First, thank you to the Permanent Mission of the UAE and the Georgetown Institute for organizing today’s event.
A growing body of research has shown that women’s effective political participation is fundamental to building stronger and more resilient societies.
Indeed, the United Nations has recognized that successful efforts to rebuild from conflict in just and inclusive ways are fundamental to preventing a return to conflict, breaking the cycle of violence, and achieving sustainable peace.
But achieving sustainable peace requires political will, effort and investment.
For its part, the United Nations has undertaken significant institutional reform to bring together its peace and security, sustainable development and human rights work to meet the challenges of sustaining peace.
This includes scaling-up our efforts to promote women’s participation in prevention, peace processes, governance and decision-making.
So, what are the strategies to ensure women’s participation in post-conflict life?
- First, during peace talks, women must be at the negotiating table when possible and always provided the support to engage meaningfully. Put simply, there is no substitute for direct participation.
It is for this reason that in UN-facilitated political process for Syria, the UN has been working to ensure women’s direct participation by:
- encouraging the Government and opposition to strengthen women’s representation on their own delegations;
- receiving advice on all aspects of the mediation process from the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board; and
- ensuring women’s effective representation from the outset on the recently-agreed Constitutional committee.
- Second, we know from experience that if women are not included from the outset of any decision-making process, their inclusion rarely improves over time. Early planning based on gender-sensitive conflict and political analysis must inform all peace and security interventions including post-conflict planning.
To strengthen our efforts in this regard, a few months ago I issued a new DPPA Women, Peace and Security Policy to ensure women’s meaningful participation and gender-sensitive analysis are integrated into all our work.
- Third, legislative and policy protections are needed to support women’s rights, remove discriminatory laws and promote gender equality.
In Somalia, the UN Peacebuilding Fund has supported efforts by the federal and regional governments and women’s civil society to integrate gender equality in policy and legal frameworks, including the introduction of a new Gender Policy. Meanwhile, Iraq was the first country in the Middle East to adopt a National Action Plan on Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, and has also adopted an implementation plan on preventing and responding to conflict related sexual violence.
- Fourth, electoral reforms should be prioritized to enable and embed women’s safe political participation as voters and candidates, and to strengthen the credibility, inclusiveness and transparency of elections.
The UN has supported women’s electoral participation in many countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Somalia. This includes by assisting national efforts to develop or reform electoral laws to provide better chances for women to participate in public life; and providing technical advice on temporary special measures, such as quotas in electoral laws, as well as voter registration, electoral security, awareness raising and voter sensitization. In Somalia, such efforts saw an increase in women’s representation in parliament from 14 percent in 2012 to 24 percent in 2016.
- Fifth, inclusive approaches must be prioritized, with women – including women’s civil society – engaged in setting peacebuilding priorities.
In Liberia, where women were at the forefront of peace efforts to end the civil war, the Peacebuilding Fund has established multi-stakeholder platforms to enable local communities – including women – to engage with companies and government representatives, empowering women to exercise greater voice in demanding their rights.
In Iraq, the UN Assistance Mission earlier this year established the Women’s Advisory Group on Reconciliation and Politics to enable women leaders to act as a source of independent expertise and advice. The Women’s Advisory Group has the potential to greatly contribute to the gender-inclusive rebuilding by allowing women leaders, the international community, political actors, the legislature and civil society to engage in dialogue, identify entry points, and advocate for measures to enable the meaningful participation of women in decision-making processes in Iraq.
- Sixth, the international community must put its weight behind supporting national and grassroots-level peacebuilding priorities.
In Sudan, where women played a prominent role in protests leading to the ouster of the former President, the new transitional government has committed to enhancing women’s participation and included two women on the 11-member Sovereign Council, four women Ministers in the new Cabinet [out of 18], among them Asmaa Abdallah, Sudan’s first woman Foreign Minister, and just last week swore in Sudan’s first woman Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. It has also promised to ensure a minimum of 40 percent women’s representation in the Legislative Council. The UN has committed to supporting the transitional Government in these efforts.
In Liberia, the PBF has supported 12 women-led peace huts as local dispute resolution venues and rehabilitation efforts for marginalized youth in Monrovia improving young women and men’s access to agricultural employment in conflict-prone rural counties. It has also funded women filmmakers to document the role of women in the Liberia peace process, which will help to share lessons learned with women all over world.
- And finally, these priorities need to be adequately, predictably and sustainably financed.
Since 2015, the UN’s Peacebuilding Fund has exceeded the Secretary-General’s 15 percent target for gender-responsive peacebuilding, and the PBF’s own target of 30 percent. In 2018, 40 percent of its funding was allocated towards gender equality and women’s empowerment.
DPPA’s new Women, Peace and Security policy also comes with a commitment to provide resources in support of its implementation.
And the new PBF investment plan for 2020-2024 is based on the recognition of the importance of women’s inclusion to sustaining peace and allocates a growing share of the portfolio to the gender dimensions of the SDGs, including support for women’s participation in political, economic and social life.
Of course, many challenges remain.
In Iraq, women’s participation in national-level decision making positions remains limited with no women ministers currently appointed to the federal cabinet.
In Somalia, UN advocacy led to the introduction of a 30 per cent parliamentary quota for women for the 2016/17 election. Twenty-four per cent was achieved – a marked improvement on previous results -- but still short of the quota set.
Meanwhile, in Sudan, long-standing structural discrimination will have to be addressed to durably increase women’s participation in political and reconstruction processes. This will take time, support and ongoing advocacy.
Meaningfully improving women’s participation in post-conflict governance and reconstruction requires a long-term and sustained approach. The indispensable role of women must be seen not only as a rights or equality issue, but as a peace and security priority.
The UN is committed to supporting Member States rebuilding their societies and governance and to ensuring that women are afforded their rightful place in shaping national values, ideals and priorities .