Women and peace and security: Investing in women in peacekeeping and peacebuilding.
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 $40 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 the 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.