Six female Nobel Peace Laureates will be joined by conflict resolution experts and peacemakers from some of the world’s most war-ravaged countries for a major international conference in Northern Ireland to explore ways of increasing global security by ending war and militarism.
The fourth biennial conference of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, which is taking place in the United Kingdom for the first time, will shine a spotlight on the devastating impact of war on women and communities ahead of next month’s G8 conference in Northern Ireland.
The conference is being hosted by Mairead Maguire, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her work with Peace People, an organisation set up to help end the conflict in Northern Ireland. The conference will be launched on May 27th with a special event at Belfast City Hall attended by 400 invited guests—including many of the original Peace People members who marched in the iconic mass rallies in Northern Ireland in the mid 1970’s.
Ms. Maguire will be joined in Belfast by her fellow Laureates: Leymah Gbowee (Liberia), Tawakkol Karman (Yemen), Shirin Ebadi (Iran), Rigoberta Menchu Tum (Guatemala) and Jody Williams (USA).
The three-day conference will be held from 28-30 May at the Culloden Hotel, just outside Belfast. More than 100 women from all over the world, who have experienced the horrors of war, will speak on topics such as bringing an end to militaristic methods of solving conflict, building a lasting peace in Northern Ireland and preventing rape and gender violence in areas of conflict. Speakers at the conference come from countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Sudan, Liberia, Iran, Colombia, Haiti, Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria.
Ms. Maguire says many of the international participants are drawn to the conference because of the global reputation Northern Ireland has for bringing its own long-standing conflict to an end.
“The peace process in Northern Ireland gives hope and inspiration to the people living in fear of violence today,” said Ms. Maguire. “We have a great record of peace making; the rejection of the bomb and bullet and the commitment of people to solve problems are tremendously inspiring to people working in conflict situations.”
War and militarism—including the “war on terror”—affect communities around the world on a horrific scale. Of those affected by conflict, women are often among the most vulnerable and marginalized. Alarmingly, militarism and war are on the rise; the last two decades have witnessed a steady rise in global military spending while funding is diverted from critical social services such as healthcare and education. Sexual violence, inequality, environmental destruction, and natural resource conflicts also jeopardize women’s security.
The conference will look at ways of ending the use of sexual violence and rape as a strategy of war, and analyse the devastating economic and environmental effects on areas suffering from ongoing conflict. The conference will highlight creative and innovative strategies that have led to an end to conflict in some parts of the world, and the importance of involving women in peace processes as a tactic for avoiding further conflict.