First Africa/Asia Parliamentarian Forum on Human Security and Gender

Marrakech, Morocco

24-26 March 2002


Message from

Ms. Carolyn Hannan

Director of the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women



Distinguished Delegates,

Representatives of United Nations Agencies,

Colleagues and Friends,


I am honoured to send a message to this First Africa/Asia Parliamentarian Forum on Human Security and Gender in Marrakech, Morocco. I would like to begin by extending sincere thanks to the Moroccan Parliament and the Ministry in Charge of the Promotion of Women and Protection of the Family and Childhood and Integration of Handicapped for hosting this forum. Thanks are also due to Ms. Aicha Afifi of the Moroccan Mission in New York for her tireless assistance during the organization of this forum. I extend my gratitude to Dr. Najma Heptulla, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) of the Indian Parliament, and President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Council, for her excellent support throughout the  development of the forum. I would also like to thank the Government of Japan for recognizing the importance of integrating gender equality in parliamentary work and financing this project. Finally, I would like to acknowledge the excellent collaboration established between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) in the project and to thank the team for the hard work which has gone into the organization of this forum.


I would like to express my strong support for this important initiative to further strengthen efforts to address the gender dimensions of human security. This project involves the organization of two forums to provide an opportunity for parliamentarians from Africa and Asia to discuss their role in promoting gender equality in the context of human security. The project will contribute to the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action (1995) and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the United Nations General Assembly in June 2000.


The two forums will address issues considered essential to human security, both in relation to freedom from want and freedom from fear. The forum here in Morocco will address the impact of armed conflict on women and girls; the gender dimensions of the HIV/AIDS pandemic; and the relationship between poverty-reduction policies and strategies and gender equality, including attention to gender-sensitive budgeting. The recommendations arising from this forum will provide substantive input to the Third Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD III) to be held in 2003. During the next forum, which will be held in India later this year, other issues related to human security will be addressed, including environmental degradation and disaster preparedness.


Many important changes in relation to the conceptualization and addressing of human security have taken place over the past decade. The 1994 Human Development Report (UNDP) advocated a shift of focus in the concept of human security from security of states (territories) to security of people (based on an understanding of their needs and priorities). This raised the importance of identification of the significant threats to livelihoods and safety experienced by individuals and groups of people in different contexts, as well as the possible means for addressing these. Promotion of human security through human development was advocated.  Seven dimensions of human security were identified: economic security, food security, health security, environmental security, personal security, community security and political security. Human security not only includes protection from physical and mental harm, (such as during armed conflict) but also the right to self-determination and human dignity. It also encompasses the notion of access to resources and services that sustain livelihoods and contribute to overall well-being of individuals, households and communities.


The United Nations Millennium Declaration in 2000 further outlined the critical elements of human security in the new millennium by highlighting freedom as a fundamental value: “Men and women have the right to live their lives and raise their children in dignity, free from hunger and free from the fear of violence, oppression or injustice. Democratic and participatory governance based on the will of the people best assures these rights.” (A/55/L.2, para 6). The Roadmap towards the implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration states that: “The principle of human-centred security, along with the need to protect individuals and communities from violence, is increasingly acknowledged. Human security depends first on the effective application of law and order, which in turn demands a firm adherence to the rule of law. A commitment to human security also demands enhanced international cooperation in conflict prevention, and strengthened capacities to assist countries in building, keeping and restoring peace. A further requirement for ensuring human security is disarmament, which involves a consistent and concerted effort from all. Progress here can both reduce global threats and save resources vital for social and economic well-being”. (A/56/326, para 13).


A critical element missing from many of the earlier discussions of human security was, however, an understanding of the differences between women’s and men’s experiences of security. Although the Platform for Action (1995) identified many of the threats to women’s human security, until recently there was no comprehensive analysis of the gender perspectives on human security. In 1999, the Inter-Agency Committee on Women and Gender Equality, and the OECD/DAC Working Party on Gender Equality organized a Workshop on “Women’s Empowerment in the Context of Human Security” in Bangkok. The meeting underscored the inter-linkages between freedom from fear and freedom from want and highlighted the importance of women’s empowerment for human security. Participants emphasized that a focus on empowerment and human rights in relation to human security requires consideration of three critical stages - survival, security and autonomy. This forum can build on and expand on the ideas raised during the Bangkok workshop to ensure a gender-sensitive focus and an intra- and cross-regional approach to human security.


Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to threats to human security because of persistent subordination and discrimination. We do have quite a good knowledge of many of the gender-specific threats to women’s human security. For example, women and girls face a higher risk of HIV/AIDS infection because of trafficking. Domestic violence against women is another relatively well documented threat. The threats to human security faced by women and girls during armed as well as other forms of conflict have also been clearly acknowledged in recent years, most importantly in the groundbreaking Security Council resolution 1325 (October 2000). In relation to freedom from want there is, however, need for more efforts to identify and address the gender-specific aspects of human security, for example in relation to food security, housing and services, as well as economic security and security of livelihoods which involves consideration of critical resources. It is important to understand that, because of women’s critical roles in their communities and households, threats to women’s human security are threats to society as a whole.


However, while highlighting the real vulnerability of women and girls in many situations, it is also important to emphasize that women and girls should not only be seen solely as victims. Women and girls are also major actors and agents of change. Even in extremely difficult situations women use their specific resources, skills and capabilities to find ways to ensure that they and their families can survive and develop the best possible coping strategies. Work on human security – both in terms of creating conditions for freedom from want and freedom from fear – must build on the capabilities and contributions of both women and men. The empowerment of women, and promotion of their participation and leadership roles, are essential elements of effective strategies for promoting human security.


I believe the situation in Afghanistan today brings into stark relief the enormous challenges facing us in relation to promoting gender-sensitive human security in some contexts. In a country ravaged by years of conflict, displacement of its people, denial of human rights and human suffering compounded by drought and famine, restoring freedom from fear and freedom from want will demand huge efforts by Afghans themselves and by the international community. In a context where women faced enormous specific gender-based discrimination, providing human security for women as well as men will require explicit attention to the gender dimensions of all areas of reconstruction and development, particularly in relation to protection and personal security, and a strong focus on the empowerment of women.


The role of parliamentarians in the promotion of human security for both women and men is a critical one. I am confident that this First Africa/Asia Parliamentarian Forum on Human Security and Gender will provide participants with an excellent opportunity to assess in greater depth the gender dimensions of human security and to develop practical recommendations at both policy and programme levels. I regret that I cannot participate in what I am sure will be very rich discussions, given the wealth of experience among the participants at this forum. I wish you productive discussions and look forward to seeing the results of your deliberations.


Thank you.