Speakers Call for Women’s Leadership in All Stages of Peacebuilding Efforts Worldwide
Warning that an “avalanche of crises”, including an uptick in military coups and armament races, is rapidly setting back the clock on women’s rights, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, made a fervent call today to the Security Council to put women front and centre in peacebuilding efforts worldwide.
“Today, women’s leadership is a cause, tomorrow, it must be the norm,” he told the 15-member Council, as it began a day-long in-person debate on women, peace and security.
Presenting his latest report on the topic (document S/2021/827), he observed that military spending last year reached $2 trillion, the highest it has been since 2009, and pointed out that the report shows that an increase in investment in arms was invariably accompanied by a rise in insecurity and inequality suffered by women. He depicted a dismal picture for women’s rights and representation around the world, from Myanmar, where groups working to uphold women’s rights have had to go underground after the coup, to Afghanistan, where there is a sudden reversal in the rights of women and girls, from their right to a seat in Government to a seat in the classroom. “We need to fight back and turn the clock forward,” he emphasized.
On Afghanistan, he said the United Nations remains on the ground and will strive to promote and defend the rights of women in all its engagements with the de facto authorities, the Taliban. “We won’t stop until women can return to their jobs and girls can go back to school,” he stressed.
Sima Sami Bahous, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) struck a similarly sobering note, observing that the doors that Council resolution 1325 (2000) was meant to burst open have let in only a glimmer of light. “But as women, as peacebuilders, as development practitioners, we take that glimmer, and we fight,” she said.
For her part, Bineta Diop, African Union Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security, pointed out that the increased participation of women and girls in peacebuilding processes in several countries in West Africa is not only just and right; it has directly benefited the sustainability of such processes. While Africa has the most robust framework to advance the women, peace and security agenda, she pointed out that the continent is largely dependent on external funding for implementation efforts.
Also briefing the Council was Celia Umenza Velasco, member of Cxhab Wala Kiwe, whose organization — “great people’s territory” in the Nasa Yuwe language — is also known as the Association of Indigenous Councils of the North of Cauca in Colombia. She said Colombia is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for defenders of human rights and land and territorial rights, with at least one indigenous defender being slain every week on average. In 2020 alone, three indigenous women leaders she worked with in her territory of Cauca were killed. Five years after the peace agreement between the Government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC–EP), she said key provisions, including its “ethnic chapter” have not been implemented, adding: “Colombia’s peace accord may be unprecedented in its incorporation of international standards of gender equality, but what good are agreements and promises if they are not kept?”
During the ensuing debate, in which representatives of some 50 Member States and other entities participated, speakers welcomed steps taken to implement resolutions 1325 (2000) and 2242 (2015), while emphasizing the need to include more women in every stage of the peacebuilding process. Many expressed concern about the increase in military spending and underscored the need to act with urgency to protect women peacebuilders, activists and civil rights defenders, as well as to end conflict-related gender-based violence.
The representative of Ecuador was among those who observed that accelerating the participation of women in peace processes would help reduce violence. However, the percentage of women mediators continues to be low despite studies that show peace agreements negotiated by women last longer, he said, asking: “How many more Secretary-General reports must we wait for before we improve the situation? There is no more time to lose. It is time to invest.”
Echoing such views was the representative of Sri Lanka, who called for the inclusion of women who are active in informal peace processes in formal peace processes. Quoting from a magazine article that discussed women’s glaring absence from negotiating tables, he said: “allowing men who plan war to plan peace is a bad habit”.
Meanwhile, Ireland’s delegate expressed dismay that in much of the world, military spending vastly outstripped pandemic-related health spending. Pointing out that evidence clearly shows a strong correlation between militarization and gender inequality, he said the world would be better if welfare was privileged over warfare, especially through investment in women and girls.
Many delegates expressed concern about the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, who were seeing their rights comprehensively eroded. The representative of Austria urged the Secretary-General to include a thorough analysis of the situation of women in Afghanistan in next year’s report, adding that his country has contributed to UN-Women’s country office there to provide immediate relief.
In a similar vein, the representative of Poland emphasized the need to safeguard the achievements of the last two decades to enhance women’s rights in Afghanistan, and to ensure their full and meaningful participation in all realms of life.
Afghanistan’s delegate said that while the female literacy rate almost doubled over the past two decades, and the number of girls in primary school increased from a few thousands in 2001 to 2.5 million in 2018, such advances were suddenly under threat. Without the support of the international community, millions of Afghan women and girls stand to lose access to such progress. “The Taliban must know that they may have won the war but have yet to achieve peace,” he stressed.
The Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Kenya also made a statement.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United States, United Kingdom, Viet Nam, Tunisia, Niger, China, Mexico, Estonia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, India, Russian Federation, Norway, France, Canada, Australia (on behalf of speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security and in her national capacity), Sweden (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Republic of Korea, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Namibia, Guatemala, Latvia, Egypt, Morocco, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Switzerland, Malta, Qatar, Nepal, Philippines, Luxembourg, Japan, Argentina, Slovenia, Rwanda, Portugal, Dominican Republic,, Costa Rica, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Algeria and Bahrain, as well as the European Union in its capacity as Observer.
The meeting began at 10:09 a.m., suspended at 1:02 p.m., resumed at 3:02 p.m. and ended at 5:38 p.m.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary‑General of the United Nations, presenting his latest report on women, peace and security (document S/2021/827), referring to a presentation of photographs, said while the women pictured therein do brave work defending peace and human rights on the front lines, mediating with armed groups and pushing for peaceful transitions, they remain too on the periphery and excluded from the rooms where decisions are made. “Today women’s leadership is a cause, tomorrow it must be a norm,” he stressed.
He painted a dismal picture of women’s rights around the world, with an “avalanche of crises” ranging from an uptick in military coups, new armament races, and nuclear threat being the highest it has been in 40 years. “Our world is going back,” he warned, adding that military spending last year was $2 trillion; the greatest it has been since 2009. These funds could have been used for development instead, he said. Noting that conflict prevention is at the heart of women-led movements, he pointed out that the report shows that an increase in investment in arms led to a rise in insecurity and inequality suffered by women. Gender inequality is the most “stubborn and persistent” of all inequalities, he said.
He went on to note that there is a backdrop of rising violence against women around the world, from Myanmar, where groups working for women’s rights have had to go underground since the coup, to Mali, where space for women’s representation isn’t just shrinking but closing after two coups, and Afghanistan, where there is a reversal in the rights of women and girls, from their right to a seat in Government to a seat in the classroom. Against this backdrop, he said: “we need to fight back and turn the clock forward.” Noting that this is at the heart of Our Common Agenda, and his call to action on human rights, he pointed out that incentives can be powerful to improve the representation of women. The United Nations is enhancing the representation of women delegates in all peace processes they co-led or led, he said, adding that women are key partners in the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia.
Further, the United Nations remains in Afghanistan to promote and defend the rights of women in all engagement with the de facto authorities, the Taliban. “We won’t stop until women can return to their jobs and girls can go back to school,” he said. He called on the Security Council to help in three ways: by ensuring partnership, that women can meaningfully engage in peace processes; to help protect women rights defenders and activists who risk their lives to carry out essential work; and to improve the meaningful participation of women in systems during the transition to peace, including through quotas in elections and justice systems.
SIMA SAMI BAHOUS, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women), noting that the doors that Council resolution 1325 (2000) was meant to burst open have let in only a glimmer of light. “But as women, as peacebuilders, as development practitioners, we take that glimmer, and we fight,” she said, highlighting two areas requiring focus. Emphasizing the need to significantly increase funding for the women, peace and security agenda and conversely curb military spending, she said the evidence clearly shows that high levels of military spending in post-conflict settings increase the risk of renewed conflict while investing in gender equality has a high return in peace dividends.
In 2020, global military expenditure increased by 2.6 per cent to nearly $3 trillion despite the global economy contracting 3.3 per cent, the competing demands of COVID‑19 and all economies, whether in peace or conflict, struggled to meet people’s basic needs, she said. In stark contrast, in humanitarian appeals, sectors that address gender-based violence and sexual and reproductive health services are only funded at 33 per cent and 43 per cent respectively, compared with an average funding of 61 per cent for the overall appeal. None of the ceasefire agreements reached between 2018 and 2020 included the prohibition of sexual violence, and the percentage of peace agreements with gender provisions stands at 28.6 per cent. “At this critical juncture, we have to review prioritization”, she said.
When State support is absent or inadequate, women rely even more on their local organizations, she pointed out. Yet, the share of bilateral aid supporting feminist, women-led and women’s rights organizations and movements in fragile or conflict-affected countries is a mere 0.4 per cent. Furthermore, there has been a striking increase in the fragility of funding for these organizations. More than 80 per cent of local civil society organizations working on the frontlines of crises reported this year that their organization’s existence was at risk due to lack of funding. She went on to ask the international community to do more to support women’s participation in decision-making on defence and security sector expenditures, expand the use of gender-budgeting tools and programming to influence military spending levels, and strengthen citizens’ oversight of military budgeting through enhanced transparency and accountability.
She also called for more support for women’s meaningful participation in peace and security processes, which is the central goal of resolution 1325 (2000). Quotas and other special measures are the best tools to expedite positive change to increase representation. The Secretary‑General’s report shows that women’s parliamentary representation in conflict and post-conflict countries doubles where there are legislated quotas. The United Nations is committed to promoting the use of quotas, not just in politics, but in peace processes and other relevant contexts. Other recommended approaches include: inclusive selection measures, independent delegations of women representatives, political commitment by Member States for processes they support, as well as investment in better data collection, gender analysis and monitoring of results across all peace efforts.
“We cannot expect women to build peace if their lives are constantly under threat,” she stressed, noting that in 2020, the United Nations verified 35 cases of killings of women human rights defenders, journalists, and trade unionists. But this number is a significant undercount and comes from only seven conflict-affected countries with data. From Mexico City to Paris this year, the resounding expression of political and financial support to gender equality galvanized by the Generation Equality Forum could not have come at a better time. She pointed to the new Compact on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action, whose areas of work will be directly supportive of the Secretary‑General’s goals, inviting Governments to join the Compact’s 153 signatories and make concrete commitments to advance the common cause over the next five years. “If we want to see a tangible difference in the lives of women and girls and a paradigm shift in the way we confront peace and security issues, we need Governments to step up,” she said, adding that all actors, including regional neighbours, trading partners, military allies, donors, and the Security Council, must step up.
BINETA DIOP, African Union Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security, noted that women and girls in several West Africa countries have been offered the opportunity to participate in peacebuilding processes. Their inclusion is not only just and right, she said, but has directly benefited the sustainability of these processes. Noting that there are many examples of local women playing a critical role as peacebuilders, she said this must be followed by sustained investment. Having visited many post-conflict areas, she said women peacekeepers are struggling to fund their initiatives.
Africa has the most robust framework for advancing the women, peace and security agenda, she said, and continues to bear the brunt of conflict-related areas. However, the continent is largely dependent on external funding for implementation efforts. Lamenting an increase in military spending, she said funding should instead be directed at efforts to include women and girls in peacekeeping initiatives. During a recent visit to Somalia, she observed the need to equip women with the necessary tools in allowing them to pursue a leadership role. Emphasizing the need to create a flexible funding mechanism to support women’s peacebuilding, she underscored the importance of accelerating gender reform in the military.
CELIA UMENZA VELASCO, member of Cxhab Wala Kiwe, said that her organization, whose name means “great people’s territory” in the Nasa Yuwe language, is also known as the Association of Indigenous Councils of the North of Cauca in Colombia. She said she represents the non-governmental organization (NGO) Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, as well as indigenous women and women in all their diversity, including those suffering from war, poverty and discrimination. Colombia remains one of the world’s most dangerous countries for defenders of human rights and land and territorial rights. On average, at least one indigenous defender is killed every week. In her territory of Cauca, three indigenous women leaders whom she worked with were killed in 2020.
Indigenous communities in Colombia have been calling for demilitarization for decades, she said, as much of the war was waged on their land, and violence continues in their territories today. “Although we have peace in name, lack of implementation of the Peace Accord has refuelled conflict,” she said. Although the peace agreement between the Government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC–EP) contains 130 provisions on gender equality and women’s rights, five years since its adoption, implementation is at a standstill, especially of its gender provisions and the Ethnic Chapter. Implementation is most delayed in provisions for comprehensive rural reform, which would give women access to land and enable them to chart a path to inclusive and holistic development for their communities, she noted, adding: “Colombia’s Peace Accord may be unprecedented in its incorporation of international standards of gender equality, but what good are agreements and promises if they are not kept?”
She urged the Council to call on the Government of Colombia to fully implement and resource the peace agreement, particularly the Ethnic Chapter and gender provisions; adhere to free, prior and informed consent processes with campesino, indigenous and Afro-descendant communities and ensure that development processes comply with international human rights principles and law; and address the crisis of violence against human rights defenders and ensure perpetrators are held to account. The Government should also immediately demilitarize the police force by moving the National Police out of the Ministry of Defense, dismantling the Mobile Antiriot Squad of the National Police; redirect funds to support social investment; and ensure women leaders fully participate in the peace agreement’s implementation and in negotiations with other armed actors in Colombia. “I urge you not to allow this open debate to be yet another occasion where you listen to women civil society but fail to act on our concerns,” she said, stressing that the plight of Afghan women illustrates all too clearly the cost of doing so.
RAYCHELLE OMAMO, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Kenya, Security Council President for October, said the Council and other United Nations agencies must continue to design peace processes that are inclusive of people, particularly women, at the grass roots level. Kenya, working with several United Nations partners, is launching the African tour of the travelling Photoville Exhibition. Women working at the local level and at the heart of conflict zones are frequently overlooked and underrated, she said. Yet sustainable peace must be owned and nurtured by communities and families. “It is therefore necessary to uplift and amplify the voices of women in the field and bolster their contributions in conflict preventions and peacemaking,” she said, adding that this demands investment in women across the peacebuilding and peacekeeping continuum. Local women must be brought from the periphery to the centre of the women, peace and security agenda. “Our peace must be owned by women,” she said, adding “Kenya is committed to this investment in local women”.
LINDA THOMAS‑GREENFIELD (United States) expressed stressed the importance of promoting women’s leadership and participation in every aspect of public life and the need to ensure their safety and security. Security is necessary not just for women but for all who value peace. In 2017, the United States administration became the first country to adopt a domestic law on implementing the women, peace and security agenda. Describing how the Government is internalizing the agenda through training, she said the Department of Homeland Security trained its officials on women’s security issues and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided support to the survivors of gender-based violence. These are not just “talking points” but “genuine commitment” codified in its policy. From South Sudan to Colombia, women played a crucial role in a country’s transition from conflict towards peace. The Council must prioritize the perspective of safety for women by including it in many more mandates of peace missions, she said, urging Governments of other Security Council members to join the United States in adopting national action plans, which will hold them accountable.
TARIQ AHMAD, Minister for State of the United Kingdom, said his country is committed to the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in all peace efforts, adding that increasing the number of women peacekeepers and women in leadership roles is vital to operational effectiveness. He outlined steps taken by the United Kingdom in this regard, including a gender barrier study that will enable a better understanding of obstacles faced by women in the national armed forces deployed in peacekeeping operations. It has supported the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund since its inception, committing more than £175 million to empower women and young people. In addition, he said, the United Kingdom supports the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)to tackle reprisals, particularly those committed against Security Council briefers. “If we cannot protect briefers here, we undermine the purpose of the Security Council,” he stressed. On Afghanistan, he emphasized that the rights of women and girls must be central to any discussions with the Taliban.
COLM BROPHY, Minister for State of Ireland, emphasizing that peacekeeping efforts considering only the needs of parties to the conflict are doomed to fail, said women must be at the table, participating fully and equally. Peacekeeping must be gender-responsive, he said, adding that the Council must heed women leaders, human rights defenders and civil society. It must also ensure that women peacebuilders participate safely, facing no risk of reprisals against them or their family. Turning to military spending, he expressed dismay that it is greater in much of the world than pandemic-related health spending. Adding that evidence clearly shows a strong correlation between militarization and gender inequality, he said the world would be better if welfare was privileged over warfare, especially through investment in women and girls. Doing so lifts whole communities out of poverty and marginalization, he said, building resilient, inclusive, peaceful societies.
DANG DINH QUY (Vietnam), acknowledging the effectiveness of women’s leadership during the pandemic, called on States to value their experiences, knowledge, understanding and expertise in all fields by removing barriers and promoting their rights, interests and needs at all levels. Highlighting the importance of strengthened international cooperation, especially on capacity-building and best practices sharing, he called on the donor community to contribute a minimum of 15 per cent of its official development assistance (ODA) to advancing gender equality in conflict-affected countries. He further pointed out that 21 per cent of his country’s military is comprised of women, including many serving United Nations peacekeeping missions in the Central African Republic and South Sudan. The number is all the more remarkable when compared to the Secretary‑General’s target of 15 per cent by 2028, he said, adding that women also hold 30 per cent of the senior leadership positions in the country’s ministerial agencies.
TAREK LADEB (Tunisia), noting that the world is still tackling COVID‑19, said the pandemic is having a disproportionate effect on women and girls, especially in conflict areas. Adding that the percentage of women in peacekeeping efforts remains low at 23 per cent, he said they are generally absent from mainstream policy development. Most adopted measures directed at the pandemic fail to consider the gender dimensions, he said, observing also that humanitarian crises severely lack funding to meet the needs of girls and women. Emphasizing that women’s equal participation in peacebuilding requires greater solidarity at all levels, he said they must no longer be viewed as victims, but capable of leadership roles. Tunisia has succeeded in placing them at higher political levels, he said, adding that, for the first time in the Arab world, a woman leads the country’s Government.
ABDOU ABARRY (Niger) said despite recent progress to implement the women, peace and security agenda, very few women are participating in peace processes, yet women and children are the major victims of conflicts. Results are better when women are included in peace negotiations. Women’s participation in the peace process is a system of justice. He asked how peace can be achieved without women, who make up half of the population. In Niger, the Sahel region is an area of insecurity and climate change, issues that disproportionately impact women and girls. More funds should be invested in women organizations that strive for peace, particularly at the grass-roots level. Niger is moving to increase women’s participation in Government and has implemented a national action plan for women, peace and security, he said. It is working with the African Union, European Union, UN-Women and the United Nations Group of Friends of Women of the Sahel. Women’s voices need to be heard, he said, underscoring that women need to be included as peacebuilders and more effectively used in peacekeeping missions.
DAI BING (China) said gains in comprehensively advancing the rights of women risked being reversed against a backdrop of mounting turmoil. He expressed concern about women living in the shadow of occupation in Palestine, and those who were now at risk in Afghanistan, due to a hasty withdrawal, adding that women are at risk of trafficking and sexual violence in other conflict areas. The international community must consider the needs of women in such places and provide timely humanitarian assistance. In Syria and Iraq, abuses are perpetrated by extremist forces, and the family members of foreign terrorist fighters are still detained, he said, calling for concerned countries to step up their screening and repatriation. China supports the enhanced role of women in peacekeeping, in a manner that includes the participation of local women and women’s groups, as well as supports their representation in peace talks and political arrangements. He touched on the achievements of Chinese women peacekeepers, including those with United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), who helped demine thousands of mines, thereby enabling the creation of safe zones for Lebanese people. With the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), China has created and funded a prize for women’s education, which it has awarded to 10 organizations in developing countries so far.
ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico) said that her country in 2021 adopted its first national action plan on resolution 1325 (2000). About 35 per cent of Mexico’s uniformed personnel deployed in United Nations peace missions are women. In general, however, the participation of women in peacekeeping operations continues to be low due to the various barriers they face in the various stages of recruitment, training, selection, deployment and operation. In this regard, she acknowledged Canada’s Elsie Initiative for supporting Governments in ending these barriers. The inclusion of local actors, such as peacebuilders and human rights defenders, is also essential at all stages of the political and peace processes and is an indispensable condition for national ownership. In parallel, she urged the Council to continue including the voices of women briefers in its deliberations and take measures for their protection. Mexico ‑ as co-Chair of the Council’s informal Group of Experts on Women and Peace and Security, together with Ireland ‑ will continue to work towards these objectives.
SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) touched on the situation of women in Afghanistan, reports of sexual violence against women and girls in Tigray, and incidents of women being attacked, tortured or detained for their participation in protests from Belarus to Myanmar. Emphasizing that the United Nations leadership remains essential in encouraging and supporting the full, equal and meaningful participation of women, he noted that the lack of gender provisions in ceasefire agreements undermines that endeavour. Estonia calls for investment in women peacekeepers and mediators, and resources for gender and women protection advisers, he said, stressing that threats and attacks against women activists and civil society representatives must not be cause for their exclusion or for self‑censorship. They need to be heard, in the Council and at the local level. He went on to underline the need to break the pattern of impunity, including by setting benchmarks on sexual violence and other human rights violations.
INGA RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) said that the consistent inclusion of gender provisions in peace agreements and post-agreement implementation remains urgent. Indeed, the absence of such provisions in all ceasefire agreements secured in the last few years is of particular concern. Even with increased efforts at the national, regional, and multilateral levels, women’s participation across the peace, security and development continuum still falls appallingly short, she remarked. As such, mandates of United Nations peacekeeping and special political missions must include operational elements to support Governments’ quest for the equal, meaningful participation of women in peace processes and across development initiatives. Moreover, there is need for greater representation of women in disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, and security sector reform. She went on to emphasize the urgent need to apply anti-colonial-intersectional gender analysis as standard in every aspect of the Council’s work. There is no circumstance under which conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence against women, girls, and children, including reprisals against women peacebuilders and civil society, can be tolerated. “We must insist on prevention, accountability, and on transforming the conditions that produce this violence in the first place,” she said.
T. S. TIRUMURTI (India), recalling that the first woman General Assembly President, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, was from his country, said she and several other Indian women leaders made great contributions to the United Nations in its formative years and shaped the discussion on human rights and gender equality. India has moved from women’s development to women‑led development, he added, pointing out that the constitution mandates that 33 per cent of local self‑government seats be reserved for women. Further, more than 20 states have provisions to ensure that women hold 50 per cent of total seats, he said, noting that, as a result, more than 1.3 million elected women representatives lead in the creation and implementation of public policies at the grass‑roots level. He went on to emphasize his country’s commitment to increasing the number of its women peacekeepers, recalling that, in 2007, India deployed the first‑ever all‑female formed police unit to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), where it served for a decade. Indian peacekeepers are playing an important role in preventing conflict‑related sexual violence, he affirmed, while also stressing the importance of the United Nations remaining actively focused on the role of women in peacekeeping and peacebuilding, especially in Afghanistan.
GENNADY V. KUZMIN (Russian Federation) stressed that efforts to ensure gender equality should focus on situations representing indisputable threats to international peace and security. Emphasizing the importance of developing regional and national structures to implement the woman, peace and security agenda, he said they should only be set up when needed in conflict or post-conflict situations. An increase of bureaucratic structures in the absence of conflict is unjustified, he said, adding that the result is more critical than the appearance of working towards it. Calling also for the international community to adopt measures to increase women’s participation in social and economic life in post-conflict situations, he said steps must be taken to bolster their access to finance and technologies.
MONA JUUL (Norway), noting that her country is present in more than 50 States affected by conflict and crises, said it is deeply committed to women’s full and substantive participation. Adding that conflicts and peace processes are prone to abrupt change, she said this should not exclude women, who always adapt. Nor should the international community sacrifice women’s right to participate in the name of protection, but include them from the start, designing security measures and responses. In Colombia, for example, Norway is committed to working directly with women’s organizations in enhancing early warning systems and ensuring a gender approach in implementing security measures. Norway is equally committed to ensuring women’s participation in the protection of civilians, she said, as this is critical in addressing the root causes of conflict.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) emphasized the need to increase and enhance women’s participation in peacekeeping and peacebuilding. He pointed to the heightened role of women in implementing the peace agreement in Mali and the appointment of a French female general in the Gendarmerie nationale to head the police component of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) as examples of concrete action to follow. The Council must unequivocally reaffirm that the hard-won gains made by women and girls in Afghanistan cannot be erased. He underscored several ways in which France is promoting the women, peace and security agenda, including through financial support for gender focal points in peacekeeping missions and a €6 million contribution to the Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation and Nadia Murad’s Initiative for survivors of sexual violence.
Ms. O’NEILL (Canada), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, an informal network of 65 Member States, said there has been too little progress since the adoption of resolution 1325  called for all United Nations‑supported peace processes to require and ensure the full, equal and meaningful participation of women. She expressed the Group’s “unshakable solidarity” with Afghan women and girls who face the prospect of losing 20 years of gains. She called on the Council to include women in its discussions and fully integrate the women, peace and security commitments into all its work and outcomes. She also urged Member States to create a safe environment for women peacebuilders, human rights defenders and advocates for gender equality, whom are at risk, or have faced retribution, for their efforts. Also needed is predictable and sustained funding for local and grassroots women’s organizations and networks.
Speaking in her national capacity, she said a major issue facing the Canadian Government this year is sexual misconduct in its own armed forces. The Government understands that to address sexual misconduct meaningfully, it must examine every aspect of its organizational culture. Knowing it is not alone, Canada helped create the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations. One of its central tenets is to reach the numerical targets set out in the Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy 2018-2028. Canada is taking steps domestically to advance the women, peace and security agenda. On the international front, Canada believes the process of engaging with women peacebuilders needs to be fully institutionalized within the United Nations system, including gender parity in senior management. The crisis in Afghanistan is a litmus test of the international community’s commitment to implementing resolution 1325 , she said.
STELLA RONNER‑GRUBAČIĆ, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, stressed the importance of incorporating the women, peace and security agenda in the analysis, planning, conduct and evaluation of all matters related to peace and security, while prioritizing leadership and full, equal and meaningful participation of women as commanders, peacekeepers, peacebuilders, and mediators. “In order for a country to prevent conflict or make the transition from conflict to sustainable peace, women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in peace and political processes, including official peace negotiations, is key,” she stressed. Further, women on the ground must be supported by speaking out and acting against threats of reprisal that endanger them and their work.
Turning to the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, which have “sharply declined”, as women and women human rights defenders increasingly and disproportionately being targeted by the Taliban, she stressed that Afghan women and girls have the right to live in safety, security and dignity with full enjoyment of their human rights, adding that monitoring is key to ensure this takes place. Gender norms and roles must be taken into account in peace processes; they cannot be an afterthought. She expressed concern about persistent impunity for conflict-related sexual violence and called for accountability to be enforced, reiterating the bloc’s support for the Security Council to incorporate and apply sexual violence as a designation criterion in sanction regimes in a systematic manner.
MITCH FIFIELD (Australia), also speaking on behalf of Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Turkey (MIKTA countries), said recent events in Afghanistan highlighted the critical importance of the women, peace and security agenda, calling on States to ensure that all women and girls, in all conflicts and crises, have access to justice, essential services and health care. Mainstreaming gender equality and gender analysis is essential to ensuring the agenda’s success, as is addressing the root causes of gender inequality, in particular violence against women and girls, he emphasized. A survivor-centred approach is key to restoring safety and dignity, ensuring access to justice and accountability, and ending impunity, he added. Pointing out that COVID-19 has had a disproportionately negative impact on women and girls, especially in conflict-affected States, he said measures to support women’s meaningful engagement and leadership in peace processes could include investment in the Elsie Initiative Fund, deployment of women to United Nations peace operations, increasing women’s representation in the security sector and supporting grass-roots networks of women peacemakers, as well as the Secretary-General’s Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy.
Speaking in his national capacity, he emphasized that implementation of the women peace and security agenda requires inclusive and sustained action at all levels, from the grass roots to global gatherings. Noting the importance of women’s leadership of civil society actors, human rights defenders and peacebuilders, he said their voices and legitimacy must be projected and defended at all levels. He called on States to involve more women in analysis and decision-making roles. Noting that Australia launched its second National Action Plan on women peace and security in April, he said it runs through 2031. Women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in peace and security remains at the centre of Government efforts, he asserted, adding that Australia will focus on reducing sexual and gender-based violence, while supporting resilience, security and just responses to crises and conflicts.
ANNA KARIN ENESTRÖM (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, recalled that in recent months the Council has heard from women peacebuilders and human rights defenders from Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, among other countries, who called for women’s voices to generate more impact on matters of peace and security. “We also continue to hear that these actors are forced into a dilemma — whether to speak up, defend their rights and promote a better future for their societies, or prioritize their own safety and survival,” she said, saying that choice is unacceptable and threatens all of humanity. Looking ahead, local women and women civil society members need to directly inform peace and security efforts. Citing several positive examples of outcomes of women’s engagement, she said women civil society briefers’ recommendations to the Council, as well as to other decision makers, must be reflected in outcomes, and briefers must be updated on how their recommendations are taken forward. Promoting women’s role and impact also requires long-term, flexible and core funding, including to support women’s rights organizations and other civil society actors that work for gender equality. She also voiced support for the initiative put forward by Ireland, Kenya and Mexico as a decisive step towards making the women, peace and security agenda part of all peace and security discussions.
PARK JANG-HO (Republic of Korea), aligning himself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security and Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey and Australia, said much needs to be done to address the heightened risk of sexual violence and gender inequality worldwide. He touched on concerns raised in the report, from women in Afghanistan being prevented from participating in peace negotiations and in public life, to women in Myanmar and Belarus being attacked, tortured or detained for taking part in political protests, adding that given such circumstances, ensuring full, equal and meaningful participation of women in peace processes is crucial. On women in peacekeeping, he said the Republic of Korea is endeavouring to increase the number of women participants in United Nations peace operations to 25 per cent by 2028. As part of its ongoing campaign on “Action with Women and Peace”, it will host the third international conference on conflict-related sexual violence in Seoul on 25 November.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), aligning herself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said the intensification of crises underscores the need for greater investment in women’s participation in peace and security. The COVID‑19 pandemic provides overwhelming evidence that women are impacted by crises “earliest and longest”, she said. Noting that a normative framework is in place for enhancing the women, peace and security agenda, she called for the prioritization of its implementation with robust monitoring. Greater gender expertise is needed in Mission planning and transition, she said, adding that technical experts in peacekeeping operations must incorporate a range of perspectives, including those of local women. The women, peace and security agenda must not be a box-ticking exercise, she said: adding “it is necessary for the Security Council to fulfil its core mandate.” Upon joining the Security Council in January 2022 as a non-permanent member, the United Arab Emirates will continue to support the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda.
MATHU JOYINI (South Africa) said that investing in the participation of local women in peacebuilding and peacekeeping settings can help to overcome the barriers to participation. Equally important is funding and directing resources to women-led peacebuilding organizations on the ground, she added, emphasizing that gender equality should be an integral part of peace processes and agreements. South Africa continues, through its national action plan, to intensify interventions geared to supporting and enhancing the role of women in peace building processes, she said, adding that these, which contribute to reducing the gap in women’s representation, she affirmed, citing local and regional peacebuilding initiatives, including capacity-building programmes for women and youth mediators, an annual dialogue forum and a network of women mediators.
NEVILLE GERTZE (Namibia), reiterating his delegation’s commitment to elevating women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in peace processes, outlined national actions to advance gender equality and women’s engagement in decision-making. Those included introducing a gender quota in national politics, which resulted in women comprising 47 per cent of the National Assembly. Regionally and within the broader African context, Namibia remains a champion of the women, peace and security agenda, including through the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and African Union mechanisms, and through its troop contributions to peacekeeping missions. Noting that the outbreak of COVID‑19 had a differentiated impact on women and men due to gender roles and structural gender inequalities, he said that as the world continues to grapple with its impacts it must not be distracted from achieving the United Nations zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse. There is also a need for an increased integration of gender in national planning and budgeting as part of strategies to train national officials, he added.
CRISTIAN ESPINOSA (Ecuador) said he regrets that during the pandemic, domestic violence, trafficking and sexual harassment have escalated. Accelerating the participation of women in peace processes would help reduce violence. Despite studies that show peace agreements negotiated by women last longer, the percentage of women mediators continues to be low. “How many more Secretary‑General reports must we wait for before we improve the situation? How many more lives of women and girls will we lose?” he said, adding “there is no more time to lose. It is time to invest.” Ecuador is working to incorporate more women into United Nations peacekeeping missions. The time to act is now, only 24 months before the seventy‑fifth anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. “What better way of commemorating human rights” than promoting gender equality and empowering women in peace processes.
ALEXANDER MARSCHIK (Austria) said the Secretary‑General’s annual report painted a dark picture for women in conflict-affected countries, urging him to include in the next year’s report a thorough analysis of the situation facing women in Afghanistan. Austria made direct financial contributions to the UN‑Women country office in Afghanistan for immediate relief. Concurring with the Secretary‑General’s analysis that the women, peace and security agenda and human security are closely linked, he said disarmament directly contributes to conflict prevention. The agenda is a whole-of-society matter and relies on civil society and local women mediators and peacebuilders for implementation daily. Expressing support for the global network of women peacebuilders and UN‑Women, he said the agenda should be included in all United Nations peacekeeping and special political missions.
LUIS ANTONIO LAM PADILLA (Guatemala) said the historic adoption of Council resolution 1325 (2016) as well as subsequent ones have recognized the contributions of women in the prevention and resolution of conflict, and peacebuilding. Noting that the Secretary‑General’s report reaffirms that women, peace and security is a priority of action in peacekeeping, he said women must be systematically integrated into the agenda at all levels of peace operations. Many women from Guatemala participate in peacekeeping, and as many as 300 women number among military and civilian personnel. He reaffirmed the importance of gender parity, and said his country’s national action plan has strengthened national legislation in this regard.
GHULAM M. ISACZAI (Afghanistan) highlighted the advancements women have made in his country over the last 20 years, reporting that the female literacy rate almost doubled from 17 per cent to 30 per cent, and the number of girls in primary school increased from a few thousands in 2001 to 2.5 million in 2018. However, millions of Afghan women and girls are about to lose those gains without the support of the international community. After 2002, Afghanistan was among the first countries in Asia to adopt a national action plan for the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000). To prevent backsliding on progress made, it is essential that the international community target vulnerable women to ensure humanitarian assistance reaches them and Afghan women are involved in humanitarian activities. “The Taliban must know that they may have won the war but have yet to achieve peace,” he said. Peace and stability to Afghanistan can only return when Afghans can establish a truly inclusive and representative Government that incorporates women as important stakeholders in peace and future stability.
ANDREJS PILDEGOVIČS (Latvia), aligning himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said the situation is particularly worrying in Afghanistan, where females risk losing rights earned over the past 20 years. It is the Council’s collective responsibility to prevent the looming scenario, in which women would irreversibly lose equal access to education, employment and participation in decision-making. Latvia supports the commitment laid out in the Action for Peacekeeping Plus initiative to streamline the gender perspective in all aspects of peacekeeping. It welcomes the Peacebuilding Commission’s efforts to strengthen the role of women during the post-conflict phase and that, for the third year, the Peacebuilding Fund has allocated 40 per cent of its annual investment towards gender equality and women’s empowerment. Latvia is implementing its national action plan on women, peace and security for the 2020‑2025 term. Women make up more than 15 per cent of its military personnel in its armed forces while they comprise 30 per cent of the state police.
OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt) said his country is developing its first national action plan on the women, peace and security agenda, noting that adequate funds are needed to implement it. He stressed the importance of assistance for African States with the agenda, especially those suffering or emerging from armed conflict. Egypt champions the resolution on combating sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping adopted by the General Assembly last month, he said, emphasizing that a system-wide approach is needed to eliminate such acts. Adding that the international community should ensure a gender balance in peacekeeping and peacebuilding, he said, he said they must ensure national ownership and consider specificities of countries emerging from conflict. Renewed political and moral commitments are needed to involve women in these situations, as their empowerment is a must for healthy, coherent societies aiming to reach sustainable peace.
OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) said that his country promotes an inclusive society and ensuring women’s rights is a national priority. Gender equality is enshrined in its judicial system. Stressing the strategic importance of deploying women in peacekeeping operations, he said their presence has a positive impact on the effectiveness of missions. His country started dispatching women peacekeepers as early as 1992. Between 2018 and 2020, Morocco dispatched 186 women military personnel to peacekeeping missions, he said, expressing support for the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping Initiative. Women can help overcome crisis and strengthen society, he said, calling for greater roles played by women.
LACHEZARA STOEVA (Bulgaria), aligning herself with the European Union and the statement made by Canada on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said the role of local women and civil society organizations are crucial to bolstering female participation in peacebuilding and peace negotiations. Bulgaria has adopted its first national action plan, for 2020‑2025, after including inputs from local women peacekeeping groups. Bulgaria urges greater participation by women in all peacemaking decisions. Her country is integrating gender perspectives into its Government and military, including effective leadership roles. Bulgaria is deeply concerned with the worsening situation in Afghanistan and the poor state of women’s rights. More investment is needed to fund women’s inclusion in the peacekeeping agenda.
POLLY IOANNOU (Cyprus) said ensuring women’s qualitative contributions to substantive issues being considered during a peace process is more important than participation quotas. There should be inputs on two levels: the direct participation of women in all tracks of the peace process and through a mechanism that enables local experts to share ideas on specific questions. The United Nations can help this process through its interactions with local actors and its ability to draw on successful paradigms in other States. Regarding gender-based violence, she said it should carry a very high price tag for its perpetrators with no amnesties for these or any other crimes against humanity. The United Nations operations role is key.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) said many gaps persist between the normative framework on women, peace and security and the reality on the ground. The full, equal and meaningful participation of women in political and peace processes is one of the key lines of action of Switzerland’s foreign policy. For example, it supports dialogue between women from different political parties and women active in opposition movements in Lebanon. Switzerland also recently launched a network of women mediators and peacebuilders. However, there is a need to better link local processes with multilateral engagement, she said, welcoming the record number of women from civil society who briefed the Council in September and urging the organ to consider a more systematic follow-up to the briefers’ recommendations. Noting that South Africa and Switzerland will co-chair the Women and Peace and Security Focal Points Network in 2022, she said they will work towards the systematic application of existing tools, such as national action plans, and prioritize activities to advance women’s participation, cooperation with civil society and protection against sexual and gender-based violence.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), aligning herself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, recalled the Secretary‑General’s call in 2020 for a radical shift in the meaningful participation of women in peacemaking, and added that the call “still rings out loud and clear today”. Noting the encouraging fact that women were included as delegates in all but one United Nations co-led process in 2020, she pointed out that this was however not the case for conflict parties’ delegates, where they represented only 23 per cent, adding: “the question arises, should we start a conversation about gender quotas in peace negotiations?” She called for better protection of women peacebuilders, political leaders, activists and rights defenders, and expressed concern that over 11 million girls may not return to school after COVID‑19, adding that disruptions to child marriage prevention programmes could result in an additional 10 million child marriages.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) emphasized the importance of protecting women and their rights, and involving them in all phases of peacekeeping. Adding that education is vital in equipping women for a peacekeeping/peacebuilding role, she said Qatar has committed itself to providing quality education for 1 million girls. In recently holding peace talks for the Afghan parties, Qatar ensured that women were included in the process. Stressing the importance of human rights, especially for minority women and children, she said her country is cooperating with international partners in this area.
AMRIT BAHADUR RAI (Nepal) noted that, as a post-conflict country, it has gone through the traumatic experience of the impact of conflict on women. Nepal’s Constitution guarantees 33 per cent of seats in the federal and provincial Parliament and 40 per cent in local government be held by women. Furthermore, it requires a male-female alternate seat provision in the country’s highest positions such as President and Vice-President. Similarly, of its cities’ mayors and deputy mayors, one must be female. Stressing that the Constitution has ensured inclusive provisions in all State structures, he pointed out that, in 2011, his country was the first in South Asia to adopt a national action plan to implement resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008). It also prepared a second action plan in consultation with relevant stakeholders including victims of conflict, which focuses on the issues of justice for conflict-affected women and girls, improvement of their livelihood, and security of women and children. He further noted that Nepal has increased its number of female peacekeepers.
ARIEL RODELAS PEÑARANDA (Philippines), recalling the important role played by Filipino women in mediation and in the Mindanao peace process since 1997, pointed out that his country was the first in Asia to adopt a national action plan on women, peace and security, which provides a framework for promoting women’s rights and leadership in peacebuilding, peacekeeping and peace negotiations. Noting that the Department of Defence seeks to increase financing for the women, peace and security agenda, he said COVID-19 exacerbates gender inequality in conflict-affected, post-conflict and humanitarian crisis contexts, and women and girls face a higher incidence of gender-based violence, as well as greater difficulties in gaining access to basic goods and services. He said the Philippine National Police prioritizes the recruitment and training of women, and reserves at least 10 per cent of its annual recruitment, training and education quota for women. It established more than 2,000 Women and Children Protection Desks nationwide, staffed by trained women investigators, he added.
OLIVIER MAES (Luxembourg), aligning himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said much remains to be done to strengthen the rights of women, adding that the present situation in Afghanistan demonstrates how vulnerable their rights are. The rights of women stand for the rights of an entire society, he said. Further, integrating women into all levels of peace processes is a prerequisite to lasting peace. Citing a study on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), he said it showed that an increase in the representation of women in peace agreements was associated with such agreements’ durability. Therefore, efforts must be redoubled to integrate women into all peacekeeping work. In 2021, Luxembourg’s army formed a committee to focus on ways to integrate and recruit women, he said, adding that it has been elected to the Human Rights Council between 2022 and 2024, and will seek to promote and strengthen gender equality during this period.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) noted the support of his country’s Government for the activities of the United Nations Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Somalia and Iraq. He cited the challenges encountered by the Team of Experts in the Central African Republic, among them, ensuring access to justice for victims and survivors due to remoteness, stigmatization, lack of awareness and slow judicial process. The Team’s recent diagnostic report pointed to the absence of measures to benefit victims and witnesses, gaps in the national legal framework, and limited technical and operational capacity to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate, he said. To remedy that, the Team focused on building law-enforcement capacity, in close collaboration with the local authorities, to ensure high specialization and expertise in judicial response, he explained. That resulted in the prosecution of more cases and enabled women and girls to participate less fearfully in the peace process. He went on to state that under the G7 Women, Peace and Security Partnership Initiative, Japan partnered with UN-Women to promote women’s participation in national reconciliation and peacebuilding in Sri Lanka, and also bilaterally supports efforts by developing countries to improve women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution, peacekeeping and peacebuilding.
PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka) said that women who are active in informal peace processes must be included in formal peace processes. Women bring to the table a broader perspective of peace. Questioning the traditional rationale for women’s inclusion, such as that they are better positioned to deal with sexual and gender-based violence, he said such a view is discriminatory and called for a shift of mindset so that men and women are treated on equal terms. Women’s absence from negotiating tables is notable. Citing a Foreign Policy magazine article in its May‑June 2001 issue, he said “allowing men who plan war to plan peace is a bad habit.” Men at the negotiation table come from war rooms but women come from family care, he said, stressing the need to let women plan peace.
MARÍA DEL CARMEN SQUEFF (Argentina) reaffirms its commitment to the women, peace and security agenda to ensure that women’s participation in peacekeeping is expanded so as to end conflicts and build lasting peace. The international community must accelerate its efforts in this direction. It is necessary for greater coordination to carry out all relevant resolutions from the Council and other relevant bodies. Greater participation from women in local networks is helpful as local groups understand the structural roots that can spark conflicts. Argentina is getting ready to launch its second national action plan to activate resolution 1325 (2000). It has also developed a plan to increase the number of women in peacekeeping missions and in its armed forces. Argentina is constantly working at the international and regional levels, such as in the Southern Common Market.
BOŠTJAN MALOVRH (Slovenia), associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, noted that equal and meaningful participation of women must be at the centre of all peace-related activities. He went on to reaffirm his country’s full support to women and girls in Afghanistan, noting that their free and equal participation in Afghan society is essential. Detailing Slovenia’s efforts in promoting the women, peace and security agenda, he observed that his country regularly deploys women as uniformed personnel to peace operations and missions, including in senior roles. Recalling that the very first woman to command a UNIFIL contingent came from Slovenia, he noted that 20 per cent of the Slovenian police officers who took part in an international peacekeeping mission in 2020 were women.
VALENTINE RUGWABIZA (Rwanda), noting that her country is one of the top police- and troop‑contributing countries to United Nations peacekeeping, said that protection of civilians is at the core of this exercise. Women are disproportionately affected by armed conflict, she said, and should have a key role to play in peacekeeping and peacebuilding processes. In the aftermath of genocide in Rwanda, the Government empowered local communities with responsibility for disarmament and reintegration processes, with women as key arbiters and enablers. Adding that women have also been engaged at a grass‑roots level in the fight against gender-based violence, she said they make up 50 per cent community advocators. Rwanda has formed partnerships at the national and regional levels to increase women’s participation in peacekeeping operations, she said, urging the international community to make this happen, accompanied by robust data and observations.
KRZYSZTOF MARIA SZCZERSKI (Poland), aligning himself with the European Union, said his country has taken steps to increase the participation of women in uniformed activities, including in the army, in the police, and as border guards. It is likewise actively promoting policies that seek to remove barriers to the recruitment and participation of women in peacekeeping operations. Turning to conflict-related gender-based violence, he said Poland aims to ensure greater accountability and to strengthen impunity cases where peacekeepers are associated with exploitation and abuse. It has focused on such concerns during its tenure at the Human Rights Council and is focusing on providing victims of such violence aid, with bodies including UN‑Women, as well as through bilateral work. As a part of the Group of Friends of Women in Afghanistan, Poland underlines the need to ensure the full, meaningful participation of women in all realms of life, and to safeguard the achievements of the last two decades in this regard, he said.
FRANCISCO DUARTE LOPES (Portugal), echoing the remarks of the European Union, said peacekeeping efforts need women’s full participation. The use of women’s networks has been instrumental in achieving peace in some locales. Yet women remain mostly absent during most peacemaking activities. Portugal is already actively engaged in fostering women’s participation in peace making, he said. The United Nations needs a more ambitious approach. Portugal supports actions that give preferences to local women networks and their roles as mediators, he said, emphasizing that grass‑roots groups are very important. Portugal has carried out three successive action plans to expand women’s participation. With help from the international community, women can use firm steps to help their communities.
JOSÉ ALFONSO BLANCO CONDE (Dominican Republic) said women must play an important in the prevention of conflict and peacebuilding. No peace processes are credible and sustainable without the participation of women. Applauding the Secretary‑General’s focus on the rights of women in the United Nations work in peace and security, he urged States to invest in women and girls. From Lake Chad to the Sahel, climate change affects women disproportionately. Also, women’s bodies have become a battlefield, he said, pointing to an increase in gender-based violence and a high level of underreporting of such violations. Civil society actors and human rights defenders must be protected so that they can carry out their work without fear of reprisals.
MARITZA CHAN (Costa Rica) said while the emphasis of the women, peace and security agenda is rightly on the participation of women, it falls short in its framing of gender. The resolutions under this umbrella define gender in a binary sense, ignoring the vulnerability of trans and gender-non-conforming people and individuals of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions and sex characteristics. “The binary framework is especially concerning because we know that LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex] people are at particular risk throughout the conflict cycle”, she said, adding the need to incorporate a broader understanding of gender into the agenda. Such an understanding should consider disaggregated data on the full gender spectrum, in order to better understand the gendered impacts of conflict and weapons, including smalls arms and light weapons, cyberoperations, landmines and more.
MYRIAM OEHRI (Liechtenstein) said women’s participation in peace talks increased the probability of peace agreements lasting two years by 20 per cent, and those lasting 15 years by 35 per cent. Yet, women remain largely underrepresented in United Nations peacekeeping and peacebuilding activities, and their contributions are often overlooked. More research should be carried out on the relationship between the women, peace and security agenda and respect for international humanitarian law. The Council has an obligation to ensure that gains made by women in Myanmar, the Tigray region of Ethiopia and Yemen are not reversed, she said, adding that those who are effectively in control in Afghanistan must comply with their obligations under international human rights law and relevant Council and General Assembly resolutions.
SYED MOHAMAD HASRIN AIDID (Malaysia) stressed that women’s participation is key to successful peacekeeping processes, noting that it will contribute to inclusivity as well as sustainable peace and development. Emphasizing that peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations must also be adequately supported to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse, he said Malaysia includes the zero-tolerance topic in its peacekeeping training programmes. Malaysia supports UN‑Women through consistent financial contributions, he said, and is committed to work with other nations in advancing the women, peace and security agenda.
ZAKIA IGHIL (Algeria) noted the debate is being held during a pandemic that has escalated violence in conflict zones. Gender analysis must be used to increase the number of women negotiating peace building agreements and give them more leadership roles. Algeria is promoting women’s role at several levels of its Government, she said, noting that it has adopted a national action plan, which includes civil society inputs, to serve as a roadmap to develop strategies. Algeria has always supported the crucial role of women on the African continent, where their participation is essential. Women must be empowered to be at the centre of peacekeeping architecture, she said. They should be part of conflict resolution and given training to serve as mediators and in preventive diplomacy. It has been more than 20 years since the adoption of resolution 1325  and the United Nations must fully give women the proper tools to achieve peace, she said.
JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain), noted that the women, peace and security agenda is a pillar of the Secretary‑General’s Action for Peacekeeping Initiative, which is supported by his Government. Expressing support for a quantum leap in women’s advancement, he said his country has made the rights of women a national priority. Under the leadership of the Prime Minister, inclusive development projects involving women are being implemented. In 2018, the Supreme Council for Women started the first round of a new global award for women’s empowerment. It is now calling for nominations. The award demonstrates Bahrain’s commitment to the advancement of women, he said.