On the island of Crete, women invent plans for international security
This October, over 500 women met on the island of Crete, site of the ancient Minoan civilization where men and women were equal partners, worshipped both gods and goddesses, and lived in peace and prosperity for over 1,000 years. The ancient society did not seem to have weapons, soldiers, fortifications or all the other evidence of patriarchy that we are familiar with. It was a perfect context for our workshop on new thinking on international security.
The group established seven methods for bringing about change in the very large and apparently inaccessible international systems:
Build support and trust in small groups.
Get key "insiders" on your side.
Start small with a human-size tasks and then increase the numbers. Have a clear truthful statement exposing the "official story." Refuse all collaboration with the military.
Communicate information in ways people experience directly and enjoy. Use your unique assets, as women or partnerships, as a response to force.
We established four goals, and worked out practical proposals to follow each of them.
Establish an international communication network. This network would be alerted in the case of imminent conflict. The response would be to offer the kind of help wanted by those individuals involved from this conference; publicize the wishes and proposals of the ordinary people in the conflict area, especially women; coordinate simultaneous mass actions and protests.
Ask Women for Mutual Security to contact peace and women's groups in former Yugoslavia to offer our support.
Establish a satellite communications system for publicizing the request. (Another group suggested a Women's TV Network).
Remove permanent membership and end the power of the veto in the Security Council.
Increase the representation of women at the U.N.; have at least 50% women on all negotiating teams.
Vastly increase the U.N. budget by requiring member states to commit a percentage of their defence budget to the U.N. and by requiring them to pay before they vote.
Have independent intelligence facilities set up for the U.N. to prevent conflict and to monitor the arms trade.
It was decided that in order to lobby worldwide for these changes we should build an international world peace umbrella group for which Women for Mutual Security and the International Peace Bureau could act as convenors. We should also prepare a list of women qualified in peacemaking, mediation, and negotiation to submit to the U.N.
As an alternative to military service young people in all countries should have the opportunity for a one-year work or education exchange and be paid or at least encouraged to do so. This is already happening between Norway and Haiti.
Set up an international summer exchange for children of participants of this conference.
Participants should ask local peace centres and university peace studies departments for peace studies curricula (many already exist) and present them to their local schools.
It was suggested that in future conferences (the Fourth Global U.N. Conference for Women will be in Beijing, China, in September 1995) artists be invited from around the world to exhibit images of what security looks like in female terms.
Shirley Farlinger is an editor of Peace.