29 February 2008
Economic and Social Council
WOM/1670

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission on the Status of Women

Fifty-second Session

10th Meeting (AM)


WOMEN’S FULL PARTICIPATION IN CONFLICT PREVENTION, PEACEBUILDING NEEDED TO END USE


OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE AS WEAPON, ENSURE LEGAL RIGHTS, SAY COMMISSION SPEAKERS


Note Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) Long Way from Being Implemented;

Efforts to Strengthen Women’s Role in Sudan, Sierra Leone, Burundi Highlighted


Women must be allowed to participate fully in peacebuilding and conflict prevention in order to end sexual violence against women as a method of warfare and ensure women’s full legal, socio-economic and political rights after the fighting was over, several speakers told the Commission on the Status of Women this morning.


In 2000, the Security Council passed resolution 1325 calling for women’s equal participation with men in maintaining and promoting peace and security, but that resolution was a long way from being adequately implemented, said Anne Marie Goetz, Chief Adviser of Governance, Peace and Security of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).


Speaking during a panel discussion to evaluate progress in the implementation of the agreed conclusions on “women’s participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution and in post-conflict peacebuilding”, Ms. Goetz said very few women participated in peace talks as official negotiators or observers.  Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes rarely addressed the needs of women associated with fighting forces, and post-conflict planning and financing for women’s recovery was weak.


The use of sexual and gender-based violence as a method of warfare was actually on the rise, she said, adding that male soldiers, ex-soldiers and civilians alike preyed on women and children with impunity, while men returning home from the battlefield awash with small arms and light weapons posed a continuing threat to women and children.


“Use of this tactic is hardly new.  But by 2008, it is reasonable to expect more alacrity and decisiveness in the international community’s response to sexual violence,” Ms. Goetz said.  “The fact is, however, that sexual violence is not seen as a threat to peace or as a trigger for significant security responses.”


A gender-sensitive perspective on conflict resolution, peacebuilding and rehabilitation was essential, she continued.  UNIFEM was working to achieve that by engaging women directly in peace processes in the Sudan, where it had recently facilitated women’s access to the institutions brokering peace talks on Darfur, and in northern Uganda, where it partnered with the Department of Political Affairs to install a gender adviser with the United Nations envoy to the Juba talks.  UNIFEM helped members of the Women’s Peace Coalition to be present in Juba and have access to both negotiating teams there to share women’s perspectives on the peace agreement.  And in Rwanda and Kosovo, as part of the “United Nations Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict” initiative, UNIFEM had supported improved access for women victims of violence to the police, and gender-sensitive police investigation and case-management systems.


Still, budget allocations for women’s post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation priorities were inadequate, particularly in terms of livelihood recovery, shelter, land rights and security, she said.  Women must have security so they could participate in peace and post-conflict governance processes.


Gina Torry, Coordinator of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, agreed.  “Quietly, and not so quietly”, she said local, regional and international civil society alliances were building.  In the territory that has been imagined as belonging only to men in suits, puffing on cigars, “women have taken up human security worldwide as a key, overarching priority and as one in which their participation and input has been historically and semantically left out”, she said.


Since the adoption of resolution 1325 and the relevant 2004 agreed conclusions of the Commission, State actors, women and women’s organizations and civil society networks had joined forces to make peacebuilding more effective and sustainable, she continued.  Through partnerships, women’s networks and coalitions were now better positioned to effectively channel multiple voices and concerns to the highest levels of Government and international policymaking.  Getting women and the women’s perspectives took careful leg work in the lead-up to formal talks, peacebuilding and institution-building.  “The United Nations, no doubt, has a powerful role to play from the start.”


Still, United Nations high-level or fact-finding missions led by the Department of Political Affairs -- which often first assessed where the Organization’s peacebuilding support would be best placed -- did not adequately involve local women in the process, she said.  The NGO Working Group had intervened on several occasions after such missions had been deployed to urge meetings with local women peacebuilders, including during the high-level fact-finding missions to Nepal in 2006 and Fiji in 2007.  In those cases, the Department had responded positively to the NGO Working Group’s request and later arranged for such meetings.  Women’s networks must keep the pressure on and be more strategic and proactive, in that regard.  They must choose representatives to effectively communicate their collective messages and conduct follow-up.


Echoing those sentiments, Carolyn McAskie, Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office, said local women’s contributions were important because they had first-hand knowledge of their respective communities’ needs.  They could help remedy previous structural gender inequalities, while constructing a more just society during post-conflict development.  The United Nations peacebuilding architecture was trying to enable that process.  For example, in Sierra Leone, a visiting senior Peacebuilding Commission delegation successfully advocated for the adoption of laws to promote gender equality, thus providing the political support needed to outlaw domestic violence and ensure women’s rights to inheritance and property ownership, she said.  In Burundi, women participants helped to integrate gender equality into democratic governance and the peacebuilding framework.  Thanks to the quotas in the peace agreement and Burundi’s new Constitution, women were now well represented in Government, holding 30 per cent of parliamentary seats and seven minister posts.  Women had also been elected for the first time as chiefs of communes.


Overall, national capacity weaknesses could be a major obstacle to achieving gender equality goals, she warned, adding that:  “We have learned that our ability to affect real change in gender equality through peacebuilding greatly depends on how the international community establishes its priorities and uses its resources.”  Effective implementation of gender issues required several things, among them gender-sensitive programme design, strategic planning, operational capacity, capable partners, appropriate human resource and communications strategies, resource mobilization, and gender-sensitive financial management and reporting.


Commission Chairperson Olivier Belle ( Belgium) moderated the discussion.


The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. Monday, 3 March, to continue its discussion on follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and to the special session of the General Assembly entitled “Women 2000:  gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.


Background


The Commission on the Status of Women met today to continue its session on the follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled “Women 2000:  gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.  During the meeting, it was scheduled to hold an interactive dialogue to evaluate progress in the implementation of the agreed conclusions on “women’s participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution and in post-conflict peacebuilding.


Statement by Chairman


Introducing the interactive discussion, Commission Chairperson OLIVIER BELLE ( Belgium) said the discussion would evaluate progress, as well as highlight good practices and strategies for better, faster implementation of the 2004 agreed conclusions.  The link between gender equality and peace and security was well-established.  The Beijing Platform for Action highlighted that “peace is inextricably linked between women and men and development”.  Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women and peace and security called for women’s equal participation with men and their full involvement in maintaining and promoting peace and security.


Keynote Speakers


CAROLYN McASKIE, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office, said that, since adoption of the agreed conclusions in 2004, the United Nations had set up, as one of the key outcomes of the 2005 World Summit, a peacebuilding architecture, comprised of the Peacebuilding Commission, the Peacebuilding Fund and the Peacebuilding Support Office.  The systematic inclusion of women and gender analysis in peacebuilding was intrinsic to the just reconstruction of political, legal, economic and social structures, as well as to the advancement of gender-equality goals.  It also made economic growth and human social capital recovery more durable and effective.


Local women had first-hand knowledge of their communities’ needs, she said.  Because peacebuilding aimed to reconstitute various structures, it had the potential to remedy previous structural gender inequalities, while constructing a more just society.  Because gender inequities sometimes shaped forms of violence used in conflicts, addressing them had the potential to prevent future violence.  It was important to take advantage of post-conflict opportunities and resist efforts to return to the pre-conflict status quo that may have been discriminatory towards women.


Despite much rhetoric about women’s roles in peacebuilding, women’s contributions had rarely been fully recognized, she said, stressing that the Peacebuilding Commission stood to more fully engage women in designing and implementing peacebuilding policies.  It had begun to put theory into practice at the country level in Sierra Leone and Burundi, the first two countries on its agenda.  For example, in January 2007, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the Peacebuilding Support Office convened a national consultation that informed women’s leaders and civil society organizations in Sierra Leone about the Peacebuilding Commission and helped set up a national peacebuilding agenda for women.  As a result, the Mano River Women’s Network for Peace was one of two civil society representatives on the Peacebuilding Fund National Steering Committee.


In Sierra Leone, a visiting senior Peacebuilding Commission delegation successfully advocated for the adoption of laws to promote gender equality, thus providing political support needed to outlaw domestic violence and ensure women’s rights to inheritance and property ownership, she said.  And, in December, the Sierra Leone Government and the Peacebuilding Commission adopted a Peacebuilding Cooperation Framework that recognized gender-equality as a cross-cutting peacebuilding issue and listed specific commitments to advance that goal, such as support for Family Support Units of the Police, capacity-building of national gender institutions, and implementing domestic violence, inheritance and property rights laws.


In Burundi, women participated in the peace process, integrating gender equality into democratic governance and the peacebuilding framework, she said.  Thanks to the quotas in the peace agreement and Burundi’s new Constitution, women were now well represented in Government, holding 30 per cent of parliamentary seats and seven minister posts.  Women had also been elected for the first time as chiefs of communes.  In Burundi’s Peacebuilding Fund Priority Plan, women and youth were specifically called on to strengthen peace and social cohesion.  The Burundi Peacebuilding Strategy Framework had an effective system for tracking gender-disaggregated data, which could be used as template for future data tracking.


Despite those significant achievements, much more must be done, she continued.  “We have learned that our ability to affect real change in gender equality through peacebuilding greatly depends on how the international community establishes its priorities and uses its resources,” she said.  National capacity weaknesses could be a major obstacle to achieving gender equality goals.  That was a problem in both Burundi and Sierra Leone.  UNIFEM had only a modest presence in both countries, due to resource constraints, and neither of the gender advisers in the integrated offices in Sierra Leone and Burundi had predictable support.  Effective implementation of gender issues required appropriate policies, technical skills, gender-sensitive programme design, strategic planning, operational capacity, capable partners, appropriate human resource and communications strategies, knowledge creation and management, monitoring and evaluation, resource mobilization, and gender-sensitive financial management and reporting.


In that regard, the Peacebuilding Commission Working Group on Lessons Learned made recommendations in January for possible follow up, she said.  It called for strengthening the research capacity of countries of interest, in order to improve data collection on gender and peacebuilding issues.  It also called for:  identifying women’ progress in elections as a vital part of medium- and long-term planning; sensitizing economic policy advisers to gender issues during the post-conflict reconstruction stage; integrating women’s access to justice to provide reparations and services to women survivors of gender-based violence; and setting up greater monitoring mechanisms for results-based reporting on implementation.


GINA TORRY, Coordinator, NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, said that she had also played a coordinating role as part of the transnational civil society alliances working to promote the full and effective participation of women in peacebuilding and the integration of gender perspectives into the peacebuilding initiatives of the United Nations.  “Quietly, and not so quietly”, she said, there was a global movement building:  a movement of local, regional and international civil society alliances that had identified the inclusion of women and gender into all aspects of peacebuilding as imperative to the maintenance of global peace and security.


In the realm of what is imagined, in the global collective consciousness, as the territory of men in suits, puffing on cigars, “women have taken up human security worldwide as a key, overarching priority and as one in which their participation and input has been historically and semantically left out”, she said.  Since the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and the relevant 2004 agreed conclusions of the Commission on the Status of Women, significant steps had been made by State actors, women and women’s organizations and civil society networks to strengthen women’s roles in peacebuilding and conflict prevention.


She said the United Nations had also made important achievements, including formulating gender-sensitive action plans in disarmament, political and humanitarian affairs and efforts to coordinate and build coherence in its women, peace and security work.  Some Member States had made themselves further accountable to international commitments by developing and implementing relevant national plans of action and strategies.  While those strides were important, Governments and the United Nations could not do it alone.  Over the past few years, State actors and women’s networks had been making significant progress by working together to make peacebuilding more effective and sustainable.


By joining together to bridge internal divides, women’s networks and coalitions were better positioned to effectively channel multiple voices and concerns to the highest levels of government and international policymaking, she said.  Getting women and women’s perspectives to the table to begin with took careful work preparing the ground in the lead-up to formal talks, peacebuilding and institution-building.  “The United Nations, no doubt, has a powerful role to play from the start,” she said.


At the same time, she said that, while gender mainstreaming policies existed in different United Nations departments, they were still not always fully or systematically put into practice.  One such gap that did not get enough attention was the terms of reference for United Nations high-level or fact-finding missions led by the Department of Political Affairs.  Such missions were important and were often the first steps in assessing where the Organization’s peacebuilding support was best placed.


She noted that the NGO Working Group had intervened on several occasions after such meetings had been deployed to urge meetings with local women peacebuilders, including during the high-level fact-finding missions to Nepal (2006) and Fiji (2007).  To its credit, the Department had, after each mission, responded to the request by meeting with women peacebuilders, she said, adding that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other United Nations agencies had then been helpful in setting up the meetings.  At the same time, though, women’s networks needed to be more strategic and proactive in that regard, choosing representatives to effectively communicate their collective messages and recommendations and conduct follow-up.  She acknowledged that that effort would require the investment of financial and human resources into such organizations.


Turning to some examples, she noted the sad fact that women’s early involvement in peacebuilding remained a challenge and said that had been especially evident in the Peacebuilding Commission’s initial work in Burundi.  Despite 30 per cent representation of women elected to the national Government, that fact did not impact upon the original composition of the Commission’s National Steering Committee.  As national strategies began to take shape, it became clear that women in Burundi were being almost entirely left behind in the Commission’s work.


The NGO Working Group and Dushierhamwe -- a network of women’s peacebuilding organizations in Burundi -- had spoken with the United Nations about this matter and Norway, Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Burundi Configuration, had taken action.  She said that women’s representatives from both Government and civil society were now a part of the Steering Committee.  She stressed that getting into the room was just the first step.  In order to play an effective role, women and women’s organizations were in need of technical, political and financial support and follow-through.


She went on to stress that there was currently no gender adviser to the ongoing peace talks on Darfur.  That was troubling, because such experts could help women face challenges and overcome divisions.  They could also take consolidated action needed to build alliances to facilitate women’s full and effective participation.  Concluding, she said that, despite laudable efforts, there was still no United Nations mechanism or system to ensure accountability for failures for achieving women’s equal participation in conflict prevention, management and resolution.


ANNE MARIE GOETZ, Chief Adviser of Governance, Peace and Security of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), said UNIFEM was fully committed to implementing Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and that its advocacy efforts emphasized inclusive peacebuilding, gender-equality in transitions and recovery processes, gender-sensitive justice and security-sector reform, and good governance from a gender-equality perspective.  However, resolution 1325 was a long way from being adequately implemented.  Very few women participated in peace talks as official negotiators or observers.  Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes still rarely addressed the needs of women associated with fighting forces, and post-conflict planning and financing for women’s recovery remained weak.


The use of sexual and gender-based violence as a method of warfare was becoming increasingly systematic and widespread, she said.  “Use of this tactic is hardly new.  But by 2008, it is reasonable to expect more alacrity and decisiveness in the international community’s response to sexual violence,” she said.  “The fact is, however, that sexual violence is not seen as a threat to peace or as a trigger for significant security responses.”  When law and order was held in abeyance in a society fractured and brutalized by war, male soldiers, ex-soldiers and civilians alike preyed on women and children with impunity.  Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration rarely included systematic psychological debriefs of demobilized fighters who, once returned to their families and communities awash with small arms and light weapons, posed a continuing threat to women and children, she said.  “Thus, ending the war does not end the violence against women.”


A gender-sensitive perspective on conflict resolution, peacebuilding and rehabilitation was essential.  UNIFEM was working to achieve that by engaging women directly in peace processes.  For example, in the Sudan it had recently supported capacity-building of women’s groups in Darfur and national peace consultations with women.  It had also facilitated women’s access to the institutions brokering the peace process there.  In northern Uganda, UNIFEM had partnered with the Department of Political Affairs to install a gender adviser with the United Nations envoy to the Juba talks.  UNIFEM’s work with the Women’s Peace Coalition had enabled its members to be present in Juba and to have access to both negotiating teams to share with them women’s perspectives on the peace agreement.


UNIFEM advocated for more effective mainstreaming of gender-equality concerns into all post-conflict needs assessments, joint assessment missions and other instruments for determining post-conflict investment priorities, she said.  Still, budget allocations for women’s post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation priorities were inadequate, particularly in terms of livelihood recovery, shelter, land rights and security.  She stressed the need to create security for women, so they could participate in peace and post-conflict governance processes.  To improve the United Nations capacity to respond to the problem, UNIFEM had co-founded “United Nations Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict”, an initiative of 12 United Nations entities.


As part of that initiative, she continued, UNIFEM supported efforts to improve military and police tactics to prevent widespread and systematic sexual gender-based violence in conflict.  In Rwanda and Kosovo, UNIFEM supported improved access by women victims of violence to the police, and gender-sensitive police investigations and case-management systems.  Based on that work, UNIFEM and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had co-produced guidance material on gender-sensitive institutional reform in the police force.  Noting that a major cause of conflict was poor governance, she said UNIFEM supported women’s political participation and role as public decision makers in the post-conflict contexts in which it worked.  Since 2004, it had supported capacity-building of women candidates in, among other areas, Burundi, Haiti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste and Afghanistan.  It had supported efforts to increase women’s registration as voters, and had supported civic education programmes for women.


Interactive Dialogue


When Commission delegates took the floor, many agreed that peace agreements and reconstruction worked better when women were involved in the process.  Indeed, bringing women to the peace table improved the quality of agreements reached and enhanced the chances that they were fully and equitably implemented.  At the same time, speakers called for “real participation”, not just token representation.  Several eschewed the notion that, amid crisis or in the aftermath of conflict, stakeholders “just didn’t have time” to focus on the needs and participation of women.  They agreed with the panellists that it was in the very midst of such crises that resources must be funnelled to social structures to empower women to play their full role in post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding.


One speaker asked the panellists to give some suggestions on ways post-conflict societies, which were often coping with lingering tensions and damaged infrastructure, could promote the participation of women peacebuilders.  Another noted that gender advisers were often assigned to peace missions after they had been set up.  Could the panel suggest ways in which such focal points could be put in place during mission planning processes?  A civil society representative asked if there were ways to use the opportunity of post-conflict peacebuilding to boost participation of girls and young women.  Could post-crisis negotiations also be used as a platform for helping reduce discrimination against girls and young women?


One Commission member said that, while many speakers seemed to be in favour of including women in peacebuilding, the fact remained that, on the ground, there was still a major divide between words and action.  How could that be changed?  Another speaker asked how women’s issues could be included in transitional justice, including the combat against impunity?


Responding, Ms. McASKIE said that one of the ways the international community could help promote women’s participation was perhaps the most simple: women could raise their own voices, including at home, as well as on the Security Council, the Peacebuilding Commission and in the General Assembly.  She acknowledged, however, that, once the issue was raised, the appropriate follow-up mechanisms must be in place.


She noted that the Peacebuilding Commission’s country-specific meetings ensured that “all the players” were at the table, hence providing an enormous amount of strategic leverage for all stakeholders.  Still, national organizations and networks had to get the word out about peace negotiations.  “Meetings can’t take place and then nobody shows up but men,” she said, adding that to be mainstreamed meant “that you have to get in the water in the first place”.  While that would require strengthened action by women’s networks, it would also require Governments and other stakeholder to supply those networks with more resources to help them participate.


Ms. TORRY agreed that getting women in the room was a start, “but getting them to the table will show real progress”.  She also agreed that continued awareness-raising on the part of the Commission and other United Nations bodies was essential. 


Ms. McASKIE said that Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) could be used as leverage to ensure the presence of gender advisers in the mission-planning stage.  She said the Department of Political Affairs Mediation Unit could also be a point of entry for ensuring gender expertise in peace talks.  “So get your Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) colleagues into the room,” she said, urging Commission delegations to press for the resources needed to ensure gender perspectives were integrated at Headquarters level.


She also stressed that the Security Council could ensure that Secretariat briefings included the gender impacts of conflict situations.  There was also a need to get more women in senior-level positions who could raise the relevant issues.  “We all need to be speaking the same language,” she said.


While discussing transitional justice and impunity would take up an “entire session”, she underscored that the United Nations was working to ensure that crimes against women were included in truth commissions and reconciliation processes.  Further training for men, as well as women, on the gender aspects of transitional justice was also necessary.  To that end, she noted that, in many post-conflict countries, because of male wartime casualties, more and more women were now working at universities and in other academic fields, who could be brought into the discussion.


Ms. TORRY added that resolution 1325 (2000) could also be used to ensure that women were protected against sexual violence.  She recalled that the text also required the Security Council to meet with women’s groups when they went on country missions.  That language was very important.  For example, the 2006 United Kingdom-led mission to Sudan had met with several women’s groups and it was no coincidence that, a month later, the Council had adopted a resolution on the situation in Sudan that actually contained language on women and gender, not just the usual mention of resolution 1325.  She also called for troop-contributing countries to ensure that their forces were gender trained.  Agreeing that more and better reporting to the Security Council on sexual violence was vital, she called for the creation of a relevant monitoring mechanism within the Council on that issue.


Another participant asked panellists to elaborate on the size and work methods of the gender units of the Department of Political Affairs, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Peacebuilding Support Office, and whether they were sufficient.


The speaker from the Democratic Republic of the Congo said that, at this very moment, women and girls were being raped and killed in the eastern part of her country.  That fact demanded redoubled effort by the international community to help remove all foreign armed groups, especially from the Kivus.  She asked what UNIFEM was doing or could do to help.


Responding to the questions and comments, Ms. McASKIE said it was up to Governments to work out burden-sharing with civil society at the national levels.  At the same time, civil society partners in the North could help their Southern counterparts by providing information and technical support.  She said that it would be extremely helpful if the Security Council itself decided to call for the addition of information on the gender impact of conflict.  Council members could, for instance, say they would not discuss any issue without also touching on gender differentiation.  Summing up, she recalled that a time of conflict and crisis provided an excellent opportunity to push for women’s involvement in peacebuilding and reconstruction.


Ms. TORRY asked the delegates to consider what they could do to raise awareness about women’s roles in peacemaking.  She added that extra funding was not enough.  Dedicated, adequate and sustained funding was required.  High-level United Nations leadership was also vital, she said, noting that the Organization still had no representative for the women’s agenda or to monitor implementation of resolution 1325 (2000).  She also noted that the Secretary-General used to report every year on implementation of that resolution, and that was no longer the case.  The NGO Working Group had always called for a focal point to increase accountability regarding implementation of the resolution.


Ms. GOETZ said it was remarkable that so many delegations had called for linking gender activists with security actors on the ground.  Such coordinated action would go a long way towards preventing sexual violence and protecting women during conflict and in post-conflict peacemaking.  Also, the incidents of sexual abuse by some peacekeepers had detracted attention from the extremely positive role military and police could play -- and were playing -- on the ground to combat violence against women and other human rights abuses.  Noting that there were several excellent examples of such cooperation between gender activist and police under way, including pilot projects, she called on delegations to share such positive experiences with others.


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For information media • not an official record