8657th Security Council Meeting: Peace and Security in Africa

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04-Nov-2019 01:49:28
Support for women peacekeepers, civil society leaders crucial in Horn of Africa peace efforts, top officials tells Security Council at 8657th meeting.

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Amid a raft of recent rapprochements and revitalized peace processes in the Horn of Africa, the Security Council — fresh off the heels of a visit to the region — must do more to support women peacekeepers and civil society leaders on the front lines of conflict, the 15-member organ heard today.

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and Fatima Kyari Mohammed, Permanent Observer for the African Union, briefed the Council on the two organizations’ recently-concluded joint solidarity mission to Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan. Both officials expressed optimism for the region, highlighting a unique window of opportunity for the Council to support new strides towards lasting peace. They also outlined concrete ways to push forward women’s leadership, including accelerating the deployment of women mediators and equipping female peacekeepers with basic necessities.

“The chance for peace in this region is real,” said the Deputy Secretary‑General. Not only was each country moving at its own pace through a process of reform and transformation, but women were playing a critical leadership role. Ethiopia now had its first woman President, and half of its Government ministers were women. Spotlighting “islands of stability” in Somalia, she outlined the joint delegation’s visits with civil society leaders in Eritrea, Djibouti and Sudan — including women who helped drive the latter’s recent revolution.

However, she also observed that the United Nations continues to deploy less than 4 per cent female peacekeepers. It was important to increase the percentage of women in security and peacekeeping forces but for that to happen, much more support needed to be provided, including ensuring that Blue Helmet deployment kits were properly equipped for female peacekeepers. Commenting that it might be the first time such words have been spoken in the Council, she pointed out that peacekeeper deployment kits do not include sanitary pads, a basic necessity to female peacekeepers.

The Permanent Observer for the African Union said that the joint mission — the third of its kind to focus on women — comes amid a broader understanding that peace, security and development stand little chance without the full participation of women. Indeed, women are on the front lines of addressing climate insecurity, radicalization and violent extremism.

Calling on the Council to provide substantive support, she said joint efforts by the United Nations and the African Union can help the Horn of Africa bridge gaps in women’s leadership. “Whatever support we give, we also need to consider […] the basic needs that women peacekeepers have,” she said, citing private bathroom facilities and services to allow them to communicate with their families. Those simple things can be easily overlooked but make a huge impact, she said.

As Council members took the floor, many applauded improved relations between countries in the Horn of Africa, progress in Sudan’s political transition and strides in implementing of the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan. Many echoed calls to bolster the deployment of female peacekeepers, while some also posed specific questions to the briefers.

Equatorial Guinea’s delegate pledged his Government’s full support for efforts to address ongoing challenges throughout the region — including sexual violence against women — and to help increase women’s participation in peacemaking. Recalling that the Deputy Secretary-General has also visited West Africa in a similar capacity, he welcomed collaboration by the United Nations and the African Union in promoting the women, peace and security agenda and called for more joint efforts to increase the presence of females at negotiating tables and in governance.

China’s representative was among those speakers who drew attention to the Horn of Africa’s strategic importance to ensuring peace and stability across all of Africa and beyond. Actions by the United Nations and the international community, while respecting sovereignty of States, must also help create an enabling environment for the engagement of Africa’s women in peace and security matters — including conflict prevention and mediation. In addition, he urged partner agencies and countries to prioritize social and economic development and to help eliminate the root causes of conflict.

The representative of the United States emphasized that the abilities of women peacekeepers often rendered them better able to relate to local communities. Urging all troop- and police-contributing countries to increase women’s deployment, she also encouraged the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to engage with South Sudan’s leaders to implement their peace agreement, underlining that the eyes of the world are on the country as the 12 November deadline for launching the transitional Government approaches.

Echoing that point, South Africa’s representative described it as crucial to ensure that the political processes under way in the region are sustained through dialogue and cooperation, with the active participation of women. Noting that the deployment of female peacekeepers remains negligible despite the adoption of a 2015 Council resolution calling for the doubling of women in military and police contingents, he nevertheless welcomed the recent adoption of resolution 2493 (2019) — by whose terms the Council urged States to recommit themselves to the women, peace and security agenda.

Also speaking were representatives of France, Peru, Belgium, Poland, Dominican Republic, Kuwait, Indonesia, Côte d’Ivoire, Germany, Russian Federation and the United Kingdom.

The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 11:57 a.m.

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