Prospects for Women Peacebuilders Vastly Worse than before Pandemic as Spoilers Ramp Up Action Aimed at Silencing Their Voices, Human Rights Chief Warns Security Council
Civil Society Representatives Describe Reprisals against Individuals Who Brief 15-Member Organ, as Delegates Present Ways for United Nations Corrective Action
Despite best efforts to ensure that peace is built by and for women, the prospects for their participation in the very negotiations intended to secure their future are “vastly worse” than before the pandemic, the High Commissioner for Human Rights told the Security Council today, as she and other experts warned of an insidious uptick in a host of actions by spoilers aimed at silencing their voices.
“This harms all of us,” said Michele Bachelet, as she briefed ministers and other officials from around the world during the Council’s open debate on “Protecting participation: addressing violence targeting women in peace and security processes”.
In 2020, Ms. Bachelet said the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) verified 35 killings of women human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists in seven conflict-affected countries where data could be retrieved. This number — an undercount — surpassed the confirmed numbers of killings in 2018 and 2019. Between 1992 and 2019, only 13 per cent of negotiators, 6 per cent of mediators and 6 per cent of signatories in major peace processes were women. “Decisions on peace that do not reflect women’s voices, realities and rights are not sustainable,” she emphasized. She pressed the international community to push back against attempts to attack, silence and criminalize women’s fundamental right to participate in decisions and express dissenting opinions.
Perhaps nowhere are the challenges more visible than in Afghanistan, said Zarqa Yaftali, Executive Director of the Women and Children Legal Research Foundation, who stressed that “the rhetoric of the women, peace and security agenda collapsed on 15 August 2021”, the day Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. A year ago, she had beseeched the international community to better protect hard-won gains in women’s participation. “The world did not listen,” she said.
Today, she is addressing the Council as a refugee, having lost her country to a designated terrorist group overnight. Women and girls are now demonstrating in Kabul and elsewhere to regain the right to work and to education, facing violence and threats from the Taliban for doing so. Some have been imprisoned or disappeared, and thousands of women who worked with the military and security forces of Afghanistan now live in fear for their lives. “Afghanistan is an example of what can happen when the international community fails to live up to its promises,” she warned.
Kaavya Asoka, Executive Director of the Non-governmental Organization (NGO) Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, similarly sounded the alarm over reprisals against individuals who brief the Security Council. While welcoming the adoption of resolution 2242 (2015), enabling more women to share their expertise, she said that as the number of briefers increased, so too have the repercussions for speaking up. “The more women assert their rights, the greater the backlash,” she explained, noting that one individual was abducted the day after a Security Council briefing.
In fact, one third of the women supported by her organization who have briefed the Council since 2018 have faced intimidation or reprisals, she said. About 67 per cent of these cases were perpetrated by State actors. Yet, the United Nations has publicly documented only a fraction of them; many instances have not been reported at all. This gap in information means that policy responses are failing to consider basic facts that can determine whether a woman lives or dies. “Your political support can keep a human rights defender at risk alive by deterring attacks and raising the costs for perpetrators,” she stressed.
In the ensuing dialogue, speakers offered ideas for United Nations action, with Ghana’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration prompting the Council to urge the Secretary-General to ensure the allocation of targeted, rapid resources for responding to threats against women peacebuilders. Sanctions committees should be used to bring justice to perpetrators of such acts. The United Nations at large must be “unequivocal and consistent” in its defence of women briefers and condemn all attacks against them, she insisted.
In that vein, Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for Political Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, said her country plans to move the women, peace and security agenda “out of its siloes and into all discussions relevant to peace and security”. It has joined other elected Council members in issuing a “Shared Women, Peace and Security Presidency Commitments” statement, reflecting a zero-tolerance approach towards reprisals.
Mexico’s representative added that peacebuilders who brief the Council on their national situations deserve special attention as, by doing so, they put their own lives and those of their families at risk. He called on the High Commissioner for Human Rights — in coordination with other United Nations entities — to establish a protocol for protection and monitoring of individual cases, as required.
The Russian Federation’s representative, meanwhile, said the Council’s efforts should not morph into broader thematic areas or an attempt to merely meet quotas. He cautioned against creating new categories of victims or employing preferential processes, which could dilute protection efforts, ignite new conflicts or exacerbate existing ones. Iran’s representative similarly clarified that the Council should deal with these issues only as much as they relate to the maintenance of international peace and security, while China’s delegate advocated for progress through dialogue, mediation and consultations.
A number of delegates focused on national efforts to bolster women’s participation, with India’s delegate pointing out that 20 states in his country have reserved 50 per cent of seats for women in local legislative bodies. Slovenia’s representative said his country regularly deploys women in its peacekeeping operations and has helped establish a special training centre for participation in peacekeeping operations and missions.
Albania’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs drew attention to her country’s long road towards reconstruction after decades of ruin under a radical communist regime, during which it denied women a role in laying the foundation for a new country. “We have paid for that mistake,” she said. “But we also have learned from it.” Today, Albania ranks among the top five gender-balanced Governments in the world, with 75 per cent of ministerial posts held by women, she said.
Indeed, women’s participation must become “the new normal”, Anniken Huitfeldt, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway and Council President for January, affirmed. Speaking in her national capacity, she said women peacebuilders and human rights defenders at all levels of society must be provided the resources they need. “If the worst happens, we must ensure an adequate response,” she said. Sanctions and other deterrent measures must be considered, and the Council must demand accountability.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United States, Ireland, United Kingdom, Gabon, Brazil, France, Kenya, Japan, Malta, Canada, New Zealand, Italy, Poland, Estonia, Greece, Switzerland, Rwanda, Turkey, Germany, Bulgaria, Portugal, Belgium (also on behalf of Luxembourg), Ecuador, Morocco, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, Georgia, Australia, Argentina, Chile, Lithuania, Indonesia, Austria, Fiji, Malaysia, Jordan, Latvia, Egypt and Denmark (on behalf of the Nordic countries), as well as the observer for the European Union.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m., suspended at 1:08 p.m., resumed at 3:06 p.m. and ended at 4:45 p.m.
MICHELE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that between 1992 and 2019, only 13 per cent of negotiators, 6 per cent of mediators and 6 per cent of signatories in major peace processes worldwide were women. Today, the situation facing women human rights defenders and the prospects for women’s full participation in shaping and building peace are vastly worse. “This harms all of us,” she said. Women’s meaningful participation is necessary to ensure a fuller range of action to bind society together. It is also important for addressing the causes of conflict and their impact - including gender-based violence and the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.
Noting that efforts to implement Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security require consistent policies for public recognition and greater financing for women’s organizations, she said barely 1 per cent of funding in fragile or conflict-affected countries goes to women’s rights groups. The enabling environment — which is at the heart of the women, peace and security agenda — is also largely absent. Against that backdrop, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in 2020 verified 35 killings of women human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists in seven conflict-affected countries where data could be retrieved. This number, certainly an undercount, surpassed the confirmed numbers of killings in 2018 and 2019. Her Office also documented patterns of attacks against women working on gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and rights, corruption, labour rights and environmental and land issues: among them, arrests, detentions, intimidation, sexual violence and harassment via smear campaigns.
Describing conditions around the world, she said that in Afghanistan, the de facto Cabinet and other key forums at national and provincial levels exclude women, which heavily undermines their capacity to ensure a peaceful future. Many Afghan women human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and judges have been forced to flee or to go into hiding — often after repeated threats. Many have lost all sources of income. She pressed States to use their influence with the Taliban to encourage respect for human rights, as well as to create safe pathways and resettlement programmes for Afghan women human rights defenders, and to immediately halt the deportation of Afghan women who seek protection.
In the Sahel region, she said several countries are at the very bottom of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Gender Equality Index, while extremely violent armed group attacks only increase the threat of abductions, violence, exploitation and abuse of women and girls, as do local closures of schools. In Myanmar, where women human rights defenders have long been a force for peace, many women’s civil society groups have been forced to shut down amid the violence that has unfolded since February 2021. Women medical workers, media workers and protestors have been targeted for assault, while women and girls appear to number over 2,100 of the estimated 10,533 people detained by the State Administration Council and its affiliated armed elements between February and November 2021. By contrast, she said Colombia’s 2016 Peace Agreement was a global landmark in terms of women’s participation and the inclusion of gender-specific measures, citing efforts by the Truth Commission and the Special Jurisdiction for Peace to promote women’s participation. However, implementation of gender-specific measures on land reform, political participation, security guarantees and other points of the agreement should be strengthened.
Underscoring the need for strategies that create inclusive and safe participation channels for women from all backgrounds, movements and communities, she said the protection of their work, lives and rights is central to this effort. “The international community must stand united and push back against attempts to attack, silence and criminalize women’s rights to defend rights, participate in decision-making and express dissenting opinions,” she stressed. In addition, more must be done to provide safe spaces for women human rights defenders to interact with the Council and its subsidiary bodies. She welcomed efforts by some States to mitigate reprisals against women peacebuilders who engage with the Council, emphasizing the value that the Council could add by harmonizing approaches to ensure women’s safe involvement in peace processes, as well as their participation in the Council’s work.
Going forward, she said peace operation mandates could explicitly include provisions for the protection of all civil society actors and United Nations interlocutors from threats and reprisals, as is the case for the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS). Strengthening the timely, disaggregated collection of data on women’s participation and protection in peace processes is also essential. “Decisions on peace that do not reflect women’s voices, realities and rights are not sustainable,” she emphasized. “The work of addressing discrimination, inequality, denials of women’s civic space and gender-based violence should also be viewed as a priority for building peace.”
ZARQA YAFTALI, Executive Director of the Women and Children Legal Research Foundation, recalled that she addressed the Council a year ago on the twentieth anniversary of resolution 1325 (2000), noting the achievements of Afghanistan’s women over the past two decades. On that day, she shared stories of ministers, diplomats, judges, lawyers, athletes, artists, journalists and businesswomen, and described how far Afghan women had come since the Taliban was last in power. “I told you that Afghan society was ready to see women lead this country into the future,” she said. However, she also shared her fears, asking the international community to better protect the country’s hard-won gains in women’s participation.
“The world did not listen,” she said, stressing that “the rhetoric of the women, peace and security agenda collapsed on 15 August 2021”, the day Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. Today, she is addressing the Council as a refugee, having lost her country to a designated terrorist group overnight. Women and girls are now demonstrating in Kabul and elsewhere to regain the right to work and to education, facing violence and threats from the Taliban for doing so. Some women protestors have been imprisoned or disappeared, and thousands of women who worked with the military and security forces of Afghanistan now live in fear for their lives. Hundreds of media outlets have been closed and freedom of speech severely limited.
“Afghanistan is an example of what can happen when the international community fails to live up to its promises” in the area of women, peace and security, she continued, noting that oppression of women and civilians by the Taliban increases daily and the mainstream media in the West has lost in interest in their plight. Against that backdrop, she urged the Council to break its silence on the future of Afghanistan’s 30 million citizens, including 15 million women, by stating clear expectations for the Taliban on the protection of women’s rights. That should include access to education for all women and girls, the right of women to work, ensuring women’s right to political participation without restrictions and the right of women human rights defenders to operate freely and without fear of reprisal.
Warning that any step to recognize the Taliban is an endorsement of the oppression of Afghanistan’s women, she went on to describe the role of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) as more important than ever. As the Council considers its mandate renewal in March, it should ensure that the Mission continues to monitor the human rights situation, protect and promote human rights, and ensure that the people of Afghanistan are supported in community-led efforts to facilitate and coordinate humanitarian assistance, resolve conflict and build peace. There is also a need to ensure support for education as part of the United Nations humanitarian efforts by enshrining it under UNAMA’s new mandate, she said.
KAAVYA ASOKA, Executive Director of the Non-governmental Organization (NGO) Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, a coalition of 18 international organizations, said she represents women from Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, who are delivering critical services to their communities, brokering ceasefires and participating in peace processes — women who have dedicated their lives to the relentless pursuit of peace. “Many of them have addressed you in this chamber — and many have paid the price for doing so,” she said. “It is their voices that you are hearing today, and they are asking you for help.” To be a woman or a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex (LGBTQI+) person in many parts of the world means having to choose between fighting for your rights or fighting for your life. In Afghanistan, women leaders and human rights defenders live in fear of being targeted by the Taliban. In Myanmar, women and LGBTQI+ activists who led protests against the coup were among the first to be targeted by the military — detained, tortured and sexually abused.
She also drew attention to reprisals against individuals who brief the Security Council, a symptom of an alarming uptick in violent conflict, paired with the closing of civic space, erosion of human rights norms and the increasingly misogynistic and militarized environments in which they live and work today. While welcoming the adoption of resolution 2242 (2015), enabling more women to share their expertise with the Council, she stressed that as the number of briefers has increased, so too have the repercussions for speaking up. “The more women assert their rights, the greater the backlash,” she explained.
Delineating a host of retaliatory actions, she said women have been censored, threatened, harmed and told to be silent on such issues as gender-based violence or sexual and reproductive health and rights, which are considered “incompatible” with so-called cultural or religious values. Their laptops have been confiscated, their phones and bank accounts hacked. They have been arbitrarily detained by security forces following their briefings and accused of being spies for foreign Governments. She drew attention to a recent case in which an individual was abducted the day after a Security Council briefing. Having received little help from several Member States and United Nations agencies approached for assistance, she said “nobody, other than our own civil society colleagues, was willing to help an individual who had faced a reprisal for having cooperated with the United Nations system.”
The number and severity of reprisals and intimidation against anyone engaging with the United Nations has exponentially increased in recent years, she said, pointing out that one third of the women her organization has supported briefing the Council since 2018 have faced intimidation or reprisals. About 67 per cent of these cases were perpetrated by State actors. Yet, the United Nations has publicly documented only a fraction of these cases associated with Council cooperation — many have not been reported at all. This gap in information means that policy responses are failing to consider basic facts on the ground that can determine whether a woman lives or dies.
Going forward, she said women human rights defenders and peace activists need funding to support their personal security and relocation. They need responsive institutions that they can reach out to directly in their hour of need. “If you are truly committed to ending attacks against women human rights defenders and peacebuilders, it is critical to address the root causes of conflict and gender inequality, not only their consequences,” she said, stressing: “Silence is complicity.” She called Member States, United Nations leaders and Council members to stop these acts of intimidation, attacks and reprisals, and work to end impunity and ensure accountability of perpetrators. “Your political support can keep a human rights defender at risk alive by deterring attacks and raising the costs for perpetrators.”
Further, the Council must call on the Secretary-General to model his own stated commitment to this issue by ensuring all United Nations staff publicly champion the work of women peacebuilders and human rights defenders. The Organization must ensure all necessary protection and practical support to those at risk and their families, by providing rapid, flexible and targeted resources and establishing clear protocols for how United Nations entities are required to respond to individual cases. She emphasized that the risks women face should in no way be used as an excuse to exclude them. “We urge you to challenge those who believe it is not a woman’s place to question authority, to speak out against abuse, or to defy power and patriarchy, by responding that a woman’s place is exactly where she decides it should be — whether fighting for human rights, participating in a peace process, protesting in the streets, or sitting in this chamber with you.”
SHIRLEY AYORKOR BOTCHWEY, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of Ghana, described as disheartening the increase in intimidation, threats and reprisals against women, citing in particular the 35 killings of women human rights activists, journalists and trade unionists in seven conflict-affected countries. Equally, women academics, supreme court judges, youth advocates and civil society activists have been victims of retaliatory violence, underscoring the need to create a safe environment for women to carry out their work, in accordance with resolutions 1325 (2000), 2467 (2019) and 2493 (2019). She pointed to Ghana’s First National Action Plan on resolution 1325 (2000), for 2012-2014, which outlines sensitization programmes and workshops for security agencies, traditional authorities and civil society organizations, with a second edition launched in March 2020 and operational until 2025.
She pressed the Council to urge the Secretary-General to ensure the allocation of targeted, practical and rapid resources to facilitate responses to threats against women peacebuilders, and to impress upon his good offices to build the capacity of United Nations staff in conflict zones. Stressing that sanctions committees should be used to bring to justice the perpetrators of intimidation, threats and reprisals against women in peacebuilding, she urged the United Nations at large to be “unequivocal and consistent” in its defence of women briefers and to condemn all attacks against them.
OLTA XHAÇKA, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania, asked how it is possible that women still must fight for something as basic as equality, for the same rights as men. She drew attention to the sad truth that while men do most of the fighting, women often bear the brunt, citing events in Kosovo, where women left behind to fend for their families were raped, tortured and killed as deliberate targets of a criminal campaign of ethnic cleansing. She also pointed to conditions for women in Afghanistan, Yemen, Myanmar, Ethiopia and Syria, and to repression against activists in Belarus. Thirty years ago, when Albania began its long road towards reconstruction after decades of ruin under an extremely radical communist regime, it denied women a role in laying the foundation for a new country. “We have paid for that mistake,” she said. “But we also have learned from it.”
Today, gender equality is a high priority and Albania ranks among the top five gender-balanced Governments in the world, with 75 per cent of ministerial posts held by women, she said. A similar percentage of senior and mid-level executive posts, and some of the highest public positions — including in independent institutions, agencies and departments — are held by women. “We have benefited,” she said. “The whole country has benefited.” Because participation and protection go hand in hand, she called for United Nations entities to provide the necessary protection and support to women human rights defenders, peacebuilders and civil society representatives at risk of harm, with flexible funding mechanisms created to act fast when women leaders are faced with threats. Funding of women-led and women’s rights organizations and movements in fragile or conflict-affected countries must also be improved and accountability enhanced.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for Political Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, said that, during its terms as an elected Council member, her country plans to champion the women, peace and security agenda, moving the topic “out of its siloes and into all discussions relevant to peace and security”, including through discussions on prevention, economic relief and recovery. Echoing expressions of support for women’s participation in peace processes, she noted that their tireless efforts in Colombia’s transition have yielded one of the most inclusive peace agreements to date. To address the grave threats faced by women, Member States should take steps to tackle structural gender inequality as a main root cause of violence. The United Nations should develop effective tools, such as a more systematic deployment of gender and women’s protection advisers to peace operations and better data-gathering and analysis. The organ should view threats and reprisals intended to deter the participation of women briefers as an attempt to obstruct its work. In that vein, the United Arab Emirates has joined other elected Council members in issuing a Shared Women, Peace and Security Presidency Commitments statement, which reflects a zero-tolerance approach towards reprisals, she said.
UZRA ZEYA, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights of the United States, said that women are on the frontlines of peacebuilding. They face serious threats, which often include sexualized violence or targeted cyberharassment. She called upon on all Governments and international groups to join the United States in maintaining and upholding a zero-tolerance approach to sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. Noting the crucial need to increase the number of women peacekeepers and improve their safety, she raised concerns about the language historically used around protection, which too often painted women as weaker than men. To move the issue forward, the United States advocates for technical support to amplify the voices of women leaders. It also supports targeted assistance programmes that promote women’s community leadership, such as the “SHE Wins” initiative, which provides grants to support women — including those from minority groups — in their leadership endeavours.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) said that long before the world was willing to heed them, women peacebuilders and human rights defenders in Afghanistan were sounding the alarm of imminent catastrophe, warning of surging violence and harassment against women and girls last year. In May, they pointed out that an attack on a girls’ school by the Taliban was “deliberate, targeted and symbolic, aimed at frightening women and girls away from participation in public life,” she said, adding that women human rights defenders in the country now pay the price for the world’s failure to heed their warnings, with those once championed by the international community hiding in their homes or forced to flee. Others who courageously take to the streets to demand their rights risk violence; some never come home. While the situation in Afghanistan “illustrates in the starkest way the intimate link between women’s participation and their protection”, such issues are universal, she said. She pointed out that during Ireland’s presidency in the Council last September, during which women civil society briefers were prioritized, she became aware of the grave risks they face in engaging with the United Nations, leading to some declining to participate, and one briefer facing serious safety threats, which is unacceptable. The Council must reject reprisals against briefers, and ensure they are provided a safe platform in the chamber. Ireland will protect women’s right to participate safely in peace and security processes, “no holds barred”, and will work to maximize the political import of the Council’s main instrument in that regard: the Informal Expert Group on Women and Peace and Security.
ZHANG JUN (China) said his country attaches high importance to the women, peace and security agenda, and the protection of women’s rights. He called for strengthening the protection of women in conflict areas “in every way possible and make no exception”, as all women are entitled to protection, regardless of whether they participate in a peace process. Stressing that women have the right to live a life free from violence, he said their protection requires collective efforts and he pressed parties to conflict to fulfil their international humanitarian law commitments and to renounce all violence against women. He similarly urged the international community to meet the needs of women affected by conflict, noting that those countries with historic responsibility for hotspot issues are obliged to provide financial and in-kind support. In addition, the causes of violence must be addressed and a holistic approach taken to conflict prevention, with peace restored through dialogue. Civil society can play a vital role in this regard by advocating for a culture of peace. For its part, the Council should seek progress through dialogue, mediation and consultations so that all women and girls can live in peace. Finally, he called for unswerving support for women’s empowerment, citing China’s role as host of the fourth World Conference on Women and the service of 1,000 Chinese women in United Nations peacekeeping operations.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) emphasized that the Council can only operate effectively when it has honest briefings about situations on the ground, underscoring that women human rights defenders and peacebuilders who address its members provide those insights. “We depend upon them,” he acknowledged. The Council has a duty to protect them and to deal with reprisals effectively. Underscoring areas for practical action, he focused first on addressing women’s protection in country contexts. Ensuring that Afghan women can safely participate in public life and shape their own futures is the best way to protect the progress achieved on gender equality. He also called for safeguarding women’s meaningful participation in decision-making, as well as acting in national capacities and through the United Nations to provide resources and political support. Recalling the United Kingdom’s funding for the High Commissioner’s office, notably to develop guidance for preventing reprisals against civil society briefers to the Council, he also pointed to the provision of $300,000 to the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights to protect and relocate female human rights defenders under threat of reprisals.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), underlining the crucial role of women in peace and security, welcomed encouraging signs in meeting gender parity goals within the United Nations system as well as rising international advocacy for the meaningful participation of women in peace processes. However, women continued to pay a heavy price for their leadership in many parts of the world. Urging the global community to remain vigilant against attacks targeting women peacebuilders, he said Gabon works to facilitate women’s meaningful participation in public life. Women currently head up three of the country’s four highest institutions, namely the Prime Ministry, the Senate and the Constitutional Court. Outlining national advocacy for broader women’s participation at all levels, he added in the face of new security and health crises, “our response needs to include everyone, including women”.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said resolution 1325 (2000) remains a critical road map for the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda. While the world faces many challenges, not all of them pose threats to international peace and security; as such, the Council must continue to be guided strictly by its mandate. Welcoming the steady growth in the number of women briefers and other leaders working with the Council, he also praised the role of female peacekeepers in situations on the ground. Several areas in which more work is needed are women’s access to technology and resources, including the banking sector, and the crucial role of the family. However, the Council’s efforts in women, peace and security should not morph into broader thematic areas or an attempt to merely meet quotas. Expressing concern over violence against women around the world, he cautioned against creating new categories of victims or employing preferential processes, which could dilute existing protection efforts, ignite new conflicts or exacerbate existing ones.
T.S. TIRUMURTI (India) said his country has moved from a paradigm of women’s development to women-led development, having more than 1.3 million elected women representatives at the grassroots level. Twenty states in his country have reserved 50 per cent of seats for women in local legislative bodies. Member States should identify and address barriers to women’s meaningful participation in the prevention and resolution of conflict, as well as in post-conflict peacebuilding efforts. A political environment based on democracy, pluralism and rule of law is conducive to furthering the role of women in nation-building and development. It is equally important to focus on socioeconomic empowerment of women, including their access to credit, finance and technology. The United Nations should provide support to Member States for institution- and capacity-building in post-conflict situations. Women are often the victims of online criminal acts, he said, calling for a whole-of-society approach to address the issue.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) said the Council must work not only to bring women to peace negotiation tables, but also on ways to protect those invited to the table and those working on the ground from direct violence and intimidation. By protecting those women trying to make a difference to their communities, the Council is also making it clear that, without the participation of the female population, there is no perspective of lasting peace, let alone economic development, in any country. Normalizing the participation of women in peace processes and upgrading their role, including as briefers to the Council, is a concrete way to implement the women, peace and security agenda. In this regard, Brazil commends Ireland for setting a record of women briefers during its presidency in September 2021 and recommends a thorough evaluation of the situation of women peacekeepers and peacebuilders as part of any examination of a country or region under the Council’s scrutiny. The idea is to set specific goals, to work not only towards an increase on the number of women in field missions, but also make sure that those females can make a difference in various roles and functions and act as drivers of change.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) noted the timeliness of today’s meeting, which occurs against the backdrop of grave threats targeting women in Afghanistan. Expressing concern over the violence, intimidation and reprisals directed at women during the peace process, he stressed that “fear must change sides” such that perpetrators are held accountable and duly punished. In line with Council resolutions relating to women, peace and security, it is incumbent on States to establish the necessary security conditions to allow motivated women to carry out their activities free from undue interference. Further, prevention and early-warning mechanisms must be established with United Nations support, where applicable, and he called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to document and compile best practices in this regard. Urging full implementation of all Council resolutions pertaining to women, peace and security, he pointed out that France, for its part, initiated ambitious feminist diplomacy in Paris through the Generation Equality Forum in 2021. He added that more than $40 billion was pledged at that event to support the global plan to accelerate equality by 2026.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya) called for sustained efforts to protect the safety of human rights defenders, gender equality advocates and civil society representatives at the national and international levels, saying States must surge their prosecutions of gender-based violence crimes and the Council should take steps to increase the costs of intimidating, threatening or harming women who have served as briefers. Meanwhile, he said, regional and subregional organizations and frameworks should embrace the normative dimensions of the women, peace and security agenda to spur political will and provide sustained training and institutional structure to support gender-sensitive investigations and prosecutions. In addition, he called for efforts to link the women, peace and security agenda with counter-radicalization mechanisms that are relevant to sexual and gender-based violence, including those reflected in the actions and ideologies of such terrorist groups as those affiliated with Al-Qaida and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMIREZ (Mexico), recalling the murders of women activists, lawyers, journalists and peacebuilders over the past three years, pointed out that their absence serves as a reminder that the international community has failed to guarantee a safe environment for females to participate in public and political life in their countries. He also stressed that peacebuilders who brief the Council on their national situations deserve special attention as, by doing so, they put both their own lives and those of their families at risk. To this end, he called on the High Commissioner for Human Rights — in coordination with other United Nations entities — to establish a structured protocol for protection and monitoring of individual cases as required. Further, more effective protection mechanisms are needed — preventative if possible — at the national and local levels, the objective of which should be nothing less than achieving greater protection against discrimination on the basis of, inter alia, race, age, place of origin, belief, sexual orientation, immigration status or disability.
ANNIKEN HUITFELDT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, Council President for January, spoke in her national capacity, noting that women carry unique perspectives and experiences in their communities. However, they bear more risk than men when they speak up. Better ways must be identified to strengthen the global community’s prevention and response measures and to protect and empower women. In that vein, she offered three recommendations, including that women’s participation must become “the new normal”. Secondly, women peacebuilders and human rights defenders at all levels of society must be provided the resources they need. Third, there must be zero tolerance for threats and reprisals targeting women in peace and security processes, including those engaging with the Council. Noting that women leaders continue to face risks in Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, Yemen, Mali and many other places, she stressed: “If the worst happens, we must ensure an adequate response.” Sanctions and other deterrent measures must be considered, and the Council must demand accountability.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) expressed deep concern about attacks against women human rights defenders, journalists and others, mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report on women, peace and security, quoting its prescription that “greater investment in the social infrastructure and services that buttress human security” is needed for conflict prevention and peacebuilding, and not an increase in military expenditure. Japan has been actively supporting the capacity-building of local women peacebuilders through several United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) projects, including a new UN‑Women project in Afghanistan, which supports local civil society organizations operating shelters and community-based centres for survivors of violence. However, he pointed out that in the long-term, “there is no magic solution to create a lasting safe, enabling environment for women but to build effective, accountable, inclusive institutions owned by the country that can protect and empower people and foster trust in the society.” Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic brought to the fore threats of online violence against women human rights defenders, he said Japan supports the ongoing study by UN-Women in 21 Arab countries with a specific focus on online violence against women, including women activists and human rights defenders.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), aligning herself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said women who participate in advancing the common goals of justice and accountability are under continued attack for doing so, which is unacceptable, and must be unequivocally condemned. In line with Council resolution 2493 (2019), more decisive action is needed to address threats, violence and harassment faced by women online and offline. She underscored the importance of the participation and leadership of women to sustaining peace and added that women’s participation and protection go hand in hand. Therefore, there must be prompt investigations into attacks on women human rights defenders. No civil society member participating in the United Nations forum should fear reprisals for doing so; existing frameworks and necessary resources should be mobilized to this end. She underlined the need for more inclusive peace processes to give long-term peace “a significantly better chance”.
BOŠTJAN MALOVRH (Slovenia), aligning himself with the European Union, pointed out that existing barriers pertaining to the participation of women in decision-making and the prevention of violence against women impede their participation in peace processes. He condemned all acts of threat, intimidation and violence against women carrying out important work in promoting peace and equality, and expressed his full support to women in Afghanistan, whose safe participation is a prerequisite for a peaceful, resilient Afghan society. The Council must act to protect women human right defenders and peacebuilders briefing the 15-member organ; acts of reprisals must not go unaddressed to prevent impunity and ensure accountability. Slovenia regularly deploys women personnel, including in senior roles, in its peacekeeping operations, and has helped establish a special centre for training for participation in peacekeeping operations and missions, he said.
ROBERT KEITH RAE (Canada), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, an informal network of 65 Member States, urged all nations to address harassment, both online and offline, as well as all forms of sexual and gender-based violence against women peacebuilders, human rights defenders and gender equality advocates. The Group is deeply concerned that some women have faced reprisals for briefing the Council. The 15-member organ and the United Nations system must develop effective measures to prevent and respond to these reprisals. The Group calls on all Member States to create safe and enabling environments for these activists by promoting women and girls’ human rights, building the capacity of national institutions to ensure the protection of peacebuilders, developing local early warning mechanisms and supporting at-risk individuals. The Group supports the Council’s incorporation and application of sexual violence as a designation criterion in United Nations sanction regimes. It also encourages the Council to ensure that peace operations provide, monitor and report on gender-responsive support to peacebuilders and human rights defenders at risk. The Group also encourages Member States, the United Nations, international financial institutions and other relevant stakeholders to provide rapid, flexible funding for the protection of women peacebuilders, human rights defenders and gender equality advocates, particularly those in need of emergency assistance, including psychosocial support. “Collectively, we can and must do more to support all women on the front lines of peace and security efforts,” he said.
In his national capacity, he said that for many women leaders, human rights defenders, peacebuilders and activists, including those who address this Council, fear of reprisals is very real and present. These women have provided the Council with crucial analysis. They have helped accurately diagnose problems and deliver informed solutions. Yet, many have also done so at a significant personal cost — facing direct threats and reprisals. Canada is one of a growing number of countries with a feminist foreign policy, and provides sustainable and flexible support to women peacebuilders, including through a dedicated $5 million funding envelope to support local “grassroots” women peacebuilders; an annual women, peace and security awards programme; and through a global advocacy campaign “Peace By Her” to support, protect, recognize and include women peacebuilders in peace and security processes. As co-chairs of the Women and Peace and Security Focal Points Network in 2020-2021, Canada convened a series of meetings on supporting and protecting female peacebuilders.
CAROLYN JANE WEATHERALL SCHWALGER (New Zealand) pressed Member States to be bold and consistent in their condemnation of those who silence women involved in peace processes — or any context — and to hold perpetrators to account, without exception. They must also continue to seek innovative and sustainable ways to create safe and enabling environments for women and girls “in all their diversity”, with unambiguous, resourced, responsive and operationally focused initiatives implemented in peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts. In that context, a gender analysis — from the outset of any process — is fundamental to understanding and supporting decision-makers within peacekeeping operations and the host country, she said, as understanding gendered cultural dynamics helps to identify challenges and potential solutions. The power of diverse teams to improve performance and promote inclusion and equality is a hallmark of New Zealand’s approach to peace and security, she said, pointing to the Wāhine Toa leadership programme, which aims to increase women’s participation in defence, as a proven model. Stressing that any reprisals against civil society briefers — for merely briefing the Council — is an affront to their basic rights, she said their expertise must be leveraged if Council members hope to foster international peace and security.
OLOF SKOOG, Head of Delegation of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, expressed concern over the use of sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war in Ethiopia, particularly in the Tigray region. Also condemning violence against women in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, South Sudan and Yemen, he stressed that protecting the human rights of women and girls must be a political priority. Highlighting the European Union’s efforts in this regard, he outlined several recommendations for Council action in this area, including giving special attention to those facing multiple, intersecting forms of discrimination and violence such as elderly and indigenous people.
Further, he stressed that more must be done to fight impunity, calling on the Council to use the presence of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict as a designation criterion in United Nations sanctions regimes. The Council has a strong mandate to act in this arena, and existing frameworks must be given the attention and resources necessary for their implementation. Stressing that civil society must also be part of the solution, he urged Council members to invite more women human-rights defenders and civil-society leaders to brief the 15-member organ and, in so doing, implement the measures required to ensure the safety of such individuals.
STEFANO STEFANILE (Italy), associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, called for redoubled efforts to stem the tide of violence against women leaders and human rights defenders. Eradicating such violence requires uprooting gender and sexual violence, he said, also calling for inclusive peace negotiations with the voices of civil society members and women. Italy continues to prioritize the women, peace and security agenda in its foreign policy and has developed a fourth national action plan on the issue, he said, adding that it spearheaded the Mediterranean Women Mediators Network and provides all its troops with targeted training on gender-related issues. Voicing serious concern over the continued use of sexual violence against women in conflict, he said that, in Afghanistan, the human rights of Afghan women and girls must be considered an integral part of the country’s future.
KRZYSZTOF MARIA SZCZERSKI (Poland) said attacks that prevent women from engaging in public life have a negative impact on peace and stability, as well as on human rights. Among the key conditions for women’s full and meaningful participation are adequate protection mechanisms as well as accountability and support to victims. Women’s leadership still needs broader recognition, and financial support is needed for their work. “We need to use all available to promote the implementation of all elements of the women, peace and security agenda,” he said, urging the international community to put pressure on all parties to include women in peace negotiations. Noting that the sustainability of gains made in women, peace and security remains a challenge — especially in post-conflict situations — he called for the provision of adequate early warning and response tools after a United Nation mission draws down.
SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) said the Council and the rest of the United Nations have been slow in addressing risks against women human rights defenders and peacebuilders. Outlining several measures that can be taken to accelerate efforts, he said the Council must condemn attacks directed at women human rights defenders, including those briefing the 15-member organ. He also pointed to the need for continued designation and use of sanctions in connection to sexual- and gender-based violence. The price to pay for attacks on women peacebuilders, which is currently negligible, must be raised by enhancing accountability through national and international legal systems, including the International Criminal Court. The United Nations must establish procedures and exchange information and the Organization’s top officials should highlight concrete attacks and threats in statements and regular briefings. For this, United Nations missions must systematically report on threats against women engaged in political and peace processes, he said, calling for a renewed focus on financial resources
MARIA THEOFILI (Greece), associating herself with the European Union, said women’s representation and leadership in peace processes can improve the durability of peace agreements, also facilitating women’s participation in the transitional political phases to follow. However, such persistent obstacles as restrictive societal norms and attitudes, coupled with relatively lower levels of education and family and labour burdens, further weaken women’s beneficial role. Against that backdrop, there is an urgent need to create a safe and enabling environment for women, especially for local women peacebuilders, human rights defenders and civil society leaders, to carry out their work freely and without fear of violence. Calling for holistic and coherent international policy and action to that end, she voiced her country’s full support for the coherent implementation of the interlinked Security Council agendas on the protection of civilians, women, peace and security and children and armed conflict.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland), speaking on behalf of the Human Rights/Conflict Prevention Caucus, recognized the essential and meaningful contribution of women human rights defenders, women peacebuilders and gender equality advocates. Noting that reprisals against them undermine the Council’s work and the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, she said it is of utmost importance to create a safe and enabling environment, both online and offline, for women to safely lead. She urged all Member States to prevent and ensure adequate protection against intimidation and reprisals and to strengthen their response if they occur and encouraged the Secretary-General to present his reports on reprisals to the General Assembly beginning at its seventy-seventh session. Noting that the wider United Nations system also has a duty to prevent and respond to cases of intimidation and reprisals and to ensure accountability, she called upon the Council to publicly condemn intimidation, threats and reprisals against those who engage with it, in particular women.
ROBERT KAYINAMURA (Rwanda) said that the international community’s collective resolve to address the challenges faced by women should primarily focus on the implementation of existing commitments and frameworks, including addressing root causes of conflict “to eliminate grounds on which such crimes breed”. He highlighted the “guiding instrument” of resolution 1325 (2000), which addresses both the disproportionate impact of violent conflict and war on women and girls and the crucial role that women should — and already do — play in conflict-prevention and peacebuilding. He called on all parties engaged in conflict to take extraordinary measures to protect women and girls from all forms of gender-based violence, and on Member States and the Council to cooperate to bring perpetrators of such crimes to justice. He also stressed that the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in peace and security processes helps to minimize chances of conflict and community confrontation, in addition to providing a larger sense of security to local populations. Women’s empowerment and gender mainstreaming are top priorities for Rwanda, he added.
AYSE INANÇ ÖRNEKOL (Turkey) said that in adopting resolution 1325 (2000), the Council made clear that there could be no lasting peace without gender equality. Yet, despite best efforts, implementation of the women, peace and security agenda has fallen short, with humanitarian workers in conflict zones reporting new cases of violence against women and girls daily. “We need to take immediate action now to reverse this deeply worrying trend,” she said. While numerous resolutions have called for women’s enhanced participation in all stages of peace processes, the onus is on Member States to ensure women’s full, equal, and meaningful participation in decision-making at all levels, everywhere. Detailing Turkey’s efforts, she said the Government contributed to the development of recent North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) policies related to women, peace and security. It also organizes gender-responsive training for security personnel deployed domestically and makes every effort to support women and girls who have fled Syria. Refugee women who identify as victims of violence have the right to stay in women’s shelters, while Syrian women under temporary protection benefit from the same health care as Turkish citizens.
ANTJE LEENDERTSE (Germany) stressed the relevance of Council resolution 1325 (2000) as women face daily risks of violence at every stage of the peace process. In Afghanistan, women have increasingly suffered from violence and marginalization since the takeover of the country by the Taliban. Outlining her country’s efforts to protect women, she said Germany established a mechanism two years ago to provide grants and services for the temporary relocation of human rights defenders at risk. Her country contributed 18 million euros to the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund in 2021 and will provide 2 million euros for Afghan women in the framework of the fund. During Germany’s tenure at the Council, her delegation led efforts to adopt resolution 2467 (2019) on ending sexual violence. The United Nations must do more to ensure a safe environment for women human rights activists.
LACHEZARA STOEVA (Bulgaria), aligning herself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, emphasized the need to take immediate steps to ensure the full, equal and meaningful participation of females in all stages and at all levels of peace processes, including through resolving the working modes of participation of women peacebuilders and ensuring their security offline and online. Noting that the pandemic continues to lay bare shortcomings in the systematic integration of gender perspectives across the political, economic, social and technological spheres, while persistent structural inequalities are institutionalized and interpreted as part of organizational or occupational culture, she called for immediate collective action to address such issues. Bulgaria monitors developments in the field and seeks original and innovative solutions for an environment enabling inclusive and participatory security, including through the gender-mainstreaming work done by the Crisis Management and Disaster Response Centre of Excellence in Sofia. She emphasized the need for direct contact with people on the ground to better understand the imminent risks they face daily and identify ways to efficiently strengthen their protection to end threats and violence against human rights defenders and peacebuilders.
FRANCISCO DUARTE LOPES (Portugal) strongly condemned the threats and attacks facing women worldwide, both online and offline, often targeting female human rights defenders, gender equality advocates and civil society organizations. Particularly troubling are reprisals against women who engage with the United Nations and Security Council in the context of peace and security processes. Pressing Member States to monitor results at national and regional levels, he said the United Nations role in coordinating State efforts to implement the women, peace and security agenda is vital. The agenda must also be properly funded. The Security Council, along with the Human Rights Council and UN-Women, must pay particular attention and provide the necessary resources for creating safe environments where women can engage without fear of retaliation. “We must strive for more comprehensive implementation of the women, peace and security agenda,” he said, and end violence against them in all its forms.
KARL LAGATIE (Belgium), also speaking on behalf of Luxembourg and the Netherlands and associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said the Council has a responsibility to ensure a safe and secure environment for civil society actors, journalists and trade union members to carry out their work. “However, at present, the burden is placed almost entirely on the individuals themselves,” he said, adding that the protection of women human rights defenders and women peacebuilders is one of the starkest gaps in the Council’s implementation of the women, peace and security agenda.
The “Benelux” countries support the work of OHCHR, UN-Women and the Women, Peace and Humanitarian Fund in preventing and addressing reprisals, and call on all Member States to do the same, she said. Against that backdrop, s/he issued several recommendations, including that the Council apply a gender perspective to peace and security processes; that the visibility of specific civil society members’ work be increased with their consent; and that national authorities be supported in addressing threats to civil society and ensuring accountability.
MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran) noted that in conflict settings, women are subject to violence, and in post-conflict situations, they have undeniable potential to contribute to peace processes. He called for addressing the root causes of violence, particularly conflict-related sexual violence, through an approach that ensures women’s participation in peace processes, as well as in humanitarian and reconstruction activities. Women’s empowerment is critical, as it can increase resistance against violence in conflict settings. Despite sanctions imposed by the United States, Iran has made significant strides in women’s empowerment, particularly in the area of education, he said, adding that they participate in daily affairs and are active in elections, both as candidates and voters. Parliament also adopted the Charter on Women’s Rights and Responsibilities. In Afghanistan, the protection of all Afghans — and women’s participation in the peace and security process — must be ensured. Clarifying that issues related to women and girls fall under the mandate of General Assembly and UN-Woman, he said. The Security Council should deal with these issues only as much as they relate to the maintenance of international peace and security.
CRISTIAN ESPINOSA CAÑIZARES (Ecuador) underscored the important role of non-permanent Council members and the broader United Nations membership in championing the participation of women in conflict resolution and peace processes. Recalling the review of the Organization’s peacebuilding architecture in 2018, he noted with regret that violence against women increased during the COVID-19 pandemic and emphasized the need to continue to improve the capacity of peacekeeping missions — with the participation of women peacekeepers — to keep women safe on the ground. Recalling that Council resolution 2493 (2021) called for the creation of safe spaces for the work of civil society and urged States to use all available tools to keep women safe, he encouraged stakeholders to continue pressing forward in those areas.
OMAR KADIRI (Morocco), outlining the Council’s history of resolutions and other actions to promote the women, peace and security agenda, recalled that Morocco convened an international conference on the topic in 2016. The country also hosted a global conference of human rights institutions on expanding civil space, leading to the adoption of the Marrakesh Declaration, and Morocco was a pioneer in defending human rights defenders at the United Nations. Emphasizing that the Organization’s peace operations play a crucial role in supporting States as they emerge from conflict — including helping to create a safe environment for the operation of civil society — he said Morocco supports the crucial role played by women in those missions and has deployed many women peacekeepers under the United Nations flag.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) highlighted the role of women as agents of change. Noting that women peacekeepers, lawyers and journalists face gender-based violence and reprisals, he expressed concern over increased killings of women activists in 2021. Those women’s rights and safety must be protected at all stages of the conflict cycle. Victims also need medical and other support. In Afghanistan, progress made in women’s participation over the past 20 years has been backsliding in recent months. Consequences are disastrous and must be addressed, he said, also expressing concern about the situation in Belarus, where peaceful protestors faced unlawful violence by the authorities.
MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia) said that the Council must carry out all measures at its disposal to reverse the negative trend. The call for greater participation of women in peace and security has never been stronger. Women must be equipped with essential skills and training, and eliminating barriers to their participation must be on the top of the agenda. States can take tangible measures, such as adopting a national action plan, he said, noting that Slovakia’s national plan to implement resolution 1325 (2000) promotes the participation of women in armed forces and their appointment to leadership positions. Slovakia leads the Group of Friends for Security Sector Reform and works with the Group of Friends for Gender Parity to address the participation of women in armed forces. He recommended several measures, including active strategic communication to promote the role of women in social media and other channels.
KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia), aligning himself with the European Union, expressed concern over the increased number of women human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists killed in 2020 compared to previous years. Noting that the meaningful engagement of women in the peace process is a high priority for his country, he pointed out that the Government has been implementing the women, peace and security agenda since 2011, when it adopted the first national action plan for the implementation of relevant Council resolutions. The Government is currently elaborating its fourth national action plan in this area for 2022-2024 with the involvement of civil-society groups and international organizations. Further, Georgia maintains the issue of conflict-affected women — including internally displaced persons — on the agenda of the Geneva International Discussions, and over 65 per cent of those involved in the peace process in Georgia are females. However, he stressed that these efforts are impeded by the ongoing occupation of Georgia’s Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, where fundamental human-rights violations are observed daily. Instead of supporting and advancing the involvement of women, the occupation regime brutally intimidates and silences them, he added.
MITCHELL FIFIELD (Australia) said the meaningful participation of women, without the threat of reprisal or violence, advances the human rights of women and girls, accelerates economic recovery and promotes sustainable peace. The role of civil mediators is indispensable. He emphasized the importance of national action plans on women, peace and security, alongside programmes to prevent and end gender-based violence. He expressed grave concern about the ongoing escalation of reprisals against women peacebuilders and human rights defenders, including targeted killings in Afghanistan and Myanmar. Such tragic acts underline the urgent need for collective action. He underscored the importance of providing adequate financing to enhance the effective participation of women, as well as through lending support to locally-led initiatives to prevent conflict and violence. He also stressed the need to support the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund to embed gender equality and women’s empowerment in all peacekeeping operations, and to tackle the root causes of intimidation and attacks violating the human rights of women and girls.
MARTÍN JUAN MAINERO (Argentina), recalling that the Council first recognized the central role that women must play in preventing and resolving conflict through resolution 1325 (2000), said that, more than 20 years later, little progress has been made towards its full implementation. Women’s exclusion from peace processes remains a constant, resulting in agreements that do not provide for their rights and needs against a backdrop of a growing number of armed groups for whom misogyny is ideologically central. He stressed that women must be able to participate in peace processes in an equitable, substantive fashion, which is impossible unless their physical safety is guaranteed. Citing the Secretary-General’s 2021 report on this topic, he highlighted the 35 verified murders of women human-rights defenders, journalists and trade-unionists in seven conflict-affected countries in 2020. Attacks against female peacebuilders such as these are unacceptable, as they deter women from participating in or leading peace processes; this is particularly true for those from marginalized communities, who must already overcome many other obstacles to enter public life. He called on States to take all measures necessary to protect such individuals and to guarantee accountability for perpetrators of crimes against the same.
MILENKO ESTEBAN SKOKNIC TAPIA (Chile) expressed deep alarm over the marked uptick in the number of verified murders of women trade unionists and human rights defenders, among others, in 2020, compared to previous years. Moreover, he pointed out that none of the ceasefire agreements reached between 2018 and 2020 included gender-based provisions. As well, there is scarcely any improvement in women’s representation, with women comprising only 3 per cent of delegations in peace processes led or co-led by the United Nations. Chile has prioritized the implementation of Council resolution 1325 (2000), including through a number of national plans, the third of which is under development, and focuses on enhancing the participation of women in peacebuilding processes.
RYTIS PAULAUSKAS (Lithuania), aligning himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said the participation of women is a critical predictor of security and stability. Despite the link drawn by the Secretary-General’s report between higher levels of gender equality and lower incidence of conflict within and between States, he noted that the number of women negotiators remains low. He expressed concern about the high number of human rights defenders and journalists who are killed, threatened and harassed, with many too hesitant and scared to report threats made against them. Lithuania is implementing a national action plan to advance the women, peace and security agenda, in close cooperation with civil society partners, and has supported the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund since 2016. His country also advances the women, peace and security agenda by taking in exiled female opposition figures, including former Belarus presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
ARRMANATHA CHRISTIAWAN NASIR (Indonesia) reaffirmed his country’s commitment to fully implementing the women, peace and security agenda. Noting that the primary responsibility to prevent and address violence against women in conflict situations rests with States, he added that Governments must ensure accountability for all crimes committed. States should also put in place more protective legal frameworks to protect women and children. Underlining the need to increase the number of female peacekeepers, he said Indonesia supported the Council’s adoption of the milestone resolution 2538 (2020) on women in United Nations peacekeeping operations. Promoting women as mediators and negotiators is also crucial, as peace processes continue to be dominated by men. For that reason, he said, Indonesia spearheaded the creation of the Southeast Asian Network of Women Peace Negotiators and Mediators in 2020.
JOCHEN HANS-JOACHIM ALMOSLECHNER (Austria), aligning himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, condemned reported acts of harassment and intimidation against civil society representatives that have engaged with the Council and the United Nations. He called on Member States to respect, promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of their citizens, particularly those of free expression and opinion. For its part, Austria supports civil-society involvement in peacebuilding through the work of the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution. Further, in September 2021, the Government pledged €20 million to ensure humanitarian support for the people of Afghanistan and €5 million to support the UN-Women Afghanistan Country Office. Through this funding, women will be able to create channels and open political avenues that will allow Afghan women to shape the country’s future. He called on the international community to commit to protect women human-rights defenders and to join forces to fully implement the women, peace and security agenda.
SATYENDRA PRASAD (Fiji), highlighting diverse threats to peace and security in the form of highly accessible weapons, digital tools, climate change and dangerously growing inequality, stressed that conflict — regardless of the driver — always impacts women and girls disproportionately. For its part, the Government has committed to systematically increase the number of women in Fiji’s police and military peacekeeping deployments, and currently 56 per cent of deployed police personnel are women. Fiji’s experience in peacekeeping shows that women peacekeepers are better at diffusing tension at checkpoints, stopping the capture of humanitarian assistance and identifying the weaponization of food and healthcare. He urged that, when women are engaged and at the table, “settlements are more likely to be inclusive, development outcomes are more likely to stick and peace is more likely to last.” He also suggested several courses of action for the Council to consider, including addressing the fact that women peacebuilders, mediators and civil-society leaders receive less than 5 per cent of the total financing available for such work. He added that the sooner the Council accepts that the climate and security agenda is the same as the women, peace and security agenda, the easier that agenda will be to implement.
AZRIL BIN ABD AZIZ (Malaysia), condemning all forms of violence against females, voiced concern over reports of violence, intimidation and reprisals faced by women peacebuilders, civil society representatives and human rights defenders, especially at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has already significantly impacted women. Calling for accountability for attacks against them, he also urged Member States to implement women-centred initiatives and recalled that his country co-sponsored Council resolution 2538 (2020) on women in peacekeeping. Malaysia itself is steadily increasing its number of women peacekeepers annually, in the hopes of reaching the targets outlined by the United Nations by 2028, and at the national level it is working with other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member States to advance the women, peace and security agenda in the region, he said.
MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH HMOUD (Jordan) said that, in its efforts to implement resolution 1325 (2000), his country is currently drafting its second national action plan with the participation of civil society members and a range of other stakeholders. Among other things, the plan takes into account Jordan’s strong commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions. Stressing the need to spread a culture of inclusivity and peace, he said Jordan has always promoted peace in its region despite the many challenges it faces. One such challenge is the flow of refugees into Jordan as a result of the Syrian crisis, many of them women and children, which has put significant strain on host communities. Noting that Jordan launched a programme for the rehabilitation of refugees and encourages their voluntary return, he said women should be at the forefront of all negotiation, mediation and awareness-raising measures, as evidence shows that their engagement has a positive impact on preventive diplomacy and helps build lasting peace.
IVARS LIEPNIEKS (Latvia), associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, expressed deep concern about the surge in killings of female human rights defenders and journalists in 2020, which surpassed the numbers for 2019 and 2018. “There is also an alarming underreporting and self-censorship, which results in the majority of cases being left uncovered,” he said. Calling for joint efforts to counter those threats, he said that relevant sanctions committees continue to be underutilized as a means to hold accountable those responsible for violations of women’s rights. As an elected member of the Commission on the Status of Women until 2025, and Vice-Chair for the next two sessions, Latvia stands committed to playing an active role in shaping and enforcing global standards and policies for gender equality. It also supports the role of women in post-conflict situations as a member of the Peacebuilding Commission, he said.
OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt) said that last October, his country as Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission held an ambassadorial meeting on women, peacebuilding and sustaining peace. Last November, the African Peace and Security Council under the Egyptian presidency held an open discussion on implementation of Council resolution 1325 (2000). Egypt is developing its first national action plan on implementation of the women, peace and security agenda. However, adopting action plans is not enough; resources must be allocated to implement the plans. The President of Egypt was one of the first leaders to join the “Circle of Leadership” initiative to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse in United Nations operations.
MARTIN BILLE HERMANN (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said their key priority is full implementation of resolutions that constitute the women, peace and security agenda. Women’s participation in political and peace processes is at the heart of the agenda and creating a safe environment for them is a prerequisite. This is a rights’ issue and a crucial step to building an inclusive and sustainable peace. Expressing concern about the increased number of reprisals, he said intimidations are taking new forms both online and offline. The Nordic countries support a 24-hour emergency service for those at risk. It is imperative to address protection gaps in consultations with women peacebuilders and human rights defenders themselves. The Council must continue to invite them to brief the organ and must act on their recommendations, not just take notes. The Nordic countries also call for robust accountability and zero tolerance against reprisals as well as creating a follow up mechanism, he said, welcoming the Human Rights Council resolution inviting the Secretary-General to submit his annual report on reprisals to the General Assembly.