28 October 2004 Women remain overwhelmingly excluded from participating in peace talks and post-conflict reconstruction, and continue to suffer physical and sexual violence during war, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a report on women, peace and security.
Mr. Annan's report, discussed in the Security Council today, says gender perspectives are not systematically included in the planning, implementation, monitoring and reporting of any area of peace and security work.
Even though women can play a crucial role in identifying and defusing tensions before they turn into open hostilities, too often they are ignored at the peace table, Mr. Annan says.
"The number of women who participate in formal peace processes remains small," according to the report. "The leadership of parties to conflict is male-dominated and men are chosen to participate at the peace table. The desire to bring peace at any cost may result in a failure to involve women and consider their needs and concerns."
The Secretary-General cites many examples of women's movements contributing to peace processes in recent years, including in Liberia, Northern Ireland, Colombia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The report has been issued to measure the progress achieved since the Council adopted a resolution in 2000 that called for women to have equal participation in peace-building efforts and spotlighted the violence and abuse suffered by women and girls during conflicts.
Mr. Annan says that violence against women continues unabated and describes the international community's collective response on the issue as inadequate.
"The facts on the ground point to our collective failure in preventing such violence and protecting women and girls from the horrors of gender-based violence and heinous violations of international human rights, criminal and humanitarian law."
State military organizations and rebel groups are both responsible for violations, he adds, including murders, rapes, abductions, torture and acts of sexual slavery. Some of the worst examples have occurred in Sudan's Darfur region, Afghanistan and Burundi, the report says.
The fact that UN personnel have also been involved in abuse cases, such as in the DRC, "is particularly abhorrent and unacceptable."
Mr. Annan says courts and tribunals such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) show that there are ways to punish people who commit these kinds of crimes against women, but governments must be willing to play their part and bring the perpetrators to justice.
The Secretary-General says there have been some positive signs in the four years since the passage of the Council resolution, including a greater global understanding of the specific impact of war on women and girls and the important role that women can play in resolving conflicts and re-establishing peace.
He also notes that the UN and many individual Member States have taken steps to improve the gender balance in peacekeeping missions and to ensure that peacekeepers are specifically trained on the protection of women.
Many States are actively recruited women to serve in peacekeeping contingents, especially in senior roles. The UN has also boosted the number of gender advisers from two in 2000 to 10 today.
But numerous inequalities remain, the report notes. For example, only two of the UN's 27 peace operations are headed by women.