meet Lesley Abdela

by Campaign ~ September 10th, 2013. Filed under: meet the real peacebuilders, News.

Lesley Abdela Peacebuilder

Britain’s gender/post-conflict specialist Lesley Abdela has been a peacebuilder and ceaseless advocate of UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women and peace and security and the advance of women in conflict prevention and peacebuilding since 1999 when she was asked by the UK Foreign Office to go to Kosovo shortly after the NATO campaign forced Milosevic’s militias out of the Province.

After a short orientation course in Vienna she became Deputy Director, Democratisation, and Head of NGOs, Civil-Society Building for the OSCE Mission based in Pristina, Kosovo. Her dissatisfaction with the complacent gender-ignorant staff at the head of the OSCE led her to write a coruscating report titled ‘Kosovo: Missed Opportunities, Lessons For The Future’. The report examined what worked and what did not work in the immediate post-conflict situation in Kosovo and what would help things work better in future at similar very early stages in post-conflict missions. Key questions the Abdela report touched were:

  • what would be the best structures and vehicles in future post-conflict situations to fulfil tasks of building democracy, human rights/Gender equity, free Media, good governance, and society with law and order?
  • Are organisations such as the OSCE and UN, originally conceived for international conferences (talk-talk), capable of changing their spots sufficiently to be effective for Democracy-building in post-conflict situations?

After Kosovo Lesley worked as an independent Gender/post-conflict adviser in 40 different countries, to governments and IGOs (United Nations, Council of Europe, IOM, OSCE), NGOs/CSOs, Defence Departments and the European Commission, undertaking some of the most dangerous missions imaginable in the advance of women in that terrifying but brief moment of opportunity when a ceasefire has been called but the dust of change is still in the air, where women can make great strides.  Her commitment to Gender-in-peacebuilding has placed her boots-on-the-ground in Sierra Leone, Aceh, Afghanistan, Nepal and in Hilla (ancient Babylon) in Iraq. She left Iraq only after her three main co-workers were targeted and murdered returning from negotiating a women’s radio station in Karbala.

For the past 12 years she has conducted annual Gender and Civil Military Relations workshops for UNPOL deployments, run by SWEDINT at a base outside Stockholm.

Originally Lesley was known for her campaigns to increase the number of women in the world’s parliaments (which she holds essential for a more sane and peaceful world). She won the UK Woman of Europe award for work with Project Liberty, Harvard University, seeking the empowerment of women in Central and Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Lesley’s work in the front line of UNSCR1325 gained her a place in the current affairs magazine New Statesman’s ‘top 50 heroes of our time’ poll.  Nottingham Trent University awarded her an Hon. Doctorate in Women’s Human Rights. London’s Imperial War Museum has recorded some dozens of hours of her experiences in this Age of Deadly Conflict. She points out how women so often have become a deliberate strategic target of militias yet are largely denied any say in the post-conflict settlements, as we have seen in countries like Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Aceh, Nepal, Afghanistan and Iraq. Without intense effort by the international communities, Lesley believes the same will occur in Libya, Egypt and Syria where women clamour for the right to participate at the Top Tables when the future of their countries is being discussed but fear, with good reason, they are now being sidelined.

Lesley Abdela is now the senior partner in her own consultancy Shevolution.

You can contact Lesley at lesley.abdela@shevolution.com.


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