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Implementing resolution 1325: International Women's Commission for a Just and Sustainable Israeli-Palestinian Peace

Renata Capella Soler
Specialist social researcher on the Middle East and Human Rights
Renata Capella Soler

Renata Capella Soler

In article published in the newpaper Ha'aretz, last November, Robert Serry, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process highlighted the need to increase participation by women at the negotiating table: "For my part," he said, "I will continue to engage women leaders and civil society organizations and urge the leaderships on both sides to include women in their inner circles of advisers on the peace process".1

The limited presence of women with decision-making powers in the negotiating teams involved in the Middle East is in contrast to many women's leadership in the non-governmental sphere. As members of civil society, Israeli and Palestinian women have been organising activities in favour of peace for over twenty years, through various movements. In 1988, when their meetings were still prohibited, some Israeli and Palestinian women began to explore parts to dialogue, ordered to work together towards peace and justice. Since then, they have spared no effort to cooperate in the construction of peace, against the backdrop of the Israeli occupation, the profound asymmetries between those involved, the "anti-normalisation" rhetoric in Palestinian society, the failure of the Oslo process and the outbreak of the Intifadas of 1987 and 2000.

In this context, the International Women's Commission (IWC) was established in 2005 to create a fair and lasting peace in the Middle East. This ambitious project shows the effect that the Security Council's Resolution 1325 had on local initiatives. It is a tripartite commission established under the auspices of the UN, and specifically the United Nations Development Fund for Women, part of UN Women (UNIFEM), and its members include not only female Palestinian and Israeli leaders, but also women from the international arena, with extensive experience in conflict resolution and international relations, from both the north and south.

With this link between the local level of action and international mechanisms and global agendas, the IWC is attempting to strengthen the Israeli and Palestinian women's movements that are working for peace: first, by helping to overcome stagnation in bilateral relations, and second, by improving their opportunities to influence decision-making.

In fact, as a high level initiative, the IWC shows that after years of campaigning and debate, these women in civil society want to participate on equal terms in the processes for adopting decisions related to conflict resolution. Unlike previous initiatives, such as the Jerusalem Link of the nineties, the IWC is not a grassroots dialogue group, but instead a high-level political mission which aims to influence the policies that determine peace and security in the Middle East.

While applying the lessons learnt from previous initiatives, the IWC underlines the need to recognise and constructively manage the asymmetries between the parties in any process focusing on the construction of peace. The IWC is aware of the contradictions involved in the work to promote understanding between occupiers and occupies, and instead aims to undertake joint political work and to speak with a single voice, according to its Charter of Principles, "dedicated to an end of the the Israeli occupation and a just peace based on international law [including relevant UN resolutions], human rights and equality".2

The IWC's political vision involves a profound review of the approaches that determine today's policies in the Middle East and is committed to alternative concepts of peace and security. The IWC does not believe it is possible to construct peace without taking into account concepts of justice, at both a domestic level and in foreign affairs. That is why its work in favour of peace is closely linked to demands for social justice and respect international law, with particular emphasis on accountability in cases of human rights violations. It is also critical of the logic of military security, which has today dominated the negotiating table, and demands that it is replaced by the concept of human security.

This conceptual reformulation has practical implications in terms of creating strategies for the construction of peace. For example, when the international community talks about promoting peace in the Middle East, it basically means the desire to resolve the conflict, taking the war of June 1967 and the "land for peace" formula arising from the Security Council's Resolution 242 as the starting point. However, based on the concept that peace is inseparable from justice, the IWC believes that the conflict cannot be resolved without considering its roots and the 1948 war. In line with this perspective, some of the Palestinian members of the IWC are Israeli citizens, and not only inhabitants of the occupied Palestinian Territories. In 2008, they succeeded in agreeing on a Paper of Understanding, a joint version of the history of the conflict – an undoubted success taking into account the deep disagreement that usually prevails between Israelis and Palestinians on this subject.

In his article, Robert Serry strongly supports the work of the IWC and other initiatives by women in civil society working for peace and justice in the Middle East. Hopefully, his comments will be the starting point for the creation of political spaces which provide them with access to the corridors of power and thereby enable them to exert influence. In view of the lack of success of the formal initiatives for the construction of peace in the Middle East and the growing frustration arising from it, there are good reasons to seriously consider the alternative proposals by these Palestinians and Israelis based on their experience as women, experts and pacifist.


1. Robert Serry, "Women at the Peace Table. The 10th anniversary of a UN resolution linking women, peace and security is a reminder of the importance of having women involved in peace negotiations". Ha'aretz, 3 November 2010 (http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/women-at-the-peace-table-1.322054). (Back)
2. For the original text in English, see the IWC Charter of Principles at: http://iwc-peace.org/. (Back)