From words to actions: The experience of the UN Special Political Missions in Colombia on women, peace and security (2016-2020). High-Level Event for the 20th Anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325. Opening Remarks by Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo
Let me join in thanking everyone for being here today.
I too would like to acknowledge Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, and his team, for their work in supporting today’s event.
And I would like to extend my warm regards to the distinguished panelists joining us from Bogota representing the Government of Colombia, the FARC, and Colombian women’s organizations.
Your presence together is evidence of the level of solidarity developed among women throughout the Colombian peace process. Together, Colombians achieved what is widely regarded as an international benchmark for women’s participation and gender-sensitive peace agreements and processes.
And thank you so much, Marcie Mersky, for undertaking the comprehensive study that we are launching today.
Twenty years since the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325, the important work of UN Special Political Missions in advancing the women, peace and security agenda is deservedly receiving much attention.
Much of our work is focused on advancing women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in conflict prevention and peacemaking. But the work to build sustainable peace does not end the day an agreement is signed. Rather, the signing marks the beginning of long and exacting efforts to translate commitments on paper into transformative and lasting change.
In this regard, the experiences of our Special Political Missions in Colombia offer unique and valuable lessons that are already informing our approach to inclusive peacemaking around the world.
The study that we launch today zeroes in on the specific contributions, challenges and lessons for UN missions in supporting gender-sensitive verification and implementation. I would like to highlight a few key lessons that have emerged:
First, leadership. The experience in Colombia – committed and accountable Mission leadership, internal policies to mainstream gender across its work, and the achievement of gender parity among civilian staff – has been critical in developing a mission culture that supports women’s inclusion.
Similar efforts are now being pursued in other contexts, including in Yemen and Afghanistan, where the meaningful participation of women in peace processes is extremely challenging, but remains a priority for our Mission leadership.
Second, civil society. From the early stages of talks, women from civil society were a driving force in achieving inclusive participation, securing gender provisions and, now, implementing the Colombian Peace Agreement, including by serving on dedicated technical bodies.
The Mission’s verification work, which has focused on ceasefire monitoring and disarmament, the reintegration of ex-combatants and post-conflict security guarantees, has been immeasurably strengthened by its regular consultations with women’s civil society, both at the SRSG’s level and through strong grassroots relationships with field offices.
Such experiences are exactly why all DPPA field missions consult regularly with women’s groups, and why in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, the Special Envoys have established advisory boards to ensure that women’s voices are heard.
Third, expertise. The Colombia experience highlights the importance of dedicated gender expertise being deployed early to set a foundation for inclusion in the work of the mission. This lesson is why in Sudan, a Senior Gender Adviser is being deployed as part of the first tranche of staff for the new UNITAMS mission.
Additional initiatives in Colombia to expand the reach of gender expertise through internal trainings and networks of gender focal points in Mission field offices are models we are seeing in our missions in Afghanistan, Somalia and within DPPA.
Fourth, partnerships. The partnerships established between the Mission, UN Country Team, Colombian Government, Member States, former combatants and women’s civil society have been critical in supporting the holistic implementation of the women, peace and security agenda, including through resourcing, capacity-building, and awareness of key issues and developments.
And finally, financing. The UN’s experience in Colombia has shown the importance of dedicating resources to inclusive implementation. This is why financial contributions by donors are so vital, and why we are contributing over US$2 million under the Peacebuilding Fund’s Gender and Youth Promotion Initiative to catalytic projects with a focus on gender. These projects aim to empower young women in the territories, support their participation in public debate, and strengthen their leadership in peacebuilding.
DPPA’s extra-budgetary funds are also financing an additional 16 initiatives in Colombia to support the socio-economic reintegration of women former combatants. In one of them, former combatants are producing face masks as part of the efforts to help their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of course, the lessons learned in Colombia also point us to ways to improve implementation of gender-sensitive peace agreements in the future.
This includes looking comprehensively at the reintegration of women former combatants to address their security, education, and economic needs; introducing gender criteria in the selection of UN observers; and, critically, recognizing that a prevailing climate of insecurity can dampen women’s peace and political participation, and that addressing family, community, and sexual and gender-based violence must be a part of effective implementation efforts.
A lot has been achieved, but we also need to acknowledge that much remains to be done to ensure that the extensive gender provisions in the Agreement are fully implemented.
That means, among other things, stopping the ongoing killings, threats and violence against women social leaders, human rights defenders, and former combatants. The Secretary-General described these attacks as a ‘grave and unacceptable threat’ in his latest report to the Security Council.
It also means tackling social and structural impediments such as entrenched patriarchal attitudes, a lack of resources for gender work, and additional challenges posed by COVID-19 that are compounding existing gender inequalities.
We are proud of the roles our missions have played in Colombia. But we salute the courage and tenacity of Colombian women who have made all this happen. Our role was a supportive one.
I want to assure Colombia, especially the women of this wonderful country, of the continued support of the United Nations for your efforts to achieve the full implementation of the Peace Agreement and the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in public life.
I thank you once again.
Download the Lessons Learned Study "From Word to Action: The experience of the UN Special Political Missions in Colombia on women, peace and security (2016-2020)" here
Download the Executive Summary of the report here
Watch the event here