Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore Opens Symposium on The Role of Women’s Leadership in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and Former President Mary Robinson is among the keynote speakers at NUI Galway Symposium

An Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore TD today opens an international symposium on Women's Leadership, Peace and Sustainable Livelihoods in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Region at NUI Galway, organised in partnership with Georgetown Women’s Institute, Washington DC. The symposium will mark the first year of former President Mary Robinson’s role as UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region and will hear from global experts on the conflict.

Two decades of conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have resulted in the loss of up to five million lives.  Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly women and children, have been subjected to sexual and gender based violence.  Emerging from the conflict presents massive and complex challenges for the region. In February 2013 a new Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) Framework for the DRC and Region was agreed by the Congo and its neighbouring countries. Former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, was appointed UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region in March 2013, with a wide-ranging mandate to support and encourage signatories to implement the PSC Framework. 

Speaking about the NUI Galway Symposium, the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said: “Ireland has always supported the most vulnerable populations during conflicts; in particular women and children. This unique event will shine a light on the appalling suffering and turmoil in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and surrounding region. Women and children have borne the brunt of this terrible conflict, and as such, it is fitting that this international gathering will examine the vital role of women as leaders in managing the transition towards a brighter future for the coming generations.”

At the end of the first year of the mandate of the UN Special Envoy, the two-day symposium at NUI Galway focuses on women’s leadership and participation in the implementation of the Framework for peace in the DRC region. Speaking at the symposium, UN Special Envoy, Mary Robinson commented: It is much harder in practice rather than in theory to engage women fully in peace making and peace building, yet their role is essential for sustainable peace. We need to be determined, creative and imaginative to ensure the full involvement and empowerment of women in conflict resolution.”

The role of women in leading the peace process in the DRC region has emerged as a prominent theme of Mary Robinson’s first year as UN Special Envoy. As symposium organiser, Dr Niamh Reilly of NUI Galway explains: “This unique event in Ireland shines a light on the root causes of the appalling suffering and turmoil in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and surrounding region. Women and children have borne the brunt of this terrible conflict, and as such, it is fitting that this international gathering will examine the vital role of women as leaders in managing the transition towards sustainable peace for the coming generations.”

The two-day symposium reflects the growing partnership between NUI Galway and the Mary Robinson Centre in Ballina. Speaking at the event, President of NUI Galway, Dr Jim Browne, said: “This important symposium represents the first major academic showcase of the NUI Galway-Mary Robinson Centre partnership. We are delighted to host this timely review of the tremendous work Mary Robinson has done as UN Special Envoy for the DRC region, and look forward to developing an extensive academic programme with the Centre.”

Keynote speakers at the Women’s Leadership symposium include:

  • MARY ROBINSON, UN Special Envoy of the Secretary General to the Great Lakes Region and former President of Ireland  
  • MELANNE VERVEER, Director, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and first United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues
  • ROSE MUTOMBO KIESE, President, Cadre Permanent de Concertation de la Femme Congolaise (National Network of Congolese Women’s Organisations)
  • BINETA DIOP, African Union Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security and founder and Chair of the Executive Board of Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS).

A new research report, “Women’s Leadership and Participation in the Peace Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes Region: Achievements, Challenges, and Opportunities", will be launched at the symposium. This joint NUI Galway-Georgetown University report, by Niamh Reilly at NUI Galway and Roslyn Warren at Georgetown University, documents Mary Robinson’s work on the ongoing implementation of Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) Framework for the DRC and Region and makes recommendations for the year ahead.

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Keywords: Press.

Author: Marketing and Communications Office, NUI Galway
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