melinda Holmes and WASL member Guissou Jahangiri, Executive Director of OPEN ASIA/Armanshahr and Vice President of the  International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), spoke at the opening panel: “Why Do We Need a ‘Deep Prevention’ Lens to Transform Violent Extremism?” Ms. Jahangiri expressed that “we’re tired of militarisms of all sorts” and cannot reduce large geopolitical questions to small community work. We need to ask: “who is making peace with whom?” Ms. Holmes discussed how preventing and countering violence is not enough. Women peacebuilders share an alternative vision of what we are for and work holistically to develop solutions.

ICAN’s Senior Program Officer Stacey Schamber moderated a conversation with WASL partners, a Syrian activist and Rodolfo Domínguez Marquéz Coordinator of the Justice, Human Rights and Gender Civil Association in Mexico on the panel “Protecting Peacebuilders to Build Sustainable Peace.” They discussed their work, the nature of the threats they face as peacebuilders, what gendered protection strategies have been effective and what challenges remain. In Mexico, they conduct a risk analysis of each case and develop an action plan as well as a security protocol when emergencies arise. Both panelists emphasized the importance of developing a clear vision for their work, connections and regional networks which protect them as individuals and safeguard their work. In the words of the Syrian activist, “It’s not enough to have protection plans. We have to keep thinking outside the box and search for other connections and ways of working.”

Peacebuilders from civil society must be recognized as key sector of state building.

– Stacey Schamber, ICAN Senior Program Officer 

ICAN and WASL members facilitated a workshop on the protection of peacebuilders which met each day of the conference. In addition to the mentioned speakers, WASL members Juliana Suescún Gomez from Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económica (CIASE), Shahrazad Magrabi from the Libyan Women Forum, Belsuk Alimikhena from Neem Foundation and others attended and shared their work of civil society response mechanisms for protection. 

The workshop allowed for in depth discussion of the nuance of protection concerns. For example, while many peacebuilding organizations benefit from maintaining a low profile of their work like in Colombia, others may elect to take a high profile approach, as in Mexico where the ability to exert political pressure gives them strength and protection. In addition, Ms. Suescún Gomez described CIASE’s feminist intersectional security approach which looks at five factors of care and protection, (physical, emotional, political, economic, spiritual), building upon an individual’s “situated knowledge” of how one experiences everyday security.  

We are changing mindsets, adapting to change & facing risks. Yet we are not recognized.
Peacebuilders need to be visible and represented on national and international levels.

– Shahrazad Magrabi, WASL partner 

Ms. Alimikhena shared Neem Foundation’s well developed protocol of an early warning response system, a radicalization index which involves an app whereby anyone can share information about potential threats, safe houses, and weekly self-care and debrief sessions to support their staff. Ms. Magrabi also discussed the challenges of working within a weak infrastructure and across vastly diverse regions in Libya to struggle to find commonality: “Sometimes we can’t use an international framework or even the word peace.” Many people appreciated the importance of understanding each particular context and adapting protection strategies to manage the risks. These discussions inform ICAN’s model of peer to peer exchange and the development of a campaign to stand with women peacebuilders (anticipated launch in fall 2019).

To view more pictures of the event, click here

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