Photo: Security Council Chamber at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. - Photo: 2020

‘If We Are Serious About Peace, We Must Take Women Seriously’

By Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury in New York

The following is the full text of the address by Ambassador Chowdhury at the Knesset of Israel on November 17, 2020, at 14:30 Israel Standard Time. He is former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations and initiator of the precursor decision leading to the UNSCR 1325 as the President of the UN Security Council in March 2000 at the Special Meeting of the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality of the Israeli Knesset marking the 20th anniversary of UNSC Resolution 1325 with focus on the challenges, progress made, and way forward in its implementation.

Greetings to all of you from New York!

Let me also wish you a very enthusiastic 20th anniversary of UNSCR 1325.

I would begin by thanking whole heartedly Honorable Mr. M.K. Oded Forer, Chairman of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality for inviting me to address this special event organized by his Committee to observe the 1325 anniversary.

My very special appreciation goes to the Israeli civil society organization Itach-Ma’aki for reaching out to me to join this commemorative event for the 20th anniversary. Itach-Ma’aki is championing for a decade for the implementation of the 1325 on “Women and Peace and Security” in Israel. I had the pleasure of meeting its representatives – Netta and Anat – in New York in 2015 during the 15th anniversary of 1325. It was a pleasure to receive from them the special commemorative advocacy 1325 pin as well as the Civil Society Action Plan for the implementation of 1325 in Israel. It is an action-oriented plan and should form the basis of Israel’s official National Action Plan, hopefully in 2021. I am impressed to know that “to mark the 20th year anniversary of the historic 1325 decision, Itach-Ma’aki has curated a virtual series of events to learn, engage, debate and advance 1325 and to call upon the Israeli Government to create a 1325 National Action Plan.” 

The core message of 1325 is an integral part of my intellectual existence and my humble contribution to a better world for each one of us.

A little more than 20 years ago, on the International Women’s Day on the 8th of March in 2000, as the President of the Security Council, following extensive stonewalling and intense resistance from the permanent members, I was able to issue an agreed statement on behalf of all 15 members of the Council with strong support from civil society that formally brought to global attention the contribution women have always been making towards preventing wars and building peace. The Council recognized in that significant, norm-setting statement that “peace is inextricably linked with equality between women and men” and affirmed the value of full and equal participation of women at all decision-making levels.

That is when the seed for 1325 was sown. The formal resolution followed this conceptual and political breakthrough on 31st of October of the same year with Namibia at the helm of the Council Presidency, after tough negotiations for eight months. The unexplained silence of the Security Council for 55 long years on women’s positive role was broken forever on the 8th of March 2000.

The key focus of 1325 is that women – equal half of humanity – bring in a new breadth, quality and balance of vision to our common effort to move away from the cult of war towards the culture of peace. Empowered women bring important and different skills and perspectives to the policy making table in comparison to their male counterparts. Women’s equality makes our planet safe and secure.

The United Nations has recognised time and again that unfortunately overall progress towards gender equality had been unacceptably slow, with stagnation and even regression in some areas. Women’s rights and equality are under threat from a “backlash” of conservatism and fundamentalism around the world.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutierrez said very succinctly that “The truth is that north and south, east and west – and I are not speaking about any society, culture or country in particular – everywhere, we still have a male-dominated culture.”

My work has taken me to the farthest corners of the world, and I have seen time and again the centrality of women’s equality in our lives.

You all know that the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 was presented to three women peace builders. In its citation, the Nobel Committee referred to 1325 and asserted that “We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society.”

Patriarchy and misogyny are the dual scourges pulling back the humanity. Men and policies and institutions controlled by them have been the main perpetrators of gender inequality which is a real threat to human progress.

Feminism ensures a smart policy which is inclusive, uses all potentials and leaves no one behind.

I am proud to be a feminist. All of us need to be. That is how we make our planet a better place to live for all.

I am asked again and again what could be done for the true implementation of 1325 to make a difference.  In my considered judgment, I have identified four areas of priority for next five years.

One: Leadership of the UN Secretary-General.

What role the Secretary-General (SG) should play? Secretary-General António Guterres has done fairly well on women’s parity in his senior management team and his policy statements and reports to the Security Council. But many believe there is a need for the Secretary-General’s genuinely proactive engagement for the effective implementation of 1325. Implementation of 1325 should be seriously taken up by the SG’s UN system-wide coordination mechanism.

A no-tolerance, no-impunity approach is a must in cases of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel and its partners in hybrid missions. UN is welcomed in countries as their protectors – it cannot become the perpetrators themselves!

A “1325 Impact Assessment” component with concrete recommendations needs to be included in all reports by SG to the Security Council. Improving the gender architecture in field missions would require SG’s engaged leadership to make progress.

Two: National Action Plans (NAPs)

As we observe the anniversary of 1325, it is truly disappointing that a mere 85 countries out of 193 members of the UN have prepared their National Action Plans (NAPs) for 1325 implementation in 20 years. There are no better ways to get country level commitment to implement 1325 other than the NAPs. Though NAPs are national commitments, it can be globally monitored. SG should also target to get 50 new NAPs by the 21st anniversary of 1325.

Three: Mobilizing Men for Implementing 1325

We need to recognize that women’s equality and their rights are not only women’s issues, those are relevant for humanity as a whole – for all of us.

We, all of us – women and men, particularly men, should always remember that without peace, development is impossible, and without development, peace is not achievable, but without women, neither peace nor development is conceivable. In this context I thank Mr. Oded Forer’s special initiative to highlight holding of this 1325 event in the Knesset. I would encourage him and all other Honorable Knesset Members to support the 1325 agenda and the preparation of Israel’s official National Action Plan.

Four: Direct involvement of civil society

Another missing element is a greater, regular, genuine and participatory involvement of civil society in implementing 1325 both at national and global levels. The role and contribution of civil society is critical. Civil society should be fully involved in the preparation and implementation of the NAPs at the country levels. Here I would pay tribute to the organization “Women Wage Peace” for broadening its work for 1325 to become a movement. At the global level, the UN secretariat should make it a point to consult civil society regularly.

Let me end by reiterating that “If we are serious about peace, we must take women seriously”. [IDN-InDepthNews – 16 December 2020]

Photo: Ambassador Chowdhury in a virtual address to the Israeli Knesset.

IDN is flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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