International Symposium on The Role of Women’s Leadership in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Region
A landmark occasion for development of The Mary Robinson Centre in Ballina, Co. Mayo, its first public event was held in July 2014 in collaboration with NUI Galway. An international symposium on Women's Leadership, Peace and Sustainable Livelihoods in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Region was opened by then Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore TD. The symposium marked the first year of former President Mary Robinson’s role as UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region and heard 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 Symposium, then 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 two-day symposium reflected 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.” Peter Hynes, Chief Executive of Mayo County Council added: “This Symposium marks an important development for The Mary Robinson Centre, bringing the work of the Centre to life here in NUI Galway with a global audience of inspiring and influential women. Mayo County Council is delighted to be part of this important development and looks forward to welcoming national and international delegates to future events in Ballina when The Mary Robinson Centre opens its doors in the coming years.”
Keynote speakers at the Women’s Leadership symposium included:
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 Solidarite (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", launched at the symposium 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.