With conflicts and military takeovers wiping out gains on women's rights, and with the safety and prospects of women and girls on the ground and in political and economic spheres being driven backwards, regional organizations have an important role to play in promoting women's participation in peace and other decision-making processes, almost 60 speakers told the Security Council today in a ministerial-level open debate on women, peace and security.
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, opening the meeting on the theme “Women and peace and security: Keeping the promises: The role of regional organizations in implementing women, peace and security in the face of political turmoil and seizures of power by force”, said today’s conflicts are amplifying gender inequality. In some countries, extremists and military actors have taken power by force and are persecuting women for simply going about their daily lives. Misogyny and authoritarianism are mutually reinforcing, he stressed. Although the Council meets several times a year on the issue — “on the ground, the situation is going backwards”, he said. “The reason is simple. Women’s equality is a question of power.”
He cited Afghanistan, where the Taliban’s Government of men has resulted in nearly 20 million women and girls being silenced and erased from sight, as well as deteriorating situations in Myanmar, Mali and Sudan. Similarly, the Russian Federation invasion of Ukraine has forced millions of women and children to flee their country overnight. The importance of collaborating with regional organizations, however, is evident in Sudan where the United Nations, working with the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), requests every delegation to ensure that at least 40 per cent of participants are women. Studies also show that the active engagement of women peacebuilders increases the chances of lasting peace. “That is why we need full gender parity,” he stressed.
Sima Sami Bahous, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), noting that 12 regional organizations have adopted action plans on women, peace and security, up from five since the fifteenth anniversary of resolution 1325 (2000) in 2015. However, while women participate in groups in the Sahel and the Great Lakes region, the input from their platforms are not adequately reflected in political updates. “Yet, with all this institutional progress, almost every time there are political negotiations and peace talks, we still have to ask: ‘Where are the women?’,” she said.
Stella Ronner-Grubačić, Ambassador for Gender and Diversity of the European Union, echoed that, observing that women continue to be left out of the political dialogue about their countries’ future in Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sudan, Yemen or Syria. “When decisions need to be made, including in this room, women remain underrepresented,” she stated. Calling for accelerating action over talk to guarantee women's participation in all diplomacy and political dialogue, she spotlighted the European Union’s launch of the Afghan Women Leaders Forum in March — providing a platform for Afghan women to contribute to the political dialogue on the future of that country.
Helga Maria Schmid, Secretary-General of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), speaking via video-teleconference, pointed out that the Russian Federation’s war on Ukraine is having a devastating impact on civilians and infrastructure, with women and girls becoming victims of rape, trafficking and violence. The war is also threatening food and energy security, with disastrous consequences for the poorest households — many of which are headed by women. In 2021, OSCE launched a networking platform for women leaders, mediators and peacebuilders that included women from Ukraine and Afghanistan, allowing the sharing of experience and practices in a safe space. Emphasizing that OSCE “leads by example”, she noted that over 40 per cent of leadership positions within the organization are held by women.
Bineta Diop, Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, speaking via video-teleconference, underscored how the resurgence of military coups d’état in Africa was having dire consequences for women and girls. Conditions that lead to a military coup are often exclusion and gender inequality, she said, adding that research shows that gender equality is the number-one predictor of peace. In Africa, 58 per cent of States adopted the national plan on the women, peace and security agenda; however, a 2022 study showed that women’s fundamental rights and access to services had deteriorated. Citing the African Union’s efforts on the issue, including a solidarity mission with the African Women Leaders Network that went underground and talked to affected women, she urged the Council to deliver what women are asking for: action and impacts.
Haifa Abu-Ghazaleh, Assistant Secretary General and Head of the Social Affairs Sector of the League of Arab States, said that, since the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), the region is still witnessing crises and conflicts, with women’s potential to build peace remaining untapped. The League supports efforts to broker ceasefires initiated at the national levels, and in 2019, established the Arab Women Mediators Network, a regional mediation instrument comprising high‑level diplomats from regional member States. Noting that the League also initiated the formation of an emergency committee for the protection of women during armed conflicts in the region, she suggested that the Secretary-General appoint a special envoy for women, peace and security.
During the day-long debate, many speakers underscored that the full and meaningful participation of women was crucial to building and maintaining international peace and security.
Spain’s delegate stressed that “women must be empowered in times of peace, so their vulnerability is reduced in times of violence”. There can be no lasting solution for any conflict unless women are involved in negotiations, and there can be no lasting peace if the rights of women and girls are not included in the political peace framework, she added.
India’s representative emphasized that women police officers and peacekeepers have played a critical role in preserving the women, peace and security agenda and welcomed the uniformed gender parity strategy to increase the number of women peacekeepers. “Just as a bird cannot fly with one wing, durable peace cannot be achieved without the active participation of the other gender,” he said.
Thailand’s delegate reported that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has placed the women, peace and security agenda high on its regional agenda. Noting that Thailand deploys women peacekeepers to United Nations peace operations, she said the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting is working on enhancing a support mechanism for ASEAN women peacekeepers and their participation through capacity‑building and knowledge- and experience‑sharing.
Kenya’s delegate, noting the challenge of institutional bureaucracies, called for enhanced collaboration between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations. When aligned with political will, that contributes to mainstreaming gender perspectives in multidimensional peacebuilding efforts, as is evident in work in the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in the joint efforts between the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), African Union and IGAD.
South Africa’s representative, however, said that full implementation of commitments is lacking in addressing women’s underrepresentation and exclusion in decision-making and peace processes, as well as elections. He called on Member States to adopt measures that address discriminatory barriers and to strengthen electoral bodies and judicial institutions so that they can hold perpetrators of human rights abuses and violators of international law accountable.
The United Arab Emirates’ delegate sounded a note of caution: there is an alarmingly low number of women negotiators implementing the women, peace and security agenda — currently only 13 per cent on average — and as of 2020, almost half of the world’s 30 major international organizations have never been led by a woman. “If we do not achieve gender-responsive leadership, we will not succeed in institutionalizing gender equality and the women, peace and security agenda — and may as well stop paying it lip-service,” she said.
The United States’ representative, along with a number of speakers, highlighted the threat to women and girls’ rights in conflict hotspots, including Mali, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Ukraine and Ethiopia. She pointed to several United Nations sanctions regimes, such as for South Sudan and Yemen, that included designation criteria for those who perpetrate violence against women.
Canada’s delegate, speaking for the Group of Friends of Women, Peace, and Security, called for swift and concerted action to fully implement Council resolution 1325 (2000). Speaking in his national capacity, he also stressed that, in Ukraine and Myanmar, it is impossible to deny the evidence that gender-based violence is being used as a deliberate weapon of war — setting the international community back centuries.
However, the representative of the Russian Federation denied crimes of sexual violence had been committed by Russian personnel. Meanwhile, in Ukrainian territories liberated from nationalists, the Russian Federation is investigating and documenting such crimes. Although Western partners proclaim themselves leaders on the women, peace and security agenda, he stressed that the use of unilateral coercive measures by the West primarily affects women in socioeconomic spheres.
Ukraine’s delegate underscored that implementing resolution 1325 (2000) will only be effective if national efforts are complemented by cooperation within regional and subregional organizations. In the context of forcible seizure of power, they could be instrumental in providing support for conflict mediation and resolution. Despite the ongoing Russian aggression, his country adopted a national action plan on women, peace and security, the first among Member States to do so during a situation of conflict.
Also speaking were ministers and representatives of Albania, Norway, Ghana, United Kingdom, Brazil, Gabon, France, Ireland, China, Mexico, Finland (also for Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden), Jordan, Liechtenstein, Türkiye, Malta, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Republic of Korea, Greece, Croatia, Luxembourg (also for Belgium and Netherlands), Italy, Germany, Egypt, Namibia, Austria, Ecuador, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Indonesia, Poland, Chile, Guatemala, Uruguay, Morocco, Georgia, Algeria, Argentina, Venezuela and Portugal.
The meeting began at 10:06 a.m., was suspended at 1:01 p.m., resumed at 3:02 p.m. and ended at 5:22 p.m.