The power of connecting local, regional and global levels of action: The story of the Pacific Women Mediators Network
The story you are about to read illustrates that the impact of peacebuilding does not happen overnight. It can take decades of building and nurturing partnerships, following well-crafted engagement strategies at the local, national, regional, and global levels and implementing them to promote and establish new standards and principles.
This story is a testimony to this. Witness the remarkable journey of how decades of Pacific Island women’s local efforts rippled across the globe, shaping international policies at the UN that ultimately returned to touch the lives of countless women in the Pacific and beyond.
Where it all started: How did local expertise inform global policy?
In 2000, feminist peacebuilding champions Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, Adivasu Levu, Agnes Titus and the late Josephine Teakeni from the Pacific Islands region championed the localisation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) at a time when each of their island nations were reeling from the impact of political and armed conflicts.
Informed by the fact that the experiences and expertise of local women largely go unseen, UNSCR1325 recognises women's critical role in peacebuilding efforts and the necessity to include them in decision-making processes related to peace and security.
Without the tireless effort of local women from the Pacific advocating for redesigning the (decision-making) table at the global level, landmark resolution 1325 would not allow women to claim their space at it. When resolution 1325 was adopted, Vanessa Heleta, Sharon, Adivasu, Agenes and Josephine formed regional, national and local partnerships. They wanted to create a more comprehensive and effective approach to promoting and implementing the resolution's principles by establishing partnerships at different levels. As a result, their experience and expertise informed the formulation and adoption of the Pacific Regional Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.
Sharon, Vanessa, Adivasu, Agnes, and Josephine’s efforts to inform global priorities in peace and security did not end with the adoption of UNSCR 1325 in 2000. Instead of stopping there, they continued their advocacy work and strengthened their partnerships with global policymakers. They achieved this by utilising the access from 2009 onwards provided to them through the GPPAC network, which allowed them to engage directly with important decision-makers, representatives, and officials within the United Nations system.
"Unfortunately, while we demonstrated what was possible when you invest in women’s peacebuilding networks, such as contributing to developing and adopting the Pacific Regional National Action Plan, the funding dried up. So, the annual engagement through the GPPAC 1325 week in New York, particularly between 2010 and 2015, meant our Pacific priorities were visible on the global level," shares Sharon Bhagwan Rolls.
With this valuable access, they advocated for recognising and acknowledging the complex linkage between climate change and security issues. They drew attention to the profound challenges climate change poses to peace and security, particularly in the Pacific region, which is highly vulnerable to its effects, such as rising sea levels and extreme weather events. Their deep understanding and knowledge of the impacts of climate change on their communities gave them credibility in these discussions. 2015 their efforts bore fruit when the Security Council adopted Resolution 2242 on Women, Peace, and Security. The resolution is a major milestone as it explicitly recognised the interconnectedness between peace and security issues and the impacts of climate change.
Where it is going: How does global policy impact the local level?
Fast forward to the year 2022.
GPPAC Pacific members contributed to establishing the Shifting the Power Coalition in collaboration with ActionAid Australia in 2016. It is "the only women-led regional alliance focused on strengthening the collective power, influence and leadership of diverse Pacific women to respond to disasters and climate change."
Pacific Forum Leaders adopted the Boe Declaration, which recognises climate change as the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific. The Boe Declaration calls for shifting from securitised responses to crises to a people-centered one.
Australia adopted its second National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.
Against this backdrop, diverse Pacific women developed and presented an idea conceived in collaboration with the then Secretary General of the Pacific Island Forum, Dame Meg Taylor, to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). They saw the opportunity to reinvest in local action on climate, peace and security and women-led implementation of UNSCR 1325. Their vision was to reach the unmet goals of the Pacific Regional Action Plan on Women's Peace and Security, which needed adequate resources for women peacebuilders to drive political action.
By the end of 2022, DFAT committed resources to the newly formed Pacific Women Mediators Network.
The Pacific Women Mediators Network is a locally-led, vibrant and inclusive platform to support women’s political leadership. The presence of GPPAC in New York supported the establishment of the Pacific Women Mediators Network by facilitating multi-stakeholder discussions and knowledge-sharing opportunities between Pacific women, the Australian Mission, and other UN actors. These engagements provided valuable opportunities for mutual learning and allowed Pacific Island women to gain insights from local and global perspectives. As a result, they were able to identify the right platforms for dialogue and build their network with a more strategic approach.
"We have persisted despite the lack of resources for the Regional Action Plan, and we have certainly built alliances through GPPAC Pacific. We have persisted in our representation on behalf of our Pacific Island peacebuilding network to show that women peacebuilders will continue to show up and step up for inclusive peacebuilding and conflict prevention action," says Sharon Bhagwan Rolls.
Drawing on the strength and solidarity of the GPPAC network approach, Pacific Women Mediators Network members developed a strategy to enable equitable resourcing, knowledge-sharing opportunities, and capacity-building for conflict prevention when the geopolitical agenda diverts attention towards greater militarisation.
"Half of the Pacific Women Mediators Network Technical Team members have been involved with GPPAC since its inception. This means they clearly understand the network approach that integrates feminist and intersectional practices. Concretely, this means all members benefit from the diverse skills, resources, and access each of us brings to our table."
Where we are: How do women continue connecting across regions to share their learning?
The Pacific Women Mediators Network has officially been operating since June 2023. When it was launched, GPPAC facilitated a learning session between the Pacific Women Mediators Network and the South Caucasus Women Mediators Network, where women could share their experiences of connecting with the donor community and political actors. As these women from different regions continue to learn alongside each other and amplify their voices, the impact of these networks will not be measured merely in resolutions and agreements but in the lives they touch, the communities they heal, and the generations they inspire.