The WFWPI 11th Annual Women's Conference for Peace in the Middle East, "Women Uniting for Peace: Resolving Conflict and Educating to Live in Peace" built upon the numerous programs, projects and conclusions of the 10 previous conferences. The nearly 70 participants came from 14 Middle Eastern countries and Europe, as well as WFWP Japan. WFWP Japan also provided grants for many of the participants. The diverse expertise and experience of participants who ranged from politicians, ministers, representatives of international organizations, educators, activists, and NGO leaders brought breadth and balance to the discussions.
The Cyprus bicommunal peace and reconciliation programs of the last decade, initiated and driven by women, provided an appropriate model to stimulate and open discussions. Dr. L Y M Park, conference chairwoman and president of WFWPI moved participants in her opening remarks when she pointed out key elements of reconciliation. She spoke of her own personal experience of reconciliation after being forced to flee North Korea in her youth. H.E. In'am Al-Mufti, Jordanian Senator and special advisor over many years to WFWPI Middle Eastern conferences addressed the situation of Israel and Palestine as another case in need of the practice of reconciliation. She stressed the role of education, noting several projects of Jordan's Queen Rania. Mme Keri Klerides, daughter of former Cyprus President and Mme Oya Talat, wife of current Northern Cypriot leader, both friends and colleagues in the bi-communal activities of Cyprus spoke deeply of their vision for a unified Cyprus. Quite coincidentally, both women came to the session bearing painful news about their mothers' very recent serious illnesses, bringing a depth of compassion and empathy that no doubt benefited our de-liberations.
Two days of intensive working sessions were spent discussing how women of the region can better unite for peace through aiming at regional "education toward a culture of peace" standards, enhancing the status of women in our societies; and by striving toward eradicating poverty and injustice. The two focal points, "women and conflict resolution" and "educating to live in peace", were found to overlap considerably. It was noted that women's talent and expertise through life's education and feminine/ maternal role are arguably her best training for successful conflict resolution. Speakers included a founding member of the bi-communal Echo Peace Village, Dr Maria Padjihavlou, Executive Director, American Islamic Congress, Zainab Alsuaj, and former UN Committee on the Rights of the Child member, Judith Karpe from Israel.
A Declaration and Plan of Action was agreed upon by consensus. It summarizes the conference conclusions. An official letter from the Human Rights Council president to participants was entered into the minutes. It has become more and more apparent through 11 years of peace building deliberations and networking that peace is not only not attainable without the involvement of women but that in that process, "women have significantly contributed to redefining the concept of peace and how leadership must be exercised in pursuit of that goal."
Daughter (center) of former Cyprus President, Keri Klerides; a Medical doctor from Morocco and WFWPI UN representative.