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Obama: Women can make world more peaceful

- The Washington Times - Monday, December 19, 2011

Two days after ending the war in Iraq, President Obama on Monday issued a "national action plan" aimed at giving women a bigger role in resolving conflicts around the world.

"Deadly conflicts can be more effectively avoided, and peace can be best forged and sustained when women become equal partners in all aspects of peace-building and conflict prevention," the White House said in a 26-page document.

The executive order directs the Defense and State departments and the U.S. Agency for International Development to "accelerate, institutionalize, and better coordinate our efforts to advance women's inclusion in peace negotiations, peace-building activities, and conflict prevention." The White House said the first report on these efforts will be due in 2015.

Since 1992, the White House said, women have represented fewer than 3 percent of mediators and 8 percent of negotiators to major peace talks. Those numbers haven't changed much in spite of the passage more than 10 years ago of a U.N. Security Council resolution that sought to increase women's participation in international conflict resolution.

"Peace accords are too often negotiated only between the small number of armed combatants who originally fought the war — groups whose experiences on the battlefield are not easily transferred to the difficult task of building peace," said the statement of national policy. "When included as meaningful participants, women enlarge the scope of agreements to include the broader set of critical societal priorities and needs required for lasting and just peace."

The administration cited several examples of women playing major roles in peace accords, including the 1998 Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland and Liberian women's efforts to bring that country's civil war to an end in 2003. The action plan said much of the government's efforts should be directed at preventing violence against women in countries with armed conflicts.

Since 2010, the State Department and USAID have spent about $39 million in humanitarian assistance aimed at preventing and responding to sexual and gender-based violence against refugees in warring nations. The action plan calls for the U.S. to provide guidance and assistance in a broad range of goals, but doesn't address any additional costs for such efforts.

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