Note: A complete summary of today’s Security Council meeting will be made available after its conclusion.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said today’s conflicts are amplifying gender inequality, poverty and climate disruptions. Millions of girls are out of school with no prospect of training, a job or financial independence, while rising numbers of women and girls are suffering from violence in the home. In some countries, extremists and military actors have taken power by force, cancelling previous commitments on gender equality and persecuting women for simply going about their daily lives. Misogyny and authoritarianism are mutually reinforcing and are antithetical to stable, prosperous societies. While the Council meets several times a year on the issue — “on the ground, the situation is going backwards,” he said. “The reason is simple. Women’s equality is a question of power.”
In Afghanistan, the Taliban have appointed a Government of men, closed girls’ schools and banned women from showing their faces in public, resulting in nearly 20 million women and girls being silenced and erased from sight, he continued. In Myanmar, a large proportion of women’s organizations have been forced to close since the military coup, while in Mali, women are becoming poorer and more marginalized as the country goes through successive military coups. Further, the Russian Federation invasion of Ukraine has forced millions of women and children to flee their country overnight, putting them at high risk of trafficking and exploitation. As of 3 June, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had received 124 reports of conflict-related sexual violence across Ukraine, mostly committed against women and girls. “We know that, for every woman who reports these horrific crimes, there are likely to be many more who remain silent or unrecorded,” he said. In Sudan, two years after women’s role in the revolution was celebrated, another coup interrupted the transition, with alleged perpetrators of human rights violations still in power.
“In all these conflicts we have men in power and women excluded, their rights and freedoms deliberately targeted,” he pointed out. Welcoming to the debate representatives from the European Union, African Union, League of Arab States and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), he underlined that collaboration with those organizations is reflected in daily work on the ground. In Sudan, the United Nations is working closely with the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), with all three envoys asking every delegation to ensure that at least 40 per cent of participants are women. Meanwhile, in West and Central Africa, the Organization is working closely with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). It also been deepening collaboration with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) — which will be crucial to finding a solution to the crisis in Myanmar.
Turning to Afghanistan, he stated that the United Nations is unequivocal about the fundamental rights of women and girls. At the most senior level, the Organization is working to maintain the parity achieved since early 2021 among Heads and Deputy Heads of missions. Studies also show that the active engagement of women peacebuilders increases the chances of lasting peace. “That is why we need full gender parity,” he stressed — including through quotas to accelerate the inclusion of women across election monitoring, security sector reform, disarmament, demobilization and justice systems. Citing how the proposed New Agenda for Peace, included in the report on Our Common Agenda, puts women and girls at the centre of security policy, he nonetheless observed that the women, peace and security agenda continues to be challenged and even reversed around the world. He therefore encouraged the Council to commit to increasing support for women’s civil society, conflict prevention and peacebuilding work.
SIMA SAMI BAHOUS, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said 12 regional organizations have adopted action plans on women, peace and security, up from five since the fifteenth anniversary of resolution 1325 (2000) in 2015. When Member States get together and make commitments, national actions often follow. Regional organizations have also played a key role in the development of networks of women mediators, with nearly every region and subregion now with at least one such network. “Yet, with all this institutional progress, almost every time there are political negotiations and peace talks, we still have to ask: ‘Where are the women?’,” she said.
For example, in the Sahel, there are the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) Women’s Platform, Network on Peace and Security for Women in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Network of Young Female Leaders, among others, she reported. However, the analysis and inputs from the platform are not adequately reflected in political updates. In the Great Lakes region, there is significant investment in mobilizing women, peace and security actors. Yet, those activities seem separate from the political talks to bring about a solution to the rising violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In that regard, women must be equally included and their voices and solutions heard, she said, urging all in the multilateral system to defend their values with the same determination as the women’s movement and be undeterred by current challenges and developments. All response efforts must fully include the voices of women leaders and ensure that women are part of finding peaceful solutions for recovery and prevention mechanisms. In addition, regional organizations, when convening negotiations, must ensure the participation of women so they can share their experiences, knowledge and vision for the future.
As well, the international community must do better at providing support, protection and in many cases asylum, temporary relocation or protected status to people facing gender-based persecution, she continued. Last year, the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund supported 215 civil society organizations, reaching 10.6 million people, including forcibly displaced women, women and girls with disabilities and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. UN-Women and partners plan to do much more, she said, urging the international community to stand in solidarity and fully honour the commitments made to and with women. “The peace and security to which we aspire will only be possible when women play a central role,” she emphasized.
HELGA MARIA SCHMID, Secretary-General of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, underscored that the Russian Federation’s war on Ukraine is having a devastating impact on civilians and infrastructure, directly contradicting the core principles underpinning the European and global security order. Women and girls have been the victims of rape and face a high risk of trafficking and violence. Further, the war is also threatening food and energy security, with the prices of food and basic goods increasing with disastrous consequences for the poorest households — many of which are headed by women. Against this backdrop, she highlighted the importance of ensuring women’s role in peacebuilding, conflict‑resolution and decision-making in general.
To that end, OSCE is playing a vital role, supporting women’s leadership and direct participation in peace processes and post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation, she said. In 2021, it launched a networking platform for women leaders, mediators and peacebuilders that included women from Ukraine and Afghanistan, allowing the sharing of experience and practices in a safe space. OSCE also supports survivors of gender-based violence by strengthening the capacity of service providers, networking women’s resource centres and developing police and justice-sector training curricula to address domestic violence. The organization also strengthens women’s participation in the security sector — particularly in the areas of conflict prevention, arms control and disarmament — by providing a scholarship training program to young women from across the OSCE region.
Emphasizing that OSCE “leads by example”, she noted that over two thirds of participating States have adopted action plans to implement resolution 1325 (2000), and that over 40 per cent of leadership positions within the organization are held by women. However, more must be done to advance gender equality, she stressed, calling for cooperation to ensure that the needs of women in conflict are adequately addressed and that women are part of the decision‑making process at all levels, “including the very important legislative dimension”.
BINETA DIOP, Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, said today’s topic is timely given that the constitutional changes of Governments, including the resurgence of military coups d’état, are accelerating in Africa. This has had dire consequences on the human security of women and girls, including access to social, economic services and rights. In the Sahel, where terrorist attacks continue, women are doubly affected by the coups and those terrorist acts. The condition that leads to a military coup is often exclusion and gender inequality.
Exclusion of women from decision-making in politics and economics is not only an example of gender inequality, but an indicator of poor democratic governance, she continued. Coups do not address those issues but exacerbate them. Research shows that gender equality is the number-one predictor of peace, she stressed, adding that full participation of all citizens, including women, is the best way to build sustained democracies, reduce conflict and achieve human development. This is what the women, peace and security agenda stands for, and if fully implemented, it will contribute to addressing these devastating situations.
In Africa, 58 per cent of States adopted the national plan on the women, peace and security agenda, she pointed out, also drawing attention to the region’s governance architecture, as well as the peace and security architecture. The United Nations could help implement that architecture, she noted, applauding the Secretary-General’s effort to work closely with the African Union in this regard. In addition, her office conducted a 2022 study, with the support of Luxembourg, on multiple impacts of coups, related insecurity, climate change and the pandemic on the situation of women in the Sahel. Evidence showed that their fundamental rights, access to services, livelihoods and abuses against them had deteriorated.
To promote women’s inclusion in peace and security, the African Union employed several tools, including a solidarity mission with the African Women Leaders Network to go underground and talk to the affected women, she continued. A technical team, with the support of UN-Women, is currently in Mali to follow up with the previous solidarity mission in support of peacebuilding efforts and the ongoing negotiations for a return to political stability and the draft of a new Constitution. She then urged the Council to deliver what women are asking for — action and impacts.
STELLA RONNER-GRUBAČIĆ, Ambassador for Gender and Diversity of the European Union, in its capacity as an observer, affirmed that regional organizations have a critical role to play in women, peace and security. However, in times of turmoil, commitments are interrupted. Women — whether journalists, peacebuilders, members of parliament or representatives of civil society — see their work, safety and security threatened or worse. “I can testify on the basis of my own experiences how difficult it is to ensure women’s full, equal and meaningful participation,” she said. Further, women continue to be left out of the political dialogue about their countries’ future in Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sudan, Yemen or Syria. “When decisions need to be made, including in this room, women remain underrepresented. We need to start discussing this reality,” she stressed.
With the world at a crossroads, she called for accelerating action over talk to guarantee women’s participation in all diplomacy and political dialogue. As a concrete example of women’s empowerment, she spotlighted the European Union’s launch of the Afghan Women Leaders Forum in March — providing a platform for Afghan women from diverse backgrounds to contribute to the political dialogue of the European Union and the wider international community on the future of that country. Also citing crimes committed by Russian Federation armed forces in Ukraine, she said that the European Union is collaborating with the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
In that regard, the war in Ukraine is another example of the need to work with local and regional organizations to make sure that action on the situation is based on reliable information and facts on the ground, she continued. That collaboration has led to women’s organizations to start collecting evidence and documenting cases of conflict-related sexual violence. Also citing the Common Anti-Trafficking Plan, she noted that, “without the role of regional organizations, we would not have been able to take this important step”.
Regarding women in Afghanistan representing local and regional networks and organizations, she affirmed the importance of feeding the views and positions of women into political dialogue. It can be done, she said, adding “it just requires a deliberate effort and a consistent and continuous banging on the door of those places where conflict and peace are being addressed.” Gender mainstreaming is a guiding principle of the European Union’s 18 civilian and military missions and operations, and it has committed to ensure that 85 per cent of all external action will have a gender dimension by 2025.
Calling for the Council to convene more often to ensure that women are offered a chance to participate meaningfully in its discussions, she proposed to relaunch the Regional Acceleration Resolution 1325 (2000) mechanism — a platform aimed to facilitate the exchange of best practices and lessons learned among the United Nations, European Union, African Union, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and OSCE, along with additional partners, such as the League of Arab States.
HAIFA ABU-GHAZALEH, Assistant Secretary General and Head of the Social Affairs Sector of the League of Arab States, said that, 21 years since the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), the Arab region is still witnessing crises and conflicts and women’s potential to build peace remains untapped in the region. The League has been supporting efforts to political solutions and efforts to broker ceasefires initiated at the national levels that allow parties to establish legitimate, accountable and effective Governments. In 2015, the League formulated a regional strategy for women, peace and security, and supports member States’ efforts to develop national action plans to implement resolution 1325 (2000). In 2019, it established the Arab Women Mediators Network, a regional mediation instrument comprising high‑level diplomats from the ministries for foreign affairs of member States within the region.
She went on to say that the League of Arab States also initiated the formation of an emergency committee for the protection of women during armed conflicts in the Arab region. In that context, several related strategies have been adopted to support, strengthen and protect women in peace and security. Moreover, in cooperation with UN-Women, the League developed the “Women, Peace and Security Project in the Arab Region”, which aims to provide technical assistance and political guidance for all aspects of women, peace and security commitments, she said, noting that the first and second synthesis reports were issued at the regional level on the progress made in implementing resolution 1325 (2000) after 15 years in the region. She suggested that the Secretary-General appoint a special envoy for women, peace and security and called on the Council to adopt a new resolution on women and mediation.
OLTA XHAÇKA, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania and Council President for June, speaking in her national capacity, said that regional and subregional organizations have continued to play pivotal roles in their respective regions in the areas of peace and security, human rights and development. Outlining global challenges that demonstrate the fragility of progress made on the women, peace and security agenda, she pointed out that the war in Ukraine has put immense pressure on — if not undone — substantive gains in women’s rights and gender equality made in recent years. “Ukrainian women and girls are facing today maybe the biggest challenge of their lives,” she stressed. Additionally, in Afghanistan, since the Taliban’s violent takeover in August 2021, women have been systematically erased from public life; in Sudan, Myanmar and Mali, violence has threatened the lives and work of women peacebuilders.
Welcoming the fact that many regional organizations have adopted — or are about to adopt — dedicated strategies to implement and prioritize the women, peace and security agenda, she pointed out that such organizations are often the first to react in crisis response, engage with concerned parties and ensure protection of civilians. They can be influential in advocating for women’s full, equal, meaningful and safe participation in all aspects of peace and security. Their voices must be heard in the Security Council and the broader United Nations system. Albania, through its participation in regional organizations, is committed to accelerating and implementing the women, peace and security agenda. She added that her country ranks among the top-five gender-balanced Governments in the world, where 75 per cent of the ministers are women. As well, important steps have been taken towards officially embracing gender-responsive budgeting at the central and local levels.