Take five: “Success at the Generation Equality Forum is when we are able to translate gender equality from a concept or policy into reality”


Mavic Cabrera Balleza. Photo: GNWP/Katrina Leclerc
Mavic Cabrera Balleza. Photo: GNWP/Katrina Leclerc

Mavic Cabrera Balleza is the Founder and CEO of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP). She also represents the Generation Equality ForumCompact on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action (WPS-HA), driving action and resources to accelerate progress on the WPS-HA agenda. Balleza prioritizes localizing national action plans on women, peace and security and gender-sensitive humanitarian action to ensure that they respond to the needs of local communities and marginalized groups.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action?

The COVID-19 pandemic is a conflict and crisis multiplier. It has aggravated the root causes of conflicts and crises, including economic inequalities, food insecurity, and the unavailability of basic social services such as health care and education. The pandemic has also exacerbated gender inequality, which is a major driver of conflicts. The lockdowns during the pandemic led to an unprecedented increase in the incidence of sexual and gender-based violence.

The pandemic has stalled the implementation of peace processes. Implementation plans that require the participation of government agencies and local populations and use of financial resources were stopped. Funding earmarked for many civil society organizations’ peacebuilding programmes has been diverted to support emergency health and humanitarian response.

The shortage of medical facilities, vaccines and supplies amidst new coronavirus variants shows that the pandemic will continue to impact our lives, including our peacebuilding efforts and humanitarian action.

Why is now a vital time to accelerate Women, Peace and Security commitments?

At the onset of the pandemic, women and youth peacebuilders were on the front line. They were the first to go to conflict-affected communities, refugee camps, and settlements for internally displaced persons, distributing relief materials and factual information on preventing the spread of COVID-19. However, they remain unrecognized, underfunded, and excluded in decision-making. To make matters worse, they face attacks and repression from authoritarian governments and armed groups who have taken advantage of the global health crisis to gain more power.

This is a critical time for the Compact to accelerate WPS-HA commitments. To do this, the Compact must call on policymakers, especially governments, to ensure local women’s and youth’s participation in peace negotiations and the implementation of peace agreements – and link formal and informal peace processes. The Compact must also challenge the long-established humanitarian system to re-design humanitarian response so that crisis-affected populations do not remain voiceless recipients of relief goods and services, but are empowered to participate in decision-making.

The Compact must work with donors to review their funding policies. We must advocate for and contribute to a minimum of a five-fold increase in direct assistance to local women and youth organizations. We must also guarantee financing for national and local action plans on WPS and other relevant national mechanisms on WPS-HA.

What changes are most urgently needed in WPS-HA, and why?

Local women and young people have a profound understanding of their countries’ peace and security situation, gender and power relations, and humanitarian needs, because they live this reality every single day. When local populations are able to shape the implementation of the peace, security and humanitarian agenda, it becomes inclusive, participatory, intersectional, and it fosters strong ownership (of local communities).

We need to empower local women and youth to design and implement humanitarian responses and Women, Peace and Security commitments to effectively respond to violent conflicts, the pandemic, and other humanitarian crises. To facilitate this, experts need to transfer their skills and knowledge and share their resources so that local populations can lead their own initiatives. As the Compact, we need to honour the agency, commitment and passion of local communities and get Members States and the donor community to provide funding for local actors in a predictable and transparent manner. 

What inspired the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) to become a Board Member of the Compact on WPS-HA?

We are tired of increasing levels of conflict, insecurity for women and girls, and global military spending on the one hand, and endless commitments with no tangible impact, on the other. It has already been twenty years since the landmark UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security was passed, yet we have seen little progress and are suffering from policy fatigue.

GNWP wants everyone – Member States, the United Nations, regional organizations, the private sector, and the donor community – to acknowledge, value, and support civil society, including through funding. We want governments to guarantee our safety and protection as we work together to transform the commitments of the past decades into action. This is why the unique broad composition of the Compact is important; it will ensure a more inclusive and bolder, yet realistic, vision for the Compact throughout the coming five years.

What does success at the Generation Equality Forum look like to you?

Success at the Generation Equality Forum is when we are able to translate gender equality from a concept or policy into reality. This will only be possible if all of us who are now active in the Forum leave our echo chambers, speak with people on the streets, in schools, in factories and offices, in groceries, in markets, in local communities, and explain what gender equality is about. Most of them will probably hear about gender equality for the first time, but that would be our first indicator of success. We should then follow those initial conversations with more profound discussions and collective and transformative actions. 

To make this happen, as Compact members and Action Coalition leaders, we need to ensure that women, young women, girls, and LGBTQI+ persons from around the world – including those living in conflict and crisis-affected situations – are meaningfully included in decision-making on the priority issues of the Generation Equality Forum. This is the only way to ensure that the outcomes of the Forum meet their urgent priorities and needs. This is the what success looks like to me.

Read more about the Compact on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action here.