Gila Svirsky: A Personal Website

On Women, Peace and Stability

Dispatches from the Peace Front
Women in Black: A Book
Women in Black: Conference 2005
Security Council Address
Other Stuff by Me
Stuff by Others
A Tad About Me
Links I Like
Contact Me
Search this Site!
By Cora Weiss, Hague Appeal for Peace
Presentation at the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs on "The United Nations and Security" (11 October 2006)
Cora Weiss

The outrageous demonstration of nuclear weapon capability by North Korea may be explained by psychiatrists as a very dangerous and expensive attention getting device. No more dangerous than India and Pakistan’s show of force. And clearly no more dangerous than the refusal to abide by international law of the initial five nuclear weapon states who have agreed, under Article 6 of the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty], to eliminate their nuclear weapons. You can imagine what the poor North Korean people could have done with the money it must have cost to break the de facto global moratorium on nuclear testing.


Also outrageous have been the gun killers in American schools. They too may have needed attention, which, if provided, could have prevented the tragic deaths of so many innocent children.


I hope that the powerful voices assembled in this hall will call on Japan, China, South Korea, the United States, Russia and North Korea to immediately resume the 6 power talks, to end North Korea’s isolation, and, as Hans Blix has said, to bring international assistance and assurance that there will be no further threats to the DPRK [North Korea] as a way to prevent their further testing and development of nuclear weapons.  But as long as some have nuclear weapons others will always want them, too. Our children have taught us that is guaranteed behavior.


Today is the 30th anniversary of the Reykjavik Summit when President Ronald Reagan met with President Gorbachev of the then Soviet Union came close to agreeing on the elimination of all nuclear weapons. Their talks actually led to the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the INF. That remarkable meeting between two adversaries should be a beacon to remind us that what may seem impossible is possible and can happen. 


There are 4 purposes for the United Nations, according to Article 1 of the Charter, and I would like to address the 4th, “To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.”  Because, to “maintain international peace and security….” And points 2 and 3 of Article 1, and especially to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war…” we need to harmonize the actions not just of nations but of the United Nations and its departments as well.


The Hague Appeal for Peace was in partnership for three years with the Department for Disarmament Affairs to develop peace and disarmament education with local educators in Peru, Cambodia, Niger and Albania. The programs they created, which integrate teaching for and about human rights, disarmament, social and economic justice, gender equality, sustainable development, alternatives to violence and human security, have been sustained, even to some extent integrated into national school systems. But along the way we bumped into UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDP, UNV’s, and others who thought they were doing similar work but never talked to each other.


The purpose of this irreplaceable institution can not be achieved as long as each division, each department, each agency is a separate turf, competing for funding, for media, for the Secretary-General’s and member state’s attention.


The new Secretary-General may wish to consider a new approach to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, as he begins to implement reforms.


Let’s say the 1st Committee [on Disarmament and International Security] decides to put a cap on military spending, a cause of instability, which is now over $1.1 trillion annually. And you decide that no nation should spend more on its military budget than on what it spends on health and education combined. Thus military spending reductions should produce increases in human security spending. That would involve cooperation between ECOSOC, UNICEF, UNESCO, WHO and the DDA.


If the DDA and UNIFEM were to work together maybe that would help prevent the deaths of 30,000 women and girls every year killed by guns, and would help heal the wounds and trauma of the millions of women intimidated, enslaved, robbed and raped at gun point. Go to to read the stories of women survivors of gun violence. The world needs an Arms Trade Treaty based on international human rights law. 

The First Committee on Disarmament and International Security has a mandate defined by the General Assembly. Thus it is open to amendment, to enlargement to take into consideration the human, social, economic and environmental costs of war. War is waste and waste is the greatest environmental crime. UNEP and DDA have more in common than in conflict.


There is a CASA program, Coordinated Action on Small Arms, where various agencies sit at the same table. It is only for small arms. That example could be multiplied.


Perhaps the most egregious area where harmony is needed is on the issue of women – the absence of women. When half the population is not represented at the table where the fate of humanity is at stake, we cannot expect to sustain peace agreements.


In a study prepared for the last meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, “A review of peace agreements indicates that issues related to gender equality and positions of women within the post conflict society are typically excluded from peace agreements.” He added that, “The absence of women from peace tables results in insufficient attention to and reflection of their concerns in eventual agreements. Their absence raises questions about the democratic legitimacy of the peace process and lacks the inclusiveness to generate any sense of ownership among women.”


It’s not just the peace process, my friends. Women don’t count unless you count the women. There are totally insufficient numbers of women who are environmentally sensitive, human rights sensitive, gender equality sensitive and peace sensitive in the entire UN system. The new Secretary-General might want to establish a 1325 test. Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, may be the most important, and sadly, the least implemented, calls for participation of women at all levels of governance and at all tables of decision making.  He might ask that every decision be scrutinized for its impact on, inclusion of, and consideration of women.


Finally, I would like to ask us to reconsider the use of the word Security.  Security relies on force. Stability indicates human security, the presence of health, education, human rights, sustainable development, rule of law, etc.  Don’t you think, after watching the carnage of Iraq, which is not over, the carnage of Lebanon, those raped and killed by gun fire in Darfur, children without parents, parents without children, that the day of resort to force is over? “Force has reached its limit,” said the candidate for Secretary-General from Afghanistan.  Who will teach the powerful that overwhelming force can only result in overwhelming catastrophe?


I would love to change the name of the Security Council Resolution to, “Women, Peace and Stability”.


The Oxford Research Group released a study showing the root causes for this century of conflict and instability: climate change, marginalization of the majority of the world’s people, competition for resources and global militarization. Include among those poverty, humiliation, domination and occupation. Note the absence of terrorism.


You are here to “save succeeding generations form the scourge of war”.  If we know what makes for war, why don’t we apply that knowledge?


Standing in this great house fifty years ago, Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”


We need to see courage, compassion, vision and action in the women and men diplomats who hold the future of our children and yours in their hands. Civil society has for years made efforts to bring people together, to build bridges, not walls, to sow the seeds of peace. We care deeply about leaving a world safe for our children and grandchildren. We dream, that as Eve Merriam has written, “One day our daughter’s daughter will ask, ‘Mommy, what is war?’”.

Cora Weiss, President of the Hague Appeal for Peace, has been well known as a peace activist since the 1960’s, when she was a co-founder of Women Strike for Peace, which played a major role in ending nuclear testing in the atmosphere. The Hague Appeal for Peace, dedicated to the abolition of war, seeks to re-focus our minds on the vision of a world in which violent conflict is acknowledged as illegitimate, illegal, and fundamentally unjust.  She recently ended her term as President of the International Peace Bureau (a Nobel Laureate).

"A very scary situation in North Korea, but let's move on to the good news.  As of last night, North Korea has one less bomb."   Jon Stewart