On July 13, 2017, the World Solidarity Forum hosted its official launch event at the Press Club Brussels Europe. After one year of successful events, initiatives and new partnerships with different organisations, it was time to officially celebrate the success of a platform that brings together NGOs and activists interested in human rights.
The event was focused on two key themes that are predominant areas of work for most WSF partner organisations: conflict resolution and the ways to empower women to play a stronger role in the peace-making processes. The event aimed to look at how these themes were framed inside the EU Global Strategy, the foreign policy strategy of the European Union.
To do so, the WSF invited a line-up of speakers with strong expertise on the topic, including decision-makers in the policy-making world. The Keynote Speaker was Soraya Post, a Member of the European Parliament, where she is a Member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and of the Subcommittee on Human Rights. Her speech was followed by a panel of experts discussing the key issues and by the concluding remarks provided by Marie-Laure De Bergh, Deputy Head of Division Global 5 – Development and Cooperation Coordination at the European External Action Service (EEAS).
In her intervention, Mrs Post stated that politics must really change and take a more feminist approach for the world to be able to move more hastily and clearly toward successful resolutions of conflict. Women have a huge role to play as fundamental actors in the field but the political world, including in Europe, must open to real equality. “It depends on us to improve the world. I am happy to see organisations work for the future” was her final remark – a positive recognition of the work of organisations in this field.
The event then moved to the panel of expert. The first speaker was Susanne Wendt, Policy Officer for Governance Aspects of Agenda 2030, Division for Development Cooperation Coordination at the EEAS. She emphasised the many current programs that the Agenda 2030 of the European Commission includes to empower women as political actors in the peace-making processes.
She was followed by Carol Mann, Director of Women at War and Senior Lecturer in Gender and Armed Conflict at Université de Paris 8. Her expertise is about real change on the ground, and she highlighted the best practices in different conflict areas where women have played a key role in helping to achieve peace. She reminded the audience how fundamental it is to keep the moral dimension in mind when discussing the role of women in power relations: “Killing a woman for something is killing a woman no matter what”.
The third panellist, Juliana Santos Wahlgren, Senior Advocacy and Network Development Officer at the European Network Against Racim (ENAR) focused her discussion on the way women are affected by conflict and how that also impacts them when they are forced to migrate. She specifically focused on intersectionality between gender discrimination and racial and cultural discrimination. Any steps forward in empowering women must also take account of those factors to be truly successful in the long term.
Following a Q&A session, where the audience raised questions about topics like the role of the EU in Libya and Syria as well as inter-institutional dialogue on the Agenda 2030, Mrs De Bergh took the floor for the closing remark. She recapped to the audience the key points of the discussion and summarised the key points in a structured discourse: “We need to adapt and make sure to build gender dimension in the solution” she said when referring to the EU approach to conflict resolution.
The event then concluded with a pleasant networking lunch where participants had occasion to mingle with the speakers and continue the discussion.