Foregrounding marginalised voices on peace and security in Australia
In this blog, WPS Coalition member Dr Lisa Carson makes the case for an intersectional and intergenerational approach to building peace
The theme of this year’s International Day of Peace was ‘End racism. Build peace’. The day is observed by the UN General Assembly and is devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace with calls for a 24 hour cease-fire globally. As the UN highlight, ‘achieving true peace entails much more than laying down arms. It requires the building of societies where all members feel that they can flourish. It involves creating a world in which people are treated equally, regardless of their race’.
Recent events in Australia illuminate how fundamental ending racism is to peace efforts- whether that be at local, national, or international levels. This is not new of course, rather something which First Nations people have long called for. As always, there is a lot of talk-but actions speak clearer than words and leaders will be judged on their legacies, not press releases or one-liners.
The topics of ‘peace’ and ‘security’ can feel intangible, distant and often too big to hang onto when it comes to taking meaningful action. In many ways, the perceived disconnect between the local, the national, and the international benefits those in dominant positions of malestream power. In reality it’s the opposite. These issues are everyone’s issues. This is something that feminist international relations and feminist peace activists have long highlighted and advocated for. More diverse voices are needed to help inform the debate and shape what actions are needed both now and into the future for generations ahead.
Take for example UN Security Council Resolution on Women, Peace & Security (UNSCR 1325) that was adopted in the year 2000. It stressed the importance of women’s equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, and the need to increase their role in conflict prevention and resolution decision-making. We know that gender equality is the number one predictor of peace – more so than a state’s wealth, level of democracy, or religious identity.
There’s also UN Security Council Resolution on Youth, Peace & Security that was adopted in 2015 which recognized that ‘young people play an important and positive role in the maintenance and promotion of international peace and security’ and urged Member States to give youth a greater voice in decision-making and peace processes at the local, national, regional and international levels. Nearly half of the world’s population is under 30, but only 2.6% of parliamentarians are under 30 with 62 the average age of political leaders. Recent 2021 survey results found that 76% of those under 30 think politicians don’t listen to young people and 69% across all age groups agree that political systems would be better if younger had a greater say.
When it comes to Government action, the default position is to look externally, outward to the region and beyond, rather than simultaneously inward at local and national levels as feminist advocates initially intended. With the 2nd National Action Plan on Women, Peace & Security 2021-2031, a new Government, and their openness to meaningfully engage with civil society, pioneering work about Indigenous and Feminist Foreign Policy as well as growing awareness about the connections between the local, national and international (and vice versa)- it’s with great optimism that with concerted action, we may be at a tipping point to move from words to action.
It is with this aim in mind that the Australian Civil Society on Coalition on Women, Peace & Security is undertaking a two-year project to foreground the perspectives of civil society to help shape what actions are required by the Australian Government. The first phase involves a six-week campaign from October 1st– November 15th to hear from women, girls and gender diverse people in Australia about what peace and security mean to them and what actions they want the Australian Government to take, both here and abroad. Have your say by completing a quick 10 minute survey by November 15th and helping spread the word via @wpscoalition twitter.