A very successful Congress!

Please see summary below of WILPF Congress written by Maria Butler, Program Director for PeaceWomen Project in New York, US.

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, WILPF Congress July 30th – August 6th 2011, San José, Costa Rica, Women, Peace and Security – Transforming the agenda

“Social advance depends as much upon the process through which it is secured as upon the result itself.” – Jane Addams

From July 30 until August 6 2011, women from around the world gathered together for the WILPF International Congress in San José, Costa Rica. WILPF – the oldest women’s peace organisation in the world – will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2015 when women peace activists will meet in The Hague again to honour and reaffirm the work and principles of their foremothers in promoting peace. This meeting in Costa Rica was the last official Congress – the highest decision making body of WILPF and the final authority – before the centennial event. Over 120 peace women travelled from twenty-four countries to discuss the theme “Women, Peace and Security – Transforming the agenda” and the work of WILPF members, sections and international.

With great enthusiasm, the 2011 Congress formally endorsed five new WILPF sections – Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Spain, Mexico, and Pakistan – and recognized the innovative and strategic work which these groups have been doing on redefining security and advancing women as peacemakers. The Congress also adopted 11 resolutions, the international programme of work 2011-2015 and several statements. In addition to officially reviewing the work of organisation and its future direction, operational issues were dealt with including the election of the new executive committee and formation of new standing committees and working groups.

The new Executive Committee was elected with overwhelming support for the new International President, Adilia Caravaca (Costa Rica). Other elected officers include: Kerstin Grebäck (Sweden), Dr. Ila Pathak (India), Neelima Sinha (India), Martha-Jean Baker (UK) (Vice Presidents), and Nancy Ramsden (USA) (Treasurer). The outgoing Executive Committee and the out-going Co-presidents, Annelise Ebbe and Kerstin Grebäck, were thanked for their work.

This was a special Congress with the dynamic new Secretary General, Madeleine Rees, at the helm who inspired, and challenged the meeting to be creative, focused and impactful. Madeleine articulated the integrated vision for WILPF 2011-2015 in an inspiring presentation that included personal anecdotes and her motivation for joining the WILPF movement. She described the integrated approach as a sort of “WILPF jigsaw”- where the many pieces of WILPF work fit together to form the whole. Directors of WILPF’s two Projects, Ray Acheson (Reaching Critical Will) and Maria Butler (PeaceWomen), presented their respective work, reports and objectives to the Congress and were enthusiastically received by the WILPF members gathered in Costa Rica.

The Congress agenda was packed with discussions on WILPF themes and strategies for moving forward. Workshops and roundtables allowed for maximum participation and covered issues such as: Environment; Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons; Food sovereignty and security; Resolution 1325 – global indicators; and Armed violence against women. Young-WILPFer (known as Y-WILPFers) also played a significant role in this Congress and organised the Gertrud Baer Seminar and workshops.

The resolutions adopted reflected WILPF position on: the Arms Trade Treaty; Forced Migration; UN Women; Nuclear Weapons; SCR 1325 National Action Plans; the high-level meeting on the Durban Declaration; and on the situations in the Middle East; in Nepal; and related to the Arab Spring; Palestinian Prisoners; and on Costa Rica Militarization.

Participates also had a private viewing of the “Whistleblower” – a movie in which Madeleine, then head of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Bosnia, is portrayed by Vanessa Redgrave. Following the screening of this horrific story, which takes place in the late 1990s when trafficking was at its height, Madeleine shared with WILPFers her experiences, the challenges and problems of human trafficking, sexual slavery, torture, and the role of UN, corporate contractors, and governments in these complex issues, and how WILPF can make a meaningful impact in this work.

The success of the WILPF Congress 2011 was testimony to the extraordinary Congress Coordinator, Karin Friedrich, and the host, WILPF- Costa Rica, and of course the many other WILPF sections who contributed financially and supported the organising efforts, particularly members of the Congress organization group.

Mrs. Sonia Picado, President of UN agency on Human Security, was honoured by WILPF Costa Rica and the Congress for her work. Anna Arroba Expert on Gender, Anthropology and Politics of the Body from Costa Rica and Sarah Masters of the International Network of Action on Small Arms (IANSA) made presentation to the Congress on the opening day.

A full report is forthcoming.

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