On Thursday 27th October, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security (APPG-WPS) hosted the fourth Roundtable on WPS with leads from Embassies and High Commissions. The event, organised in collaboration with the Canadian High Commission and held under Chatham House rules, was chaired by a representative from the Canadian High Commission.
The discussion focused on the gendered impacts of the war in Ukraine, and how the WPS agenda is playing out in the midst of this. The aim of the discussion was to hear from those on the frontlines in Ukraine, share lessons learnt and keep the WPS agenda front and centre of the work being done.
The importance of women civil society in times of conflict was clear from the discussion at the roundtable. Attendees spoke of the existing power of women civil society organisations on the ground in Ukraine as frontline human rights defenders, and the need for donor governments and the international community to recognise this and factor in civil society when implementing any humanitarian response. Attendees highlighted that the participation pillar needs to be cross-cutting in recovery, relief and prevention to make sure that the response to conflict is feminist in nature and inclusive, and participation needs to be intersectional. This could be done by adopting and implementing a Feminist Foreign Policy. It was also mentioned that while women, girls and LGBTQI+ people are on the frontline of the response in Ukraine, this is not always relayed in discussions or media. It is vital that these diverse roles, whether in the military, politics or diplomacy, are made visible.
Attendees also spoke to the importance of prevention of conflict. They highlighted that investing in women, girls and LGBTQI+ communities before conflict actually happens, and keeping gender equality at the forefront of foreign policy, means that the response can be much more effective. This is something that was witnessed in Ukraine, and should be kept on board going forward.
Finally, attendees discussed what feminist relief and recovery could look like in Ukraine. Discussions highlighted the need for cross-cutting relief and reconstruction efforts that do not silo the WPS agenda and use it as a box-ticking exercise. Women, girls and marginalised communities’ needs and rights must be included in every aspect of this, whether this be access to schooling, care services, accessible mental health services, and socioeconomic development that does not lead to the feminisation of poverty.
The discussion also touched on other important issues, including how supporting migrants and refugees from Ukraine is crucial to the overall strength of Ukrainian recovery. Migrant remittances, in all situations of conflict, are crucial to the economic strength of households, and any National Action Plan on WPS should consider this domestic aspect of the WPS agenda.