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Ireland-Liberia-Timor Leste – Trilateral learning on Women, Peace and Security


Department of Foreign Affairs, Ireland

Country (ies):

Ireland, Northern Ireland, Timor-Leste, Liberia


The Conflict Resolution Unit (CRU) of the Department of Foreign Affairs of Ireland is partnering with women and men from Ireland/Northern Ireland, Liberia and Timor-Leste in a cross-learning process on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security. The broad purpose of the process is to understand and learn from those directly affected by conflict on how best to promote and protect women's leadership and interests in conflict resolution and peace building.


--What was the purpose and overall goal of the SSC activity?
The cross-learning process brings together women from post conflict situations to share lessons and successful models, and to develop a unified message on UNSCR 1325 to deliver to the United Nations on the tenth anniversary of the Resolution in 2010. It is an innovative initiative giving practical expression to the issues addressed in UNSCR 1325 by consulting with those who have directly experienced them.

--What was the development challenge to which this SSC activity was meant to address?
The unanimous adoption of Resolution 1325 in October 2000 marked a watershed in the evolution of international women's rights and peace and security issues. The Resolution highlights the distinct issues concerning women affected by conflict and calls for all Member States to take specific steps to address these. The Resolution focuses the world's attention on the very different effects that war has on men and women; it also recognises that women can, and should, be active participants in rebuilding their communities and nations following conflict.
--What were/are the expected results of this SSC activity?
There are three proposed outputs to the cross learning initiative. It will inform the development of Ireland's National Action Plan on 1325. It will act as a catalyst for lesson sharing and south-south/north-south cooperation between the three countries involved. Finally, it is hoped that the report of the conclusions of the process will enhance international efforts to implement UNSCR 1325 and feed into the policy discussions at the United Nations and indeed into other policy communities such as the EU, AU and OSCE. The overarching objective of the initiative is clear: to improve the lives of women in conflict and post-conflict situations and to advance women's rights in every facet of their lives.

--Why did the partners engage in the SSC activity?
Ireland, through the experience of the Northern Ireland situation, and Liberia and Timor-Leste through their respective experiences of conflict and post-conflict situations, have a lot to share in relation to the central objectives of UNSCR 1325. Women's leaders and groups in all these situations have demonstrated the necessity and value of integrating women's concerns in conflict prevention, management and resolution. The countries involved were also identified because of the wish to strengthen south-south cooperation and lesson sharing. Linking Timor-Leste and Liberia to discuss their commonalities and experiences greatly enriches the process by bringing together women from the south to exchange their skills, models and lessons learned from their experiences, rather than focusing on a north-south/ donor-partner relationship.

--How did the political context or previous cooperation influence the planning process?
The cross-learning process provides the opportunity to utilize the skills, knowledge and experiences of women from all these regions, North and South, with their counterparts in similar situations internationally. It was essential that the situations identified reflected a broad range of experience of the issues of 1325 and action in relation to its priorities. Ireland's strong links with both Liberia and Timor-Leste were critical for ensuring that the cross-learning initiative would succeed and have the necessary high-level political support in the partner countries. Timor-Leste is one of Ireland's development programme partner countries and Irish troops have also served with the UN peacekeeping mission there. Liberia has been identified as being as a foremost African country with regard to best practice in the implementation of 1325. It has developed a National Action Plan, one of the first conflict affected countries to do so, and has a very strong women's groups in civil society. It also has a dedicated Ministry for Gender and Development. Northern Ireland was selected due to the strong role that women have played in securing peace there and due to the experience of the Department of Foreign Affairs with regard to the Northern Ireland Peace Process.


--What kinds of SSC activities or modalities were conducted?
A series of cross-learning events are being organized in the countries involved. Representatives from Ireland/Northern Ireland, Liberia and Timor-Leste attend the conferences and engage in constructive workshops and panel discussions. Each event focuses on a specific aspect of Resolution 1325 (corresponding to the commonly-accepted 3 Ps of 1325), namely: Increasing Women's PARTICIPATION; encouraging the PROTECTION of Women from Gender-Based Violence; and encouraging a Gender PERSPECTIVE in peace-making, peace-keeping and peace-building. The meetings are organized to share and develop the tools and mechanisms used by Government and Civil Society Organisations to address the issues faced by women affected by conflict. Each event takes place over one week, beginning with a high level discussion on Resolution 1325, followed by closed deliberations in thematic groups, focusing on model-sharing . Based on the discussions, delegates prepare outcomes and recommendations which are shared at the final plenary session.

The first substantive meeting of the initiative took place in Belfast in June-July 2009. The principal theme of the meeting was PARTICIPATION of women in decision-making and politics; specifically electoral (national) politics, local government, and community involvement. The focus of these sessions was to identify and share actions that are being taken to advance women's leadership.

The second substantive meeting of the UNSCR 1325 cross-learning initiative took place in Dili, Timor Leste in December 2009. The overarching theme of the meeting was the protection and prevention of violence against women in conflict and post-conflict settings. The substantive work of the week took place in closed sessions where delegates were divided into groups according to the three strands, namely health, justice and the security sector. Although there were three separate strands – health, justice and the security sector – there was some overlap between workshops given the cross-cutting nature of the conference theme.

The next meeting will take place in Monrovia, Liberia in April 2010 and will focus on promoting Gender Perspectives in mediation, post-conflict recovery and transitional justice. Particular attention will be paid to international human rights and humanitarian law due to the legally binding nature of UNSCR 1325. Including gender perspectives does not just mean having women present at various stages; it also means including relevant gender considerations in to legislation and policies to ensure empowerment of women and protection of their rights.

The outcomes of each conference will feed into the overall cross-learning report which will be presented to the UN in advance of the tenth anniversary of UNSCR 1325 in October 2010.

--Please describe the roles, responsibilities, interests and interrelations of the involved stakeholders.
The cross-learning events are attended by representatives (men and women) from Ireland/Northern Ireland, Liberia and Timor-Leste who are selected based on their expertise in relation to the specific theme of each meeting. Representatives are selected from a wide variety of backgrounds including government, civil society, and academia.

The first meeting in Belfast was hosted by DemocraShe, a Northern Ireland based civil society organization that seeks to increase the participation of women in politics. The second, in Dili, was hosted by the Secretary of State for the Promotion of Equality (SEPI) in Timor Leste and the final one in Monrovia will be hosted by the Ministry of Gender and Development. All the meetings are sponsored by the Conflict Resolution Unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ireland.

The Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs has also appointed Baroness Nuala O'Loan the first Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland as Ireland's Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security to lead the cross learning initiative process. Special Envoy O'Loan is already playing an important promotional role in this regard on an international level. We are not aware of any other State having appointed a Special Envoy for this process.


--Did the relation between the providing and receiving countries / governments / organizations change with this experience? Why and how? Although the process is ongoing it has already has some very beneficial outcomes for the participants. It has forged close links both between government level and civil society and fostered practical cooperation between Liberia and Timor-Leste. The women and men attending the conferences have been able to share their experiences in a safe and confidential setting; often in relation to very culturally sensitive issues such as gender based violence. They have realized that while each country situation was different they had significant lessons to share with others. It was commented at the Belfast Conference for example that the participants no longer felt alone in their work and that they now realized that they were experience what others were; the conference 'brought the world home'.

--What were the planned and unplanned achievements of the SSC experience?
Engaging men was one key issue that emerged, with delegates suggesting the need for two spaces – one for women to develop and work on issues between themselves and one for women to engage with men to work together on the issues. Gender champions, women's centres, safe houses, developing a National Women's Day, Gender Ministry and National Women's Caucus were all cited as ideas that might be considered as practical potential actions in advancing the objectives of UNSCR 1325.

Other main issues arising from discussions relating to security included awareness raising and education on GBV; HIV/AIDS; reporting and pursuing cases; infrastructure; accountability; access to support and services; UN babies; IDP camps and potential codes of conduct for UN forces. Discussions in the health strand addressed similarities and differences between the three experiences and the group also discussed issues such as national data collection systems; funding; culture/patriarchy; support for the bereaved and injured and forensic laboratory services including DNA testing.

The justice strand also brought about fruitful participatory discussions, covering a range of topics from the need to reconsider terminology and approaches to GBV and the need to sensitise key justice actors on issues of GBV to the challenges posed by traditional justice mechanisms, processing cases of GBV and the difficulty in obtaining reliable quantitative data. Awareness raising and education on issues covered by UNSCR 1325 were addressed by all three groups, as was the importance of engaging, rather than isolating, men in the process of improving the lives of women and girls in conflict and post-conflict settings.

--Are these outcomes sustainable? Could they be replicated in similar contexts?
Gaps have been identified during the course of the conference and the delegates have considered potential ways to address these gaps, as well as how to implement the lessons learned. Participants also worked on identifying indicators which would monitor and measure the success of mechanisms implemented to enhance the protection of women in conflict and post-conflict settings and to ensure that progress is monitored in the longer term. The development of shared working models at local level will ensure that the outcomes of the conference are sustainable and the indicators will mean that progress can continually be monitored.

--For longer-term projects, could you describe (both positive and negative) impacts?
The positive impacts relate to highlighting international obligations relating to 1325 for participating countries and the broader community. It has also fostered links and institutional partnerships between southern countries. Negative impacts are potentially that lack of resources or follow up could imperil the newly fostered cooperative programmes and reduce the commitment to further action.

Aid Effectiveness:

--How can this experience help to understand the possible synergies between SSC and aid effectiveness principles? The project addresses aid effectiveness principles by developing the capacity of national agencies and institutions rather than trying to impose external models. The conferences are nationally led and take into account local level as well as central policy level considerations.

-Was national leadership and ownership supported?
All conferences were undertaken by national bodies, such as the Ministry for Gender and Development in Liberia and the Office for the Promotion of Equality (SEPI) in Timor-Leste. Participants were drawn from national bodies of excellence and expertise.

--To which extent was the experience aligned to national priorities and systems?
The experience is fully aligned to national priorities and systems as it enhances rather than subsumes already ongoing national work on 1325. For example, it assists Liberia in developing practical measures to implement its National Action Plan. However, as Timor-Leste has not developed a National Action Plan for the moment, it explores other areas where it can support 1325 related activities and policies.

--Has there been an effort to harmonize and coordinate with other programmes and development actors?
This has been central to the work of the initiative as it has included a very broad range of participants, including from civil society, the military, government and academia. The opening days of the conferences have been widened to enable other development actors and agencies to include their views on the subjects under discussion. Critically the outcome document will be shared with a very wide international audience through missions in New York, civil society networks and international bodies including the UN.

--Was managing for results included in the experience?
Yes, the stages of the initiative were carefully planned to ensure maximum national ownership, opportunities for feedback, and revision of the process as lessons/issues emerge which may require further follow up.

Capacity Development:

--Describe any specific capacity development benefits from this SSC activity at the individual, organizational or systemic level. The individuals involved in each of the sessions have gained from sharing experiences with counterparts from other country contexts, but also with others in their country with whom they could not normally interact – e.g. community workers engaging with policy makers. At organizational level, participants have gained from understanding what other organizations are doing in other countries and how they are imaginatively responding to needs on the ground, often with very limited resources. At systematic level, high level government engagement means that government has become a stakeholder in the process and has committed to furthering and carrying forward in the longer term the outcomes of the process, and to ensuring a positive legislative and policy environment is developed for the work being discussed.

--Are there any lessons learned from this SSC activity that improve the overall enabling environment, especially through improved incentives for better public services?
Certainly this process is intended to provide practical examples of how UN Member States can fulfill their international obligations under 1325 in a way that makes a real and tangible difference in the lives of women who have experienced conflict and/or are trying to secure peace in their environments. While every country context is different, the lessons extracted are those which can be applied in very different settings including in the North and South. Many of the recommendations deal with measures to improve public services, such as women's centres, access to education, trauma counseling, gender sensitive health provision etc.


January 2009 - ongoing to completion in December 2010

Budget (Optional):

USD 1 million

Name of Primary Contact Person:

Liz Higgins

Title of Primary Contact Person:

Principal Development Specialist, Policy Planning and Effectiveness Unit, Irish Aid