Why is Palermo important? 

Why is Palermo important? 

Why is Palermo important?  4752 3168 Aisha Altubuly


In 2011, when the revolution broke out, I witnessed men and women side to side taking part of it and fighting for the future of Libya equally. However, not long after the first phase of this ongoing conflict ended by October 2011, Libyan women started to be pushed aside and not seen as equal in the political scene. During the elections of the General National Conference in 2012, women had to fight restlessly to secure their place in the scene to contribute to the peaceful democratic transition. The women movement then, including our own Together We Build It (TWBI) organization had to pull the effort of now or never to allocate a quota to ensure women’s equal opportunity to political participation. Women had to go through the same fight for their right again upon the constitution drafting committee elections in 2014 again to make sure their rights are reserved. And so, Libyan women have been struggling to prove themselves worthy with no less capacity than their male peers in the political landscape.

However, this struggle seemed to be getting harder when the international community with its different actors whether states or the UN mission to Libya began to overlook their responsibility towards supporting and empowering Libyan women to actively take part along side Libyan men in all political and peace-building processes and started to devalue the significance of having their perspective on the negotiations table.

Moreover, this exclusion started to propagate and expand even more when the conflict got more complicated in 2014 and it led the country to another level of disappointment. This stage where it needed the international community to emphasize more than ever on being inclusive to all Libyans specially upon their peace negotiations rounds by 2015. On the contrary, the international community disregarded women and missed the full picture. Not only that, but they end up handling it wrong and limiting women to certain criteria called “women track” restricting them to “women issues” only, not in the middle of the real peace talks.

Although, the international actors should know best of women, peace and security and its significance to peace building that has been proven through various cases demonstrated every year during the Women, Peace and Security week debate around the anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 adoption, yet they are functioning in complete gender-blind approach when it comes to Libya ignoring women and their contribution to peace-building.

For example, Paris summit that was convened last May, in which all Libyan factions were invited and exclusively to men, this had a huge negative influence when it comes to peace-building and how men and women should be equally responsible to finding a solution for this crisis. A high-level meeting that is discussing the future of a country should all the way inclusive and inter-generational, however instead of setting a role model it back fired on women’s right to meaningful participation. And this, of course had expanded all the possibilities to having more women missing from the picture and it started to have its reflection on the national level which will most probably decrease the chances for a lasting peace.

All eyes now on Palermo upcoming high-level meeting mediated by the government of Italy on Libya to discuss the possibility of potential peace agreement that would unify the fractioned state. Nevertheless, even though now few political Libyan women are confirmed to be participating as part of different Libyan political delegations which came as a result  to an intensive advocacy campaign called “ You Are Missing the Full Picture” led by the inter-generational team of TWBI in which I was personally involved every step of the way in partnership with Libyan women politicians, UN Women and member states at the UN.

Now that we have women politicians as part of the official Libyan delegations, the question is now to what extent would these women have access to engage in the political talks and speak their views freely. Therefore, the significance of Palermo meeting lies within the change (whether positive or negative), which the meeting would have on the international community attitude. Will this meeting be the baseline towards more inclusive dynamics of both genders and full integration of everyone in the processes taking place on national and international levels?