Vancouver Women’s Forum on Peace and Security on the Korean Peninsula

January 13-16, 2018

Summary of Our Impact

On January 16, 2018, as Foreign Ministers from twenty nations gathered in Vancouver to discuss security and stability on the Korean Peninsula, an international delegation of sixteen women representing feminist peace movements from Asia, Europe and North America convened in Vancouver. Our objective was to urge the Foreign Ministers to prepare the table for a diplomatic peace process that moves away from war and increased militarization, and towards peace, reconciliation, and genuine security.

The Summit came at a fortuitous time. It was the first time in two years the two Koreas sat down for talks where North Korea agreed to send athletes to the winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the United States agreed to delay its annual war drills with South Korea to honor the Olympics truce. But it was also an opportunity for the feminist peace movements to remind governments of their commitment to UNSCR 1325 and the Women, Peace and Security agenda.


Canada, as the co-host of the Vancouver Summit, just passed its National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security—signed and endorsed by five Ministers—and committed to a Feminist Foreign Policy with real dollars to back it. Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said, "The path to peace needs empowered women. Where women are included in peace processes, peace is more enduring…” Furthermore, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had just hinted that he had been having discussions with Cuba, which has good diplomatic relations with North Korea, about a constructive role Canada could play towards diplomacy since “the United States has chosen not to play this past year.”


Recognizing the dangerous yet incredibly opportune moment that the Vancouver Summit afforded, Women Cross DMZ, Nobel Women’s Initiative, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, United Church of Canada, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom called on women’s peace movements to gather in Vancouver to urge the Foreign Ministers to support the inter-Korean peace process underway.


In three weeks, and over the holidays, we convened a formidable delegation of sixteen women from South Korea, Japan, Guam, United States and Canada to press for our inclusion at the Vancouver Summit to resolve the longstanding Korean conflict. We circulated a letter to twenty Foreign Ministers from signed by over 200 civil society organizations from 47 countries, including all the nations that participated in the Korean War. We negotiated with the Canadian Government ahead of the Summit on how to include women’s peace movements and civil society organizations. We raised funds to support the travel of the women peace activists, and coordinated a packed and inspiring three-day program of strategic discussion, engagement with Foreign Ministers, media, and several events, including a candlelight vigil and a public teach-in attended by over 100 people from Vancouver. While we were disappointed with the outcome of the Summit, including the Co-Chairs Statement which called for continuing the Trump administration’s “Maximum Pressure” campaign, we achieved some concrete wins.


1. We expanded and strengthened the global movement of women and peace movements to advocate together for peace on the Korean Peninsula. We brought together a cross-section of women experts working across different fields, from humanitarian aid, conflict resolution, disarmament and de-militarization, to faith-based leaders and women experts advancing the inclusion of women in peace processes.


2. We got the closest ever to the table on talks over Korea. Given that Canada was the co-host of the summit, the Global Affairs Canada (GAC) did their best to bring us as closest to the table as they could, including providing travel support for several members of our delegation. With our urging, they convened a civil society roundtable before the official summit; half of the speakers were women from our delegation. Ahead of the official summit, we had the chance to meet with Minister Chrystia Freeland and Parliamentary Secretary Matt DeCourcey. We presented to Minister Freeland a handmade Jogakbo, a traditional Korean quilt, with “Peace” embroidered in all the languages of countries from the Korean War and our delegation. The U.S. delegation also gave one to Secretary Tillerson through a senior official at the State Department. We also gave to other Foreign Ministers a table runner designed by Margaret Gerhardt of Women Cross DMZ. It was our gift to the Co-Chairs and Foreign Ministers that we hoped they would prepare the table for peace talks with North Korea.

While we didn't influence the outcome of the summit, we had an impact on the final Co-chairs joint statement: “The Co-Chairs stressed the important role for civil society actors and non-governmental organizations in supporting efforts to foster the conditions for a diplomatic solution and, in particular, noted the critical role women and women’s organizations can play in contributing to conflict resolution and enduring peace.”

3. We leveraged our collective expertise and sharpened our analysis of how the Trump administration’s call for “diplomacy” through maximum pressure—more sanctions targeting civilians and forcing other countries to cut off diplomatic ties with North Korea—is a disingenuous effort designed to fail. It sobered us to the reality that amid the hopeful prospects for peace created by the inter-Korean peace process, the Trump administration was making plans to prepare for a pre-emptive strike. Here are our delegation statements:

4. We clarified our next steps together, including the urgent realization that we need to pivot to stopping a US war on North Korea. We saw the writing on the wall that despite the so-called desire for a “diplomatic approach” and a peaceful outcome, that plans are now being drawn up for a pre-emptive strike. We formed the beginnings of a tri-partite strategy of 1.) launching a global education and advocacy campaign on “No New War on Korea: Women Call for Maximum Engagement”; 2.) mobilizing international women to join what we hope is a May DMZ crossing; and 3.) establishing a long-term track II dialogue among women from Northeast Asia and beyond to foster understanding, deepen analysis, and come up with collective action to end the war. 


5. Our actions got significant coverage in Canada with several pieces in CTV and CBC. We hammered home our message that women must be involved in the peace building process, that it leads to peace agreements, and more durable ones. Here’s a sampling:

Š      OpedThese women experts are ready and waiting. Where is their invitation? By Liz Bernstein and Christine Ahn, January 15, 2018 in The National Observer

Š      Op Ed: In North Korea talks, Tillerson needs women at the negotiating table, By Christine Ahn, January 15, 2018, in The Hill

Š      Oped: We Can Avoid War with North Korea—If We Listen to Women Peacemakers, by Erica Fein, MS Magazine, January 25, 2018

Š      Article: Women’s Peace Groups in Vancouver Press for Korea Negotiations: A  US-proposed naval blockade “is not diplomacy,” they tell UN member states. By Tim Shorrock, January 15, 2018, The Nation.

Š      CBC News: Women Peacemakers hope their message is heard at North Korea summit Jan 15, 2018

Š      CTV NEWS: Canada, U.S. lead call for enforcement of sanctions against North Korea, By Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press, January 16, 2018


6. Last but not least, we learned of the power of collective organizing when we are able to strategically seize an opportunity before us. Our strategy of public events with our table runners and banners outside the venue, and meetings with Foreign Ministry officials inside the venue, worked well, as did our building solid and long-term relationships with the Canadian Government. We heard afterwards that our participation was instrumental. With more recognition that with a feminist foreign policy, development assistance policy, and a robust women, peace and security agenda, now is the time to press Canada for turning words into action in advancing peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, and beyond. Please join us in the next steps.