8382nd Security Council Meeting: Women and Peace and Security Part 1

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25-Oct-2018 03:41:55
United Nations gender equality chief, briefing Security Council, points out ‘systemic failure’ to integrate women in peacekeeping, mediation at 8382nd meeting.

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Nearly two decades after the Security Council’s adoption of a landmark resolution on women, peace and security, the head of the United Nations entity responsible for gender equality warned today of “systemic failure” to integrate women into such critical processes as peacekeeping, mediation and peace negotiations, as the 15-member organ convened its annual open debate on the issue.

“Our continued tolerance for the limited recognition of women’s expertise and lived experience is shameful,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women). Presenting figures from the Secretary-General’s most recent report analysing the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000), she said women constituted only 2 per cent of mediators, 8 per cent of negotiators and 5 per cent of witnesses and signatories to major peace processes between 1990 and 2017. Only three out of 11 peace agreements signed in 2017 contain provisions on gender equality, a worrisome trend that now continues in current peacemaking efforts in Yemen, Mali, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic.

Also pointing to low representation of women in elections, girls’ continued lack of access to primary school and increases in sexual violence, she emphasized the need for strong investments in women to reverse the situation. “It is time for the United Nations to have a […] conversation about supporting, brokering and paying for peace negotiations that exclude women,” she stressed. Underlining women’s vast potential to improve peacemaking processes, she acknowledged that progress can be maddeningly slow or even met with backlash. Nevertheless, she declared: “If women are supported to organize effectively, it is also unstoppable.”

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, agreed that on the issue of women, peace and security “there is a significant gap between what we say in this Chamber and what we do outside”. While violent conflicts have increased, and more people are displaced than ever before, he cited reasons not to give up hope — particularly regarding women’s potential to reverse those trends. For example, he said, women’s groups are engaged in dialogue in Guinea-Bissau and rebuilding communities in Colombia. In Syria and Yemen, women mediated the creation of civilian safe zones, among other local agreements. Meanwhile, the Nobel Peace Prize was recently awarded to two champions of women — Denis Mukwege, a doctor treating victims of sexual violence, and Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi human rights activist.

Randa Siniora Atallah, General Director of the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling, also briefed the Council on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security. Noting that Israel’s occupation of Palestine and the resulting humanitarian crisis exacerbate existing gender inequalities, she said Palestinian women face daily attacks, threats, intimidation, discrimination and restrictions on their movement by the Israeli military. The occupation reinforces the patriarchal structures of Palestinian society, she said, adding that political violence in the public sphere leads to spikes in violence in the private sphere. She also noted that recent cuts in funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) have had a disproportionate effect on the lives of Palestinian women.

Throughout the day-long debate, more than 90 speakers took the floor to share national experiences or describe policies aimed at boosting women’s meaningful engagement in public life. Many expressed concern at the still marginal numbers of women serving as Blue Helmet peacekeepers, conflict mediators or negotiators in official peace processes. Some spotlighted women’s expanding roles in their country’s own political systems, while others underlined their special “transformative” abilities to understand the needs of communities, calm inter-ethnic tensions and combat the narratives driving the scourge of violent extremism. Several speakers also hailed the recent appointment of Ethiopia’s first female President, Sahle-Work Zewde.

Peru’s representative said that while strides have been made in pushing forward the Council’s women, peace and security agenda, many barriers and challenges still persist. “Women provide a focus on the future and on unity which are indispensable to peace,” he said, adding that they are also crucial to preventing violence and implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Calling on Member States to finance the participation of women’s groups when called upon by the Council to do so, he joined other speakers in expressing support for the integration of a gender perspective into the all the peacekeeping mandates decided by the 15-member organ.

Lebanon’s delegate was among those speakers voicing concern that women and girls continue to suffer disproportionately and in the most abhorrent ways during conflicts and wars. Noting that no lasting or sustainable security can be achieved without women’s meaningful engagement, she said the progress of integrating them has been slow. A few Council resolutions have begun demanding their participation in every level of negotiations, but women peace envoys are still largely absent on the ground. Indeed, she said, after 18 years of voting on the same women, peace and security resolution, “the time is now” for a real, irrevocable materialization of this agenda.

Namibia’s representative expressed concern that global implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) is occurring at a “snail’s pace”. Encouraging States to put in place national action plans for the resolution’s implementation, he said access to quality, conflict-sensitive education for women and girls is essential to ensure their participation in peacebuilding processes. For its part, Namibia has deployed numerous female peacekeepers, and now stands only two short of meeting the 15 per cent target called for in resolution 1325 (2000). In addition, he said, Namibia is a founding member of the women, peace and security focal point network that enables closer coordination among countries on best practices to operationalize the agenda.

Margot Wallström, Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, was among speakers warning against boosting participation for the sake of mere numbers. “Participation is not about counting heads, but about having influence,” she stressed. Describing the recently concluded peace agreement in Colombia — where women made up a substantial percentage of official negotiators — as a model of inclusion, she called for ownership and accountability at the highest levels of the United Nations leadership and among Member States. The gender dimension must be considered throughout strategic planning processes in conflict situations, permeating all sectors, while budgets for peacekeeping and political missions must be made gender-responsive, she said.

Several speakers, while voicing agreement about the importance of women’s inclusion in peacekeeping and negotiations, nevertheless raised concerns about the Council’s consideration of broad, thematic topics that fall outside the scope of its mandate. The Russian Federation’s delegate, for one, said that when taking up resolution 1325 (2000) Council members should focus specifically on matters related to establishing and maintaining international peace and security. Indeed, it is harmful to try to utilize the women, peace and security agenda to promote such issues as human rights or gender, which are traditionally taken up by other United Nations bodies. Doing so will ultimately lead to an imbalance and hinder the agenda’s implementation, he warned.

Also speaking today were Government Ministers or representatives of Netherlands, United Kingdom, Kazakhstan, Côte d’Ivoire (also on behalf of Equatorial Guinea and Ethiopia), China, Kuwait, Russian Federation, United States, France, Poland, Bolivia, Germany, Slovenia, Ukraine, Japan, India, Colombia, Slovakia, Turkey (also on behalf of Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Australia), Pakistan, Norway (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Albania, Argentina, Guatemala, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Hungary, Jordan, Estonia (also on behalf of Latvia and Lithuania), United Arab Emirates, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Mexico, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Iran, Israel, Belgium, Czech Republic, Ghana (also on behalf of the group of friends of the African Women Leaders Network), Holy See, Chile, Canada (on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security), Viet Nam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Ireland, Lichtenstein, Paraguay, Portugal, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Belarus, Indonesia, Brazil, Kenya, Luxembourg, Maldives, Georgia, Montenegro, Qatar, New Zealand, Australia, Costa Rica, Liberia, Morocco, Thailand, Rwanda, Djibouti, Armenia, Ecuador, Trinidad and Tobago, Romania, Malta, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, Spain, Afghanistan, South Africa and Bangladesh, as well as the European Union, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The Permanent Observers of the Holy See and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie also participated.

The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 8:25 p.m.
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