Promoting women’s effective participation in conflict prevention and mediation, as well as addressing their specific needs in peacemaking efforts have been a high priority for the United Nations and Member States since the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security.
However, in spite of many global and regional commitments and initiatives, the number of women and gender experts involved in formal peacemaking processes remains rather low; few peace agreements include gender-relevant provisions or protect women’s fundamental rights; the added-value of women’s contribution to sustainable peace is very often not taken into consideration or is underestimated.
The Mediterranean Women Mediators Network aims at fulfilling the need to increase the number of women involved in peacemaking efforts and at facilitating the appointment of high-level women mediators at local and international level. In this regard, it is a catalyst for mediation efforts in ongoing and potential crises and post-conflict stabilization processes. The establishment of the MWMN aimed at reducing a networking capacity gap in the Mediterranean area, where women mediators can bring strategic knowledge and contribute to conflict resolution and sustainable peace.
In its initial stage, The Mediterranean Women Mediators Network consisted in approximately 40 qualified members from the Mediterranean countries. Throughout the years, the number of members has increased, and the Network holds periodic calls for applications for new members.
The Network’s geographic scope encompasses the countries in the Mediterranean area, including some lacking a direct outlet to the Sea, which nonetheless belong to the Mediterranean history and culture.
The MWMN was initiated in 2017, with the preparatory phase starting in January. Throughout the year, the Istituto Affari Internazionali and Women in International Security Italy worked on the establishment of the network by conducting research on existing realities gathering experiences from previously established networks such as the Nordic Women Mediators and FemWise and on the work conducted by international organizations in the field of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and its following related ones and on inclusive and gendered mediation.
In March 2017, the upcoming initiative of the Mediterranean Women Mediators Network was introduced to the Security Council, during an Arria meeting hosted by the United Kingdom. Consequently, suitable candidates from 25 countries across the Mediterranean were identified and over 40 founding members were selected.
The work culminated with the official launch of the Mediterranean Women Mediators Network on October 25-26 during a public event hosted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation with the participation of the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the founding members of the newly established Network, representatives from international and regional organizations, as well as representatives of other regional networks of women mediators and international experts in the field of mediation and peacebuilding.
2018 set the foundations for the numerous activities that took place in 2019. The Secretariat worked on deepening the relations with the single members to identify their needs and interests to plan the activities of the network accordingly. Additionally, it worked on strengthening relations and developing synergies with other regional networks of women mediators, namely the Nordic Women Mediators Network, FemWise-Africa and the network of Women Mediators across the Commonwealth, founded in April 2018.
Among the various activities, in March 2018, representatives from the regional networks of women mediators, experts from international and regional organisations, country delegates, and civil society and academia representatives, met in Oslo to explore opportunities for cooperation, seek synergies, and discuss the possible establishment of an alliance of regional women mediators’ networks. This meeting was followed-up by an event in October in New York during the UN Security Council Open Debate on Women Peace and Security where experiences in mediation processes, conflict prevention and the promotion of women’s participation were shared.
Furthermore, the seeds to establish the first MWMN local antenna were planted in a meeting held in Cyprus in July 2018, where 26 women peacebuilders from across the island met. During the workshop, hosted by the Cyprus Women’s Lobby with the support of the MWMN, Women Mediators across the Commonwealth, WILPF and UNFCYP, issues such as women’s participation in the peace process and their role as key actors to develop island-wide strategies and approaches to ensure an inclusive and sustainable peace process and agreement were discussed.
In 2019, the MWMN blossomed with the conduct of many new activities ranging from capacity building, to advocacy and outreach campaigns and to fostering synergies both at the international and the local level.
A newsletter was launched to share the activities of the Network and highlight initiatives and publications from the wider field of mediation and the “Women, Peace and Security” agenda. The MWMN also opened its social media accounts – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – to share its work and activities with the wider public and as part of a broader outreach campaign.
As part of its capacity building activities, two sessions on “Training and Experience Sharing on Gendered Inclusive Mediation” were organized in Rome both in English and French. The trainings aimed at developing gender-sensitive conflict analysis competencies and at reinforcing mediation and negotiation skills. At the same time, it was an opportunity for the Network’s members to strengthen their ties and share experiences and knowledge from their respective countries. These activities have been combined with remote webinar sessions where experts and peacebuilders have shared their experience on women’s participation in the field of mediation and in peace-processes more broadly.
Building on the work conducted in the previous years, and with the aim to increase the engagement at the local level, two antennas were launched, the first one in Cyprus and a second one in Turkey. The members of the Network in the respective countries have since been active at the local level developing initiatives and activities tailored to the country’s needs.
Last but not least, the ties with other regional networks of women mediators have led to the launch of the Global Alliance of Regional Women Mediator Networks during the UN General Assembly High Level Week in September. The MWMN constantly works explore synergies and cooperation opportunities with international and regional organizations such as UN Women, the OSCE, and the EU as well as the Academia (Durham University) and civil society organizations (WIIS and ICAN).
2020 started with a very intense and rich action plan that unfortunately was deeply affected by the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, despite the physical distances and the missed networking and training opportunities de visu, the network has still managed to conduct multiple activities.
In April 2020, a membership call was launched which led to the Network welcoming 12 new members from the region, namely Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Italy, Morocco and Turkey. The geographical scope of the Network also grew to include Kosovo, which also saw the involvement of three new members.
Following the 2019 capacity building activities on the wider theme of gendered and inclusive mediation, in 2020 the focus was shifted towards capacity building opportunities aimed at promoting a personal as well as professional development. The focus was placed on Leadership conducting a Masterclass on “Leading Effectively in High Pressure Environments” and two editions, one in June and the other in August of a course on “Leadership in Mediation: Visibility, Influence and Impact” in collaboration with Durham University and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. These longer activities, were coupled with several webinars, including a series on the impact of Covid-19.
Building on the launch of the two Antennas in Cyprus and Turkey in 2019, the Secretariat continued its engagement work at the local level supporting projects carried out by the Antennas and celebrated the launch of a new antenna in Kosovo in November 2020. Additionally, stemming from initiatives of the members, the Network has been supporting a training activity of young women in Lebanon conducted by the Lebanese members. Discussions have also been initiated with members and local stakeholders in coordination with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Libya to identify possible areas of engagements and support of activities for the Network.
Aiming at increasing the visibilityof the Network members and amplifying their voices, the content of the newsletter was strengthened and several new initiatives were launched. A MWMN blog was created as a virtual platform to discuss timely issues and exchange experiences and practices featuring both Network Members and a wide range of stakeholders replying to clear-cut questions. Additionally, Magda Zenon, Cypriot member of the MWMN, in collaboration with UN Women developed a podcast series entitled “#HerStories”.
At the international level, within the framework of the Global Alliance of Regional Women Mediator Networks, the Secretariat of MWMN took on the coordination of the Secretariat of the Global Alliance under the responsibility of Women in International Security (WIIS) Italy. Furthermore, in October it coordinated the organization and conduct of the Annual event to celebrate the first anniversary of this landmark achievement and the 20th anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325.
2021 has seen the consolidation of a number of activities both involving the local members of the Network and outreach activities via-à-vis new stakeholders, particularly in the context of the Global Alliance of Regional Women Mediator Networks
On the one hand, the coordination and co-planning work with the mediators has continued, especially in Turkey, Lebanon, Kosovo and Cyprus, with the aim to identify actions and initiatives to be carried out at the local level. In particular, the members of the Turkish Antenna met in person for a coordination meeting after two years of remote gatherings. The meeting gave the possibility to introduce and welcome six new members to the Antenna and to launch a series of new activities, including research products and podcasts. In Kosovo, following the approval of the Programme for Gender Equality by the government authorities, the Kosovo Antenna of the Network conducted a research activity to provide an overview of the situation of women in the armed forces and analyse the policies and procedures adopted by institutions aimed at encouraging their participation in this sector.
During 2021, particular attention has also been given to the training of the members of the Network in the framework of the “training of the trainers” activity. Two training sessions were organised in June and in November 2021 on “mediation and facilitation techniques” led by Ms. Johanna Hawari-Bourgely, Lebanese member of the Network and Director of the Centre de Médiation of the Université Saint Jospeh in Beirut.
Finally, carrying on with the good practice launched in 2020 due to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, monthly virtual meetings were held with the mediators to discuss Network-specific issues as well as broader topics of interest, also with the help and inputs by external contributors. This activity has contributed to strengthening the sense of belonging of the members to the Network and to carrying out a joint, participatory reflection on the future activities to be carried out.
On the other hand, turning to the MWMN’s engagement with new stakeholders, a series of meetings with Syrian women, mainly from the diaspora, were held in 2021 in cooperation with Search for Common Grounds. The objective of these meetings was to explore the potential for the Network to contribute to peacebuilding in Syria and raising the awareness of the challenges facing Syrian women both inside and outside the country. This series of meetings led to the drafting of a list of recommendations for the international community and for Syrian women themselves concerning the actions that should be pursued to end women’s plights stemming from the conflict and ensure that their voice is better heard.
Finally, 2021 has also seen the continuous engagement in the framework of the Global Alliance, of which the Network has held the coordination of the Secretariat under the responsibility of Women in International Security (WIIS) Italy. In addition to the monthly meetings of the Global Contact Group, two specific initiatives were organised in November and December 2021 as a tool for experience sharing and community building among the diverse membership of the various networks. These gatherings have ultimately contributed to shaping the ongoing reflection about the future of the Global Alliance, including of its rotating Secretariat.