26 October 2006 Highlighting the role played by women in promoting peace in countries emerging from conflict, the United Nations Security Council today stressed it was essential to promote the full participation of women in helping rebuild such societies and also encouraged more female involvement in UN peacekeeping operations.
“The Security Council recognizes the vital roles of, and contributions by women in consolidating peace... [it] recognises that the protection and empowerment of women and support for their networks and initiatives are essential in the consolidation of peace,” the 15-member body said in a presidential statement at the end of a day-long open meeting.
“The Council further encourages Member States and the Secretary-General to increase, the participation of women in all areas and all levels of peacekeeping operations, civilian, police and military, where possible.”
The statement came after speeches from almost 50 UN and other officials following up on Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s report on women, peace and security, which was released earlier this month. Speakers also emphasized the need to achieve gender equality, as set forth in the UN Charter and Council resolution 1325, and acknowledged that more needed to be done, especially in regard to peacebuilding.
“Women are critical to the consolidation of peace. In today’s mostly internal conflicts, the socio-economic fabric of a country and its societal dynamics become a key guide to finding entry points into resolving and preventing conflicts,” Rachel Mayanja, Assistant Secretary-General, Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women told the Council.
“The past year has demonstrated that our collective efforts to ensure equal participation of women in the consolidation of peace so far have generally fallen short of what is required. From the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Sudan and from Somalia to Timor-Leste, women continue to be exposed to violence.”
Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno, acknowledged there remained “challenges to women’s rights and gender equality in post-conflict societies,” but he also pointed to progress made during the past year, especially with the election in Liberia of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first woman head of State in Africa.
However he said much remained to be done, highlighting in particular the problem of insecurity that many women endure even after conflict has ended, and he also repeated the call to Member States to put forward more female candidates for UN peacekeeping operations.
“Our predominantly male profile in peacekeeping undermines the credibility of our efforts to lead by example in the host countries in which we are engaged. We need Member States to nominate more women candidates for senior civilian positions in missions… Less than two per cent and five per cent respectively of our military and police personnel are women.”
The head of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) said that through its work in over 20 conflict-affected countries, her organization recognized that “women are a crucial resource” in peacebuilding and consolidation, while she also stressed that in order to strengthen any peace process there must be justice for women.
“Peace agreements, early recovery and post-conflict governance do better when women are involved. Women make a difference in part because they adopt a more inclusive approach to peace and security and address key social and economic issues that provide the foundations of sustainable peace and that would otherwise be ignored,” said Noeleen Heyzer, UNIFEM Executive Director.
“The question is not only what women can bring to peace consolidation, but also what peacebuilding can do to promote women’s human rights and gender equality – transforming social structures so they do not reproduce the exclusion and marginalization that underlie conflict.”
Carolyn McAskie, Assistant Secretary-General in the Peacebuilding Support Office, told the Council that “all three main peacebuilding pillars” of the UN, namely the recently set-up Peacebuilding Commission, the Peacebuilding Fund and the Peacebuilding Support Office, have important roles to play in getting women more involved.
“As such, the Peacebuilding Commission, supported by the Peacebuilding Support Office, is currently exploring ways by which we can engage civil society in general and women’s organizations in particular to support the process of peacebuilding.”
“Women have a key role to play in building peace, in their own right, and not only because they are disproportionately victimized nor seen more naturally as agents of peace. Women’s key role must be recognized because societies where women participate fully enjoy more peace, more prosperity and more opportunity.”