Technologies In Light Of Women, Peace And Security In The Middle East And North Africa

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Building on a previous article, highlighting the role of the “right personality” of women in a specific culture of a country in the MENA region has an impeccable impact on stabilization programs.  This sequence will address the role of technologies in light of implementing the Women, Peace and Security initiatives in the region, Iraq is an example of a failing state.

During the war in Iraq in 2003 the waves of the mobile phones, and satellite dishes had flooded the streets and markets.  While the U.S. troops were entering Baghdad in April, people were busy learning and configurating the communication technologies rather than discussing the aftermath of war.  The infrastructures were not ready and nearly non-existent, but miraculously were established in no time.  Fast forward, to recent years after nearly two decades of that turning point of event, the Iraqi people have beautifully adapted to a new system of communication and a new lifestyle.  However, that development was used as a double-edged sword to deepen the sectarian division, to increase terror attacks, to mobilize youth for the wrong reasons.  In contrast, it connected people to the world and allowed for global engagement via social media to express opinions and to exchange and share knowledge.

Technologies and connectivity to the world have empowered women and youth to develop online groups and forums where they discuss various aspects of life including politics, religions, self-care and well-being, education and more importantly participation in the political and social change they see fit for their future.  Following the development of the recent protests since early October 2019, and the consequences of eliminating the threat of Qassem Suleimani, the Iranian head of Al Quds Forces in Iraq, the scene on the street shows that old and young women proactive participation was and still is vital to make a positive change.  They demonstrated power, independence, solidarity and capability to lead.  This matter on its own is aligned with the U.S. National Strategy on WPS “Line of Effort 1: Seek and support the preparation and meaningful participation of women around the world in decision-making processes related to conflict and crises” issued on June 2019.

While the Iraqi people are still in dire need for international support, the opportunities for successful WPS programs can be seen and felt tangibly.  The U.S. government, the UN, NATO and their international partners have a significant opportunity to revise and re-strategize their policies, approaches and measurement of desired outcome(s).  Moreover, in this “golden age” of technology and connectedness women from various backgrounds and regions are willing create better environments beyond traditional roles.  It would be wise to differentiate between the willingness and the skills required to achieve goals.  Programs should be designed to build skills and capabilities of local women, while supporting them to take ownership and to ensure program sustainment.  Almost all contracts and grants have a clause about ownership and sustainment beyond the resources of a program or a project in a fragile state.  However, due to multiple factors this requirement does need more configuration in a program design maybe adding more weight on a bottom-up approach.

For instance, working with local communities, needs local councils as part of key stakeholders; nonetheless, local councils historically are exclusive for men.  In my viewpoint, regardless of the sophistication or the lack of it in the form of a local council, the facility and some sort of an organizational structure does in fact exist.  However, women were clearly overlooked and have not been considered for representation within the local council.  You would find civil society organizations have women in its leadership but, ironically, they are denied participation or involvement within a local council structure.  Having internet and various social media outlets, will make women governance engagement more effectual and solid.  This example can be linked directly to the “Line of Effort 3: Adjust United States international programs to improve outcomes in equality for, and the empowerment of, women” in the U.S. National WPS strategy that can be customized for a certain program and culture.

In conclusion, the U.S. and the international community have responsibility and capability to leverage technologies as a tool for effective implementation of Women, Peace and Security programs in areas and regions of concerns due to conflicts and instabilities.

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Raghad Al Saadi
Raghad Al Saadi is a Principal of Polar Lights Prime, LLC. (www.polarlightsprimellc.com).  Expert on WPS, Provided consultancy services to the UNOCHA-Turkey on strategic planning and effective engagement with local councils, training to NGOs on conflict analysis and resolution, Ms. Al Saadi was a Delegate of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum (NPPF) 2017 presented “MistBit™ – Empowering Women and Children to Combat Sexual & Gender-Based Violence and Human Trafficking in Refugee Camps and Disaster Zones”.  A public speaker at the Initiatives of Change (IofC), Caux, Switzerland.  A panelist for the Global Policy Dialogue on WPS in Doha, Qatar.  A SME on Climate Conflict & Security in Paris Peace Forum. She has extensive experience in conflict zones in the MENA region as well as a professional program management with the Federal Government in Washington.  Ms. Al Saadi holds a Master of Science in Peace Operations form George Mason University and a publisher at IEEE-Global Humanitarian Technology Conference and International Policy Digest.