Statement by Ms. Carolyn Hannan

Director, UN Division for the Advancement of Women


At the

International Assembly of Women Ministers Meeting


Organized by

Council of Women World Leaders

At the United Nations General Assembly

New York, 14 September 2002




Madame Chairperson, Secretary Albright


Distinguished Participants


            It is a pleasure and honour for me to address this distinguished body on so important a topic. In a little over a month, on 24 October, the Security Council will discuss the Secretary-General’s report on women, peace and security and renew commitment to integrating the concerns of women and girls in all United Nations work on peace and security. The discussions at this meeting will provide an important contribution to moving the agenda forward.


For United Nations peace support operations to succeed in ensuring sustainable peace and security based on human rights and democratic principles, the goal of gender equality must be explicitly addressed. Gender perspectives must be identified and addressed in all peace support activities - peace-making and peace-building; peacekeeping - including demobilization, disarmament and reintegration; humanitarian activities; and rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. The protection of women's human rights must be central to all international, regional and national actions in support of peace and security. Women's own initiatives at peace-making, peace-building and rehabilitation and reconstruction must be recognized as important elements for sustainable peace and security and fully supported as such.


The rationale for involving women equitably in all peace support operations, and for making gender perspectives more central to planning and decision-making processes, is a dual one. It is perceived both as a matter of human rights and social justice and as a precondition for - and indicator of - effective peace and security processes. Put very simply, it is not possible to exclude 50 percent of the population and claim that processes are just, democratic and effective. At the very least, the perceptions, interests, priorities and needs of the whole target group need to be taken into account, and this requires greater attention to women and girls.


The Security Council has recognized that peace is inextricably linked with equality between women and men and that the full participation of women in decision-making processes is essential for the promotion and maintenance of peace and security. [1] On 23 October 2000, an Arria Formula meeting [2] provided the members of the Security Council the opportunity to discuss the impact of armed conflict on women and women's role in peace processes with women themselves from South Africa, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Guatemala. These women presented the concrete experiences of women and girls in armed conflict and illustrated the courage and leadership being shown by women in grassroots movements committed to preventing and solving conflicts and bringing peace, security and sustainable development to their communities.


Following an open discussion in the Security Council on 24-25 October 2000, the Security Council adopted resolution 1325 on women and peace and security. The resolution highlights the importance of bringing gender perspectives to the centre of attention in all United Nations peace-making, peace-building, peace-keeping, humaniratian and rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. The resolution provides a number of important operational mandates, with implications for both individual Member States and the United Nations system.


The resolution calls for increased representation of women, particularly at decision-making levels; increased consultation with women and attention to the special needs of women and girls, for example in refugee situations. There is an emphasis on respect for the human rights of women and girls, attention to violence against women and girls and a call for an end to impunity and for the prosecution of those responsible for crimes related to sexual and other violence against women and girls. The impact on women and girls of the implementation of article 41 of the Charter (sanctions) is also raised. The United Nations is requested to incorporate gender perspectives in negotiation and implementation of peace agreements, in all peacekeeping operations, including in refugee camps, and in disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation initiatives. The Security Council itself is called upon to ensure that Security Council missions take gender considerations into account, including through consultation with women's organizations. The Secretary General is requested to include progress in gender mainstreaming in reporting on peacekeeping missions. Member States are specifically urged to increase voluntary financial, technical and logistical support to gender-sensitive training and to incorporate gender perspectives in national training programmes, including on HIV/AIDs.


The resolution invites the Secretary General to carry out a study on the impact of armed conflict on women and girls, the role of women in peace-building and the gender dimensions of peace processes and conflict resolution, and to present the findings in a report to the Security Council. This has provided an important opportunity to deepen the understanding of gender perspectives in armed conflict and in peace support operations and to make concrete recommendations for moving forward. I would like to briefly highlight some of the findings from the study on the impact of armed conflict on women and girls as well as their important contributions to peace and security, and then turn to some of the changes required to ensure that adequate attention is given to women’s participation and the incorporation of their priorities and concerns into all United Nations peace support operations.


Civilian populations have become the principal victims in contemporary conflicts, accounting for up to 90 percent of causalties in conflicts during the 1990s. In some respects women and girls have similar experiences of armed conflict as men and boys - they are tragetted with the same weapons; they are uprooted from their homes and communities; they experience insecurity of livelihoods, including through loss of essential productive assets such as land and equipment; they suffer loss of family members; and they experience different forms of violence and trauma.


At the same time, there is a growing body of evidence pointing to considerable differences in the experiences of women and girls and men and boys in armed conflicts. Existing inequalities between women and men and and patterns of discrimination against women tend to be exacerbated in armed conflict. Women and girls become particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation, including trafficking. When strategies of “ethnic cleansing” are utilized, women and girls become direct targets, as injury and insult to women, for example through rape, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy, is seen as an effective means of dishonoring the enemy. With the loss of men and boys in households and communities - through participation in armed forces, detention or disappearance - women and girls are forced to take on more responsibility for family security and well-being, often without the necessary resources. This constitutes a huge psychological burden. Women's roles in relation to food security, provision of water and energy for household use, and responsibilities for health care may also put them in risk-filled situations. In their efforts to maintain collection of water and energy, to continue agricultural production, to access food in markets or to seek health care – in both urban and rural contexts - women are exposed to mines, cross-fire and risk of sexual attacks.


Women and children also constitute the vast majority of refugees and internally displaced persons. Even in refugee camps the vulnerability of women and girls may continue. Particularly when there is a proliferation of small arms, the carrying out of essential daily tasks such as collection of food supplies, water and fuelwood can expose women and girls to risk of abuse and sexual violence. The specific vulnerabilities women may experience in conflict situations – related to their roles as refugees and displaced persons; the large numbers of women who do not know what has happened to their family members and are forced to take on the roles of men; the unacceptable levels of sexual exploitation; and gender-specific constraints, such as lack of land and property rights and lack of access to and control over resources – often continue in post-conflict situations.


It is important that women and girls are not only seen as victims in armed conflicts, even though it is clear that armed conflicts do entail profound loss, stress and burden for them. Women and girls are also active agents in conflict situations. Some women become armed combatants or collude in different ways in acts of violence, driven by commitment to the political, religious or economic goals of one or other side in the conflict. Women and girls can also be forced to follow camps of armed forces, providing domestic services and/or being used as sexual slaves.


Other women play active roles in peace processes, striving to bring about reconciliation and security, before, during and after conflicts. The contributions women can and do make to peace-building and peace-keeping through informal processes are increasingly recognized and supported. There is a growing perception of women’s potential as agents of peace and seekers of non-conflictive solutions to disputes. Despite this, with few exceptions women are not present in formal peace negotiations. The exceptions include the peace negotiations in Burundi, Guatemala, El Salvador, Palestine and South Africa where women were part of the process.


The role of women's groups and networks in informal peace processes has often not been sufficiently recognized or supported. A particular constraint has been the lack of access to mechanisms or channels for bringing their priorities and recommendations into more formal processes. Grassroots women’s organizations have sponsored peace education in many countries, encouraged child soldiers to lay down their arms (Liberia), organized groups advocating peace across party and ethnic lines (Cyprus, Sri Lanka, former Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland), organized campaigns against small arms (African Women’s Committee for Peace and Development), influenced repatriation processes and established services for returning exiles or refugees (Guatemala), contributed to the end of conflict (the Russian Mothers in Chechnya), negotiated hostage release and counselled traumatized women and girls (Rwanda) and established legal support groups to get recognition for women’s rights to land and household property where such rights have been in the name of a spouse killed or ”disappeared” in the conflict (Burundi, Nicaragua, Rwanda). Unfortunately much of the evidence on women’s participation in conflict prevention and peace-building in informal processes is still anecdotal and is sometimes challenged by sceptics who demand more empirical findings. Continued research and documentation is important.


I would like to give one concrete example of a sub-regional network which has been supported by the Division for the Advancement of Women, the Mano River Women's Peace Network, established in May 2000. The  peace network developed from a concern about the deteriorating security situation in the region and the failure of the peace process. Where women's efforts had traditionally focussed on consolidating peace-related activities at the individual country level, strong umbrella peace and development networks developed in each of the three countries - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The establishment of the Mano River Women’s Peace Network provided the first opportunity for coordination of women's peace activities at the sub-regional level in West Africa. The increased political instability and tensions within and among countries of the Mano River basin over the past years has vindicated the decision to establish a women's peace network. The network has been identified as a good practice example in conflict prevention by the Security Council, suceeding where other attempts had failed in encouraging the leaders in the three Mano River Union countries to initiate dialogue within and between the countries.


It should also be pointed out that conflict situations can also sometimes provide new opportunities for women, as they are forced to take on new roles and learn new skills in the absence of men. With a return to peaceful conditions, it is, however, usually difficult for women to retain the gains they may have made, such as increased roles in decision-making at household and community levels, access to new resources and access to the formal sector. Women and men are normally expected to return to their traditional roles. Women who have taken on new roles may find that they are treated with suspicion, and in some cases such women have been subjected to increased domestic violence.


United Nations peace-building missions should recognize and support the informal peace initiatives of women's groups and networks. Information collection processes in support of conflict prevention which target civil society and research institutes must identify and involve women's groups and networks as well as women's study groups. Women in the media should also be seen as a critical resource.


The challenge facing United Nations peace-keeping and reconstruction missions is to ensure that peacekeeping efforts facilitate an atmosphere of security and safety for women as well as men; that humanitarian assistance considers the specific needs of women, particularly women subjected to sexual violence; that investigations of human rights violations and establishment of monitoring mechanisms take into account gender-related crimes and violations of women’s human rights; that social and economic reconstruction take the priorities and needs of women and girls into account; and that attention to equality between women and men is an integral part of the transition to democratic institutions, including through adequate attention to gender equality issues in development of the constitution and in electoral processes.


A number of essential steps can be identified to ensure more explicit and systematic attention to gender perspectives, including in relation to peace accords, mission mandates, the appointment of the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General (or heads of missions), and the initial planning phase, including recruitment. I would like to elaborate further on each of these.


The extent to which a peace keeping agreement or accord gives attention to relevant gender perspectives impacts on the possibility to incorporate these aspects in operational activities. Peace accords take up such aspects as human rights, legal/judicial issues, constitutional change, elections, institutional development, humanitarian support – including to refugees and displaced persons - all areas where it is critical to identify and address gender perspectives. An analysis of the Dayton Peace Accords in Bosnia from a gender perspective (carried out by a Swedish NGO “Kvinna till Kvinna” - Women to Women) found that the lack of a gender perspective in the accords hindered effective promotion of gender equality in the implementation.


Equally critical is the attention given to gender perspectives in the specific mandate for a peace-keeping mission, as agreed upon by the Security Council. The mandate establishes the overall goals and strategies for the mission and determines the resource levels. Explicit attention to gender perspectives in the mandate can facilitate the establishment of clear goals, appropriate strategies, necessary institutional mechanisms, clarification of responsibilities and accountability, and routines for regular reporting on progress with gender mainstreaming.


The choice of Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) for the mission is another critical decision at this stage. Choosing well qualified women with strong leadership skills for this position could send positive messages to the local community, to the mission, to the UN system and the international community, on the importance of women’s participation. The situation to date, that few women have ever been appointed to the position of SRSG, conveys a less positive signal. At the very least, the criteria for choice of SRSG should include knowledge of and experience with working on gender equality issues. The Terms of Reference for the SRSG should be very explicit on the responsibility for gender mainstreaming, on reporting requirements and on the need for competence development on gender mainstreaming if the proposed candidate does not have adequate competence in this area.


Once the mandate is in place the initial planning process becomes critical. Gender perspectives should be given attention in all initial appraisals and surveys as well as in the development of mission plans. Issues of responsibility and accountability are critical. Gender mainstreaming in peace-keeping missions should be a top management issue. Overall responsibility must be firmly placed at the highest level – with the SRSG. The SRSG should fully understand the implications of the gender mainstreaming mandate, and the importance of securing responsibility and accountabilty from all staff within the mission. On the basis of this understanding, the SRSG should then determine the type of specialist resources needed to support fulfillment of this management responsibility. The strategy being recommended today is for the appointment of a Gender Advisor (or establishment of a Gender Unit, depending on the size and mandate of the mission) to support the SRSG in carrying out his/her responsibilities. Issues of location, mandate, resources, access to decision-making processes, reporting lines and explicit support from top management, are critical for the success of such Gender Advisors or Gender Units.


Recruitment processes should have an explicit goal to ensure equal representation of women and men in peacekeeping missions, particularly at decision-making levels, as  an important goal in and of itself. Some experience has shown that where there is a critical mass of women in missions (at least 30%), contact with local women is facilitated and local women are more easily mobilized to join in peacebuilding and reconstruction activities. This occured in South Africa and Namibia where women actively promoted voter education and the right of individual women to vote. Women’s participation in a broad range of activities in missions, particularly in decision-making positions, may break down traditional stereotypes of women in local communities, and inspire them to organize towards a democratic society in which they can exercise their rights equally with men. A greater presence of women in missions can facilitate bringing attention to the concerns of all stakeholders, including women and children. Local women may also be more likely to confide in women police or peacekeepers about matters such as rape and sexual violence. 


Securing greater representation of women does not, however, automatically ensure that gender mainstreaming will be achieved, i.e. that gender perspectives are taken into consideration as a matter of routine. Women in peace-building and peace-keeping missions may require sensitization on the importance of gender issues as much as men, as well as support to develop the necessary competence to work with gender perspectives and the goal of gender equality. All personnel – male as well as female – should be able to identify and address gender perspectives in their day-to-day work. Training is needed to ensure that this is the case.


Actions to be taken to ensure greater attention to gender perspectives in all areas of work in peacekeeping missions would include, for example, ensuring equitable representation of women in provisional mechanisms and committees set up to facilitate the transition to democratic and autonomous self-government, including the police and the judiciary; facilitating the equitable involvement of women in the reconstruction of all sectors of civil administration, including in particular the economic sector; ensuring that humanitarian efforts, as well as efforts to bring war criminals to justice, take into account the different experiences and needs of women and men; and ensuring that the return of all refugee and displaced persons to their homes takes into consideration the reproductive roles and needs of women, and in particular of women subjected to sexual and domestic violence.


Legislation should be analysed for its gender-impact, and gender-sensitive justice assured both by an appropriate legal framework and through procedural aspects.  The importance of a gender-balanced judiciary should be emphasized, as should the importance of judges having expertise in issues affecting women and children.  A constitutional framework which recognizes substantive as well as formal equality should be developed, with the constitution and the general law being compliant with the core international human rights treaties, particularly CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women). 


Raised levels of violence in the family and community, including sexual violence, frequently follow periods of armed conflict.  Training should be provided to the judiciary and both international and local police on human rights of women, domestic violence, rape and trafficking.  A legislative framework, providing for civil procedures and liability, as well as criminal sanctions, should be in place.  Mechanisms should be established to encourage reporting of abuses and facilities developed for shelter of women at risk. Measures should also be introduced to ensure that international personnel, including peace-keeping personnel, do not violate women’s human rights. Measures to prevent trafficking in women and children, a particular risk in post-conflict situations, should also be introduced.


In the efforts made to actively involve the local population in all activities in the peace-keeping mission, local women should be equitably involved and their contributions effectively fed into planning and decision-making processes. Women´s networks and groups, both formal and informal, need to be identified and their participation facilitated, particularly in critical processes, such as establishment of consultative groups and interim bodies, establishment of judicial systems and police forces, development of the constitution (where relevant) and planning and implementation of elections.  Enough evidence is available, for example from Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor, to highlight the great benefits to be gained in peace-keeping missions from women´s active participation and to motivate greater involvement of women on the grounds of sustainable development as well as human rights and social justice.


There is evidence of strong commitment to the implementation of resolution 1325 among Member States, including Members of the Security Council. A constituency to support the aims of the resolution has been developed through the establishment of an informal group called “Friends of Women, Peace and Security”, at the initiative of Canada. This group has met regularly since October 2000 to discuss means of broadening the support for the resolution among Member States, as well as to discuss ways to support the efforts of the United Nations. Member States have also closely followed the preparation of the Secretary-General’s study and report.


An open meeting of the Security Council on women, peace and security, during the presidency of the United Kingdom on 25 July 2002, provided an opportunity to reflect further on practical aspects of implementation of the resolution. The meeting raised many of the issues I have mentioned here - the importance of ensuring that all peace agreements and peacekeeping mandates reflect gender perspectives; that women are involved more fully at all stages and all levels in peace processes, peacekeeping operations, humanitarian operations, disarmament activities and post-conflict reconstruction; that professional expertise on gender equality is provided at both headquarter and mission levels as well as gender training for mission personnel; that missions establish close contacts with local women’s groups and networks; that reports from heads of missions to the Council  explicitly address the issue of gender mainstreaming; that codes of conduct governing the behaviour of peacekeeping personnel are drawn up; and that more women are appointed as special representatives and envoys of the Secretary-General.


Resolution 1325 does provide us with an excellent blueprint for gender mainstreaming in peace and security work. What is needed now is that each of the recommendations in the resolution is ”unpacked” so that the concrete steps required for implementation are made clear; the relevant actors identified; the resources required – both human and financial – clarified; the targets (where relevant) set; and the reporting requirements and responsibilities and accountabilities of top management established.


I am sure that the deliberations of this distinguished group will provide very concrete inputs to ensure that the open discussion in the Security Council on 24 October clearly moves us forward in this critical work.



Thank you.



[1] Statement presented by the President of the Security Council (Bangladesh) during the International Women’s Day celebrations on the theme: Women Uniting for Peace, on 8 March 2000.

[2] Closed meeting of the Security Council to allow off-the-record dialogue.