SECURITY COUNCIL CONCLUDES OPEN DEBATE ON WOMEN AND PEACE AND SECURITY

25 October 2000
SC/6939

SECURITY COUNCIL CONCLUDES OPEN DEBATE ON WOMEN AND PEACE AND SECURITY

25/10/2000
Press ReleaseSC/6939

Security Council

4208th Resumed Meeting (AM)

SECURITY COUNCIL CONCLUDES OPEN DEBATE ON WOMEN AND PEACE AND SECURITY

Women must take on high-level roles in field-based civilian peace and security operations at the senior decision-making and management levels, Martin Andjaba (Namibia), Security Council President, speaking in his national capacity, told the Council this morning as it concluded its open debate on “Women and peace and security”, which was begun yesterday.

A good beginning had been made in the gender units in the peacekeeping missions in Kosovo and East Timor, he continued.  The Secretary-General should establish similar units in other peacekeeping missions.  Also, a senior gender expert should be included in fact-finding missions to conflict areas.  Such an expert would enable a full appreciation of the gender dimension in ongoing and potential conflicts. 

A number of speakers during the discussion called for wider recognition of the fact that armed conflict had different destructive impacts on women and men, and that a gender-sensitive approach to the application of international human rights law and international humanitarian law was important.  Other speakers also underscored the need to integrate a gender perspective in the planning, design, and implementation of humanitarian assistance and to provide adequate resources to make that possible. 

The representative of Ethiopia said that over the years the United Nations had made considerable progress in the area of equality.  Member States should follow that example.  Perhaps, the best place where those States could start was in the Council Chamber.  “Let the countries of the permanent five [Council Members] set the example by sending women as their representatives”, he said.  “The rest of us should not be far behind.”

The representative of the United Arab Emirates said the situation in the occupied Arab and Palestinian territories had been characterized by violence, aggression and an Israeli blockade -- all of which affected women and children.  He called on Israel to end the massive violation of human rights in the occupied territories.  He also demanded that an independent and neutral commission of inquiry be established, and that an independent criminal tribunal be set up to try and prosecute the perpetrators of crimes against Palestinian women and children.

The representatives of Malawi, Guatemala, Norway, Rwanda, Botswana and Nepal also made statements this morning.

The meeting, which resumed at 10:48 a.m., was adjourned at 12:14 p.m.

Council Work Programme

The Security Council met this morning to resume its meeting, suspended yesterday evening, on the subject of “Women and peace and security”.

Statements

ABDULMEJID HUSSEIN (Ethiopia) said he believed that this open debate of the Council would enable on exchange of views on the situation of women in armed conflict, which was within the Council’s mandate.  The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and other United Nations agencies must be commended for their direct support for women in conflict situations and for their work in bringing women’s voices to national, regional and international decision-making arenas.  The role of UNIFEM in facilitating the All-Party Conference in Arusha and putting forward Burundian women’s recommendations in the final peace agreement highlighted their innovative and unique role.

He said that a full-scale assessment of the impact of armed conflict on women and their role in peace-building was long overdue.  He hoped the Council would recommend that follow-up to today’s debate.  Ethiopia had full confidence in UNIFEM’s ability to support the process, as it continued to draw on other United Nations funds and programmes and the important work of civil society.  Most States had legislated equality between men and women.  Yet, if one looked at the very same parliaments or legislatures, that equality was lacking.

He said that recently Ethiopia had held its second multi-party elections.  Of the 20 million that voted, half were women.  Yet, only 10 per cent of the

540 members of Parliament were women.  That was despite the fact that, in some electoral districts, 80 per cent of the voters were women.  Much had to be done. “Equality will not drop from the sky -– one must strive to achieve it”, he said.

Over the years, the United Nations had made considerable progress, he said. It was time that Member States followed its example.  Perhaps, the best place where such States could start was in the Security Council Chamber.  “Let the countries of the permanent five [Council members] set the example by sending women as their representatives”, he said.  “The rest of us should not be far behind.”

YUSUF M. JUWAYEI (Malawi) said wars and conflicts drew little distinction between militants and civilian, and between adults and children.  Armed conflicts affected women and girls differently from men and boys.  Rape and sexual violence perpetrated by the armed forces -- whether governmental or other actors, including peacekeeping personnel -- increased the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.  Most of the HIV/AIDS victims in developing countries were women and girls.  That disease left millions of orphans who, in most cases, were cared for by older women. 

He said the harmful and widespread threats to women and girls had long-term consequences for peace, security and development.  He reviewed efforts by the international community to protect and ensure peace and security for women and girls, including the establishment of the International Criminal Court, which he said had made great strides to help end impunity for crimes against women and girls.  He was gratified that the Council, after five decades, had recognized the importance of women’s role and of their increased participation in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace-building. 

Women continued to be under-represented in peacekeeping, peacemaking and peace-building efforts, including in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, he said.  That should not be allowed to continue.  In the long term, however, the only way to protect women and girls was to prevent conflicts from taking place.  That meant the involvement and full participation of women in all areas.  He requested the Secretary-General and the Council to urge Member States to ensure that training in respect for human rights should include all:  civilians, militants, police, civil society, women themselves and peacekeeping personnel.  Those who committed crimes against women, including peacekeeping personnel, should be brought to book. 

GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala) said that in 1996 the two parties in his country had signed a cluster of peace accords in which the role of women in economic and social development appeared as both an aspiration and a commitment.  Since time immemorial, Guatemalan women had had to face marginalization, lack of opportunities, discrimination and violence.  That situation had been aggravated by the consequences of the armed internal conflict, forcing many families to leave their place of residence and increasing the number of widows and women at the head of households enormously.  When peace was signed, many Guatemalan women had found themselves in a situation of grave economic hardship and social vulnerability.  What was called for was an ample and agreed-to process of conciliation, resettlement, cooperation and healing of the profound physical and moral wounds that war had brought with it.

Since the signing of the peace accords, achievements included the return and resettlement of displaced populations and progress in the reform of the judicial system and the educational system, among other things.  Specific measures had been adopted to deal specifically with the analysis of the situation of women, and the design of strategies to improve it, he said.  Guatemala today was a more open, plural and participatory society than it had been five years ago.  Women’s participation had increased in many fields, and the number of women involved in training programmes and in community affairs was growing.  There was greater access to leadership positions, and in the electoral process and in political and entrepreneurial activities, female participation had increased.

However, many commitments contained in the peace accords had not been complied with in a timely and opportune manner.  Perhaps, the complexity of the effort had not been adequately foreseen, especially because the original timetable of four years seemed insufficient to deal with the accumulated difficulties faced.  For that reason, the Oversight Commission of the Peace Process had re-scheduled the compliance of the commitments.  He hoped that the United Nations Verification Mission’s mandate would be extended to the end of 2003.

MOHAMMAD J. SAMHAN (United Arab Emirates) said that, notwithstanding the recent international conferences on women’s issues in the last decade, the role of women in the maintenance of international peace and security still fell short of what had been expected in contemporary international relations.  Various world events had emphasized the seriousness of women’s situation.  Ethnic conflicts, forced displacement, occupation, and imbalances in socio-economic relations between developing and developed countries had all contributed to the worsening of illiteracy and poverty.  That, in turn, had led to increased suffering for women.

He said the Security Council must follow up the implementation of its resolutions in various conflicts and coordinate with other international organizations in order to come up with peaceful and speedy solutions to those conflicts.  His country had closely followed the situation in the occupied Arab and Palestinian territories.  It had been characterized by violence, aggression and an Israeli blockade, which affected women and children.  He called on Israel to end the massive violation of human rights in the occupied territories. 

He said allowing such abuses to continue showed that some States were prepared to follow double standards.  He demanded that an independent and neutral commission of inquiry be established and that an independent criminal tribunal be set up to try and prosecute the perpetrators of crimes against Palestinian women and children.  The United Arab Emirates stressed the importance of spreading a culture of peace and the vanguard role of women in international affairs.  Their participation should be guaranteed.

ARNE B. HONNIGSTAD (Norway) said his Government would host an expert seminar on the situation of women in refugee camps early next year.  He said the Brahimi Report on United Nations peace operations did not sufficiently cover gender issues.  There needed to be a clearer focus on the role of women as a resource in the planning and implementation of peace processes.  The report did not adequately address the potential positive role of women and the impact of conflict on women and girls.  He stressed the importance of strengthening the gender perspective in the follow-up to the report. 

For too long, women had been seen as victims only, he said.  Women represented a resource that should not be ignored.  The report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Brahimi Report seemed to be a step in the right direction. 

He said Norway had commissioned a study on women soldiers in post-conflict situations.  A number of women participated actively in armed conflict, but more needed to be known about their role following conflicts -- the problems they met and how their competence could be used in a constructive manner. 

ISADORE MUTABOBA (Rwanda) said that when political and ethnic tensions caused conflict in Rwanda, women came as one to suggest building bridges rather than walls.  The Council should help in that effort. 

He said those who had widowed women in Rwanda, Burundi and in the Balkans -- who had raped them and left them with infections, scars and unwanted pregnancies

-- were still at large.  They were killing and raping more women and girls across the borders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and elsewhere under the silence of those who should arrest them according to several Security Council resolutions. 

The presence of such criminals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continued to threaten the security of Rwanda’s people and its sovereignty.  Rwanda was in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to stop them from killing and raping and to bring back as many as possible.  Rwanda took such action within the framework of the Lusaka Agreement.  In September alone, it had been able to bring back 17,000 people.  It would continue to bring back its people and to do it within the law.  The international community should contribute to that search for peace and security rather than keeping quiet and dwelling on non-priority issues.

Women had come together to form both national and regional associations, he said.  With the facilitation of the Rwandan Government, women had established councils and elected their representatives from the village to the national level for the first time.  Women understood that there could be no development if there was not peace at home and across the border.  Peace and security was the prime responsibility of the Council and women had a right to be involved, especially where men had failed. 

LEUTLWETSE MMUALEFE (Botswana) said that violence against women was still the norm in some parts of the world.  There was definitely a need to strengthen or enact legislation to censure or punish domestic violence, including the sexual abuse of women and girls.  Concerning peace operations, violations against women must be punished.  Peace-support operations must include well staffed and integrated gender units and gender advisers, and field operations should pay particular attention to affected women, especially refugee women and girls.  In the case of Botswana, it was generally understood that violence against women, particularly domestic violence, was not a family matter but a serious crime. In 1997, there had been a review of all the laws that discriminated against women.

In war and conflict situations, he said, the under-representation of women in decision-making at all levels was one of the major problems.  For women to contribute effectively to the maintenance of peace and security, their economic and political empowerment was crucial.  Botswana recognized that the participation of women in decision-making at all levels of private and public life was an important human rights issue.  In trying to strengthen the link between politics and human rights, his country had consistently expended efforts towards gender- neutral education, including political education, mobilization, lobbying and advocacy.  Non-governmental organizations had played a contributory role here. Part of the positive outcome in this instance was the fact that the representation of women in the Botswana Parliament had increased from 9 per cent in 1994 to

18.2 per cent in 1999, while in the Cabinet the increase was from 12.5 per cent in 1994 to 23.5 per cent in 1999.

Whenever the issue of women, peace and security was discussed, he continued, the painful topic of children in armed conflict could not be overlooked.  In that regard, he commended the 1996 Machel Report which clearly demonstrated that the full impact of armed conflict on children could only be fully understood when associated or examined in the context of the effects it had on women, families and communities. Touching on the issue of women and health, he noted that in Botswana there were some hurdles pertaining to negative cultural customs and traditions that needed to be relegated to the past.  Currently, the main issue of concern was the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which was devastating his country, targeting mostly women.  The United Nations and the international community should aggressively address the HIV/AIDS problem in Africa and elsewhere, including in armed conflict areas.

DURGA PRASAD BHATTARAI (Nepal) said that women were the source of strength in Nepal.  Women made more compassionate and often more effective leaders.  Many studies had established that women tended to be more sincere, more reliable, and more compassionate.  They also tended to make prudent use of their resources.  Nepal’s micro-credit programme revealed that women defaulted on their loans less frequently, were more likely to use their earnings to meet family needs, and that their repayment rate was higher than that of their male counterparts.  Men might subconsciously wish for the excitement of adventure that conflicts presented, while women shunned violence more consistently.  For those reasons, women were likely to be more committed to resolving dispute more peacefully than men.

He said the United Nations must work to empower women by encouraging equality and the implementation of human rights instruments already agreed upon.  Women must be sent to the field as peacekeepers and peacemakers more than they were now.  There must be more women in the United Nations system, especially at the policy level.  They would bring compassion and a fresh outlook to their work, were likely to put conflicts in the proper perspective, and to fashion solutions in a holistic manner. 

He cautioned, however, that women must work hard to catch up.  They should do more to acquire skills and a competitive edge.  They ought to strive for their own empowerment.  Generous pledges of equality would not bear fruit unless women took the initiative to excel and led the change.  At the end of the day, it was quality that sustained the gains of women, not quotas.

MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia), Council President, spoke in his national capacity on behalf of THEO-BEN GURIRAB, his country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs.  He said that no one could deny that women shouldered the heavy burden of sustaining embattled societies, while, at the same time, attending to traumas, miseries and violence during armed conflicts.  Regrettably, peace negotiations were habitually male dominated.  The result, he said, was the underuse of women’s capabilities in conflict prevention, resolution and settlement, and the wilful ignoring of their concerns.  Armed conflicts affected women in special ways.  They were among the first civilians to become refugees or internally displaced persons.  They were expected to look after children left in a state of despair and suffering.  The impact of warfare and death on children required purposeful attention, as did the related negative effects on women.  A better understanding of the impact of conflict on women and girls was needed to ensure adequate provision for their safety and protection, and this should be part of the review of United Nations peace operations.

Never before had the necessity for equal participation of women at the peace table been greater than today, he said.  Cries for peace and human security still resonated.  Women had the right to participate in peace processes, peace negotiations and the implementation of agreements, as well as post-conflict monitoring, peace enforcement and reconstruction.  He added that gender-based violence against women and girls was widely recorded and called out for international awareness campaigns.  Violence against women, including rape, was used as a weapon of war.  The full force of international humanitarian and human rights laws must be applied effectively against all culprits, he said.

Women must take on high-level roles in field-based civilian peace and security operations, at the senior decision-making and management levels, he said.  A good beginning had been made in the gender units in the peacekeeping missions in Kosovo and East Timor.  The Secretary-General should establish similar units in other peacekeeping missions.  A senior gender expert should be included in

Security Council fact-finding missions to enable a full appreciation of the gender dimension of ongoing and potential conflicts.  The devastating effects of deadly weapons on civilian populations in Africa and in other developing countries clearly contributed to prolonging armed conflict and imposed severe hardships, especially on women and children.  By the same token, disarmament, demobilization, resettlement and rehabilitation of ex-combatants should take into account the special needs of women and girls.

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For information media. Not an official record.