Ассоциация Женщин Абхазии - общественная организация

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15 Мая 2019
Conflict is an integral part of the life of society
Conflict, by definition, is one of the forms of social interaction, and its participants can be both individuals and various social groups and organizations. Conflicts can be both positive and destructive, they exist in all countries and at all levels of society, covering the most diverse spheres of human activity. At the same time, the conflict situations are often caused by objective reasons such as social heterogeneity, differences in income levels, collisions of interests, values, etc. It should be noted that the conflict itself is not necessarily a negative phenomenon, and at times it may include the struggle for justice, development, and compliance with law. However, if the conflict is not resolved by peaceful means, and if it becomes aggravated and turns into violent forms, then its consequences can be dramatic.
The factors of large-scale social conflicts affecting the interests of large groups and segments of the population are as follows: increased social and economic inequality, uneven distribution of national resources, low wages for a significant part of society, which does not allow citizens to meet their basic needs. Another cause of conflicts within the community can be inter-ethnic conflicts, which are based on various manifestations of ethnic discrimination and violations of the rights and interests of ethnic, national or religious groups. Inter-ethnic conflicts can be exacerbated by thoughtless or deliberately provocative statements made by politicians, representatives of the clergy and intellectual elite in mass media or any criminal activities. These and many other factors can lead to increased dissatisfaction of various social groups and individuals, and to reinforced group opposition, as well as to the formation of an image of the enemy. The widespread occurrence of these phenomena is a symptom of an increase in social tensions and indicates a high probability of conflict.
In order to resolve the conflict, not allowing it to escalate, it is necessary to understand its nature and causes, as well as to try to predict its possible consequences. Then one should develop a special set of measures and techniques to prevent the transition of the conflict into a violent one. Conflict prevention includes any constructive approach that will prevent the escalation of tension or any forms of debates that can lead to violent forms of conflict with the use of armed forces – these constructive approaches also include creation of conditions for a peaceful resolution of existing contradictions and a step-by-step resolution of the main problems causing the conflict situation.

The concept of “conflict management” implies not only the settlement of an already existing confrontation, but also the creation of conditions for its prevention. And the greatest significance of the two specified management tasks is a conflict prevention.

Well-organized work on conflict prevention reduces the number of conflicts and eliminates the possibility of destructive conflict situations.

As it is seen from the international practice, the societies, which are experiencing post-conflict reconstruction and socio-political transformation, are often accompanied by aggravating domestic political tensions, and for these societies the conflict prevention is particularly relevant. Formation of a legal state should be related to the general process of democratization, the development of a market economy, the development of civil society, as well as the decentralization of power, ensuring equal rights and opportunities for all citizens and various social groups. Such a strategy will contribute to sustainable and secure development, while the aggravation of internal conflicts can be a serious obstacle to maintaining stability and moving forward.

Prevention of violent conflicts as a basis for social security
The term “conflict prevention” in a conflict science has a quite broad meaning. Conflict prevention is a set of measures aimed at overcoming social contradictions to preserve and to strengthen a stable state and an order in a certain area or in society as a whole. We are talking here about the prevention of contradictions at the pre-conflict (latent) stage in order to eliminate their root causes, or to mitigate them. This requires the early recognition, elimination or weakening of conflict factors, which is very difficult. There is a certain methodology for this - a careful and continuous collection of relevant information and its analysis with the aim of giving early warning of an impending conflict and developing appropriate response measures at its most initial stages.

Conflict prevention should be aimed at creating such conditions for life and interaction of people that would minimize the likelihood of aggravating contradictions between them and the transition of the conflict into a destructive form. As practice shows, it is much easier to prevent conflicts than to resolve them; moreover, this activity requires less efforts, money and time. Therefore, conflict prevention is a very important and a relevant topic.

It is on conflict prevention that the efforts of both state and public institutions should be directed. Anticipation of possible scenarios creates the conditions for their more effective management.

Forecasting the occurrence of conflicts is the main prerequisite for successful prevention activities. Forecasting and prevention of conflicts are important factors in the regulation of social contradictions. As world practice shows, civil society activists can play an important role in monitoring and analyzing information that is directly related to the conflict.

Early warning includes not only the continuous collection and provision of information, but also requires constant objective analysis of the data obtained, as well as the development of appropriate response strategies, where immediacy and quick reaction is quite important.

Contribution of women into the prevention of conflicts and crisis  

In recent decades, in many countries of the world, there is a growing understanding that the role of women in strengthening peace and stability is important, given the fact that women everywhere constitute half of the population. Since 2000 (Resolution No. 1325), the UN Security Council and other international institutions have repeatedly adopted resolutions that emphasize the importance of women's participation in peace processes, as well as in post-conflict reconstruction and development. However, in practice, women do not always participate in any official negotiations, and the opinions of women and their experience are often neglected, both at the local and international levels.

At the same time, in conflict science and preventive diplomacy, more and more attention is paid to the role of women in the early prevention of conflicts and crises. Many politicians and experts start to realize that the full and equal participation of women in all stages of the conflict prevention and resolution processes can improve the conditions for building a just and peaceful society. As evidenced by international experience, women can play a constructive role in internal conflict and the collapse of communities. They often make efforts to preserve internal political stability and social order, acting as advocates for peace, both in their communities and in the country as a whole.

It can be proved by the fact that active women’s organizations, working on the ground, often contribute to the harmonization of social relations, reconciling the conflicting sides, overcoming differences in order to prevent the conflict from escalating and its transition into the violent phase. However, to make the work of women's organizations more successful, it is necessary that the women’s right to participate in decision-making is universally recognized, and their voice is heard by those in power.

It should be noted that women's organizations can serve as an important link between different groups of the population and those responsible for developing security policies. This will enhance local initiative and strengthen civic responsibility. Collaboration with gender-sensitive civil society organizations can help strengthen the capacity of security sector institutions and their staff to respond more effectively to various threats and challenges, which is especially important in the existing global turbulence. At the same time, such collaboration can contribute to more efficient security and justice, since civil society organizations have the potential, experience and access to knowledge that can be very useful for security institutions.

The role of Colombian women in resolving a protracted armed conflict in Colombia, which has deep economic, political and social roots can be set as an example of the successful work of women's organizations,

The conflict lasted for more than 50 years and resulted in many human sacrifices. And in October 2013, representatives of women's organizations in Colombia joined their efforts to put an end to one of the most horrible internal armed conflicts in the world and to reach a just and sustainable peace agreement. With the UN Women’s support, the representatives of women’s organizations actively got involved into the peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

In December 2014, women presented their proposals for a peace agreement. Soon, the negotiations yielded positive results, and both parties to the conflict recognized the "important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and peace-building." During the recent negotiations between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, women-representatives of civil society once again played a crucial role by mobilizing their efforts at the national level and voicing out their demands and concerns. The fact that they loudly stated their position greatly contributed to the inclusion of a number of provisions relating to women in the texts of the final peace agreements.

As it is known, the long-standing Northern Ireland conflict was caused by the aggravation of the contradictions between the Protestant and Catholic communities living in Ulster. The activities of numerous extremist organizations in Northern Ireland led to constant armed clashes, and attempts to achieve peace were unsuccessful. For three decades, the acute religious-political conflict claimed the lives of about 3.5 thousand people.

In order to put an end to the confrontation, the women of Northern Ireland got united and took a decisive step to ensure their representation in the peace process. Thus, a new political party, the Coalition of Women of Northern Ireland, was born. Representatives of various sectors of society and organizations such as trade unions, public associations, feminist and human rights groups became members of this party.

Due to the fact that the Coalition included representatives of both Catholic and Protestant churches, women got a real opportunity to become mediators in negotiations between the parties to the conflict. The outcome of these negotiations was the "Good Friday Agreement" (Belfast Agreement). As a result, at the turn of the 80s-90s the world community has witnessed the transition of Northern Ireland society, which for many decades has been living under the laws of religious intolerance and confrontation, to a new development model based on the principles of democracy, non-violence and equality of citizens, regardless of their religious affiliation. For the abandonment of the old system in favor of the transition to a new path of development, the overwhelming majority of the country's citizens spoke in a referendum held in Northern Ireland. However, there is every reason to assert that without the efforts of women - representatives of the conflicting parties, who became the main driving force of the peace process, the resolution of the conflict would hardly be possible.
During the negotiations on the Belfast Agreement, the Coalition of Women of Northern Ireland was able to insist that the document reflects such points as the protection of the rights of victims of conflict and reconciliation of the parties. Women also managed to stipulate for inclusion of the rights of women to equal participation in the political life of the country into the Agreement. Thus, this document not only puts an end to the hostilities in Northern Ireland, but also became the guarantor of women's rights, and also contributed to the formation of new democratic institutions in the country.

The experience of women in the zone of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is also of a great interest. In 1987 after 20 years of Israeli-occupied territories (the West Bank of the Jordan River and the Gaza Strip), the first Palestinian intifada (revolt) began, which aimed at the secession of the Palestinian Authority from Israel. During the occupation, Israel imposed strict restrictions on the Palestinian population, which hampered not only the economic development and the processes of self-determination of territories, but also had adverse effect on people's daily lives: freedom of movement, opportunity to arrange meetings and openly express their ideas, etc. There were also frequent cases of mistreatment, harassment and humiliation from the side of Israeli soldiers towards Palestinians.  

During the intifada, life in the occupied territories became almost unbearable. The situation was further deteriorated by the construction of the separation walls, which, according to the plan of the Israeli authorities, were to isolate the Jewish settlements from the Palestinian territories. This policy provoked protests from Palestinians, as well as from many Israeli women's organizations that were united in the Women's Coalition for Peace. Women weekly gathered in public places and held silent actions, demanding that the authorities stop the violent actions. Since the participants of the actions were wearing black clothes as a sign of grief for the victims, this movement was called "Women in Black". A start was made in Jerusalem, but gradually such vigils began to be held in 40 districts throughout Israel. In the north of the country, where many Palestinians live, Palestinian women - citizens of Israel - have also become actively involved in this activity.

In a while, women's organizations began to hold similar vigils in solidarity with Israeli women in a number of other countries. This is how the global network of “Women in Black” emerged, whose members gradually began to carry out actions to protest violence and injustice in their parts of the world. For example, in Italy, "Women in Black" are protesting against violence and organized crime. In Germany, “Women in Black” oppose neo-Nazism, racism against migrant workers and nuclear weapons. In India, “Women in Black” hold vigils calling for an end to the cruel treatment of women by religious fundamentalists. And during the war in the Balkans, “Women in Black” in Belgrade demonstrated a vivid example of inter-ethnic cooperation that inspired women and men. And although women in each country determine their goals and actions independently, the initiative groups of the Women in Black all over the world keep in touch and hold international meetings and conferences.

One example of the successful participation of women in the peace process is the peace agreement reached in March 2014 between the Government of the Philippines and the Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which completed the military phase of the multi-year conflict in Mindanao.

Negotiations between the parties to the conflict lasted 17 years, and they became successful when one third of the participants in the negotiations were women. It is important to note that the signed agreement enshrined provisions on women's rights, providing leadership positions for women and protecting them from violence. The agreement also included special economic programs for women ex-combatants, i.e. a category of women that is often overlooked in programs for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration into peaceful life.

As it is known, from 1983 to 2009, a civil war broke out on the territory of Sri Lanka between the government belonging to the Sinhalese ethnic group and the militant Tamil Elam Liberation Tigers movement, whose members were ethnic Tamils. Sinhalese make up 75% of the island’s population, of which 94% practice Buddhism. In turn, Tamils, constituting 18% of the population, are Hindu or Muslim. Tamil and Sinhalese women who participated in the gender subcommittee which was created during the peace talks in 2003 were able to develop a joint agenda for the peace talks, which served as the basis for the start of a peace dialogue.

Recognition of the fact that the armed conflict had a devastating impact on the lives of women of both parties to the conflict was included into the preamble of this document and it became an important achievement of Sri Lankan women. In January 2008, the Government of Sri Lanka announced that it refused to conclude an armistice which was previously concluded with the leadership of the Tamil Tigers, and launched an attack on the territories controlled by them. On May 17, 2009, the Tamil Tigers officially acknowledged defeat in the war and announced a cease-fire. Since then, the situation in the country has become calmer, although some manifestations of religious conflicts still exist today.

In Liberia, the women's movement has achieved significant success in the peaceful resolution of the conflict, which had lasted up to 15 years. Liberian women, who were excluded from the negotiation process to end the civil war in the country, beset the negotiators until they signed the agreement. As a result, they managed to achieve the disarmament of the warring parties and the signing of a peace agreement. It should be noted that Liberia became the first African country where a woman was elected as a president – her name was Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.


The above mentioned facts are a proof that peace agreements, developed and promoted by women are fairer and more viable, and such agreement mainly aims at meeting everyday needs and solving the problems of ordinary people. Women tend to react more acutely to social inequalities, poverty, economic problems, human rights violations, and make efforts to prevent the escalation of the conflict. In addition, they clearly realize that it is impossible to move from war to peace without restoring the economy and social infrastructure. Therefore, these are women who manage to develop the most successful and promising strategies for the prevention and resolution of conflicts, as well as they are promoters of the peaceful development of society.

The international experience shows that in those countries, where women have a real opportunity to influence the resolution of issues related to conflict prevention, there are far fewer manifestations of extremism, and the crises are usually resolved in an amicable way. According to many experts, the greater involvement of women in the decision-making process helps to prevent conflict and also to build a sustainable world. A higher level of women's representation in parliament reduces the risk of civil wars, and increasing the number of women deputies by 5% reduces the risk of violence by five times in case of an internal conflict or crisis.

Thus, there is no doubt that the participation of women mediators or women's coalitions in the prevention or resolution of the conflict can be a good starting point for strengthening peace and security. As it turns out, in those countries where women have a real opportunity to influence the resolution of issues related to war and peace, there are far fewer manifestations of extremism, and crises are usually resolved peacefully. At the same time, it should be noted that women are still not sufficiently involved in the work on the prevention of conflicts and crises. However, even if women are not sufficiently represented in the political bodies and power structures, they are sometimes able to find other ways to make their voices heard, and their opinions taken into account.

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