6 March 2008


6 March 2008
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the conference “Women: Stabilizing an Insecure World”, in Brussels today, 6 March:

I am both honoured and excited to be here.  Let me applaud this initiative to bring together women leaders from all corners of the globe to grapple with some of the most complex and profound challenges of our time.

I cannot think of a better way to lead up to International Women’s Day than the broad range of topics on the agenda of our sessions -- from health and poverty to Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.

In many parts of the world, achieving sustainable peace and security remains a daunting challenge.  At this first session, we recognize that women are often disproportionately affected by the global threats of our time.  We are asked to consider what new strategies are required in the face of challenges ranging from climate change and human trafficking to religious extremism and terrorism.

First, let me say that these challenges meet the very definition of global threats.  They respect no national borders.  They are issues that no nation -- however powerful -- can take on alone.  The experience of our globalizing age has shown us that beyond any doubt.  It has taught us that, to tackle global challenges, we need to work together, including through the United Nations -- the only institution with universal membership.  The United Nations, however, needs to work hand in hand with civil society, the private sector and individuals around the world -- as well as the women leaders that are here around the table.

These are threats that no gender -- again, however powerful -- can tackle alone.  Just as we know that they impact women disproportionately, we also know that women are often more than half of the solution.  If there is one thing we have learned over the years at the United Nations it is that investing in women is one of the best investments a Government can ever make.

Women, who know the price of threats to human security so well, are also often better equipped than men to prevent or resolve them.  When society collapses, women play a critical role in ensuring that life goes on.  When tensions cause or exacerbate conflict, women tend to build bridges rather than walls.  When considering the impact and implications of challenges, women tend to think first of their children, their communities and their future, before themselves.

In every region, women are playing an active role in promoting peace and security, development and environmental protection.  If we increase investment in women’s education and health -- including their reproductive health -- all of society prospers.  Women bring new perspectives and policies to decision-making.  They increase the chances of education and employment for the next generation.

That is why an effective approach to any global challenge requires collaboration between the United Nations, Governments, civil society and the private sector, and women.  Let me try to describe how this translates into practice on the specific challenges preoccupying us at this session.

We know that climate change will severely impact the lives of women in the developing world.  Poor women contribute the least to greenhouse gases, but suffer disproportionately from their effects.

We must ensure investments to reduce carbon emissions, reduce the risk of climatic disasters and promote alternative energy sources to help the most vulnerable.  And we must ensure that women participate fully in development plans and policies, so their livelihoods and resources are protected.

The women of the world are not sitting still.  Last week, climate change emerged as a leading item in the annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women -- the vibrant forum, which, for the past 60 years, has spearheaded the United Nations efforts to develop a normative and policy framework for gender equality in all spheres of life.

The discussion in the Commission rightly highlighted the need for more work to be done to understand the connections between development, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, and to assess the financial costs climate change will impose on the most vulnerable.

The Human Security Network, chaired by Greece, is developing a range of recommendations for using the strong body of knowledge women possess in climate change mitigation, disaster reduction and adaptation strategies.

The same creative and dynamic approach is being applied to religious extremism and intolerance, which indisputably takes its most devastating toll on women.  When this happens, it is in contradiction to the very spirit and values religion seeks to foster.  We must promote dialogue with women, including in the religious sphere, to bring forth a diversity of views.

One of the United Nations most exciting and novel initiatives is the Alliance of Civilizations, which works through partnerships and specific actions to change what people see, what they say and, ultimately, how they act.  The Alliance plays a catalytic role, forging links with civil society, foundations, the media and business leaders.

At this juncture, I wish to commend the leading role and financial contributions by Queen Noor of Jordan and Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser al Missned of Qatar in improving people’s lives in the Middle East, Northern Africa and beyond.

In all these ways, the efforts of the Alliance can complement the work of the United Nations to implement the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, adopted by the General Assembly in 2006.  They will also bolster our endeavours in preventive diplomacy and in supporting sustainable peace processes.  No matter how many resolutions we adopt, envoys we dispatch or peace agreements we negotiate, their prospects of success will be fragile if the parties do not have a real and profound sense of our shared humanity.

It is our shared humanity that breaks down when human trafficking occurs.  This heinous practice strips women of their rights and robs them of their dignity.

The United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking brings together all stakeholders -- Governments, business, academia, civil society and the media -- to ensure that everybody takes responsibility for combating this vice.

Just last month in Vienna, under the auspices of the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking, a group of prominent stateswomen, diplomats, trade unionists, business leaders and others came together to launch the Women Leaders’ Council.  We are proud that Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak [also due to attend the Brussels conference] was among the founding members. 

The Council will coordinate action, forge new partnerships, facilitate access to resources and work to reduce the stigma for victims.  Its creation is resounding recognition that human trafficking can be addressed only with the leadership and active participation of women.

These are approaches to some of the specific challenges.  But let us be clear: so long as women are not fully empowered, women will always be more vulnerable to the next new challenge our globalizing world throws at us.  Ultimately, our long-term defence is our inexorable and unceasing fight for equality between women and men everywhere.

The United Nations must continue and will continue to play a leading role in that fight.  And to make a real difference, the United Nations gender-specific machinery needs to be strengthened and better funded.   I firmly believe that one dynamic and strengthened gender entity, consolidating resources that are currently scattered among several structures, would attract better funding from the donor community and would have a reach and impact we can only dream of today.

By mobilizing forces of change at the global level and inspiring enhanced results at the country level, such an entity would better advance our cause to empower women and realize gender equality worldwide.  The Secretary-General and I have urged Member States to muster the political will to bring the consultations on this issue to a successful conclusion.

With this, I also bring to a conclusion my remarks at this session.  I am grateful to have had this opportunity and very much look forward to hearing from you, great ladies of the world.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.