“It is time to do things differently”

Lord McConnell








Our event this week in Bujumbura (introduced in my previous blog) is split into two parts.

Special UN Envoy Mary Robinson’s consultation and mobilisation in support of the Framework of Hope will be followed by a Great Lakes Regional Conference on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 – on Women, Peace, Security and Development – in the hope that the action plans for both have some synergy. They are connected, one is essential for the other.

The first event has ended and Mary is off to Brussels to build support in the EU for her role and the opportunity that exists here for a lasting peace. So, what has been achieved?

I have never been great at sitting listening to speeches. My restlessness and desire to participate got me in to a lot of trouble at school. My University lecture attendance was erratic. And throughout my political life I have rarely enjoyed being in the audience at Party Conference or elsewhere. So Tuesday might have been torture as 20 different platform speakers each had their turn.

But I felt energised.

The women here have spent two decades and more working with rape victims; children who have lost their parents, their dignity, or both; girls excluded from education; and those with damaged minds and bodies. They have made their own alliances, built networks and tried to shout loud enough to be heard.

This conference has energy because these women are at last part of the process.

Mary Robinson reminded participants that she is the first woman to be UN Special Envoy, and that even on the technical committee overseeing the implementation of the Framework for Peace, all the representatives of the 11 Great Lakes countries are male. So the women have to find their voice through other mechanisms and this event is a start.

She outlined plans for a Women’s Great Lakes Platform to support women in the Region pursue peace, security and development. This Platform would not be a new bureaucratic operation, but a ‘light touch’ co-ordination of financial support and information to resource those working on the ground.

There are also plans for women to influence the benchmarks, and be part of the monitoring as the framework is implemented. She wants ther input, but she also wants and needs their support and solidarity.

Mary’s passion, her constant reference to values, and her commitment to human rights inspire a loyalty from those around her. She clearly has long-term allies in the room. She is a new kind of Envoy. This could well be the difference this time.

Despite a disappointing ‘same as usual’ presentation from the World Bank, the first day became increasingly focused on action. Women from across the Region, supported by their sisters from across Africa, are angry that violence has continued for so long, and that previous plans have failed. They do not want to be observers, watching another failure, they want to make change happen.

The Conference heard a terrific ‘from the heart’ speech from French First Lady and Ambassador for France Libertes, Mme Valerie Trierweiler. She drew on her recent visit to DRC and conversations with ‘four generations of women who had been raped’ to issue a strong call for national and international action against sexual violence in the Great Lakes Region. Her presence, together with the French Minister responsible for relationships with French speaking countries around the world, was taken as a strong indication that France was ready to be more involved than at any time in recent years.

I am left with clear impressions.

First there is an opportunity here. Mary was asked regularly this week if this was a last chance for peace. Her answer was careful but consistent. She said failure would be unacceptable as the violence against women and children has to stop and for perhaps the first time there is a real momentum for change.

Second, many speakers this week have stressed that the same old approach will not work. This time the commitments from governments must be backed by public and civic understanding and engagement. That way peace will be more sustainable, and governments will be held to account by their people, not outsiders.

And third, these women can be the difference. It is clear that they have made and sustained links over the years of conflict. There are leaders and activists here who are talking the same language of change, working across borders, and frustrated by years of inaction. Engaged now, they can drive support for change across ethnic and national divides.

What now? More on that tomorrow…….

7 comments for ““It is time to do things differently”

  1. MilesJSD
    11/07/2013 at 1:14 pm

    Any “cooperative survival-thrival” depends upon how sustainworthily we gain, use and collectively manage
    (1) our Internal (individual) life-energies
    (2) our External bio- and techno- , renewable and non-renewable, Lifesupportive Energies.

    No past human-civilisation succeeded in either of these essentials;
    and alas! no current human-civilisation is succeeding either;

    on the contrary “we” are performing worse than in the Past, in both our individual-self-management and our collective sustainworthiness of and towards Earth’s-Lifesupports.

    More runaway-slitherings down slippery-slopes, community-collapses, and grossly-wasted and misapplied human-energies, worldwide, are surely inevitable

    unless a truly ‘win-win-win’ peaceful-revolution into Sustainworthiness can be achieved, including my Mary Robinson and other success-likely women, men, youths, or children.

  2. P.Selvaratnam
    12/07/2013 at 2:00 pm

    Chance for peace?

    The ethnic minorities in Sri Lanka have been oppressed politically, economically, socially, culturally and environmentally for 65yrs since ”independence” = internal colonialism.

    National, regional and international human rights organisations have been asking the Commonwealth Heads of Government to shift the venue of CGOGM2013 out of Sri Lanka unless Sri Lanka improves its human rights violations. So far only Canada has laid down the condition. Prime Minister Cameron and Foreign Secretary Hague have said they would attend CHOGM and speak with President Rajapakse.

    Sri Lanka has been refusing to extend invitations to more than eight UN Special mandate holders though they have been asking for it. What is the cumulative effect of this over several years please? Furthermore Instead of implementing recommendations of its own Commission, LLRC, it appointed two PR firms in the US and told its parliament that it doesn’t concur with the UNHRC resolution.

    The Commonwealth has been refusing to take action on Sri Lanka for decades. In fact when UN Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial Killings has been refused entry for years and he has been voicing his concern in New York and Geneva, COmmonwealth Ministerial Action Group gave three consequent periods of membership to Sri Lanka contrary to its principple of letting any member have a maximum of two consecutive terms.

    This President appointed 15 Commissions to inquire into corruption at high levels, murders, abductions, disappearances, etc but he is refusing to release the reports. Furthermore he halted the investigation into murders as soon as the armed rebels were killed in May 2009. There have been no investigation into more than scores of murders in 2005-2008 outside the warzone – that includes murders of 4/5 Tamil parliamentarians.

    The oppressed in Sri Lanka have no hopes of getting justice and peace.

  3. P.Selvaratnam
    12/07/2013 at 2:17 pm

    Please convey to Mar Robinson about the plight of women under an army of occupation:

    Sri Lanka: Women’s Insecurity in the North and East, Internationall Crisis Group, December 2011,

    Sri Lanka: Rape of Tamil Detainees, Human Rights Watch, February 2013, http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/02/26/sri-lanka-rape-tamil-detainees

    Working With Women Is Difficult – Sri Lanka’s Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, 11 July 2013, http://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/working-with-women-is-difficult-sri-lankas-speaker-chamal-rajapaksa/

    Selective Treatment And Women’s Issues: I Wish To Lodge A Strong A Protest, woman parliamentarian, 12 July 2013, http://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/selective-treatment-and-womens-issues-i-wish-to-lodge-a-strong-a-protest/

  4. Norbert MBU-MPUTU
    12/07/2013 at 4:24 pm

    My Lord,

    Thanks for your commitment; the involvement of this country and also the full and now supports from important women and persons for the peace in Congo. The paradox is, as you probably learned from Congolese people suffering since: is this time the last chance?… Or, how could it be possible to be the last chance for peace?…
    We are the member of the Congolese diaspora and don’t we think that we could also be part of the solution?… Could we have, for the last time, any international Congolese meeting or Conference with innovative approaches on the so ongoing problem, where people are still continue to die; where women, till now are still suffering for been rapped?… Something need to be done, the truth need to be told to those governments who are arming rebels… Thanks for your supports.

  5. P.Selvaratnam
    12/07/2013 at 8:51 pm

    It’s very frightening to learn that women faced sexual violence in Egypt Tahrir Square during the recent protests.

  6. P.Selvaratnam
    13/07/2013 at 12:29 pm


    ”Four women are raped every five minutes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to a study done in May 2011 by three researchers, including SUNY’s Tia Palermo. “These nationwide estimates of the incidence of rape are 26 times higher than the 15,000 conflict-related cases confirmed by the United Nations for the DRC in 2010,” says Palermo. The level of sexualized violence has received an intense amount of international focus, which has revealed the varied kinds of horrors soldiers have perpetrated against women, even while the country maintains the highest number of U.N. peacekeeping forces in the world. …..”

  7. P.Selvaratnam
    18/07/2013 at 9:25 am

    As Lord McConnell is very much interested in the area od aid, I wish to bring the following to his attention:

    Horizontal Inequalities as a cause of conflict: findings and policy conclusions, Overseas Development Institute, 19 February 2013. During the Q&A (Part2 in the video) period, Prof Frances said:
    ”Aid is often complicit in worsening horizontal inequalities in countries like Ruwanda, Burundi and Sri Lanka – aid over many years, not just during a critical period has supported one group rather than another: partly because donors tend to work with the govt and the govt wants to support one group rather than another and partly because this is not an issue built into their consciousness and they are not worried about this and they just go ahead and put a lot of money into it. It tends to happen. That’s why it’s important it needs to be built into aid. Let me come back to Do No Harm – you may not be correcting things, but if you correct your own actions… I can’t answer the SriLankan question. DfID can’t answer it either. It’s deeply distressing and deeply poitical situation. International community, if they’re going to do anything should come together through the UN and so on foreign office take action, terrible situation. One thing we haven’t talked about is correcting political inequalities. We were focused on socio-economics. One of the things that contribute to political inequalities is simply our unthinking advocacy of multi-party democracy..If you have a majority group that majority group is going to winner takes all like Westminste model particularly and that imparts a very big horizontal inequality If you are in an ethnic society in which people don’t change and ethnicity is durable. If one group is bigger than the other that group has permanent power over the other and the only way that group can get any power is actually through some sort of violence. So what we are talking really is different sort of political system which shares power in terms of federalism which helps decentralisation which helps. There are all sorts of systems of sharing power at the top also.So there is a whole lot of things. But the system we are preaching as a community at the moment is one that is blind to this issue just as economic system and that is very important.”

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