Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence celebrates the centenary of Finland’s independence in 2017 by inviting Ms. Elisabeth Nauclér, former Member of the Parliament and a long-time activist in promoting the role of women parliamentarians, to take part in the yearly Belgrade Security Forum to discuss gender equality in politics and peace processes.
The program of the Belgrade Security Forum includes a session titled “Women of the Balkans for New Politics” organized in cooperation with OSCE. The session follows a meeting of prominent women politicians and activists from eight Balkan societies in Budva, Montenegro, on September 4 and 5 2017. The meeting was initiated by Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (BFPE), with the support of Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Mission in Serbia and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). In the meeting, 20 prominent women from Ljubljana, Zagreb, Sarajevo, Belgrade, Podgorica, Skopje, Pristina and Tirana sat together in order to discuss possibilities and prospects for a new approach to politics in the Balkans.The outcome of the meeting addresses the worry of the women activists in the Balkan societies by the backlash against equality, inclusion and human rights and call to all active women in the region to engage in a serious debate and joint national and regional action on the new priorities of the movement and on the ways how to can make better use of potential international support to these priorities, relying on EU strategy for gender equality and UN Agenda 2030 on SDGs.
It’s important to focus on renewal of trust in crucial democratic political institutions by strengthening of participatory and really representative democracy –parity in all decision making bodies is just one aspect of this issue and energetic rejection of any political action threatening peace and diminishing achieved level of indivisible human rights. There is a need to insist on inclusion of men in gender mainstreaming and opening of the public debate on new masculinities and a need to renew and strengthen the ranks with young women activists by developing massive capacity building through public educational systems and our work in civil society, TU and political parties, including by developing new mentoring schemes.
As a result of the conference in Budva in September, the participants of the conference committed to doing their very best to start a debate on the proposals with active women from all walks of life and from different political backgrounds, in our nations and in the regional and international networks we are already a part of and we will inform about this initiative also our international partners in the EU in the UN, in OSCE and other international agencies dealing with gender equality. The goal of the initiative is to start a political process which will lead to a new regionally coordinated platform of Balkan women for gender sensitive, peaceful and sustainable development.
“Women of the Balkans for New Politics” session during Belgrade Security Forum is continuation to this process. The question that arises is why it’s important to include women in the process and to achieve gender equality in political representation. These two questions are interconnected.
As Marie O’Reilly shows, empirical evidence proves that peace is more likely when women’s inclusion is prioritized, and especially when women hold decision making positions. Women empowerment leads to lesser likelihood of war, as well as lower crime rates. The difference can also be seen depending on whether women are included in the peace process or not. A peace agreement is 35 per cent more likely to last at least 15 years if women participate in its creation. Leading experts highlight the following as some of the main reasons behind these differences: women promote dialogue and build trust, they build coalitions and connect diverse groups in a society, and raise issues that are affecting only women or affecting them differently than men in conflict. And finally, strengthening women’s political and social participation, and especially, increasing the power of women within the political processes, diminishes the chances of conflict relapse after the war has ended.
Relying on positive regional and global examples, the prominent women political leaders and opinion makers from 8 Balkan societies will gather at Belgrade Security Forum to present new regional “Women of the Balkans for New Politics” initiative, and to discuss and disseminate plans for further expansion and popularization of the idea behind the initiative. These women, holding the experience of fragile democratic achievement, are ready to discuss ways of working together towards finding common ground in policies such as quota policies, equal economic treatment, zero tolerance towards violence and gender sensitive migration related policies. These are the policies that could contribute to development and the future of their societies, while simultaneously providing foundations for the improvement of both symbolic and substantive representation of women in the politics.
The BSF panel will seek to address the following questions:
1) What novelties can women as leaders and active participants offer to areas of policy making and opinion making processes by focusing on common issues?
2) What challenges women political leaders and women activists face and how can they be overcome? The case of Western Balkans.
3) How women contribute to change in the political narrative in the Western Balkans region?
4) What lessons can we draw from positive examples of women’s active participation in political and peace processes in the Western Balkans and beyond?
The Belgrade Security Forum represents the most prestigious event of its’ kind in South East Europe bringing together more than 100 inspirational speakers representing governments, international organizations and civil society alike – attracting in turn as many as 800 guests over the course of three days. From its’ inception in 2011, the BSF organized over 125 panels, thematic discussions and side events with 570 speakers from 55 countries and welcomed over 4000 participants. During the course of the past six years, the event has become a place of serious and relevant debate on regional, European and security challenges, facilitating the strengthening of institutional and personal bonds between regional, security and foreign policy actors.
Belgrade Security Forum takes place in Belgrade, Serbia on October 11th-13th, 2017.