Looking back, learning moving forward.
WILPF had its birth in the April 1915 congress in the Hague that brought together more than 1,200 women to protest and stop the war in Europe and seek ways to build real and lasting peace and true freedom. We have learned that to achieve these aims we have to work for establishing a world economic and social order that is based on fulfilling the needs of the community and not on exploitation and private profit. It requires constant analysis, steadfastness and perseverance.
After 100 years of struggling for life, the women's peace movement through numerous UN conferences has created a new formula for peaceful co-existence and conflict handling which has become generally accepted. CEDAW, the Beijing Platform for action, UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 and so on. All these resolutions and documents are talking about how to reach security, justice and sustainable peace, and they are now available and could be used by responsible politicians--women as well as men. But the implementation seems to take an unacceptably long time.
The challenge for WILPF in moving forward is to change the minds and hearts of all these--especially the powerful who still think that weapons, also weapons of mass destruction, are means to solve conflicts, who still think that the North can survive by exploiting the South, that the rich have the right to survive on the shoulders of the poor, that it is not a problem that women are carrying the main burden of poverty, who still think that there are next to no limits for exploiting the planet.
Aletta Jacobs said in her opening address in The Hague in 1915, Those of us who have convened this Congress ... have never called it a Peace Congress, but an International Congress of Women assembled to protest against war and to suggest steps which may lead to warfare being an impossibility.'
In moving forward WILPF still needs to suggest such steps, and WILPF still needs to bring the women's perspective. We also have the responsibility to spread the insight that we all live on the same vulnerable globe and that we will only have a future to deliver to coming generations if we take care of our planet. Dreams about heroism and world hegemony should after thousands of years be left for collective responsibility and love for life.
After around a hundred years of work for peace and our own survival we want to strengthen WILPF to be able to move forward--all 36 Sections and Groups waiting to become Sections. We have a strong case, and we are all over the world. ... Why shouldn't we be able to move forward with our case, a world without weapons of mass destruction, a world that solves conflicts with non violent means, a world that recognizes women as a driving force for equality, justice and peace ... we are the driving force, let's move forward in the same direction!
Annelise Ebbe and Kerstin Greback Presidents, WILPF
By the year 2015, WILPF's 100th anniversary, I hope with all my heart that we will be celebrating the end of military conflicts, militarized solutions and arms, and that WILPF, together with other global, national and community peace or ganizations, will have persuaded governments and those who favor violence, that the future of humanity requires promoting peace, understanding and connection in the world.
Amparo Guerrero (Colombia), Vice President
Here we are, 94 years later, struggling with the same forces that put profit before people and planet, that profit from war either financially, psychologically or politically, and that profit from women and people of colour being kept poor, down and out. But there are very clear action plans of exactly what we need to do to preserve our environment, to achieve equity between men and women, to make development sustainable, to end racism--that's what the UN conferences of the 90s produced: action plans, with clear goals.
Felicity Hill (Australia), Vice President
Having been involved in women's actions particularly in the Asia-Pacific region for demilitarization of current global militarized security system and policies that critically undermine the very lives, livelihoods and human rights of the vulnerable, I feel deep admiration for the long history of WILPF women who from the inception of the organization almost a century ago have addressed the root causes of war, and in turn militarism, and I see hopes in our global solidarity for a demilitarized world. I hope, too, for us to continue the work with even more focus on a gender analysis that keenly examines the power structure and the inequality in which we all live and calls for a just world for all.
Kozue Akibayashi (Japan), Vice President
Costa Rica 1982
* Democratic Republic of Congo 2007
French Polynesia 1997
New Zealand 1918
* Nigeria 1952
Russian Federation 1994
* Rwanda 2006
Sierra Leone 1997
Sri Lanka 1979
* = group, bold = current
From her vantage point of 23 years as secretary general and six years as international president, Edith Ballantyne distills this 'lesson learned' in the lead up to our 100th anniversary. She goes on to comment: 'What I find interesting is that in 1934, as the economic crisis deepened, WILPF recognized in its Constitution the need to work for a different economic and social order. It dropped reference to that as the cold war heightened but then re-introduced a softer version in 1982, I think today most WILPF members know that to get toward a lasting peace and real freedom the present world order has to be transformed. The question is how.'