Their Role Often Lauded, Rarely Visible, Says Gender Entity Chief, as Other Briefers Detail Progress, List Challenges
Women must be placed at the centre of efforts to prevent or resolve conflict in Africa, speakers said today as the Security Council took up the “women, peace and security agenda”, considering the role of women in creating more peaceful and equitable societies on the continent.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), noted that the role of women in preventing conflict was often lauded, but rarely visible. However, Women’s Situation Rooms had been established in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Mali, Guinea-Bissau, Uganda and Kenya in the last five years to monitor and prevent election-related violence. In critical electoral periods, the centres trained and deployed female observers and monitors, received and analysed hundreds of complaints, as well as reports of violence or intimidation, and referred violations to the appropriate authorities.
Citing the 2015 Global Study on Women, Peace and Security, she said countries with lower levels of gender inequality were less likely to resort to force; that women’s security was one of the most reliable indicators of a State’s peacefulness; and that their different spending patterns contributed directly to post-conflict social recovery. Conversely, women were the first to notice attacks on their rights and freedoms, as well as the militarization and radicalization of individuals in their families and communities.
“Women’s empowerment is our best line of defence against militarism and violent extremism,” she continued. Also, recent research by UN-Women indicated that women and communities had been highly influential in the reintegration of former combatants in Mali. In Kenya, women’s organizations were working to identify and prevent the spread of radicalization in areas where marginalization, poverty and inequality were rampant. In Burundi, hundreds of women mediators were working tirelessly throughout the country to address local conflicts and prevent an escalation of tensions.
Macharia Kamau (Kenya), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, recalled that, in 2013, that body had developed a declaration on women’s economic empowerment for peacebuilding, while the Council had adopted various resolutions on women, peace and security since the late 2000s. Yet, the translation of formal commitments into action on the ground had not been as systematic as had been hoped, and high expectations for transformative change had not been fully realized.
“Women remain a resource that has not been effectively utilized or enabled to build sustainable peace,” he declared. As such, the Commission had outlined its first gender strategy, which it expected to adopt before July, he said, adding that it set out recommendations on strengthening the integration of gender perspectives in all country-specific and strategic engagements. Going forward, the Commission would use its unique leverage to advocate for technical expertise on gender equality and peacebuilding, as well as funding.
Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that promoting the effective participation of women in conflict mediation and addressing their specific needs in peacemaking efforts had been a priority of his Department since 2010, when its conflict-prevention work had become increasingly inclusive. Since 2012, all United Nations mediation support teams included women, who made up half the number of participants in the Department’s high-level mediation skills training. Nevertheless, unequal access and opportunities for women’s participation in political decision-making processes persisted worldwide, despite concerted efforts to eliminate discrimination and promote women’s empowerment. “Prioritizing prevention and inclusive political solutions has never been more urgent,” he stressed, adding that the African Union and other partners had made notable efforts to ensure that gender was more systematically integrated into electoral processes.
Tété António, Permanent Observer of the African Union, said that, by choosing to place women at the forefront of its deliberations, the regional bloc had reiterated the continent’s resolve to address all barriers impeding the emancipation of women and girls, and to strengthen both their agency and rights through education, health, participation in decision-making and economic empowerment. “Africa cannot afford to ignore the role of women if we are to realize the vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful continent,” he emphasized. In that regard, the African Union had launched a five-year gender, peace and security programme to foster strategies and mechanisms for women’s participation in peace and security.
Paleki Ayang of the South Sudan Women’s Empowerment Network said the world, and Africa in particular, must move beyond stereotypical images of women as victims during conflict. They were also fighters, peacebuilders, protectors and community leaders. With limited resources and in spite of threats, they organized peace marches, advocated for enhanced peace and security policies and led reconciliation efforts across conflict lines. Conflict-prevention and conflict-resolution strategies would be ineffective without immediately addressing systematic, deliberate and wide-spread sexual violence in South Sudan and the rest of Africa. Urging the Security Council to insist on accountability for atrocities committed by all warring parties, armed groups, security forces and peacekeepers, she said it should also demand that the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission in South Sudan ensure the representation and participation of women.
In the ensuing debate, Maria Filomena Delgado, Council President for March and Minister for Family and the Promotion of Women of Angola, said reality made it all the more important to take the views of women and children into account in conflict-prevention forums, in peace negotiations and during post-conflict reconstruction efforts.
Expressing regret that women remained excluded from many mediation and conflict-resolution initiatives, South Africa’s representative said that, in order for more of them to serve as high-level envoys and mediators, there would have to be a systemic shift. The role of women could no longer be limited to certain areas, such as advising on sexual exploitation and abuse, he emphasized.
Senegal’s representative underscored the unique security challenges confronting some parts of the continent, and called for greater investment in early warning and national emergency response mechanisms so as to ensure the active participation of women and civil society in peace processes.
Many speakers lamented the dearth of women in peacekeeping activities, with India’s representative pointing out that women constituted less than 4 per cent of signatories to peace agreements and less than 10 per cent of negotiators at peace tables. It had also provided the first-ever Female Formed Police Unit for deployment in Liberia.
Brazil’s representative noted that women constituted a mere 4 per cent of the 88,000 troops and police currently deployed in United Nations peace operations in Africa.
Also speaking today was the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, as well as representatives of the United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, China, Ukraine, New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela, Japan, France, Russian Federation, Spain, Egypt, Sweden (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Australia, Italy, Ethiopia, Israel, Poland, Canada, Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Belgium, Morocco, Slovakia, Netherlands, Rwanda, Portugal, Turkey, Algeria, Namibia, Thailand, Bangladesh and Indonesia, as well as the European Union and Holy See.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 3:40 p.m.
PHUMZILE MLAMBO-NGCUKA, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), noted that the role of women in conflict prevention was often lauded, but rarely visible. In the last five years, however, Women’s Situation Rooms had been established in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Mali, Guinea-Bissau, Uganda and Kenya to monitor and prevent election-related violence, she said, adding that their positive contribution to peaceful elections had led to their replication in a growing number of countries across Africa. In critical electoral periods, the centres trained and deployed female observers and monitors, received and analysed hundreds of complaints and reports of violence or intimidation, and referred violations to the appropriate authorities.
Recent research by UN-Women indicated that women and communities had been highly influential in the reintegration of former combatants in Mali, she continued. In Kenya, women’s organizations were working to identify and prevent the spread of radicalization in areas where marginalization, poverty and inequality were rampant. In Burundi, hundreds of women mediators were working tirelessly throughout the country to address local conflicts and prevent an escalation of tensions. Citing the 2015 global study on women, peace and security, she said countries with lower levels of gender inequality were less likely to resort to the use of force; that women’s security was one of the most reliable indicators of a State’s peacefulness; and that their different spending patterns contributed directly to post-conflict social recovery.
Conversely, women were the first to notice attacks on their rights and freedoms, and the militarization and radicalization of individuals in their families and communities, she noted. “Women’s empowerment is our best line of defence against militarism and violent extremism.” Initiatives aimed at revamping and strengthening prevention work at the United Nations must include steps to ensure that Security Council deliberations were more frequently informed by the perspective and analysis of women on the ground; regular consultations with the Counter-Terrorism Committee to ensure that efforts to counter violent extremism did not shut down space and funding for civil society actors. Furthermore, such efforts should feature the inclusion of robust gender analysis in reports received by the Security Council, greater political and financial support for the work of women’s organizations, and emphasis on investing in gender equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
TAYÉ-BROOK ZERIHOUN, Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said recent research had established that women’s participation in peace talks not only facilitated the conclusion and implementation of agreements, but also the sustainability of peace. Promoting women’s effective participation in conflict mediation and addressing their specific needs in peacemaking efforts had been a priority of the Department of Political Affairs since 2010, when its conflict-prevention work had become increasingly inclusive, he noted. Since 2012, all United Nations mediation support teams had included women, and women made up half of the participants in the Department’s high-level mediation skills training, which focused on enhancing gender parity and the future character and configuration of international peacemaking.
He said the Department also continued to implement, with UN-Women, its Joint Strategy on Gender and Mediation, which helped to build mediation capacity for envoys and mediation teams by providing gender expertise and training, while UN-Women strengthened the capacity of regional, national and local women leaders and peace coalitions, and supported access opportunities for women in peace negotiations. Nevertheless, despite the concerted efforts of international and regional organizations, as well as national Governments to eliminate discrimination and promote the empowerment of women, unequal access and opportunities for women’s participation in political decision-making processes persisted worldwide. “Prioritizing prevention and inclusive political solutions has never been more urgent,” he emphasized. Peace processes afforded unique opportunities for promoting the effective participation of women, he said.
The United Nations had sharpened its prevention tools over the last decade, he said. Its regional presences and cooperation with regional organizations had yielded positive results, and today, about 85 per cent of United Nations mediation involved working closely with regional and subregional organizations. The Organization’s work on elections also underscored the centrality of women’s participation in decision-making processes. Notable efforts had been made by the African Union and other partners to ensure that gender was more systematically integrated into electoral processes, including election observation. It was encouraging to note that the current average rate of women members of Parliament in Africa was slightly above the global average. The case for inclusive preventative democracy was compelling, he said, pointing out that, through early diplomatic initiatives, the active engagement of civil society and the provision of necessary funding, the international community was better positioned to prevent and resolve conflicts while creating the conditions for political stability and sustainable peace.
MACHARIA KAMAU (Kenya), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, said women’s participation was crucial to sustainable peacebuilding, stressing that the understanding of their role in such efforts was widely shared. In 2013, the Commission had developed a declaration on women’s economic empowerment for peacebuilding, while the Council had adopted various resolutions on women, peace and security since the late 2000s. Yet, the translation of formal commitments into action on the ground had not been as systematic as would have been hoped, he said, adding that high expectations for transformative change had not been fully delivered.
“Women remain a resource that has not been effectively utilized or enabled to build sustainable peace,” he said, citing such obstacles as cynical cultural practices that maintained patriarchal attitudes; insufficient political will to implement Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security; militarized approaches to conflict resolution that crowded out organic initiatives; and the absence of gender-sensitive economic recovery. As such, the Commission had outlined its first gender strategy, which it expected to adopt before July, he said, adding that it set out recommendations on strengthening the integration of gender perspectives in all country-specific and strategic engagements.
Going forward, the Commission would use its unique leverage to advocate for technical expertise on gender equality and peacebuilding, as well as funding, he continued. The combination of commitment on the part of senior leadership, specialized expertise and dedicated financial resources would make a real difference, as had been seen in Burundi, where UN-Women supported a network of 534 women mediators across all municipalities. Placing a personal emphasis on the gender issue, he said that he had seen the ruin that 100 years of colonial and post-colonial policies had wreaked upon women in Kenyan culture and society. “Women remain firmly at the bottom of the rungs of social progress and empowerment,” he said, underlining that a more inclusive future would require that countries respond forcefully to the condition of women in their midst.
TÉTÉ ANTÓNIO, Permanent Observer of the African Union, recalled the decisive role played by women in the signing of Liberia’s 2003 Accra Peace Agreement, emphasizing: “Africa cannot afford to ignore the role of women if we are to realize the vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful continent.” Indeed, the issue of women, peace and security was a priority for the African Union’s Assembly of Heads of State and Government, as well as its Peace and Security Council, he said, noting that the regional body had dedicated 2015 to “women’s empowerment and development towards Agenda 2063”.
He went on to state that, by choosing to place women at the centre of its deliberations, the African Union had reiterated the continent’s resolve to address all barriers impeding the emancipation of women and girls, and to strengthen both their agency and rights through education, health, participation in decision-making and economic empowerment. It had been the first continental organization to appoint a special envoy on women, peace and security, and sought to strengthen women’s participation, including through the Panel of the Wise.
Further, the African Union Commission had achieved parity in its leadership and was moving towards 50-50 workforce parity, he said. It had launched a five-year gender, peace and security programme, running through 2020, to foster strategies and mechanisms for women’s participation in peace and security. Going forward, it would be important to increase the proportion of women in police components of peace operations, ensure that the terms of reference for mediation and peacebuilding processes had a clear women’s-participation component, make “women, peace and security” programmes mandatory and invest more in conflict-prevention initiatives.
PALEKI AYANG, Executive Director of the South Sudan Women’s Empowerment Network, said that the world, and Africa in particular, must move beyond stereotypical images of women as victims in conflict. They were also fighters, peacebuilders, protectors and community leaders. With limited resources and in spite of threats, they organized peace marches, advocated for enhanced peace and security policies and led reconciliation efforts across conflict lines.
She went on to describe a protection-of-civilians site in South Sudan where ethnic Dinka and Nuer women met to discuss ways to halt violence, emphasizing: “While the men wanted to fight over their tribal differences, women bridged the divide and reduced the tension within the communities.” She urged the Security Council to invest in programmes aimed at increasing women’s inclusion in conflict prevention and resolution strategies, and to promote their meaningful inclusion in elections, including through quotas for women parliamentarians. The Council should also increase support for recruiting more women in national security forces and police, as well as all United Nations peacekeeping missions, and to require consultations with women-led civil society groups in order to advance gender-specific and community priorities.
She went on to underline that conflict-prevention and conflict-resolution strategies would be ineffective without immediately addressing systematic, deliberate and wide-spread sexual violence in South Sudan and the rest of Africa. The scale of the violence had destroyed the social fabric of South Sudanese communities and threatened to dismantle an already fragile peace. She urged the Security Council to insist on accountability for atrocities committed by all warring parties, armed groups, security forces and peacekeepers. It should also demand that the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission in South Sudan, and other conflict-monitoring mechanisms in the region, ensure the representation and participation of women.
MARIA FILOMENA DELGADO, Council President for March and Minister for Family and the Promotion of Women of Angola, said women and children were the main victims of armed conflicts, and it was, therefore, crucial that their voices be heard in conflict-prevention forums, peace negotiations and post-conflict reconstruction efforts. Institutional mechanisms in Africa must promote an environment that encouraged the participation of women in peace and security, she added, noting that such instruments as the African Charter on the Rights of Women and the African Union Declaration on Gender Equality reflected a renewed awareness of women’s essential role. They had been directly involved in Angola’s post-conflict peacebuilding and reconstruction efforts and the country was sharing its experiences in the Great Lakes region, she said. With strong political will and commitment, women would make a tangible contribution to building a more just and peaceful world.
MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said gender inequality was not just a women’s issue, but a peace issue. When women’s voices were heard, the chances for lasting peace increased. The voices of women could be powerful, but only if they were in the room at key moments during peace processes. Breaking down the barriers facing women in peace talks required breaking down barriers facing women across society, including keeping girls in school, improving health care and tackling sexual violence. At its heart, it was about ending discrimination against women. The crisis in Burundi provided a heartening example of how powerful women’s organizations could be in mediation efforts, he said, emphasizing that, as the Security Council called upon African leaders to address gender issues, it should itself heed the same call. What signal was sent when the primary body charged with preserving international peace and security only had one woman among its ranks, he asked. Now was the time to appoint a woman as the next Secretary-General of the United Nations.
MICHELE SISON (United States) said the debate provided an excellent opportunity to take stock of women, peace and security agenda’s implementation in Africa. It should also help more women gain positions of leadership and seats at the negotiating table when issues of peace and security were decided. While some progress had undeniably been made across Africa since the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), there was still much work to be done, particularly in three areas: first, more should be done to help women overcome systematic obstacles to political participation; second, the international community must address gender-based violence; and third, there must be concerted efforts for concrete successes. Gender-based violence posed a unique challenge to peacebuilding efforts, she said, stressing that gender equality was a security issue. Pointing out that extremists groups were manipulating gender as a means to their ends, she cited research showing that when women were included in peace processes, as in Burundi, Somali and Kenya, it was mainly due to normative pressures from women’s groups and their supporters. That demonstrated that the Council’s words and resolutions had an impact on the ground.
LUIS BERMÚDEZ (Uruguay) said the number of women in special political missions was limited, urging their greater participation in peace and reconstruction efforts. African States bore the main responsibility in that regard, with national plans driving greater participation by women at all levels, which, in turn, would improve operational efficiency and resolve conflict. At the United Nations, women should be appointed as special representatives, envoys and mediators. Their contribution to peace talks was essential, as seen in Liberia, he said. It had been shown that increasing the number of women in police contingents of peacekeeping missions reduced the undue use of force.
LIU JIEYI (China) said peacekeeping missions should increase the number of female staff to foster better communication with women and girls. China also advocated a greater role for women in building a culture of inclusiveness, he said, emphasizing that they should be encouraged to engage in all post-conflict reconstruction, disarmament, demobilization and reconstruction efforts. African women should be provided with better skills training and funding for entrepreneurship. China would launch 100 village agriculture projects, build industrial parks and provide training for technical specialists, which would provide new opportunities for African women.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine), associating himself with the European Union, condemned all acts of sexual violence and abuse against women and children, welcoming the International Criminal Court’s decision in the case of former Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. During conflict, women were hardly represented at negotiating tables or in community reconstruction efforts, he said, noting that they constituted less than 10 per cent of peace negotiators globally. Welcoming the fact that several African countries had national action plans in place for implementation of resolution 1325 (2000), he commended both the African Union and the United Nations for increasing the number of female military and police officers in peacekeeping missions. Ukraine called for ensuring women’s participation in devising strategies to prevent and respond to such challenges as terrorism and violent extremism, he added.
CAROLYN SCHWALGER (New Zealand) pointed out that meaningful participation by women in conflict prevention and resolution remained the exception, not the rule. “Including women works,” she said, emphasizing that outdated attitudes and approaches must be challenged. The deployment of trained female election monitors in Senegal, Kenya, Nigeria and the Central African Republic, as well as the nationwide network of women mediators in Burundi, were examples of how women’s participation had made a difference. New Zealand’s own modest contributions included conflict-prevention training, in Ghana last November, by an all-female team from the defence forces. The presence of female personnel empowered local women, ensuring they were not seen only as victims, but also as actors and providers of safety and security. She urged the Council to incorporate the perspectives of women into its work as a matter of course and to encourage their greater participation in all mediation efforts and conflict-prevention processes.
RAMLAN BIN IBRAHIM (Malaysia) associated himself with the statement to be delivered on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, emphasizing that the important role and potential contribution of women in conflict resolution and prevention could no longer be side-lined or ignored. The situation in Africa provided an opportunity to understand what strategies had worked and which challenges remained to be overcome, in order for women to play a more prominent role in international peace and security. Increasing the meaningful participation of women was crucial to ending current conflicts and preventing future ones. The ability to detect early warning signals and act upon them was critical to conflict-prevention efforts, he said, adding that there was ample evidence that women could provide insights into changing dynamics, particularly at the community and grass-roots levels. Long-term peace and security required placing women at the heart of peacebuilding efforts, including through the establishment of legal frameworks for the protection of their rights.
FODÉ SECK (Senegal), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the maintenance of international peace and security could not be achieved without acknowledging the potential contribution of close to half of the world’s population, particularly since they were the main victims of all types of violence. The African Union’s appointment of the Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security was a significant step forward in bolstering the role of women in mediation, promoting a culture of peace and establishing early warning systems. Senegal actively recruited women for its armed and security forces, after having been the first African State to achieve absolute parity in all local and national elected positions. However, the security situation in the West Africa subregion highlighted new challenges that must be taken into account. There was a need to invest more in early warning and national emergency response mechanisms so as to ensure the active participation of women and civil society in peace processes. That would be especially important when combating radicalization, violent extremism and terrorism.
RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) emphasized that women, including girls, disproportionately suffered the harmful consequences of war perpetrated by armed groups. All efforts to prevent their exposure in violence would be an investment in the future of humankind. Involving women in peace processes represented a strategic opportunity to create the necessary changes that would lead to peace, social equity and justice, he said. Venezuela condemned the violence unleashed by terrorist groups in the Middle East and Africa, he said, noting that women and children had been the primary victims of that violence. It was important to support the participation of women in local peacebuilding initiatives because that would be an important step in addressing their basic needs and security.
YOSHIFUMI OKAMURA (Japan) said he had found that the best-implemented projects in Africa were always those proposed by women because they were good managers and they were entrepreneurs. They were also brave, standing up for peace, including on the eve of the 2011 crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, when they had marched into the streets of Abidjan banging pans with kitchen utensils and shouting “no” to violence. “When it comes to the role of women in Africa, it is not merely a matter of empowering or protecting women,” he emphasized. “It is a matter of mobilizing their power.” For its part, Japan had underpinned African efforts to establish national action plans on women, peace and security, and had contributed to the informal expert group on that agenda, he said. It would contribute $14 million to both UN-Women and the Office of the Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict in seeking to mobilize the power of African women.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) called for a focus on the tools for guaranteeing women’s participation in conflict settlement, noting that their decision-making power must be bolstered by facilitating the participation of civil society. Governments must open the doors to women’s organizations in order to forge sustainable development, he said, urging that the dynamic voice of civil society in Mali be heeded. The African Union should give women greater prominence in its gender, peace and security programme, he said, adding that their role in settling conflicts must be enhanced in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. Recalling recent events in Mali, Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, he stressed the need to incorporate the women, peace and security agenda into counter-terrorism strategies. In addition, greater efforts must be made to reintegrate women associated with armed groups into society in order to ensure that they were able to return to their societies and communities.
EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) said attempts to dictate “settlement recipes” without the consent or request of States were unacceptable. Women had a positive role to play in peace and security matters, he said, emphasizing the importance of the African Union’s five-year peace and security programme in that regard. A balanced approach should be taken to women’s participation in reconstruction. Noting that national action plans in implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) could not be used to assess State gender-promotion policies, he stressed that it was the primary responsibility of States involved in conflict to protect women and afford them equal participation opportunities. Effectiveness in the Council’s work was not always achieved by creating new structures, he said, adding that he was sceptical about creating an informal working group on women, peace and security. The Russian Federation was ready to elaborate effective and tried efforts, and urged the creation of optimum conditions for African women to help resolve conflict.
ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) said that, when women did not participate enough in efforts to resolve conflict, there was an imperfect and unfair peace because part of the population imposed its view on other parts of society. While there had not been a “change in the story” at the United Nations with regard to resolution 1325 (2000), awareness had been raised, notably through resolution 2242 (2015). Most relevant would be the creation of a group of experts on women, peace and security, which would ensure that the Council implemented all relevant resolutions, he said.
OSAMA ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt) said the significant political momentum created in the Council had bolstered women’s contributions to legal frameworks in Africa, including the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, although such measures had not been fully exploited nor enjoyed the required level of participation. Egypt supported the Secretary-General’s call to increase women’s participation in peacekeeping, mediation and conflict-prevention missions, because evidence in Liberia, Malawi and the Central African Republic had shown that women ruled effectively. Urging the bridging of gaps between adoption and implementation, he said the role of informal expert groups must be stepped up, since their creation was outlined in resolution 2242 (2015). Noting the persisting weakness in the appointment of women to senior posts within special political missions, he said the related action plans overlooked cultural specificities, which were detrimental to women in conflict prevention and resolution. Egypt would adopt a gender-equality strategy, and the national council responsible for women’s status had fine-tuned an action plan based on resolution 1325 (2000), he said.
YERZHAN ASHYKBAYEV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, noting that conflict in Africa had engulfed neighbouring countries, urged closer collaboration among the United Nations, European Union and the African Union, as well as with African subregional organizations and the Secretary-General’s special representatives that address conflict-related violence against women and children. “Hybrid” peacekeeping missions must have clear mandates for civilian protection, especially for women and girls, while gender specialists and gender teams should be integrated into their military and civilian components. Troop- and police-contributing countries should have gender training and deploy more women. More broadly, the international community should offer greater support to African countries to involve women in grass-roots organizations working for a culture of peace. Women also had a critical contribution to make in managing camps for refugees and internally displaced persons.
ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil), listing a number of recent successes by African women, said that such positive trends could not offset the fact that women constituted a mere 4 per cent of the 88,000 troops and police currently deployed in United Nations peacekeeping operations on the continent. Sexual violence in conflict remained a serious concern for vulnerable populations, and despite the strong African commitment to fight sexual and gender-based violence, some of the most despicable crimes against humanity, including rape and sexual slavery, continued to occur in some regions of Africa. Strongly condemning those abhorrent violations, he said that, as the current Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, he was deeply committed to gender equality in all political and security processes. Brazil’s South-South cooperation with Africa was closely aligned with the women, peace and security agenda, he said, describing several areas of cooperation. In addition, Brazil served as Chair of the Guinea-Bissau Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, which valued the role played by women as responsible stakeholders in a sustainable peace for that country.
SYED AKBARUDDIN (India) pointed out that women constituted less than 4 per cent of signatories to peace agreements and less than 10 per cent of negotiators at peace tables. They made up only 3 per cent of military forces and 10 per cent of police personnel deployed by United Nations peace missions. Emphasizing the need to increase the involvement of women in conflict prevention and resolution, he said that would require, not only normative advice, but also the building of capacity and institutions at the ground level. Therefore, the issue of women, peace and security could not be seen in isolation from the wider societal context involving gender and development issues. India was the leading contributor of troops to United Nations peacekeeping, participating in 48 of its 69 peacekeeping missions, 22 of which were in Africa, he noted, also pointing out that his country had provided the first-ever Female Formed Police Unit for deployment in Liberia. India had also contributed female soldiers as military observers and staff officers, in addition to deploying them with medical units.
PER THÖRESSON (Sweden), speaking also on behalf of the other Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway), said the recommendations of the Global Study and Security Council resolution 2242 (2015) provided the momentum to move away from ad hoc approaches and include women in all stages of conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peace building. “Any international actor working for peace and security that wants to be relevant in the twenty-first century has to integrate the women, peace and security agenda in a coherent and effective manner,” he emphasized. On the inclusive representation of women in peace processes, he said that would ensure that the needs and interests of society were truly addressed and reflected. As highlighted by the Global Study, indisputable evidence established positive links between women’s participation and the likelihood of peace agreements being signed, he said, stressing that increasing the number and percentage of women mediators was a Nordic priority.
IOANNIS VRAILAS, Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation, said that, in the period between 1992 and 2011, women had made up less than 4 per cent of signatories to peace agreements and less than 10 per cent of peace negotiators. Yet, the Global Study on the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) had shown that, when women were included in peace processes, the probability of lasting peace grew significantly. The international community must devote more resources towards implementing the women, peace and security agenda, he said, welcoming efforts in Africa to galvanize the role of women in conflict prevention and commending the African Union’s zero-tolerance position on sexual exploitation and abuse in conflict situations, including by forces deployed to protect populations.
Countering violent extremism, he went on to say, was an integral part of conflict prevention and solution strategies. Women and girls could be part of the problem, serving as foreign fighters or recruiters, but they could also be part of the solution. The need to ensure their participation and leadership in countering terrorism and violent extremism was underscored in resolution 2242 (2015) and the Secretary-General’s subsequent Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism. States, regional and international organizations and the United Nations system must work towards that shared goal, he said, adding that the European Union would allocate more than €100 million by 2020 to gender equality and women’s empowerment, including in Africa.
GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) commended the ongoing efforts of the United Nations and the African Union to secure women’s full and effective participation in all stages of the prevention, resolution and management of conflicts, and post-conflict reconstruction in Africa. Also commending the United Nations Office for West Africa’s (UNOWA) work on advancing gender equality, he welcomed its commitment to adopt a new regional action plan to implement Council resolution 1325 (2000) and to establish an annual dialogue with leaders in the region. Drawing attention to the High-Level Review on Women, Peace and Security, he underlined that women’s meaningful participation was vital to enhance conflict prevention and conflict resolution. The participation of women required a significant cultural change to ensure that human rights and the protection of civilians were considered to be a system-wide responsibility. As the first and largest donor to UN-Women’s Global Acceleration Instrument on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action, Australia was pleased that it had already been implemented in Burundi.
SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) said sustainable and lasting peace depended on women’s active involvement in related processes. In Africa, more than elsewhere, there was a strong need, not only for peacekeeping, but for positive engagement in mediation and peacebuilding. To support national reconciliation and post-conflict reconstruction and to combat the rise of violent extremism, he said, women could and must help with such processes. Turning to the inclusion and mainstreaming of gender-based issues, he noted that they should be included in all negotiations. Further, he noted, economically empowered women could contribute more effectively to sustainable development, peace and security. In that regard, their access to quality education and health must be bolstered, and all forms of gender-based violence and discrimination must end, he said, describing the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals as the most precious tools for action for a better future.
MAHLATSE MMINELE (South Africa) expressed regret that women remained excluded from mediation and conflict-resolution initiatives at the highest levels, noting that systematic cultural exclusion obstructed their full participation. In order for more women to serve as high-level envoys and mediators, a systemic shift was needed. The role of women could no longer be limited to certain areas, such as advising on sexual exploitation and abuse. He emphasized the need to ensure that women had unfettered access to justice, and to that discrimination against them in such areas as land ownership, access to economic opportunity and employment, education and health care was addressed. While Member States had the primary responsibility to end impunity and prosecute perpetrators of sexual violence, he said, the Peacebuilding Commission and Peacebuilding Fund could play an important part in supporting the participation of African women in peace processes.
BERNARDITO AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, called attention to Sustainable Development Goal 16, noting that in many countries in Africa, peaceful and inclusive societies remained a distant dream. Women could contribute greatly to realizing it. Expressing appreciation for initiatives promoted by the Security Council and Member States in order to raise awareness of the vital role of women, he stressed the need to translate recognition into action. The Holy See had always been very attentive to the inspiring work of African women in defending the voiceless, preventing the outbreak of communal violence, reinforcing fragile peace and fostering human dignity. Through various initiatives, it aimed to consolidate their contributions in order to build peaceful and inclusive societies. On education, he noted that the Catholic Church was the leading provider of quality education for all in Africa.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said there was no doubt that women were uniquely positioned to nurture a culture of peace, and enhancing their effective participation would have a meaningful impact on preventing and resolving conflict. While the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000) had been significant, the main issue was the progress made towards its implementation, he said, adding that the African Union’s Gender, Peace and Security Programme to increase women’s participation in the promotion of peace and security was a step in the right direction. The adoption of regional action plans to implement relevant United Nations resolutions was also a positive development. With the largest number of female peacekeepers, Ethiopia was working tirelessly to further enhance its contribution in terms of military and police personnel in the coming years.
DAVID ROET (Israel) noted that violent extremists group such as Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram were destabilizing States across Africa through vicious campaigns of terror that included the abduction of women and children, many of whom were later sold as sex slaves. However, women were also taking their fate into their own hands, he said, adding that across Africa, they were developing innovative platforms for peaceful elections and establishing strong networks of civil society groups. Nevertheless, the number of women involved in peace talks and field-based political missions remained limited. All gender-based barriers must be removed, he emphasized, adding that Israel stood ready to assist African women through programmes run by its Agency for International Development Cooperation, which encouraged and helped women acquire the skills and knowledge they needed to become political leaders.
ADAM KRZYWOSADZKI (Poland), associating himself with the European Union, said the rising number of women’s associations should be considered an important sign of the rising position of African women. However, more women were needed in United Nations-led activities, especially peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations. For that reason, Poland had decided to earmark at least 15 per cent of its future funding of the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund for women’s specific needs, in particular advancing gender equality in post-conflict situations. Noting that his country planned to sign the Kigali Principles on the Protection of Civilians, he called the strict implementation of a zero-tolerance policy on acts of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeeping personnel.
MICHAEL GRANT (Canada) said gender equality, empowerment of women and girls as agents of peace and development, full respect for their human rights and protection from sexual violence were prerequisites for sustainable peace and prosperity. He then commended the African Union’s work in advancing the Women, Peace and Security agenda through the creation of policies and mechanisms. Further, he expressed support to the Union’s appointment of a special envoy on the issue with a view to ensure increased and equal participation of women in peace operations. While it was important to include women in high-level processes to prevent and resolve conflicts, it was equally important to empower women at the local level. For its part, Canada supported projects in Africa to address the specific needs of women and girls in conflict and emergencies. The programming included providing access to justice for survivors and holding perpetrators to account.
GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that women’s calls for peace had been unfailing and widespread. They played an important role in conflict prevention and resolution, and their participation was crucial to the effectiveness of all peace and security efforts. In Africa, women’s participation in conflict prevention had facilitated a more inclusive appreciation of the causes of conflict, as well as alternative solutions.
Several key mechanisms had created an enabling environment for women to play a key role in peace and security on the continent, he continued, noting in particular the 2003 Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, and the 2004 Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa. Women across the continent were also playing an unparalleled role in early warning and the prevention of violence, including election-related violence, and they had developed innovative platforms for peaceful elections in several countries.
BÉNÉDICTE FRANKINET (Belgium), associating herself with the European Union, said women must be able to decide their own future. She welcomed initiatives in Africa to increase the role of women, but expressed disappointment that their participation in conflict prevention, peace processes and post-conflict political transitions was still a major challenge. Gender-mixed representation would guarantee a balanced decision-making process that took the entire population into account. She said her country was providing €2 million for a UN-Women programme in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to support economic empowerment and leadership training for women. In Mali, Belgium co-chaired a group of donors on the gender issue, but regretted the under-representation of women in decision-making since the start of the mediation process. Hopefully, the country’s national women, peace and security action plan for 2015-2017 would address that gap.
ABDERRAZZAK LAASSEL (Morocco) said the international community was in unanimous agreement on women’s contribution to peacekeeping, mediation and peacebuilding activities. As key members of society, their involvement in such processes truly reflected and addressed the needs and concerns of those in need. Calling attention to the relevant Security Council resolutions, he said they recognized the vital role played by women in maintaining peace and security. Despite that recognition, however, women in Africa continued to face numerous challenges while continuing to take non-confrontational approaches in order to ensure the well-being of all, he said.
FRANTIŠEK RUŽIČKA (Slovakia) said that, over the last few decades, gender equality and women’s empowerment had become a positive and forward-looking vision of Africa’s development. At the continental level, African leaders had adopted strong instruments, including the Maputo Protocol, Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa and the African Women Decade. Despite the efforts undertaken, however, numerous challenges remained to be addressed, he said. As women continued to suffer disproportionally from conflict, sexual and gender-based violence, as well as violent extremism, it was crucial that Governments accelerate implementation of their commitments. Institutions must be representatives of and responsive to the needs of both men and women, he said, emphasizing that the United Nations approach must be gender-sensitive throughout the planning, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation phases.
PAUL MENKVELD (Netherlands) said that enhancing the role of women in conflict prevention and resolution could help counter the rise in violent extremism and the use of sexual violence as a tactic of terror. It was time to put words into action, he said, setting out three pathways to change: an exchange of knowledge and good practices on conflict prevention and women’s participation; support for civil society; and greater protection of women from sexual violence. The hopes and dreams of women in conflict environments had been shared during the October 2015 open debate on women, peace and security, he recalled. It was time to move beyond rhetoric and translate those hopes into practical change, he emphasized.
EMMANUEL NIBISHAKA (Rwanda) recalled how, in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, women had immediately involved themselves in rebuilding the country, assuming non-traditional roles in their households and communities. The Government had undertaken a concerted effort, alongside women’s groups, to address the needs of Rwandan women and engage them in national reconstruction and reconciliation. Initiatives to address gender-based violence included one-stop centres offering free services to victims, he said, pointing out that Rwanda now contributed more female police and corrections officers to United Nations peacekeeping missions than any other African country. Despite improvements in the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000), however, challenges remained on several levels, and the international community and Member States would need to do more to sustain past gains, he stressed.
CRISTINA PUCARINHO (Portugal), noting that women in Africa accounted for more than 50 per cent of the population and workforce, said it was, therefore, unthinkable that peace could ever be achieved and sustained without their involvement and consistent engagement. Women — whether as care providers in families and communities, as community leaders, as religious and traditional leaders, and as political representatives and citizens — could perform critical roles in conflict prevention and as agents of development. The Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries — to which six African countries belonged — had adopted a strategic plan to promote gender equality and empowerment. Its planned activities included preparing national plans for implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions; training and capacity-building in relation to resolution 1325 (2000) focal points; and technical and military cooperation among Member States to implement relevant resolutions.
LEVENT ELER (Turkey) said the world was facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, with an increasing influx of displaced populations and rising challenges for vulnerable populations such as women and girls. Moreover, the horrific acts perpetrated against women and girls by such terrorist organizations as Boko Haram and Da’esh demonstrated the need for a comprehensive strategy to counter violent extremism and terrorism in all their forms and manifestations. In times of conflict and insecurity, African women suffered most as victims of wide-spread sexual and gender-based violence, he noted. Yet, during those very times, they also played a primary role in building and supporting peace. Overall stabilization and development efforts could not succeed in Africa if women lacked security as well as political, economic, social and judicial empowerment, he stressed.
SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria) said that resolution 1325 (2000) reaffirmed the important role of women in conflict prevention and resolution, peace negotiations, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and post-conflict reconstruction. Preventing violent conflict required cooperation between Governments and local communities and women to resolve disputes through inclusive participation and dialogue. Turning to regional efforts, he noted that the Maputo Protocol and the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa had created a suitable environment for women to play a crucial role in peace and security. Emphasizing the importance of improving synergies between regional, continental and international early warning structures, he noted that the African Union was currently operationalizing the Continental Early Warning System, which could be improved through contributions by women. Furthermore, the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes had provided training for the SADC Regional Peacekeeping Training Centre on understanding gender issues in peace operations.
WILFRIED I. EMVULA (Namibia) said that, through the adoption of Council resolution 1325 (2000), the conventional impression of women as helpless victims of wars was replaced by the important role of women in fostering peace and security. Namibia had been the first country in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to ratify the region’s protocol on gender and development, doing so in 2009. The country was also one of the largest nations to contribute female troops to the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). At the global level, it was high time to establish and implement an ambitious but achievable agenda for action on women in armed conflict and to allow an increased role for women in the peace process. Provisions of resolution 1325 (2000) must be framed in State obligations to address structural and systemic gender inequality and discrimination. Protecting women from conflicts and violence would remain a priority for the international community, he said, adding that the emphasis on the role of women as leaders in the peacebuilding process would be equally important.
VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand) said women’s empowerment promoted the type of inclusive development and growth that were key to preventing conflicts and sustaining peace. National efforts, therefore, should focus on ensuring their equal access to education, employment, financing, social security, health care and justice. In times of conflict, strong national institutions must be in place to ensure respect for the rule of law and effective monitoring with a view to minimizing the suffering of women and girls. For its part, his delegation had commissioned the International Peace Institute to conduct evidence-based research on the valuable role played by women in peace and security, with research confirming that processes involving them had a higher percentage of success and sustainability. On the recent initiatives that had taken place in Africa, he welcomed the African Union Commission’s gender, peace and security programme, launched in 2014. Having participated in the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), Thailand recognized that female peacekeepers could effectively engage with local population with a high degree of cultural and gender sensitivity, he said.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) stated that, while the protection needs of women remained a foremost concern, it was important to empower and enable them to become instrumental and effective buffers against conflict. It was no surprise that violent extremists and terrorists made it a point to halt women’s empowerment, he said, emphasizing that women’s groups must protest loudly against such trends and engage with other women who, whether forcibly or willingly, were complicit in the misguided agendas of the extremists. As a major troop-contributing country, Bangladesh knew the difference that women peacekeepers could make on the ground, and it was working with the United Nations and others to enhance its participation. Bangladesh was also establishing a peacebuilding centre that would carry out specialized research and training on the role of women in peacebuilding, among other issues.
MUHAMMAD ANSHOR (Indonesia), calling attention to the 2015 Global Study, said it emphasized that meaningful participation of women was crucial to the effectiveness of all peace and security interventions. Enhancing women’s involvement in conflict prevention and conflict resolution, as well as post-conflict peacebuilding in Africa was an imperative that the United Nations must continue to support, he said. That could be done by enhancing and promoting women’s leadership in peace, security and sustainable development, creating a platform for women across all levels of African societies to exchange, share and harmonize strategies and while building coalitions. In the context of peacekeeping operations, he said women peacekeepers were far better equipped to protect women and girls before, during and after conflict and war. To that end, Indonesia stood committed to increasing the number of its women peacekeepers under United Nations mandates.