The Australian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security refers specifically to the role of civil society actors in progressing the Women, Peace and Security agenda. WPSAC has contributed particularly to two aspects of this work, by raising awareness of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (Strategy 3.1) and by working to ‘encourage an understanding of Women, Peace and Security among the Australian public’ (Strategy 3.4). As part of this engagement, WPSAC hosted three events in August 2013, in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, timed to mark the inception of Australia’s Presidency of the United Nations Security Council in September.
Each of our three events focused on a different aspect of the WPS agenda. Our Melbourne event considered the vital role that Australian research plays both in creating and disseminating information about women, peace and security. This event further emphasised women’s agency in the context of conflict and insecurity. Our event in Brisbane looked at the implications of the Women, Peace and Security agenda in the Asia Pacific region, with a focus on how this framework could be applied to displaced and refugee women. Finally, the Sydney event, organized around the theme of ‘Young Women’s Voices’, provided the opportunity for a range of young women to discuss what the Women, Peace and Security agenda meant to them and allowed them to reflect on their own engagement with issues of participation, representation and political activism in the sphere of peace and security.
We were fortunate to have expert panelists at all events. In Melbourne, this included Dr Lesley Pruitt (University of Melbourne), Dr Ronli Sifris (Monash University) and Professors Sharon Pickering, Jacqui True and Sarah Joseph (all also based at Monash University). In Brisbane, Senator Claire Moore (and long-time member of WILPF), Sonia Caton (Chair of the Refugee Council of Australia), Faiza El-Higzi (non-government organization the Romero Centre) and Dr Melissa Curley and Dr Gerhard Hoffstaedter (both of the University of Queensland) comprised our panel. In Sydney, we enjoyed presentations from Dr Lesley Pruitt (University of Melbourne), Ming Yu (Amnesty International), Dominique Lardner (Young Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom), Emily Milton Smith (World Association of Girl Guides and Scouts), Brooke Clarke (Young UN Women Sydney) and Emma Watt (University of New South Wales’ UN Society), with Associate Professor Laura Shepherd (University of New South Wales) chairing. We are immensely grateful to all of our panelists who committed their time to share their insights and their extensive experience while promoting the Women, Peace and Security agenda. We know that these events would, quite literally, have been nothing without the involvement of these individuals, and for that we extend our greatest appreciation.
The popularity of, and interest in, these events was demonstrated by the number of attendees that joined us on each of these evenings; the support for the Women, Peace and Security agenda exceeded our expectations, and our audiences included students, members of the general public, members of civil society activist organisations, members of professional bodies and academics. The variety of backgrounds meant that the Q&A sessions proved to be a valuable opportunity to reflect on the many different facets of the WPS agenda. These discussions continued into the evening after the formal presentations had concluded. We are grateful to everyone who came along; community engagement with the WPS agenda is an integral part of the National Action Plan and WPSAC is actively investigating further ways to enhance this engagement into the future. In the mean time, keep an eye out for updates on our website, join us on Facebook (Women Peace and Security) and follow us on Twitter (@_WPSAC). The National Action Plan and the Women, Peace and Security agenda should both be localized for full and effective implementation, so everyone has a stake in pushing these issues to the forefront of political consciousness.