By Sam Beever, Deirdre Ní Fhallúin, Elke Merks-Schaapveld and Anders Hagelberg
This was the very clear message sent by the UN Security Council in January this year, and one that we – some local Friends of the UN Women, Peace and Security agenda in Cyprus – would like to highlight.
Now is the time to ensure that women are at the forefront of efforts to resolve the Cyprus Issue.
The benefits of doing so are clear and overwhelming.
When women are included in peace processes, the result is more just and equal societies. Peace attained with the involvement of women is also more sustainable. This global experience is relevant for all Cypriots; the women of Cyprus can be a driving force for a sustainable solution.
An indispensable benchmark of all our democracies is that women of our nations have an equal opportunity to participate in the decisions that determine the future of their nations. Democracy is marked by this sense that Government is accountable to its citizens. Each nation finds its own path, and we do not suggest our democracies are perfect – none are. But we can all improve by striving to ensure that the voices of all our citizens – irrespective of their race, their religion, or their gender – are given a hearing.
Women are affected by conflicts directly and indirectly, and often in ways that are different to men. But too often they are absent from peace processes. An inclusive peace process must, therefore, involve a conscious shift of focus towards women.
Women should not only be ‘in the room’ but must also have ‘a voice at the table’ at every stage from peace negotiations to peacebuilding and post-conflict reconciliation. We believe that this should not, in the year 2021, be a controversial concept. Women’s meaningful participation in and influence on the process reflects a normative human right. In addition to involving women in every step, gender perspectives should also be incorporated throughout the whole process.
We, local Friends of the UN Women, Peace and Security agenda in Cyprus, are compelled to highlight our conviction that the Cyprus Peace Process would benefit from a more inclusive approach.
We are not alone in this conviction.
United Nations Security Council resolution 2561, unanimously adopted in January 2021 and which extended the UNFICYP mission in Cyprus, reminded us all of the importance of women’s involvement.
The Security Council recognized “that the full, equal and meaningful participation and leadership of women is essential in building peace in Cyprus and will contribute to making any future settlement sustainable, welcoming efforts to bring together a broader range of women actors on both sides, acknowledging that the gender-sensitive socioeconomic impact assessment that was launched 17 February 2020 in response to resolution 2453 (2019) substantiated that delaying a settlement in Cyprus increases both the economic, and non-economic costs of the prevailing political status quo, looking forward to the full and swift implementations of its recommendations, encouraging the sides to ensure the needs and perspectives of women are addressed in a future settlement.”
There is no lack of capable and competent women in Cyprus that could contribute positively to a sustainable settlement. There are also many international networks of female mediators and civil society organisations that can give further inspiration. For example, women from Northern Ireland have visited the island to tell the story of their important role in the peace process that led to the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement in 1998. Many women’s groups continue to work for reconciliation and to support the creation of ‘a culture of peace’. The Technical Committee on Gender Equality, created by the leaders and involving both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, has an important role to play as called for by successive UN Security Council resolutions. More can be done to support all of these important groups.
As the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, we pledge our support for the greater inclusion of women, and we will work with the UN and interested stakeholders to give meaningful effect to this pledge.
We believe women and women’s groups have an essential role to play in building greater trust and confidence. And we are convinced that the Cyprus Peace Process would benefit from a more diverse, gender equal and inclusive approach.
Through the full involvement of women in the Cyprus Peace Process, in line with UN Security Council Resolutions, we are hopeful an environment conducive to the resumption of formal negotiations and achievement of a sustainable solution for all the people of Cyprus can be created.
Sam Beever is the Australian High Commissioner to Cyprus
Deirdre Ní Fhallúin is the Ambassador of Ireland in Cyprus
Elke Merks-Schaapveld is the Ambassador of the Netherlands in Cyprus
Anders Hagelberg is the Ambassador of Sweden in Cyprus