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United for Peace
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The Nobel Women's Initiative was established in 2006 by sister Nobel Peace Prize laureates Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Betty Williams, and Jody Williams. These women—representing North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa-bring together their extraordinary experiences in a united effort for peace with justice and equality. Their goal is to meaningfully contribute to building peace by working together with women around the world. Please visit them online to learn more about their work: www.nobelwomensinitiative.org.


International Community Must Commit to Real Peace in Burma and Darfur
This column is provided by The Nobel Women's Initiative

In a phone briefing following the Nobel Women's Initiative Delegation, delegates Jody Williams and Wangari Maathai released the following statement:

International Community Must Commit to Real Peace in Burma and Darfur

We must keep up the pressure on the world’s superpowers to ‘do the right thing’ in Darfur and Burma—and create the conditions for long-lasting peace and democracy. This, from a group of prominent women who recently returned from a three-week delegation to Asia and Africa where they met with women’s groups, government officials and representatives from international organizations, and visited clinics and refugee camps to hear first-hand what is required to bring a sustainable peace to these areas.

Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams (1997) and Wangari Maathai (2004) were accompanied by other notable women including actor-activist Mia Farrow, and the Chair of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, Dr. Sima Samar, as they traveled for three weeks to countries that are directly linked to the crises in Burma and Darfur.

“The inspirational efforts for peace by women on the ground--made at a huge risk to their personal safety--deserve the support and recognition of the international community,” says Williams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work on banning antipersonnel landmines. “It is inexcusable for certain nations to directly support regimes that are oppressing their people and committing systematic, widespread violence against women.”

The delegation is calling for an immediate cessation of violence in Sudan’s Darfur region, and full support for legitimate negotiations, including women, to build sustainable peace. Of paramount concern is the on-going, systematic violence against women and children including the use of rape as a weapon of war. In Burma, the delegation is calling for the release of political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, the cessation of campaigns of violence against ethnic nationalities and dialogue leading to real democracy in the country. It is also calling for the delivery of humanitarian relief post Cyclone Nargis directly to the people in Burma.

The on-going violence in certain areas of Sudan and Darfur threatens the security of neighboring countries, including Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“The destabilizing nature of this conflict is largely underestimated by people outside of Africa who assume that this violence happens in small pockets,” says Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement, and an outspoken advocate for greater democracy in Africa. “The violence is not restricted to a remote area of Sudan; it is upsetting the stability of an entire region.”

Burma, already struggling under an oppressive military junta, is now trying to cope with the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. The military junta routinely arrests activists who call for democracy. Since May, the junta has arrested at least 17 people who delivered humanitarian aid to the people of Burma in the wake of Cyclone Nargis.

“An obvious sign of the repressive nature of both regimes is evident in the mistreatment of women as a means of control,” added Williams. “We heard testimony from women in both countries that rape is regularly used as a weapon of war, and also in an on-going basis as a means to keep civilian populations living in fear. This abuse has gone on, even as the women in Burma struggle to feed their families after the devastation of the cyclone.”

The delegation is concerned about the practice of extracting resources from Sudan and indeed all of Africa in exchange for weapons that fuel conflicts and are the cause of untold suffering. It is calling upon the international community—particularly those who do with business directly with African governments and consider themselves friends of Africa—to cease supplying weapons and work instead to build sustainable peace, human security and real development to benefit all the people of Africa.

“Instead of supplying these regimes with weapons and political and economic support, we should be focusing our efforts on building a lasting peace,” says Maathai. “To end these conflicts and achieve a lasting vision of peace, we need to see leadership from African nations, with the full support of the international community. Those who are truly friends of Africa will pursue a relationship that is less exploitive.”

Specifically, for Sudan, the delegation is calling for:

• for Sudan’s leaders and the leaders of all Darfur’s rebel movements to fully engage with the AU-UN mediation team and re-engage in a peace process;
• for the meaningful inclusion of Darfur’s women leaders at all stages in the peace process;
• the international community to fully implement UN Resolution 1769, which allows for the full deployment of UN peacekeepers in Darfur;
• the President of Sudan, Omar al Bashir, to accept responsibility to protect the people of Darfur and allow the resolution to be fully and rapidly implemented for the sake of the people of Sudan;
• the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which experts in the region say is key to peace throughout Sudan, including the Darfur region;
• the full support of the African Union and the international community for bringing collective pressure on President Omar Al Bashir and the rebel leaders to end the crisis in Darfur and Sudan;
• support for the International Criminal Court in its work to bring justice to the people of Darfur and
• the end to military support to Khartoum, specifically from countries with major influence in the region.

Specifically, for Burma, the delegation is calling for:

• the United Nations, ASEAN and other international institutions to pressure the Burma military regime to make immediate steps toward greater democracy—most urgently, the immediate release of all political prisoners in Burma, including Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi;
• the end to the campaign of violence against Burma’s ethnic nationalities, and specifically end the use of rape as a weapon of war;
• the delivery of aid directly to the people of Burma, via local organizations and not into the hands of the military dictatorship;
• a commitment from ASEAN, as well as the UN Security Council, to act upon their own call for democratic reform including freedom of assembly in Burma; and
• China and Russia to follow the lead of India to stop selling arms to the military dictatorship.

Williams and Maathai and of the women’s delegation explained the goals of their trip as follows:

1) To spotlight and raise awareness of the massive violations to women’s human rights in Sudan and Burma;
2) To reinforce efforts to bring about participatory governance in Sudan and Burma; and
3) To call upon citizens around the world to take individual and collective action to build sustainable peace and to insist that the international community implement existing commitments for peace, justice and equality in Burma and Sudan.

The Nobel Women’s Initiative was founded in 2006 by six women Nobel Peace Laureates. Struck by increasing instability and gross violations to women’s rights worldwide, the women laureates have brought together their experiences to work for peace with justice and equality.

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The Nobel Women's Initiative was established in 2006 by sister Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan Maguire. We six women -- representing North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa -- have decided to bring together our extraordinary experiences in a united effort for peace with justice and equality.

Only 12 women in its more than 100 year history have been recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Peace Prize is a great honor, but it is also a great responsibility. It is this sense of responsibility that has compelled us to create the Nobel Women’s Initiative to help strengthen work being done in support of women's rights around the world - work often carried out in the shadows with little recognition.

We believe that peace is much more than the absence of armed conflict. Peace is the commitment to equality and justice; a democratic world free of physical, economic, cultural, political, religious, sexual and environmental violence and the constant threat of these forms of violence against women – indeed against all of humanity.

It is the heartfelt mission of the Nobel Women’s Initiative to address and work to prevent the root causes of violence by spotlighting and promoting the efforts of women’s rights activists, researchers and organizations working to advance peace, justice and equality. By sharing a platform with these women, the NWI will spotlight their tireless work to prevent violence against women. By helping to advance the cause of women, we believe we advance all of humanity.

United by our desire to combat all forms of violence against women in all circumstances, we also recognize that specific issues for women vary around the world. One element of our work will be to sponsor international meetings of women every two years -- in a different region of the world -- to highlight issues of concern to women there. The objective of these meetings is to underscore our commonalities and differences by providing inclusive and energizing forums that ensure meaningful dialogue and networking by women’s rights activists around the world -- but with a view to action.

It is our commitment to action that brings us together. Therefore, our meetings will be linked with concrete work in the target region leading up to the conference, along with post-conference plans of action to address the issues addressed at the conference. In this way, the Nobel Women’s Initiative will support meaningful work on the ground.

We believe profoundly in the sharing of information and ideas. By networking and working together rather than in competition, we enhance the work of all. The Nobel Women’s Initiative is committed to supplementing and enhancing existing work and is determined to avoid duplicating the work of others. We want to open new ground for discussion, debate and change.

We hope you share our excitement about the potential of the Nobel Women’s Initiative to meaningfully contribute to building peace with justice and equality by working together with women around the world.

For more information, visit www.nobelwomensinitiative.org


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