Panafrican News Agency

More action needed to advance women’s role in global peace and security

New York, US (PANA) - Twenty-three years after the adoption of a landmark UN Security Council resolution on women, peace and security, their presence is still woefully lacking at negotiation tables, Secretary-General António Guterres said on Wednesday. 

Addressing the Council’s annual debate on resolution 1325, he appealed for countries to “urgently bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality” through concrete action in the areas of participation, financing and leadership.

“Of 18 peace agreements reached last year, only one was signed or witnessed by a representative of a women’s group or organization,” he said.  Women also comprised just 16 per cent of negotiators or delegates at UN-led, or co-led, peace processes, he added. 

Mr. Guterres highlighted how women’s contributions are needed in a world that is on a “knife’s edge” due to raging conflicts, escalating tensions, coups, rising authoritarianism, climate chaos, the nuclear threat, and other crises.

“Where wars rage, women suffer.  Where authoritarianism and insecurity reign, women and girls’ rights are threatened.  We see this around the world,” he said, pointing to situations in Afghanistan, Haiti, Sudan, Ukraine and the recent escalation in the Middle East. 

“Women and girls are among the many victims of Hamas’ brutal atrocities,” he told the packed Council chamber. 

“And women and children are more than half the victims of the relentless bombing of Gaza. Tens of thousands of pregnant women are desperately struggling to access essential healthcare.” 

A UN statement said Mr. Guterres called for the women, peace and security agenda to be fully implemented now “because women have had enough of being shut out of the decisions that shape their lives”. 

Women are demanding concrete actions, he continued, with the first step being ensuring their presence in peace talks.  He encouraged governments to support conflict mediation to set ambitious targets for women on negotiating teams. 

The UN chief also underscored the need for “money on the table”, stating “If we want to stand with women driving change, if we want to support women enduring conflict, if we want to remove barriers to participation, and if we want women’s organisations to deliver, we need to pay for it.” 

He urged countries to allocate 15 per cent of their overseas development assistance to gender equality, and a minimum of one per cent to women’s organisations mobilising for peace. Fifteen per cent of funding for mediation must also support women’s participation.

Governments should also support the UN’s goal of raising $300 million by 2025 for the Women's Peace and Humanitarian Fund through its Invest-in-Women campaign.

Finally, women must have full, equal and meaningful participation at all levels of decision-making on peace and security, and in political and public life. 

“That means pushing fair representation in national and local governments, cabinets and parliaments,” he said. 

He further called for “robust, comprehensive legislation” to combat violence against women, whether online or in real life, and to end impunity for perpetrators.

Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UN Women, presented the Secretary-General’s latest report on resolution 1325, which reveals that last year, 600 million women and girls were living countries affected by conflict – a 50 per cent increase since 2017. 

She also focused on the current crisis in Israel and Gaza, where women and children on both sides have been killed. 

Many women and children were among the more than 1,400 Israelis killed by Hamas, and women are among the roughly 200 hostages seized by the militants. More than 6,000 people have been killed in Gaza, 67 per cent of them women and children.

UN Women estimated that there are now more than 1,100 new female-headed households in Gaza, while upwards of 690,000 women and girls have been displaced.

“But let me be clear - every act of violence against women and girls, including sexual violence, is unequivocally condemned irrespective of the nationality, identity, race or religion of the victims,” she said. 

The UN report reflects a decline in women’s meaningful participation across the peace spectrum, but it also provides examples of what has worked, especially at the local level.

Ms. Bahous listed examples of women’s achievements, including leading successful crossline negotiations to secure access to water and humanitarian aid, brokering the release of political prisoners, preventing unresolved tribal conflicts and mediating local ceasefires. 

Women’s participation in UN Peacekeeping also increased in the past year.  These “blue helmets” have set up mobile courts to convict perpetrators of gender-based violence, helped to secure the release of women and girls abducted by armed groups and other achievements.

“These examples should inspire us,” she said, while warning that as peace operations withdraw from countries, the UN's capacity to monitor and protect women's rights becomes more limited. 

An interactive exhibition mounted outside UN Headquarters in New York gives life to the subject of the Security Council  meeting.

The 50 large portraits of women peacekeepers and peacebuilders provide a powerful reminder of the urgent need for more action to ensure women are included in efforts to end conflict and build lasting peace. 

-0- PANA MA 25Oct2023