Women, Peace, and Leadership Symposium. Implementing Transformative Action: Prioritizing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in a Time of Pandemic. Remarks by Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo
Thank you Dr. Lupel
I am very pleased to be joining you today.
I would like to extend my thanks to Sweden – and Minister Linde in particular – as well as International Peace Institute for organizing this event.
In the last few months, the disruptive force of Covid-19 has impacted all of us. It has caused unimaginable loss and suffering, challenged our assumptions on how we live and work, and overshadowed so many of our global priorities, including this year’s 20th anniversary year of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).
While the pandemic is primarily considered a health crisis, it has had significant impact on our socio-economic well-being and on peace and security. Many of the economic costs of the pandemic are disproportionately affecting women, who are overrepresented in some of the sectors hardest hit by shutdowns and ensuing layoffs and cuts. And gender-based violence, particularly in the home, surged around the world as COVID-19 lockdowns became necessary.
Social unrest erupted in some areas because of deteriorating economic conditions, and parties to conflict at times used the chaos and uncertainty created by the virus to press their advantage. And during this difficult period, our ability to carry out conflict prevention and resolution initiatives has been limited by travel restrictions.
More than ever, we need to make sure that women’s voices are heard in crafting the response to the pandemic and building a more peaceful world.
I would like to highlight three key areas for priority action.
First, the use of digital technology. As travel restrictions have slowed peace talks or moved them online, we have taken active steps to ensure women’s leadership continues in the virtual world.
The Special Envoy for Syria and the Special Representative for Colombia are using digital platforms to consult regularly with women groups, advisory boards and mediator networks.
In Yemen, the Special Envoy leveraged the power of digital technologies to conduct large-scale virtual consultations with over 500 Yemenis, including many Yemeni women’s networks.
We see the enormous potential for digital tools to open closed spaces, increase the transparency of power-sharing, and facilitate the safe and diverse participation of women in peacemaking. We have been able to engage more women than ever before in peacemaking activities.
However, it remains the case that virtual spaces mirror the inequalities that exist in the offline world. Women and girls in conflict-affected settings often lack equal access to technology, are deprioritized in using shared digital resources, and are subjected to online harassment and intimidation that can have real world consequences for their safety. Supporting access to technology and combatting on-line bullying must therefore be prioritized as fundamental to ensuring women’s participation in public and political life.
Second, resourcing. Effectively implementing the women, peace and security agenda requires dedicated and predictable capacity and funding.
My department has allocated 17 per cent of our extra-budgetary funds to projects supporting women, peace and security. We have also created a ‘gender marker’ to track the mainstreaming of gender issues in all our initiatives.
And the UN Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) has over the last two years allocated 40 per cent of its total investments to gender-responsive peacebuilding.
Allocating adequate, predictable and sustained financing must be a joint priority for us all to achieve the women, peace and security agenda.
Finally, we must be more vocal and active in our support for women. In an environment of shrinking civic space and backlash against women’s rights, it is incumbent on the international community to – as the Secretary-General said in March – “pushback against the pushback”.
We must harness the current interruption to the status quo to build more inclusive prevention, peacemaking and governance structures. We need to build back better.