Indicating peace

Civil society and government representatives from Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Burundi recently gathered in Freetown for training on developing gender-sensitive indicators for the consolidation of peacebuilding programmes. Participants also attended a roundtable discussion on the development of National Action Plans (NAPs) for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325. These events were organised by International Alert, the Civil Society Peacebuilding Engagement Committee (CSPEC) and UNIFEM as part of a cross-learning initiative aimed at sharing knowledge and experiences between countries with similar contexts.

Sierra Leone, Burundi, and Liberia are in fact experiencing similar processes of peace consolidation following the brutal and prolonged conflicts they each experienced in the recent past. Burundi and Sierra Leone were the first countries to be supported by the Peacebuilding Commission and Fund, and Liberia has recently received support under the same instruments too.

All three countries have active civil society organisations and networks, including women’s organisations which have been advocating for the integration of gender issues into peacebuilding processes. This is crucial as the conflicts both exacerbated and were affected by gender-related inequalities, and high levels of sexual violence have characterised the conflicts in these regions.

It was therefore truly significant when Liberia became one of the first conflict-affected countries to launch a National Action Plan (NAP) on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820, which emphasise the role of women and the need to integrate a gender perspective in all aspects of conflict prevention, resolution, peacebuilding and post-conflict resolution. Sierra Leone and Burundi are both in the process of drafting their respective NAPs. However, despite the existence of various national and international frameworks and commitments, gender issues remain marginalised from peacebuilding processes and there remains a huge gap between policy rhetoric and actual implementation.

The training was opened by the Honourable Jenna Kandeh, Deputy Minister for Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs in Sierra Leone, who highlighted the contribution of monitoring and evaluation skills for a more effective implementation of UNSCR 1325. Participants included representatives from civil society, military, police and legislature from Sierra Leone, as well as civil society representatives from Liberia and Burundi. Facilitators walked participants through real-life examples from their own work, enabling experience sharing and joint learning.

The training was followed by a roundtable focused on the development of NAPs on SCR 1325, in which representatives from each country shared how the plans have been initiated in their countries and unanimously emphasised the need for a strong partnership between the government and civil society in setting up NAPs. Highlights of the roundtable’s recommendations for successful conception and implementation of the NAPs include reaching out to grassroots in the development of the plan; having measurable and achievable targets; and improving communication among civil society actors as well as between civil society and government.

These events were made possible by the generous support of the governments of Norway and Denmark, and the European Commission through their Initiative for Peacebuilding.