"We'll rise up": Strong message for peace sent from Vienna

Global Women’s Forum for Peace and Humanitarian Action (GWF 2020) in Vienna.

About 70 activists from fragile and conflict-affected regions convened at the Global Women's Forum for Peace and Humanitarian Action (GWF 2020) in Vienna on 19and 20 February 2020. Their common goal was to advance their priorities and demands in light of the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security and beyond.

The forum was organised by the Austrian Development Cooperation together with the Women's Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF) and the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP). To date, it has been the largest civil society conference among the anniversary celebrations scheduled for 2020.

Kristen Bell, US actress and WPHF Global Advocate, attended the forum as a special guest. She emphasised the importance of the work of all those women who are committed to fostering sustainable and inclusive peace worldwide. "This forum is about celebrating the unlimited power of women," said Bell on the sidelines of the forum. "I am here today to listen, to amplify their message and to help push their priorities forward."

The experience, knowledge and expertise of activists from 17 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the South Caucasus, the Middle East, Pacific region and Latin America were at the heart of the event. The forum culminated in the drafting and adoption of the Vienna Declaration 2020. It contains a wide range of activists' demands: They call for better protection for women who advocate for peace, for women to have better access to formal and informal peace negotiations and for women to be equally involved in measures targeting economic reconstruction after conflicts. Above all, they call for long-term and more financial support for their work in peacebuilding and humanitarian crises.

"With this year’s anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and the historic Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, 2020 is a crucial time to mobilise funding for women peacebuilders and humanitarian responders," said Ghita El Khyari, head of the WPHF secretariat. Currently, only 0.2 percent of total bilateral support for fragile and conflict-affected regions go directly to women's organisations.

“The recommendations and demands of the Vienna Declaration must have an impact on the discussions taking place in 2020 and the years to come. We also see this declaration as an influential instrument to strengthen the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325,” emphasised Martin Ledolter, managing director of the Austrian Development Agency (ADA). As a strong voice of global civil society, the Vienna Declaration 2020 will influence the current discussions worldwide.

Austria, Germany, the European Union and other countries announced new grants to support women who are actively addressing local challenges of conflict-affected communities.

"It is so important for us to be part of this forum", said Margaret Unohwaye Taylor of the Women Empowerment Network in Liberia. “We share the messages and lessons from our communities so they become part of the declaration. Women working to build peace must be heard. Today, we are making history and shaping the fate of our own lives."