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Gender equality and realizing the aspirations of young people are essential for sustainable peace and security, tells USG DiCarlo

Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary A. DiCarlo's 

Remarks to the Security Council open debate

“Maintenance of International Peace and Security: The role of Women and Young People”

New York, 28 May 2024


Madam President,

Thank you for hosting today’s open debate.


We know that women bear the brunt of the global rollback of human rights.

And we know that violence against women in its cruelest forms is a feature of virtually all wars.

I recently traveled to Afghanistan, where the plight of women is a crying example of the ground lost in human rights.

Afghan women and girls are systematically denied their rights and dignity in many areas of life, including education.

Women I met in Kabul told me of their aspirations and dreams: the same education afforded to men, equal employment opportunities and freedom to choose their futures. 

They look to the global community to support them in realizing their rights -- so that they can contribute to their country’s future.

Of course, Afghanistan is not the only place where women face barriers to participating as equals in politics, peacemaking, public life and employment.

Commitments on gender equality are being ignored, if not reversed, in many regions.

In A New Agenda for Peace, the Secretary-General called for addressing the structural inequalities standing in the way of the full realization of women’s indivisible human rights. He called for dismantling patriarchal power structures.

This means many things: it means equal access to representation, legal protections, physical autonomy, safety, economic opportunity, education, and healthcare.

Ultimately, it comes down to a simple vision – of overcoming obstacles that deny the full contribution of women.

Armed conflict exacerbates structural obstacles to women’s full equality. Institutional failure or collapse, impunity, and insecurity expose women to aggravated risks.

More than half of the recorded incidents of political violence against women worldwide take place in conflict-affected countries.

Doing away with structural gender inequalities is a matter of equity and right.

But it is also a powerful means to improve the chances of success of peace and political processes.

Our special political missions have strived to promote women’s rights and their meaningful participation in these processes.

In Yemen, for example, community mediation efforts undertaken by Yemeni women, often with the aim of releasing prisoners or achieving local ceasefires, have bolstered the UN’s ongoing work to relaunch high-level, formal negotiations and put an end to almost ten years of conflict.

Madam President,

The Women, Peace and Security Agenda can only be successfully realized through national action.

Over one hundred countries from all regions have developed national action plans to implement Security Council resolution 1325. This is commendable. But more countries must join this call.

Member States can make a difference by committing to specific and targeted measures to advance women’s leadership – including as mediators.

In UN-led peace processes, we ensure that women are robustly represented. Thirty percent of the Syria Constitutional Committee, for example, is female. And women make up 43 percent of our own mediation teams.

In peace processes led by others and to which the UN provides some support, the percentage is often not so high. In such cases, we encourage increased representation of women.

Madam President,

Young people deserve the opportunity to shape their future.

They are not “adults in the making”. They are full human beings with hopes, aspirations, ideas and energy to contribute right now.

The Secretary-General’s third report on Youth, Peace and Security puts forward recommendations to foster urgently needed progress on youth inclusion.

It stresses that youth must be allowed to safely participate in peace processes and electoral activities.

But the report also compels us not to ignore young people’s growing mistrust in governance institutions and electoral processes.

According to UNDP, 82 per cent of young people across 65 countries state that electoral violence hinders their participation. One can understand why – but it is still a distressing statistic.

And as stated in the Secretary-General’s report, the engagement of youth in peace processes continues to be minimal. This is a missed opportunity.

By practically encouraging youth to engage in politics and peacemaking, governments can increase solidarity between different generations and rebuild trust in institutions.

National Action Plans for Youth, Peace and Security are instrumental in institutionalizing the meaningful participation of youth and involve youth in decision making about their futures.

But they require dedicated resources and capacities.

This year, in line with DPPA’s Youth, Peace and Security strategy, we are allocating resources from the Peacebuilding Fund to support the National Action Plans initiated by several countries.

Regional efforts have the potential to catalyze national actions.

The African Union was the first regional organization to establish a framework for youth, peace and security and appoint Youth Ambassadors in addition to its Youth Envoy.   

The UN recently supported the Arab Regional Youth, Peace and Security strategy launched by the League of Arab States. With the help of artificial intelligence, young peacebuilders from 14 Arab countries were able to develop an action plan for their region.

Our special political missions are also doing their part to enhance youth civic engagement. In Libya, for example, our mission engages with youth representatives to ensure they play a role in building consensus on the legal framework for national elections.  

Environmental peacebuilding is another area in which young people are demanding a role.

Young women are often at the frontlines of coping with scarce resources and defending the environment. This is linked to gendered social roles around caregiving and sourcing water and food.

Young women’s and men’s roles as environmental defenders, community leaders, activists, mobilizers, and peacebuilders must be recognized and advanced.

In conclusion, Madam President, 

There are no quick fixes to entrenched power politics, patriarchal attitudes, or unequal social structures.

Transformative changes rely on national action, involving all segments of society.

In many places, they also rely on international support.

Through its meetings and decisions, the Council can reinforce that women, along with men, are responsible for building peace and prosperity in their societies.

That without women leaders, peace cannot be sustained.

That gender equality and realizing the aspirations of young people are essential for sustainable peace and security around the world.

This Council can also help promote recognition of young people as important agents of change. I welcome the Council’s efforts to more regularly invite women, civil society, and youth to brief the Council.

Madam President,

The Women, Peace and Security and Youth, Peace and Security Agendas offer us not just a vision, but a roadmap. 

We all need to do more to make the transformative vision of these agendas a reality.

Thank you.