New York

21 October 2019

Remarks to Peacebuilding Commission Ambassadorial-level Meeting: Strengthening Linkages between Women, Peace and Security and Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace

As delivered by Ms. Ana María Menéndez, Secretary-General's Senior Advisor on Policy [as delivered]

Excellencies, Dear colleagues,
 
It is a great pleasure to be here with you today to discuss how we can strengthen the linkage between the Women, Peace and Security agenda and the Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace agenda. This question is particularly critical as we prepare to take stock ahead of the 20th anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325.
 
But allow me to be frank – the question is not so much about the linkage but more about assessing how we have collectively translated our commitments into systematic actions.
 
Indeed, over the years – we have adopted and strengthened our policies and tools. We have issued numerous statements reiterated our commitments, adopted countless resolutions stressing our strong resolve, developed processes to ensure we are truthful to our principles and yet we still live in a world where women continue to face exclusion from peace and political processes. We are also witnessing rising attacks against women human rights defenders, humanitarians and peacebuilders. We see the attempted erosion of international agreed human rights standards as well as the spread of xenophobia, racism, intolerance, homophobia, transphobia, and violent misogyny. 
 
Indeed, as you will see from the SG report of this month to the Security Council on women, peace and security – the situation is still not up to the level we set for ourselves:
 
•        Only 41 per cent of Member States have adopted national action plans on women, peace and security and just 22 percent of all plans included a budget at adoption.
 
•        From 2016-2017, only 0.2 per cent of total bilateral aid to fragile and conflict-affected situations went directly to women’s organizations.
 
•        Nearly 40 per cent of economies limit women’s property rights and nearly 30 per cent restrict women’s freedom of movement. Lack of economic rights increases women’s vulnerability in conflict and fragile settings and impacts recovery.
 
•        In 2018 the global share of parliamentary seats held by women only slightly increased to 24.3 per cent, while for conflict and post-conflict countries, the average stands at 19 per cent.
 
As women from diverse settings including Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Libya, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen faced steep obstacles, direct resistance, and great personal risks in their efforts to ensure their participation in processes pertaining to the future of their countries, we must recognize that we too frequently fall short of our ambitions.
 
Dear Excellencies, Dear Colleagues,
 
We – Member States and the UN system – know very well that without the full participation of women in society, neither peace nor prosperity can be ensured over the long term.
 
The correlation between gender inequality and a society’s propensity for civil or interstate conflict is now well established.  Addressing the root causes of gender inequality, prioritizing conflict prevention and emerging threats to peace and security, and ensuring the holistic implementation of the women, peace and security agenda must therefore be absolute priorities for all of us committed to conflict prevention, sustainable peace, sustainable development and human rights.
 
By removing barriers and addressing women’s exclusion from political and economic decision-making processes, we can bring about transformative change in support of long-term peace and sustainable development.
 
But despite all evidence pointing us in the right direction, we have to ask ourselves today why women continue to be marginalized and ignored in peace and security context? This even though women have intimate knowledge of their contexts understanding full well the complex dynamics at play, the logistics and tactics being used, and the roots causes and drivers of the conflict.
 
So, why are they not included? It is because they are not capable? It is because they are not available? It is because they are not willing? Of course, these are not the reasons. It is because – as the SG has repeatedly said it – we live in a male dominated world where power is not distributed equally. Women are prevented from having the necessary political leverage to tip the balance in the right direction and overcome the inertia of male centeredness. 
 
Like climate change - we must listen to the evidence. We must stop living in gender denial.
 
Excellencies, Colleagues,
 
Despite the commitments we - Member States and the UN system – have made over the years and the abundance of case evidences, studies, lessons learned and success stories showing us that gender equality and women’s participation in peace and security efforts leads to better outcomes, our efforts in the women, peace and security agenda and the humanitarian-development nexus remains ad hoc and inconsistent. We all too often consider gender as an afterthought rather than as an integral part of conflict analysis and problem solving.
 
But when we fail to understand the experiences, needs and potential of half of the population in question, we simply fail to visualize a solution that matches reality. As men and women experience conflict differently, they will also react to interventions on peace-making, peacebuilding, transitions, and development, differently.
 
In Liberia, for example, women were at the forefront of peace efforts to end the civil war. Since then, they have remained organized and mobilized into community-led peacebuilding structures that catch early signs of conflict and resolve them early on before it take a bigger dimension. They have also remained engaged with companies and governments on issues related to root causes of conflict, such as natural resource management, influencing the outcomes of discussions and policymaking.
 
In Kyrgyzstan, women religious leaders and local governments in 16 communities are working hand-in-hand to increase local resilience to violent extremism.  They have led a media campaign breaking down stereotypes about religious and ethnic groups and improved the relationship between local government and communities at risk of radicalisation.
 
In Guinea-Bissau, women have mobilised to overcome the political impasse, saying ‘enough is enough.’ They made sure that their voices were included in the Stability Pact and thanks to them, the National Assembly passed a gender quota law demanding that a minimum of 36 per cent of candidates in legislative and local government elections are women. 
 
 I can draw on many other examples, but you do not need to be convinced. The PBC’s gender strategy and your working methods is a testament of your belief that women inclusion to peacebuilding is necessary.  The PBC remains an important forum through which to ensure that discussions with different partners, including regional organizations and international financial institutions, take into consideration the views and priorities of women’s organizations and networks. I hope others can learn from your example.
 
The Secretary-General on his part remains very committed to supporting your efforts and those of women peacebuilders. His seven-point action plan on gender-responsive peacebuilding remains key in expanding the access of women to decision-making fora and systematising gender sensitive analysis and planning.
 
The SG has also repeatedly called for adequate, predictable and sustained financing for peacebuilding. The Peacebuilding Fund’s Gender Promotion Initiative (GPI), through   flexible, well-targeted and responsive investments in women in peacebuilding, has helped to advance the WPS agenda in many conflict-affected countries. Yet, it is disappointing that, with the exception of the Peacebuilding Fund, the 15 percent target set by the Secretary-General for funds to be committed to support gender equality and women’s empowerment initiatives is yet to be achieved by other funds, and many Member States themselves have yet to follow through with their own commitments.
 
As the 2020 review of the Peacebuilding Architecture Review is launched, with an important role in this process to be played by the PBC, I encourage you to use this platform to be bold and harness the most required political will to do more and to do it better. We need to increase our engagement with women peacebuilders not as a tokenistic exercise but as the main ingredient to safeguarding our investment. Without involving women we will not achieve sustainable development and peace for all. In other words - and with the same bluntness as I started - let us get real. 
 
We need to be true to our words and bridge the divide between rhetoric and practice. Let’s make women’s inclusion and participation a systematic way of doing business. And let’s raise the cost of not doing so.
 
Thank you for the opportunity to be with you today. I look forward to the discussion that follows.