Photo: Secretary-General António Guterres (centre) briefs the Security Council meeting on women and peace and security. UN Photo/Manuel Elias. - Photo: 2018

Too Few Women Peacekeepers Contrary to Commitments

By J Nastranis

NEW YORK (IDN) – UN Secretary-General António Guterres finds it “crippling to our credibility and protection capacity that women represent only four percent of our military peacekeepers and ten percent of police,” though “over the past year, we have seen positive examples of progress”.

Briefing the Security Council’s annual high-level debate on women and peace and security on October 25, the UN Chief noted that women’s organizations continue to make an impact – from keeping dialogue alive in Guinea Bissau, to rebuilding communities in Colombia.

In the Central African Republic and Mali, women successfully contributed to negotiating between armed actors to halt the escalation of intercommunal tensions. In the Syrian Arab Republic, women have negotiated local ceasefires, mediated the creation of civilian safe zones and coordinated humanitarian and relief initiatives. Similarly in Yemen.

“I can personally attest to the critical importance of the work done by the women peacemakers I have met around the world, from Mali to Bangladesh,” noted Guterres.

At the United Nations, the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund is channeling resources to women’s organizations that need them. The Peacebuilding Fund invests more than 30 percent of its resources in gender equality programming. And a growing number of donors are earmarking funds for gender equality.

“We are placing this agenda at the heart of our partnerships with regional organizations. The Deputy Secretary-General has made several high-level missions with the AU (African Union), focused on women, peace and security and development,” said Guterres.

Besides, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Dr. Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, two champions of women, peace and security who exemplify the power of individuals to make a difference and the fact that survivors and advocates are best placed to determine the changes needed to build sustainable peace.

“But despite this progress in some areas, the facts on the ground show that we still have far to go,” declared Guterres. “The participation of women in formal peace processes remains extremely limited.”

Between 1990 and 2017, women constituted just 2 percent of mediators, 8 percent of negotiators and 5 percent of witnesses and signatories in all major peace processes.

Noting that “conflict continues to have a devastating effect on women and girls,” the Guterres said, the United Nations had documented more than 800 cases of conflict-related sexual violence in 2017 – a 56 percent increase since 2016.

Women human rights defenders, political leaders, journalists and activists, who play an important role in addressing the root causes of conflict, are targeted at alarming rates. Women’s marginalization, lack of access to health and education services, and economic disempowerment continue to be both a cause and an effect of conflict.

And funding for programmes to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women in countries affected by conflict is just 5 per cent of total bilateral aid to such countries.

The evidence linking gender equality and peace was recently set out in our joint study with the World Bank, Pathways for Peace. It is convincing and well-known. Maybe that is why the list of speakers for this debate is so long every year. In 2015, this open debate had the highest number of speakers in the history of the Security Council.

“But there is a significant gap between what we say in this chamber, and what we do outside,” regretted Guterres. “Every year, we make laudable commitments…But they are not backed with the requisite financial and political support,” he averred. This is because of the lack of inclusion in mediation efforts and limited space for women to participate as peacebuilders.

Furthermore, said Guterres, women’s organizations overall are not provided with adequate funding. At the same time, resources for empowerment programmes are constrained.

He vowed to mend things and outlined key action points, which he will prioritize over the coming months, beginning with a commitment to ensure gender parity as well as stamping out all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse within the world body.

The UN Chief intends to continue to push for greater and more meaningful participation of women in mediation efforts, as well as for a gendered approach to peace and security.

This means “supporting peacebuilding at the local level, even during conflict … [and] consistently support the local women’s groups that negotiate humanitarian access and support community resilience; learn from them; and build peace from the ground up.”

Ensuring full financing for these and other measures is vital, added Guterres, noting also that he has setup a task-force to review the UN’s funding for gender equality, including in the peace and security pillar.

“Finally, from now on, I will include gender analysis in my reports to this Council whenever it is relevant to inform your decisions,” he said.

Also speaking at the Security Council debate, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the head of UN Women, the Organization’s main gender equality and women’s empowerment agency, briefed on the Secretary-General’s report on women and peace and security.

Stating that the report is a “loud alarm bell” on systemic failures which have prevented women’s full involvement in peace-making, she called on UN Member States to ensure “genuine” efforts to include more women. “Our continued tolerance for the limited recognition of women’s expertise and lived experience is shameful.”

The 20th anniversary of the landmark Security Council resolution 1325, in 2020 will be an opportunity to shape the agenda for the next decade with new commitments and priorities, she continued, calling on everyone to participate sincerely in the process and contribute to lasting change.

Adopted in March 2000, at the initiative of Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury of Bangladesh during his Presidency of the UN Security Council, resolution 1325 reaffirmed the critical role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, including peacebuilding, peacekeeping and in humanitarian responses. It also stressed the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. [IDN-InDepthNews – 25 October 2018]

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Photo: Secretary-General António Guterres (centre) briefs the Security Council meeting on women and peace and security. UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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