Source: Small Island Developing States
2 November 2018: The UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly (UNGA) debated the role of women in peace and security, nearly two decades after the Security Council’s adoption of the landmark resolution on the topic (resolution 1325 (2000)). Governments addressed the “systemic failure” to integrate women into processes as peacekeeping, mediation, and peace negotiations.
The Security Council’s debate on women, peace and security took place on 25 October 2018, in New York, US, while the UNGA’s Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) engaged in a review of UN peacekeeping operations, from 31 October-2 November 2018.
During the debate, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, presented figures from the UN Secretary-General’s most recent report on the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000). She said that between 1990 and 2017, women constituted only 2% of mediators, 8% of negotiators, and 5% of witnesses and signatories to major peace processes. Only three out of 11 peace agreements signed in 2017 contain provisions on gender equality, “a worrisome trend,” she observed, which now continues in current peacemaking efforts in Yemen, Mali, Afghanistan, and the Central African Republic. Noting the low representation of women in elections, girls’ continued lack of access to primary school education, and increases in sexual violence, she called for strong investments in women, and suggested that the UN reconsider “supporting, brokering, and paying for peace negotiations that exclude women.”
António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, acknowledged “a significant gap between what we say in this Chamber and what we do outside” on the issue of women, peace and security. Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, said budgets for peacekeeping and political missions must be gender-responsive.
Randa Siniora Atallah, General Director of the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling, briefing the Security Council on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, observed that the Israeli occupation reinforces the patriarchal structures of the Palestinian society. She added that political violence in the public sphere leads to spikes in violence in the private sphere. She further noted that recent cuts in funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) have had a “disproportionate effect” on the lives of Palestinian women.
More than 90 Member States took the floor during the Security Council debate, sharing national experiences and describing policies for boosting women’s meaningful engagement in public life. Many delegates expressed concern at the reduced numbers of women serving as Blue Helmet peacekeepers, conflict mediators or negotiators in official peace processes. However, some said women’s roles in their country’s own political systems are expanding. Several speakers welcomed the recent appointment of Ethiopia’s first female President, Sahle-Work Zewde.
Peru called for the integration of a gender perspective into the all the peacekeeping mandates decided by the UN Security Council. Lebanon noted that women peace envoys are still largely absent on the ground. After 18 years of voting on the same Security Council resolution on this issue, she called for “a real, irrevocable materialization of this agenda.”
Namibia expressed concern that the global implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) is occurring at a “snail’s pace.” She encouraged governments to enact national action plans for the resolution’s implementation, adding that access to quality, conflict-sensitive education for women and girls is essential to ensure their participation in peacebuilding processes. She also highlighted the work of the women, peace and security focal point network, which enables closer coordination among countries on best practices to operationalize the agenda.
Russia said that when discussing resolution 1325 (2000), Security Council members should focus on matters related to establishing and maintaining international peace and security. He stressed that “it is harmful to try to utilize the women, peace and security agenda to promote such issues as human rights or gender,” which, he noted, are traditionally decided by other UN bodies: this “will ultimately lead to an imbalance and hinder the agenda’s implementation.”
During the Fourth Committee’s debate on the review of peacekeeping operations, many delegates voiced support for enhanced female participation in all stages of peacekeeping and peacebuilding, as well as for combating sexual exploitation and abuse, including Costa Rica, Eritrea, Lebanon, Mongolia, Japan, Gabon, Venezuela, Nigeria, Cyprus, Serbia, Romania, United Arab Emirates, and the Holy See.
Sri Lanka noted that the inclusion of women is vital and can contribute to solving sexual exploitation and abuse issues. Norway urged the immediate creation of a permanent gender adviser position in all operational headquarters. [UN meeting summary of Security Council debate] [UN Secretary-General’s remarks] [UN meeting summary of Fourth Committee meeting, 31 October] [UN meeting summary of Fourth Committee meeting, 1 November] [UN meeting summary of Fourth Committee, 2 November]