Update From the Foundation
Seeds of Peace
July 5, 2017
In recognition of women’s indispensible role in conflict prevention and peacebuilding, the Canadian government recently announced a “feminist international assistance policy” that allocates $150 million for international development projects that are led by, and of benefit to, women. This is one part of a broader Canadian paradigm that calls on all government agencies and programs to consider how they can help foster peace and security. Canada is shortly going to launch a new National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (NAP) to reflect new data about the most effective strategies for this “Whole Government Approach to Peace.”
Witnessing the developments in Canada is a reminder of the transformative power of an inclusive approach to foreign policy and national security. The Compton Foundation’s special initiative on Women, Peace, and Security has been inspired by this vision and continues to believe that investing in a feminist framework for peace and security is one of the most hopeful strategies for bringing about long-term peace.
Examples of the transformative effects of this approach on local communities were evident at a recent session with Global Affairs Canada, the department responsible for these updates to the NAP. The agency heard from four representatives from the global South, who shared their experiences implementing peace with a priority on women’s rights and equal participation. Rodolfo Dominguez is a human rights lawyer with the Justice, Human Rights and Gender Civil Association of Mexico, Mavic Cabera Belleze works with the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, Visaka Dharmadasa founded War Affected Women in Sri Lanka, and Rosa Emilia Salamanca represented the Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económia (CIASE) of Colombia. Together, they shared wisdom about implementing peace by putting women at the center —or, as Rosa Emilia says, not just including women, but making women indispensible to the process. They spoke of the necessity of working at the grassroots level, and of creating space for people to listen to one another, changing definitions of who is the “enemy.” Visaka spoke of how difficult is to sit at the table with people who have perpetrated violence, and of the healing and long-term peace that can result if you do it anyway. Mavic told of a village in the Philippines where, even under marshal law, they rejected the “peace of the cemetery” and instead created structures and processes for people to solve problems through dialogue. Rodolfo shared the heartbreaking reality of femicide and his commitment to ensuring that murdered women gain justice.
At the heart of this peace-making work is a new definition of security. Instead of “national security,” which implies an “us vs. them” worldview, the notion of “human security” prioritizes the rights of all people to peace and dignity at all levels: personal, communal, and national. Canada’s feminist development plan embraces this paradigm, and is evidence that a new way of investing in peace is not only possible but also practical.
Canada’s pivot is also evidence that years of deep organizing, even under a hostile government, will pay off when power shifts. We’re hopeful that seeds of peace and transformation are taking root around the world. Though those seeds may lie largely dormant for a while at the federal government level in the United States, we applaud those who persist and continue to advance an inclusive vision of peace.