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Not Enough Women in Key Peacemaking, Peacebuilding Forums, Speakers Stress during Security Council Open Debate

Their Role Often Lauded, Rarely Visible, Says Gender Entity Chief, as Other Briefers Detail Progress, List Challenges

 28 March 2016

Women must be placed at the centre of efforts to prevent or resolve conflict in Africa, speakers said today as the Security Council took up the “women, peace and security agenda”, considering the role of women in creating more peaceful and equitable societies on the continent.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), noted that the role of women in preventing conflict was often lauded, but rarely visible.  However, Women’s Situation Rooms had been established in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Mali, Guinea-Bissau, Uganda and Kenya in the last five years to monitor and prevent election-related violence.  In critical electoral periods, the centres trained and deployed female observers and monitors, received and analysed hundreds of complaints, as well as reports of violence or intimidation, and referred violations to the appropriate authorities.

Citing the 2015 Global Study on Women, Peace and Security, she said countries with lower levels of gender inequality were less likely to resort to force; that women’s security was one of the most reliable indicators of a State’s peacefulness; and that their different spending patterns contributed directly to post-conflict social recovery.  Conversely, women were the first to notice attacks on their rights and freedoms, as well as the militarization and radicalization of individuals in their families and communities.

“Women’s empowerment is our best line of defence against militarism and violent extremism,” she continued.  Also, recent research by UN-Women indicated that women and communities had been highly influential in the reintegration of former combatants in Mali.  In Kenya, women’s organizations were working to identify and prevent the spread of radicalization in areas where marginalization, poverty and inequality were rampant.  In Burundi, hundreds of women mediators were working tirelessly throughout the country to address local conflicts and prevent an escalation of tensions.

Macharia Kamau (Kenya), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, recalled that, in 2013, that body had developed a declaration on women’s economic empowerment for peacebuilding, while the Council had adopted various resolutions on women, peace and security since the late 2000s.  Yet, the translation of formal commitments into action on the ground had not been as systematic as had been hoped, and high expectations for transformative change had not been fully realized.

“Women remain a resource that has not been effectively utilized or enabled to build sustainable peace,” he declared.  As such, the Commission had outlined its first gender strategy, which it expected to adopt before July, he said, adding that it set out recommendations on strengthening the integration of gender perspectives in all country-specific and strategic engagements.  Going forward, the Commission would use its unique leverage to advocate for technical expertise on gender equality and peacebuilding, as well as funding.

Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that promoting the effective participation of women in conflict mediation and addressing their specific needs in peacemaking efforts had been a priority of his Department since 2010, when its conflict-prevention work had become increasingly inclusive.  Since 2012, all United Nations mediation support teams included women, who made up half the number of participants in the Department’s high-level mediation skills training.  Nevertheless, unequal access and opportunities for women’s participation in political decision-making processes persisted worldwide, despite concerted efforts to eliminate discrimination and promote women’s empowerment.  “Prioritizing prevention and inclusive political solutions has never been more urgent,” he stressed, adding that the African Union and other partners had made notable efforts to ensure that gender was more systematically integrated into electoral processes.

Tété António, Permanent Observer of the African Union, said that, by choosing to place women at the forefront of its deliberations, the regional bloc had reiterated the continent’s resolve to address all barriers impeding the emancipation of women and girls, and to strengthen both their agency and rights through education, health, participation in decision-making and economic empowerment.  “Africa cannot afford to ignore the role of women if we are to realize the vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful continent,” he emphasized.  In that regard, the African Union had launched a five-year gender, peace and security programme to foster strategies and mechanisms for women’s participation in peace and security.

Paleki Ayang of the South Sudan Women’s Empowerment Network said the world, and Africa in particular, must move beyond stereotypical images of women as victims during conflict.  They were also fighters, peacebuilders, protectors and community leaders.  With limited resources and in spite of threats, they organized peace marches, advocated for enhanced peace and security policies and led reconciliation efforts across conflict lines.  Conflict-prevention and conflict-resolution strategies would be ineffective without immediately addressing systematic, deliberate and wide-spread sexual violence in South Sudan and the rest of Africa.  Urging the Security Council to insist on accountability for atrocities committed by all warring parties, armed groups, security forces and peacekeepers, she said it should also demand that the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission in South Sudan ensure the representation and participation of women.

In the ensuing debate, Maria Filomena Delgado, Council President for March and Minister for Family and the Promotion of Women of Angola, said reality made it all the more important to take the views of women and children into account in conflict-prevention forums, in peace negotiations and during post-conflict reconstruction efforts.

Expressing regret that women remained excluded from many mediation and conflict-resolution initiatives, South Africa’s representative said that, in order for more of them to serve as high-level envoys and mediators, there would have to be a systemic shift.  The role of women could no longer be limited to certain areas, such as advising on sexual exploitation and abuse, he emphasized.

Senegal’s representative underscored the unique security challenges confronting some parts of the continent, and called for greater investment in early warning and national emergency response mechanisms so as to ensure the active participation of women and civil society in peace processes.

Many speakers lamented the dearth of women in peacekeeping activities, with India’s representative pointing out that women constituted less than 4 per cent of signatories to peace agreements and less than 10 per cent of negotiators at peace tables.  It had also provided the first-ever Female Formed Police Unit for deployment in Liberia.

Brazil’s representative noted that women constituted a mere 4 per cent of the 88,000 troops and police currently deployed in United Nations peace operations in Africa.

Also speaking today was the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, as well as representatives of the United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, China, Ukraine, New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela, Japan, France, Russian Federation, Spain, Egypt, Sweden (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Australia, Italy, Ethiopia, Israel, Poland, Canada, Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Belgium, Morocco, Slovakia, Netherlands, Rwanda, Portugal, Turkey, Algeria, Namibia, Thailand, Bangladesh and Indonesia, as well as the European Union and Holy See.

The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 3:40 p.m.

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