The Global Center hosted a lunchtime discussion with Ambassador Rend Al-Rahim, co-founder and president of the Iraq Foundation, on building the resilience of women and communities in the face of conflict and violent extremism in Iraq. The Iraq Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to the support and promotion of democracy, human rights, and civil society in Iraq. Ambassador Al-Rahim served as Iraq’s ambassador to the United States from 2003 to 2005. Participants included civil society representatives, experts, and UN officials representing a range of entities including, the Department of Political Affairs, UN Women, Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, and Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force.
During her presentation, Ambassador Al-Rahim underscored the complexity and urgency of the direct and indirect effects of conflict and terrorism on communities, especially the rise in sexual and gender-based violence, such as rape and sexual slavery. These devastating effects borne of decades of war, have been exacerbated by violent extremist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Among the most vulnerable victims, she noted, were a growing number of stateless children and women who are internally displaced. The governance deficits in the face of long-term conflict, she highlighted, heighten vulnerabilities and create a hospitable environment for extremist groups.
Emphasizing the need to include women as part of any solution to conflict, Ambassador Al-Rahim, discussed some practical ways of addressing these challenges at the local, national, and international levels. She described, for example, Iraq Foundation work with critical local partners and communities to support the development of the Iraq National Action Plan for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325. Other national and local efforts include the provision of health and psychosocial services and access to justice for survivors of conflict. She also discussed the importance of engaging men, youth, and religious leaders as advocates against violence, for instance, through skill building and awareness-raising workshops and literacy classes, noting that women’s rights and advancement cannot be separated from the pursuit of human rights for communities.