Women’s Economic Empowerment Would Yield Huge Dividends for Peacebuilding Efforts, Speakers Tell Security Council, Urging Greater Action to End Gender Barriers
Equal economic empowerment between the sexes would yield huge dividends for peacebuilding efforts, the top United Nations official for the empowerment of women told the Security Council today, as she and other experts highlighted the need for increased international efforts on meaningful inclusion, regardless of gender.
“We have the blueprint and the business case to support women’s economic inclusion; what we need is political will to pursue it,” said Sima Bahous, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women). Investing in women’s economic empowerment has a beneficial impact on both peace and prosperity, she underscored. Conversely, exclusion and discrimination — along with outmoded gender stereotypes — work to keep women out of a variety of spheres, including those related to jobs and technologies.
Highlighting recent developments of concern around the globe, she said that in Afghanistan, the consequences of a new gender apartheid mean that women’s employment rates have plummeted since the takeover by the Taliban. In Ukraine, meanwhile, she underscored that most of those trying to escape conflict are women and children. Achievements in gender equality that gained momentum over decades can evaporate quickly, she warned.
Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), noting that women disproportionately carry the burdens of war, said reducing gender inequality in fragile or conflict situations can have powerful economic consequences. Analysis shows that improving gender equality can raise economic growth, enhance financial stability and make societies more resistant to violence and conflict. Pointing to women and girls as “powerful agents of change” who can help societies transform themselves from fragile States to stable nations, she cited the positive examples to be found in Colombia and Northern Ireland. “To all the women and girls: believe in yourself. Dare to reach your full potential,” she said.
The Council also heard from a representative from civil society, Sidibé Moussokoro Coulibaly, President of the Network of Women Economic Operators of Segou in Mali. Her organization — a partner of the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund — brings women into contact with financial partners — such as banks and microfinance institutions — with the goal of ensuring that financial services are created with them in mind. In the Ségou region, such collaboration resulted in the granting of loans to 200 women to carry out business plans in agriculture, marketing and crafts. Many of these women went on to expand into the private sector, she said, noting that “by giving women a voice, by trusting them, by facilitating dialogue with financial partners, we can have far-reaching results when mobilizing locally available resources”. She urged the United Nations and private sector to facilitate women’s and women’s organizations’ access to sustainable, flexible funding that is sensitive to crisis-affected contexts and to equipment in the economic sectors in which women are most active.
During the day-long debate, several delegates took to the floor to emphasize that peace is always more sustainable if women have a seat at the negotiating table, with Turkey’s representative stressing that women and girls must always be party to conflict resolution efforts. They are agents of change, she said, not passive recipients of aid. She went on to delineate the economic cost of violence against women, emphasizing that it costs the global economy more than $12 trillion annually due to lost productivity.
Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister for Climate Change and Environment of the United Arab Emirates, Council President for March, agreed, saying women must not only benefit from sustainable post-conflict recovery; they must be in the driver’s seat, as planners, decision-makers and implementers in all sectors of society to ensure sustainable peacebuilding. Echoing that stance, Ghana’s representative urged the Council to reinforce its support for platforms such as the Compact on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action.
The speaker for Uruguay, stressing the need to ensure more women are deployed in peacekeeping operations, said her Government is working with Cornell University and partners on an assessment of opportunities for women in peacekeeping with a view to providing an innovative methodology to assess barriers. Having finalized the study on such obstacles, Uruguay is using the results for national decisions on how best to overcome them.
Canada’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said that the hurdles that women face to economic empowerment and security are daunting, while women’s financial and digital inclusion is significantly lower in conflict settings. He stressed that women’s economic inclusion is an essential enabler of participation and recovery in post-conflict situations, and the Council should always remain cognizant of that fact.
Delegates also referenced the rapid unravelling of women’s rights in several hotspots, with the United States’ delegate said that it was “impossible” to speak on International Women’s Day without shining a spotlight on the suffering and dying of women in Ukraine as they face the unjustified and ongoing aggression of the Russian Federation. Exclusion is antithetical to peace, she said, noting that women must be involved if the Russian Federation agrees to turn towards diplomacy and dialogue. She also highlighted the situation in Afghanistan, where women’s rights have been erased, seemingly overnight.
In a similar vein, Sweden’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries, sounded the alarm over reports of sexual and gender-based violence and the impact of large-scale displacement on women’s and girls’ access to basic services in Ukraine. The women, peace and security agenda should be at the centre of the international community’s response in Ukraine, she said. On Afghanistan, she called for the removal of barriers to women’s economic empowerment, underscoring that “women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in peace and political processes is not possible if the effects of women’s economic realities are ignored”.
Silvio Gonzato, Head of the European Union delegation, in its capacity as observer, underscored that Ukrainian women are taking a leading role in the political and humanitarian response to the unprovoked attack on their country, while their female counterparts in the Russian Federation are at the front and centre of protests, despite the risk of losing their freedom. Meanwhile, women and girls in Afghanistan are facing a sharp setback to the exercise of their fundamental rights and are confronting daunting impediments to their access to education, health services and employment. The examples of these two countries demonstrate it is vital to ensure the centrality of the women, peace and security agenda. He cautioned against “cherry picking” in the agenda’s implementation and lauded the efforts of several Council members to mainstream the issue.
Pakistan’s delegate noted that Western media is currently filled with reports on desperate women and girls in Ukraine. However, there is much less coverage on other areas around the world where women’s rights are violated and violence is enacted against them, including Jammu and Kashmir, where Indian occupation forces use rape and sexual violence as weapons of war.
Also speaking were ministers from Ireland, Mexico and Maldives also spoke.
The representatives of India, United Kingdom, Kenya, Gabon, France, Brazil, Albania, China, Russian Federation, Norway, Egypt, Malta, Morocco, Switzerland, Japan, Greece, Jordan, Germany, Iran, Ecuador, Guatemala, Chile, Czech Republic, Liechtenstein, Dominican Republic, Portugal, Peru, South Africa, Poland, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Georgia, Malaysia, Italy, Viet Nam, Thailand, Costa Rica, Qatar, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Argentina, Nepal, Ukraine, Barbados (for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Bahrain and Bangladesh also spoke.
The meeting began at 9:14 a.m. and suspended at 12:24 p.m., then resumed at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 5:44 p.m.
SIMA BAHOUS, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity or Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), recalled the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire in 2020 at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when there was hope that in the face of a common enemy, a renewed international cooperation would divert money spent on weapons to investments in science, health and social protection. Instead, more military spending, coups and the seizure of power by force has the multilateral system “against the ropes”, she said, noting that the Security Council has spent the last 10 days in multiple emergency meetings on the situation in Ukraine. Instead, gains — especially on gender equality — that took decades to achieve were lost. With less than nine years away from 2030, the world is not on track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, she said, adding that International Women’s Day is a day for reflection, hope and increased action.
Another model of leadership is clearly needed, she said. Investing in women’s economic empowerment yields great dividends for peace and prosperity, and economic recovery must include them. Exclusion, discrimination and antiquated gender norms still keep women away from so much, including land, jobs and technology. The consequences of women’s employment apartheid remain a threat, she said, pointing to the situation in Afghanistan. Land ownership remains low in many countries; for instance, in Mali it is 3 per cent. In Ukraine, humanitarian needs are multiplying by the hour; most of those fleeing are women and children. Many women activists the Council has invited to speak have noted the private sector has a critical role to play in facilitating inclusion. At the same time, the Security Council can say much more about women’s economic inclusion. Some Council resolutions that cover women, peace and security include gender and economic-related provisions, but members could use such drafts to call for women’s meaningful inclusion not only in peacebuilding, conflict prevention and recovery, but also in decision-making, gender analysis and spending trackers.
Welcoming today’s focus on the role of the private sector and private-public partnerships as an underexplored area for innovation, she highlighted two global initiatives as examples. One is the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund, which has funded more than 500 women’s organizations in more than 26 countries since 2016, she said, noting that Sidibé Moussokoro Coulibaly will join the Council today from Mali to share her invaluable perspective as a partner. The second example is the Compact on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action, a multi-stakeholder initiative with 158 signatories to date, including several members of this Council. More must be done, however, to reach out to multilateral development banks and the private sector, she said, adding that: “We have the blueprint and the business case to support women’s economic inclusion; what we need is political will to pursue it.”
KRISTALINA GEORGIEVA, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), speaking via video teleconference, said that today is an opportune time to reflect on the strength and power of women in the face of war and destruction. “In too many places, this strength is being relentlessly tested,” she said. Many women are now embracing the horror of war, she said, adding that: “this is the fate of our sisters in Ukraine; we admire your courage, we share your pain”. Women disproportionately carry the burden of war and are the best hope for peace. They are also the first to form lines of alliance and collaboration across conflict divides. Conflicts, the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crises threaten to set back years of progress in gender equality and slow progress in development. During the pandemic, twice as many women as men have lost their jobs, often due to the burden of childcare or care for family members. Women are 20 per cent below men in labour market participation. In addition, 20 million girls in developing countries may never return to school and will be excluded from opportunities for the duration of their lifetimes.
Reducing gender inequality in fragile or conflict situations can have powerful economic consequences, she said. Gender equality is essential for socioeconomic stability. When women and girls can reach their full potential, they, their families and their countries all do better. Analysis shows that improving gender equality can raise economic growth, enhance financial stability and reduce income inequality. Societies with more gender equality are more resistant to violence and conflict. When women participate in peace negotiations and State-building processes, the chance for building enduring peace is significantly improved. Yet too often women remain underrepresented and excluded from decision-making processes.
The Fund is focusing on helping its members design and implement financial policies to ensure greater resilience and growth, she said. It is zeroing in on social spending as an efficient way to allow for better education for boys and girls, better health care, better social protection and stronger societies. “Women and girls are themselves powerful agents of change. They help societies transition from fragility to stability. They are a foundation for a better future for all,” she said. This has been seen in places from Northern Ireland to Colombia. “To all the women and girls: believe in yourself. Dare to reach your full potential,” she said.
SIDIBÉ MOUSSOKORO COULIBALY, President of the Network of Women Economic Operators of Segou in Mali, said that the network brings together 7,847 women and works with 120 local women’s organizations. Since 2012, Mali has been facing a security, institutional and economic crisis, which has been further aggravated by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Without economic development, there is no lasting peace. Investing in women’s economic empowerment generates short- and long-term social dividends and enhances women’s participation in decision-making and conflict resolution. The network works to facilitate linkages with financial partners, including banks and microfinance institutions, and to ensure dialogue between them and women, so that their services are better adapted to the needs.
The project on women’s funding through round tables with financial institutions in the Ségou region provides a concrete example, she said. From 2012 to 2019, these dialogue spaces between banks and microfinance institutions made possible the granting of loans to 200 women to execute their business plans in seven localities in the areas of agri-food processing, agriculture, marketing and crafts. This enabled many beneficiaries to move out of the informal sector to formalize their activities and join umbrella organizations in the private sector. “This shows that by giving women a voice, by trusting them, by facilitating dialogue with financial partners, we can have far-reaching results when mobilizing locally available resources,” she said.
Recommending actions, she urged the United Nations, the international community and private sector actors to facilitate women’s and women’s organizations’ access to sustainable and flexible funding that is sensitive to crisis-affected contexts, and to equipment in the economic sectors in which women are most active. Access to financing is essential and can be facilitated by setting up appropriate and guaranteed funding. These partners can also support Governments in the establishment and implementation of policies and programmes that promote women’s economic empowerment through developing businesses, and that provide them with tax facilities and access to public contracts. The partners can finance the construction of multifunctional women’s centres that will serve as production, training, and digitization sites, and address the barriers to women’s participation by offering social services such as schools and nurseries for children and reproductive health. Furthermore, they can fund advocacy activities by women’s organizations to strengthen women’s movements and their leadership and influence.
MARIAM AL MHEIRI, Minister for Climate Change and Environment of the United Arab Emirates, Council President for March, spoke in her national capacity, citing an estimate by the McKinsey Global Institute that global gross domestic product (GDP) could increase by $28 trillion, or 26 per cent, by 2025 by reducing gender gaps in the workforce and by increasing presence in leadership positions. “Yet, women are still excluded despite this vital potential for growth,” she lamented. Women must not only benefit from sustainable post-conflict recovery; they must be in the driver’s seat, as planners, decision makers, and implementers in all sectors of society to ensure sustainable peacebuilding. Recommending actions by the Council, she said women and girls must be at the centre of post-conflict economic reform efforts to rebuild sustainable, inclusive and equitable societies. Member States, the United Nations, and local women’s organizations can play a critical role in connecting the private sector to local women in conflict-affected communities. The private sector benefits from stable and peaceful societies; so too must it contribute to the emergence of those societies, she said, stressing that it is imperative to ensure women have equal access to all services that enable them to participate in the economy. Together, the public and private sectors offer a wide array of resources that support women’s economic inclusion, such as access to digital technologies, capacity-building in financial literacy, and vocational education.
SIMON COVENEY, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence of Ireland, strongly condemned the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine and its flagrant violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the core principles of international law. “Today, on International Women’s Day, we want the women and girls of Ukraine to know that we salute their courage. This conflict will have a severe and disproportionate impact on them,” he said. Stressing the need to protect and strengthen the women, peace and security agenda, he emphasized that women’s rights are human rights, which are universal, interdependent and indivisible. Women’s economic empowerment is only truly achievable alongside their political and social empowerment, but it is not a panacea. Turning to the Taliban’s continued erosion of women’s rights in Afghanistan, he noted that his country will use every opportunity to amplify the voices of Afghan women. Relief and recovery in the wake of conflict is essential to building sustainable peace. As such, he called for several measures including the provision of financial support, promoting public-private partnerships, financing women-owned microbusinesses and providing educational scholarships, as well as providing access to justice and health services including comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services and rights. “The tide can turn towards a more equal world if the political will is there,” he stressed.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said it was impossible to commemorate International Women’s Day without turning to the ongoing unjustified aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, where women are suffering and dying. Many women are bravely coming together to defend their homes, families and their country, as they are leading the response to the humanitarian crisis. If the Russian Federation decides to turn to dialogue and diplomacy, women must be involved. Indeed, involving women increases the likelihood of sustaining peace. At the same time, private sector partnerships are essential. She recalled her experience at the State Department in 1982, when there were two cases involving her — one regarding her being black and the other regarding being a woman. Today, women face barriers, and in conflict or recovery situations, they are blocked from access to capital alongside other discriminatory practices. Such obstacles deny women their rights and hobble efforts to build strong, peaceful and safe societies. Citing several examples of ongoing efforts, she said an approach that reaches women, as well as men, in initiatives aimed at tackling violent extremism. Taking such an approach is all the more pressing given the current situation in Ukraine, she said, also drawing attention to Afghanistan, where decades of hard-won progress in women’s rights were stamped out almost overnight. Exclusion is antithetical to peace, she said.
MARTHA DELGADO PERALTA, Vice-Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of Mexico, said lives have been devasted in Ukraine due to the Russian Federation’s invasion, with many women forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. All political dialogue must include Ukrainian women in decision-making processes. Mexico uses a comprehensive approach to implementing the women, peace and security agenda, in line with resolution 1325 (2000) and other relevant instruments. Women and girls are the key agents of change, contributing to stability in society. Economic inclusion, however, is a structural barrier at the global level, reflecting remnants of patriarchal systems and is seen in gaps that have widened during the pandemic. Unpaid care work is another issue. Yet, a comprehensive approach can reduce gaps and segregation in the labour market. The voices of women, including from marginalized communities, must be heard, she said. Turning to the situation in Afghanistan, she said Mexico provides support towards efforts addressing a range of issues, including efforts involving a group of Afghan women who have created and produce ventilators. Proposing several actions, she suggested investing in women’s organizations that work towards peace in their communities, supporting efforts targeting vulnerable groups and investing in narrowing the technology gap. Including women is also essential in recovery scenarios, she said, pointing to existing efforts in the Great Lakes region and in Colombia.
SHRI SANJAY VERMA, Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs for India, said that on the question of socioeconomic empowerment, there is a need to devise an overall institutional framework, especially legal, to provide access for women to economic opportunities and partnerships as an essential prerequisite. Additionally, economic opportunities cannot be viewed in isolation of other socioeconomic factors, especially access to high-quality education. India has taken numerous citizen-centric initiatives to take good governance practices right to the grass-roots level. Digital initiatives have been a transformative enabler to minimize the gender divide, he said, highlighting that India has leveraged digital technologies to provide greater access for women to finance, credit, technology and employment. To open up these economic opportunities, equal access to education is fundamental. A large number of women in India are taking up educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
It is also pertinent to acknowledge that women have also suffered disproportionately in the face of violent extremism, conflict and terror attacks, he said. This calls for collective endorsement of a zero-tolerance approach by this Council against terrorism. Ensuring that women continue to have a stake in peace processes in conflict zones is essential to securing long-lasting solutions. Barriers to women’s optimum participation in political processes and decision making needs to be eliminated if their socioeconomic empowerment is to be addressed. To foster synergy between the two, democracy, pluralism and rule of law are essential prerequisites. In this context, he underlined the importance of inclusive and representative governance in Afghanistan with the meaningful participation of women, as well as the protection of women’s rights.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said today’s debate is timely as the world grapples with the COVID-19 recovery and its disproportionate impacts on women and girls. The United Kingdom works closely with partner Governments, multilateral organizations and the private sector to support women in fragile contexts, including as they seek to play an equal role in the economy, to access the benefits of trade globally and to establish economic partnerships as levers for equality. For example, in Jordan — where women face the compound effects of conflict, displacement and the impacts of COVID-19 — the United Kingdom supports cash transfers for refugees and at-risk Jordanian women. The country and its Group of Seven (G7) partners are also leading the way in mobilizing public and private investments to advance gender equality and address persistent gaps in women’s economic opportunities, such as access to digital and financial assets. She went on note that “economic inclusion is no protection against bullets and bombs”, as seen in recent days in Ukraine, and said women, men and children will continue to suffer until Moscow ends its brutal, unprovoked and illegal war.
MICHAEL K. KIBOINO (Kenya), pointing to the cultural and structural inequalities that limit women’s economic participation, called for enhanced strategic collaboration with local leaders, local women’s networks and policy formulators, particularly in transition settings, on including gender-responsive measures in the areas of asset distribution and access to socioeconomic opportunities, resources and markets. Emphasizing that Kenya continues to advocate for investment in female peacebuilders in fragile and conflict-affected settings, he affirmed the importance of the economic inclusion and reintegration of women, including ex-combatants, refugees and victims of conflict to ensure long-term stability, economic resilience and social cohesion. He went on to stress the importance of enhancing women’s access to digital platforms so as to ensure their financial and economic inclusion. Also calling for enhanced technical and vocational training through partnerships between local women entrepreneurs and peace and development agencies, he underlined the need for international and regional financial institutions to augment women’s financial literacy and economic empowerment.
LILLY STELLA NGYEMA NDONG (Gabon) said that her country places a high priority on advocacy for the situation of women in fragile States and conflict situations. Mobilizing the international community to acknowledge women as key actors in peace processes has reached a significant level of resonance, she said. Advocacy for women’s empowerment and their economic empowerment needs to be amplified at all levels. The crucial equation that needs to be resolved is that the lack of opportunities and economic resources for women undermines their leadership capacities and prevents them from fully participating in peacebuilding processes. In Gabon, there are many women in leadership positions, including the Prime Minister, as well as at the helm of key ministerial departments. In addition, women are fully involved in shaping the future of their societies and are a major asset to stability and lasting peace. Allowing women to take their rightful central place during times of peace provides an impetus to social and economic development, she said.
NATHALIE BROADHURST (France) reiterated her country’s condemnation of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine and its solidarity with the Ukrainian people, especially women and girls who are already bearing the brunt of the conflict. The COVID-19 pandemic has also taught the world that the rights of women and girls have never been fully achieved, as women were hardest hit in the sectors most affected. In Afghanistan, since taking power by force, the Taliban have increased their abuses against women activists, as well as their unacceptable violations of women’s rights. Describing the exclusion of Afghan women from the country’s political, social and economic life as an affront to the conscience, she said all those examples are reminders that a rights-based approach is critical. France supports the holistic implementation of the pillars of the women, peace and security agenda, linking rights and economic inclusion. For its part, France will continue to promote an ambitious and resolute feminist diplomacy and place women’s participation and inclusion at the heart of its cooperation projects.
MELINA ESPESCHIT MAIA (Brazil) said the Council must keep exploring new ways to move forward in the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda. Brazil has joined other non-permanent members in the shared commitments to make the item a top priority and to ensure its implementation in concrete and tangible ways. Describing women’s grass-root efforts as an example of a low-cost and local intervention that fulfils important roles, including conflict mediation, she said labour markets still remain divided along gender lines, with high gender wage gaps and women overrepresented in the informal sector. Many briefers have called on the Council to support more financing for women’s organizations on the ground. Brazil will continue to apply a gender-sensitive approach to international humanitarian assistance and supports the Council in drafting and revising peacekeeping mandates so that they are more explicit in their role to promote women’s economic inclusion and empowerment. She also urged the Council to discuss with partners — including IMF and the World Bank — how private partnerships can help bridge the gap in promoting women’s economic inclusion and participation in conflict-affected settings.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), echoing expressions of solidarity with the women of Ukraine as they suffer an unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression, urged redoubled efforts to address gender inequality, women’s human rights violations, sexual and gender-based violence and exclusion from peace processes wherever they may occur. Citing troubling situations for women in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Myanmar, Belarus and Ethiopia’s Tigray region, he said women’s economic inclusion and participation in the context of conflict prevention and recovery from crises has been rarely explored by the Council. “We need to start looking at the [women, peace and security] agenda more broadly,” he said, spotlighting the crucial role of financing and urging all stakeholders to contribute. Stronger partnerships with international financial institutions and the private sector are needed, as is more support for non-governmental organizations, industry associations and companies advocating for solutions. He also outlined Albania’s significant strides in women’s empowerment and gender equality.
ZHANG JUN (China) described how his country supported women’s economic empowerment in Africa. In South Sudan, his country helped local women acquire traditional weaving skills. In Rwanda, a woman who trained in China created 30 jobs after returning home. He also described how a female driver for the railway system China built has become a celebrity. Stories of these women demonstrate the wisdom and potential of women. Similarly, women can contribute enormously to peace and security. However, due to the current challenges, including COVID-19, gains made in women’s economic empowerment are at risk of being reversed, he said, urging the international community to inject new impetus, including greater investment in the reconstruction of post-conflict areas. Stressing the importance of building partnerships, including North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation, he said the private sector should play a bigger role. China’s global development initiative is a major boost to women’s empowerment. Turning to the situation in Ukraine, he said humanitarian corridors must be open and safe. He then passed the floor to a young female Chinese diplomat, GUI DAN, who declared: “You can count on Chinese women.” She said her country’s national soccer team won the Asian Cup in February, and more and more Chinese women are becoming champions in their chosen fields. The Beijing Winter Olympics were the most gender equal games in history, she said, expressing her determination to make her contribution at the United Nations.
GENNADY V. KUZMIN (Russian Federation) called for additional measures to enhance the role of women in the social and economic development of States. There is much demand for strengthening women’s economic potential, creating favourable conditions for the development of women’s entrepreneurship, and expanding women’s access to financial and material resources, markets, modern technologies and intellectual property. Coercive unilateral measures against States hit women hard socially and economically. These problems must be the focus of the activities of the Security Council, the Peacebuilding Commission and other United Nations bodies. The International Women’s Day is celebrated against the backdrop of watershed events happening in the international arena. For eight years, the Western world has been indifferent to the killings — by the Kyiv junta — of women and children in Donetsk and Luhansk and their persecution by Ukrainian radicals and neo-Nazis in the east and south-east of Ukraine. The Kyiv regime got away with these, but this cannot continue indefinitely. “Peace in Ukraine will be restored for women, children and families,” he declared. The conceptual principles of resolution 1325 (2000) remain relevant. Gains on women’s issues should not be buried in political wrangling. His delegation remains ready to engage and cooperate.
MONA JUUL (Norway) said that ensuring women’s economic rights requires their participation in decision-making processes and access to and control over resources on equal terms with men. In crisis or conflict settings, where women face the most severe economic exclusion and where their participation is most critically needed, ensuring women’s economic rights can be a means to achieving development, stability and long-term peace, she noted, pointing to the situation in Afghanistan. Citing the Global Women, Peace, and Security Index (WPS Index), she noted that displaced women and girls face a higher risk to all forms of gender-based violence and economic marginalization. Expressing deep concern about the particular impacts of Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine on women and girls, including reports of increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence and trafficking of those who have been displaced or fled to neighbouring countries, she encouraged broad consultations with women’s organizations, particularly those representing marginalized groups. Conflict and crises can disrupt traditional norms and create opportunities for women, she said, stressing the imperative to reflect such opportunities in the gender provisions in peace agreements, reforms and new legislation. She further highlighted the need for the Security Council and other United Nations organs to insist on women’s direct influence in decisions that affect their lives and future and the importance of partnerships with the private sector.
CAROLYN ABENA ANIMA OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana) urged the Council to reinforce its support for platforms such as the Compact on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action. Such partnerships should be harnessed as a means of enhancing public- and private-sector participation in financing peace and post-conflict recovery. The Secretary-General’s 2021 report on women, peace, and security called for the urgent reduction in military spending and for increased investment in peacebuilding, education, health and other public programmes. Regrettably, the present global situation is likely to lead to countries increasing defence spending with adverse impact on this objective. It is therefore imperative to recommit to this objective. It is also incumbent on Governments to develop and implement policies that further enhance women’s economic empowerment and continue to provide a clear framework for addressing inequalities deeply rooted in their societies. Effective bilateral cooperation, as well as collaboration across regional organizations on this agenda, is crucial for accelerating the economic empowerment of women in peace and security.
AHMED KHALEEL, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Maldives, emphasized that the inclusion and participation of women is fundamental to building a durable, peaceful society. He recalled that during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, women were on the front lines, bearing the heaviest burden in the aftermath. Addressing climate change is fundamental to building a peaceful society, he noted. Turning to COVID—19 and other humanitarian crises that have exacerbated existing gender gaps, he said Maldives has provided an income support allowance to workers who lost their jobs, placing particular emphasis on women who worked in the informal sector and lacked formal contracts. He emphasized the need to strengthen partnerships with local stakeholders across all levels, especially women’s groups, in the period of recovery from the pandemic, to more quickly identify and better understand the challenges women face on the ground, and to better integrate international partners and public-private partners. Also calling for full, equal, and meaningful female participation in leadership roles, he pointed out that his country has always been committed to promoting women’s empowerment, including by passing legislation to allocate 33 per cent of council seats for women candidates in local elections.
OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt) highlighted the important role women play in peacebuilding and fostering sustainable development. Egypt has participated in several meetings on women, peace and security. For its part, Egypt acknowledges that women serve as peacebuilders at a time when the Government is implementing a related national plan, in line with resolution 1325 (2000). Resources, however, are required to ensure the plan’s full implementation. Recently, the Aswan Forum drafted a series of recommendations for African countries to, among other things, enhance women’s roles in building and maintaining peace. Egypt recognizes existing mandates within the United Nations with a view to enhancing a consensual approach to these issues, he said.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), associating herself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said International Women’s Day should not merely be symbolic, but “should be the way we live”. Including women in peace and security brings better outcomes, and having them at the peace table strengthens accountability for implementation. Women’s participation also makes peace more durable and is essential to address the disproportionate impact of conflicts on women and girls in all their diversity. “As evident not just in Ukraine, but also in Afghanistan, Syria, Ethiopia and Myanmar, women are also often the most impacted by crises resulting from conflicts,” she said. While women today are playing a crucial role in the COVID-19 response, they have suffered more from the pandemic’s economic impacts. More emphasis is therefore needed on skill-building, and laws that do not yet allow women to inherit and own land should be amended. She also called for more efforts to enable women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in all aspects of peace processes and their implementation.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco), recalling the crucial role women play in building peace and stability, said they remain at the core of society. Guaranteeing resilience hinges on including women at every step. Amid the pandemic, efforts must focus on advancing progress in implementing the women, peace and security agenda. Morocco has always supported women as the main architects of peace, he said, also encouraging the establishment of adequate financing at the global level and harnessing leadership and cooperation. Indeed, partnerships with civil society and youth can help to foster post-conflict recovery, particularly in Africa, he said, pointing to examples of young entrepreneurs and women business owners, which are playing a key role in this regard. Making several suggestions, he said an inventory of the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000), including the economic inclusion of women, to take stock of progress should include benchmarks to identify gaps that must be closed. In this vein, the Secretary-General could submit a report reflecting this process. Meanwhile, the current global context is ripe for a significant difference and meaningful change and for tapping into women’s full potential, he said, adding that pursuing such efforts can create the vital conditions needed for lasting peace.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) said women are driving forces in their societies and indispensable peacebuilders. “They must not be confined to being potential victims of conflict,” he stressed, spotlighting poverty as one of the largest barriers to their full participation in peace processes around the globe. Indeed, economic empowerment is crucial and only through economic independence will women be able to fully realize their potential for creativity, efficiency and networking for peace. Switzerland’s National Action Plan emphasizes economic empowerment as an important factor for women's effective participation in political and peace processes. Inviting all countries to develop similar plans, he said strengthening women’s socioeconomic positions is also a key issue for Swiss cooperation with international partners, such as through its support for women’s small and medium-sized businesses in Africa’s Great Lakes region. Switzerland also welcomes the priority given by the Peacebuilding Fund to initiatives that support women’s empowerment and is a signatory to the Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action Compact.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) expressed grave concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation, including the dire impacts on women and girls in and around Ukraine, caused by the Russian aggression. Noting that surviving a crisis is but the tip of the iceberg on the vast women, peace and security agenda, he emphasized that women must be at the centre of all efforts to build peaceful and resilient societies. Highlighting his country’s recent support for a UN-Women-led project in the Lake Chad region intended to empower women affected by violent conflict prompted by Boko Haram, he said effective partnership requires effective complementarity. The first step to that end is to enhance the sharing of information and interactions among various stakeholders, he added.
ROBERT KEITH RAE (Canada), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, expressed solidarity with all women peacebuilders, advocates and human rights defenders, as well as women and girls suffering in Ukraine. Noting that women face persistent barriers to economic empowerment and security — particularly during times of crisis — he said women’s financial and digital inclusion is also systematically lower in conflict settings. Member States should boost their support for human rights-based initiatives that advance gender equality and women’s economic empowerment and security, particularly in conflict and post-conflict situations. He encouraged the Council to recognize, as it addresses conflict and post-conflict situations, the importance of women’s economic inclusion as an essential enabler of meaningful participation and recovery in post-conflict settings and for the overall well-being of their families and communities. The Council should also strengthen its cooperation with other bodies, such as regional organizations and the Peacebuilding Commission, and recognize the role that the private sector can play in increasing women’s economic participation in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.
MARIA THEOFILI (Greece), associating herself with the European Union, said that the focus on the economic empowerment of women in post-conflict reconstruction not only prevents further conflict and violence, but also paves the way to economic stability, growth and long-lasting peace. The beneficial role of women in post-conflict economic relief and recovery is underestimated due to persisting gender stereotypes and discriminatory norms and practices, all of which hinder the equal protection of human rights and the equal distribution of resources and opportunities. Greece is focused on enhancing women’s economic inclusion and participation in order to foster their overall empowerment and accelerate substantive gender equality. Her Government affirms its support for an international coordinated response that addresses the links between gender, security, economic recovery and development and responds to social and economic injustices resulting from conflict.
MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH HMOUD (Jordan) said that women still face challenges that hinder their full participation in the economy. Increasing their economic empowerment leads to direct benefits to women and their communities. Women make up only 21 per cent of the labour force and comprise 18 per cent of the Middle East and North Africa region’s GDP. The employment rate of women has dropped due to the pandemic, he said, underscoring that Jordan’s five-year women’s economic action plan is aimed at increasing women’s participation in the labour force. Jordan has also introduced a series of amendments to its laws to enhance the participation of women in promoting policies on flexible work, among other areas related to economic empowerment. Jordan’s national women’s strategy for 2020-2025 affirms its commitment to increasing the economic participation of women and also encompasses women refugees, he said.
MICHAEL ALEXANDER GEISLER (Germany) said that the International Women’s Day should be neither about flowers, nor lecturing on the topic, but about fighting for women’s rights. The world celebrates this day amid the sufferings of women who are living through conflicts. Germany stands with the Ukrainian people, who face unprovoked heinous attacks by the Russian Federation. Civilians face shelling, with millions fleeing the Russian onslaughts. Noting the recent General Assembly resolution against the Russian Federation’s aggression, he finds hope in the unity of 141 Member States that stood up to uphold the Charter of the United Nations and the rule-based international order. Moscow must stop the aggression and withdraw its forces. Turning to Afghanistan, he expressed concern about women’s exclusion under the Taliban rule. He expressed hope that the next year’s International Day will be celebrated without worries.
AYSE INANÇ ÖRNEKOL (Turkey), expressing solidarity with women and girls in Ukraine, recalled recent events that highlight the critical importance of the women, peace and security agenda. Women and girls, in all conflicts and crises, must be party to resolution efforts and have their basic needs met, recourse to justice where their rights are violated, and continued access to essential services. Delivering life-saving, empowering outcomes for peace and security is a collective endeavour requiring joint efforts by Governments, international and regional organizations, civil society, women’s rights organizations and female peacebuilders. To bridge the gap between commitments and action for women’s economic empowerment — key for a strong society — greater focus is needed to address the root causes of gender inequality. Women must be recognized as agents of change, rather than as passive beneficiaries of aid. Efforts must support women peacebuilders, human rights defenders and civil society representatives to foster inclusive societies. Violence against women, however, costs the global economy more than $12 trillion annually due to productivity losses from a lack of women’s well-being. Turkey works with partners, including the private sector, to foster financial inclusion and is implementing its 2018-2023 Action Plan on empowering women. Turkey also supports initiatives in Afghanistan and Somalia and provides targeted support for women and girls who are among the 4 million Syrians who fled Syria. He expressed hope that Turkey’s efforts will enable Syrian women to participate in the rebuilding of post-conflict Syria in the future.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) agreed with the need to implement the four pillars of the women, peace and security agenda and ensure women’s participation in relief and recovery activities in post-conflict settings. Countries affected by conflict need technical support within a culturally sensitive framework in full respect for State sovereignty and national ownership. Citing numerous conflict situations around the globe where women and girls are endangered and their rights violated, he said that while Western media is brimming with images of beleaguered and desperate women and girls in Ukraine, much less is visible about ongoing violence against them in such places as Palestine and Jammu and Kashmir. Calling on the Council to take a more holistic women, peace and security approach that includes situations of foreign occupation, he said Indian occupation forces in illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir use rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war. The Council should call upon India to implement its resolutions by granting the right to self-determination to Kashmiris, he stressed.
ZAHRA ERSHADI (Iran) said that the United States-imposed illegal and inhumane sanctions against her country have negatively affected the financing and executing of the programmes planned by the Government, civil society and private sectors aiming at women advancement and empowerment. Palestinian women and girls continue to suffer because of the decades-long occupation and human rights violations, as well as the Israeli regime’s colonial and apartheid policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In Afghanistan, the current situation has severely affected Afghan women’s rights, including their political and socioeconomic rights, such as the right to education, work and political participation. The Taliban should heed the international community’s call to protect human rights, particularly women’s rights. Issues concerning women and girls are the responsibility of the General Assembly. The Security Council should only address this issue if it is directly related to the maintenance of international peace and security.
ANNA KARIN ENESTRÖM (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries, stressed those nations’ full solidarity with Ukraine and its people, including women and girls, in the context of the unprovoked Russian military aggression against a sovereign State. Voicing particular concern over reports of sexual and gender-based violence and the impact of large-scale displacement on women’s and girls’ access to basic services — which could infringe on their sexual and reproductive health and rights — she said the global community must ensure that the women, peace and security agenda is at the heart of its response in Ukraine. The Council should also stay focused on that agenda in its work on Afghanistan, including ensuring that the human rights of women and girls are protected. “Women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in peace and political processes is not possible if the effects of women’s economic realities are ignored,” she added, calling for the removal of discriminatory legislation and other barriers to economic empowerment. Voicing support for the role played by multi-stakeholder partnerships and the private sector, she spotlighted the Generation Equality as a positive example.
ANDRÉS EFREN MONTALVO SOSA (Ecuador), recalling the Council’s history in discussing the women, peace and security agenda, highlighted the key role played by non-permanent members to move the needle towards inclusive work and the way this issue has become central. Underlining the need to support the role of women, he stressed the importance of strengthening capacities and addressing sexual violence and exploitation. There should be greater synergy within the United Nations system, he said, noting that the Secretary-General’s report Our Common Agenda outlines peacebuilding activities as does the report contained in document S/2021/827. With backing from the Peacebuilding Fund, Ecuador is working on a range of related initiatives, he said, calling for strengthened support for the Fund. Noting that Ecuador will continue to seek to contribute to these and related endeavours, he called for an immediate halt to hostilities in Ukraine as a tribute to all women.
MARÍA DEL ROSARIO ESTRADA GIRÓN (Guatemala) underlined the importance of including women in post-conflict settings and ensuring they are also involved in mitigation activities. The fragility and instability that frequently characterize post-conflict situations often disproportionately affect women and girls, who face such threats as domestic violence. When a conflict ends, women run the highest risks of sexual exploitation and often lack access to proper housing, health care and other essential services. As such, it is critical to include women in the rebuilding process to repair the fractured fabric of society. More must be done to ensure all provisions of resolution 1325 (2000) are fully implemented. At the same time, women have also been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The conflict in Ukraine at the hands of the Russian Federation is a clear example of how women’s rights are being flouted. In terms of their inclusion in the economy, she said existing efforts can be complemented by policies that address such issues as childcare. Emphasizing that commitments under the Beijing Platform for Action must also be honoured, she expressed hope to see increased investment in women.
MONTSERRAT GONZÁLEZ CARRILLO (Chile) said that her country has strengthened its commitment to the women, peace and security agenda. In 2009, this commitment led to Chile championing the first action plan on the matter in the region in 2009, as well as an updated plan in 2015. It is important to emphasize the work of civil society in this area, she said. Chile will now draft a third document that will use the same methodological rigor but will also include a holistic approach that will enable the Government to respond to emerging crises. Chile has embedded standing objectives in its foreign policy, including the active contribution of women to United Nations-led peacebuilding efforts. The economic empowerment of women must be considered in peacebuilding strategies to ensure that they participate in the economy in fragile and conflict-affected States.
JAKUB KULHÁNEK (Czech Republic) said that Ukrainian women and girls are being killed in an aggressive and senseless war. They are being disproportionately affected, and he is horrified by reports of rape of Ukrainian women by Russian Federation soldiers in occupied towns. Civilians, including women, children and elderly people are being killed in their hometowns. More than 2 million refugees have fled Ukraine, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). All this suffering and misery could easily end if the Russian Federation decided to stop its aggression and pull back its troops. He praised women activists and civil society organizations for providing humanitarian assistance. The Czech Republic supports all four pillars of the women, peace and security agenda, he said, underscoring that all measures undertaken in that regard must be human rights-based and address the root causes of conflict.
MYRIAM OEHRI (Liechtenstein) described as inspiring the resilience of Ukrainian women and girls in the face of violence and trauma, discrimination, marginalization and various forms of exclusion. She called for greater investment in enabling environments free of discrimination and stigmatization to ensure the success of the women, peace and security agenda, emphasizing the importance of ensuring women’s full, equal and meaningful participation at all stages of decision-making. Limited access to resources, as well as financial and economic exclusions, are both cause and consequence of gender inequality, particularly in conflict settings, she said, pointing out that marginalized women are the majority of victims while survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking face further exclusion. Reiterating the Security Council’s call to partner with the private sector in tackling modern slavery and human trafficking, she highlighted her country’s Finance against Slavery and Trafficking Initiative, saying it aims to enhance the financial inclusion of women and girls.
SILVIO GONZATO, Head of the European Union delegation, in its capacity as observer, said this International Women’s Day is not a time for celebration amid the war in Ukraine. Reaffirming full support for that country, he said Ukrainian women are showing resilience and courage in the face of an unprecedented and unprovoked attack and are taking a leading role in the political, military and humanitarian responses. Women of the Russian Federation, like those around the world, are building movements for peace, leading peace protests in many Russian cities in the face of violent crackdowns and at the risk of their freedom, he said, speaking to them, saying: “Your work is critical; we stand with you, support you and thank you for your mobilization in a difficult and dangerous context.” Turning to the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, where their rights have experienced a sharp setback, he said they face complete exclusion from public life alongside the introduction of devastating restrictions to their education, movement, access to health services, employment and access to political responsibilities. Expecting that the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and girls is guaranteed in the Afghan society, he noted the recent launch of the “One-UN” Transitional Engagement Framework to sustain social services such as health and education and the forthcoming European Union-hosted Afghan Women Leaders Forum in Brussels, to be held on 10 March.
He said these recent developments — and many other situations around the world — underpin the importance of placing the women, peace and security agenda at the centre of all efforts. There should be no “cherry picking” in the implementation of the agenda, as this is a peace and security matter, he said, welcoming the decision of several Council members to mainstream these issues in all discussions, following the example of last year’s women, peace and security trio presidency by Ireland, Kenya and Mexico and the commitment by Niger, Norway, Albania and others to follow these footsteps. Systematic and institutional efforts must address the existing inequalities that are drivers of conflict and can lead, among other things, to an increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence. The promotion of women’s economic rights and economic justice is at the centre of the bloc’s gender equality efforts, and ensuring the full, equal and meaningful participation of all women and girls in all sectors is a key priority. It is, however, unacceptable that women civil society leaders, peacebuilders, human rights defenders and journalists continue to face gender-specific threats, challenges and reprisals, including for simply engaging with the Security Council. It is high time the Council sets up an effective mechanism for the protection of its civil society briefers, he said.
JOAN MARGARITA CEDANO (Dominican Republic) noted the constraints women face in fragile and conflict-affected States. When women are in control of financial means, generating income and enjoying their economic security, they can increase savings, invest more readily in the education and well-being of children, improve food security and rebuild rural economies. This contributes to long-term stability. Women and girls affected by the war in Ukraine are now joining the millions of those who suffer the inexorable human cost of the armed conflict in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere. They are being disproportionately affected by this painful conflict, she said, calling on the Russian Federation to cease fire and be guided exclusively by their commitments under the Charter and international law to facilitate humanitarian assistance to the affected civilian population.
FRANCISCO DUARTE LOPES (Portugal) said that discriminatory laws are imposed on women in many parts of the world. Expressing solidarity with the victims of conflicts in Ukraine, Yemen, Afghanistan, Myanmar and elsewhere, he called for accountability. For its part, his country is implementing a national strategy on Council resolution 1325 (2000). Stressing the need to reinforce gender mainstreaming at all levels, he said that women who are economically empowered are more likely to contribute to peace. The international community must heed the Secretary-General’s call to put an end to violence against women in all its forms.
LUIS UGARELLI (Peru), calling for a halt to hostilities in Ukraine and a resumption of dialogue, said all States must respect the principles enshrined in international humanitarian law. While efforts must be redoubled to have the full involvement of women in the peacebuilding process, he said their empowerment is currently a challenge for post-conflict economies, given existing gender inequalities. As such, partnerships among a range of actors — including civil society — must ensure progress. Women must be included in the labour market, which can be complemented by public-private partnerships and related policies. A new social contract must include women in leading these processes. Highlighting the key role played by the Peacebuilding Fund, he said it can have an impact on promoting the inclusion of women by, among other things, coordinating work with the public and private sectors to ensure their participation.
MATHU JOYINI (South Africa) said March is celebrated as Human Rights Month, during which it is emphasized that women’s rights are human rights. Women’s participation must be considered more holistically to ensure their inclusion in peacebuilding areas. Citing such ongoing efforts as the African Union’s Decade on Financial and Economic Inclusion for African Women, she said the United Nations Security Council must remain responsive to the communities it serves and protects. When the Council considers a mandate, efforts must focus on strengthening women’s participation, which will enhance nationally-led and -owned initiatives. In response to the Secretary-General’s call for more support of the Peacebuilding Fund, she said South Africa initiated a dialogue that addressed, among other things, the role public-private partnerships can play in investing directly in women with such activities as training, financial literacy and technology. The United Nations, Member States and private partnerships are critical to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The Council and the Peacebuilding Commission must continue to engage with partners to play their part. A holistic approach in these efforts will facilitate the advancement of the goal of including women in peace processes in such situations as Ukraine, the Sahel and Afghanistan.
KRZYSZTOF MARIA SZCZERSKI (Poland), associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said he admires the courage of Ukrainian men and women alike. He expressed horror at the number of civilian casualties in Ukraine and noted that more than 1 million people have crossed the border into his country, mostly women and children, he said, adding that Poland gives them access to education, health care and the job market. Emphasizing that he is appalled at reports of rape by Russian forces, he recalled that 2021 witnessed a setback for the freedom of movement and inclusion of women in Afghanistan, many of whom have also been deprived of earned income. With humanitarian needs growing in Ukraine and Afghanistan facing a crisis, the economic inclusion of women becomes even more important, he noted, stressing that strong partnerships with civil society and the private sector are crucial for the women, peace and security agenda.
PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka) welcomed today’s focus on the “participation” and “prevention” pillars of the women, peace and security agenda, as well as on economics. Noting that female-founded businesses deliver more than twice as much per dollar invested than their male-led counterparts, he said bridging the gender gap would add upwards of $4 trillion to the global GDP. Such opportunities are particularly evident in conflict zones, where women are disproportionately affected. Women’s participation in peace processes meanwhile continues to lag behind other elements of the women, peace and security agenda, with females serving as only 6 per cent of mediators, 6 per cent of signatories and 13 per cent of negotiators globally between 1992 and 2019. Emphasizing that women must be at negotiating tables, he stressed that a peace agreement is not merely about ending a war but also about establishing the conditions for a new, just polity.
MOHAMMAD KURNIADI KOBA (Indonesia) said his country supports the Security Council’s efforts to meet the needs of the women, peace and security agenda. Noting the agenda’s interdisciplinary nature, he said the Council cannot be a stand-alone venue, emphasizing the need for the views of the other United Nations organs. On strengthening the role of women in United Nations peacekeeping, he said greater efforts are needed to strengthen their capacity. There is also a need for a peer-to-peer framework to share knowledge and experience and to prepare women peacekeepers for their missions, he added.
KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia), associating himself with the European Union, said women and children suffer most as the war continues to rage in Ukraine. Condemning Moscow’s aggression, he noted that such aggression and occupation are well known to Georgia, as what is being witnessed now in Ukraine is only a continuation of the Russian Federation’s behaviour in Georgia in past years. Georgia works to maintain the issues of conflict-affected women — including those who are internally displaced — on the agenda of the Geneva International Discussions, which is the only format of negotiations between Tbilisi and Moscow on security and humanitarian issues stemming from the latter’s aggression and occupation of two Georgian regions. Nevertheless, the ongoing occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali makes women there among the most vulnerable segments of Georgian society, he said, noting that they face grave rights violations at the hands of the Russian occupying forces on a regular basis and calling for the Russian Federation’s immediate withdrawal.
SYED MOHAMAD HASRIN AIDID (Malaysia) said that it is increasingly evident that building and sustaining peace requires ongoing partnerships with various actors, including women. Empowering women and advancing gender equality in fragile, conflict-affected settings can transform vicious circles into virtuous ones. His country is committed to building capacity and advancing the women, peace and security agenda at the national, regional and international levels. It provides financial aid to UN-Women. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is developing the regional plan of action on women, peace and security, with the support of the United States Agency for International Development. Women’s equal, full and active participation is key to peacekeeping and peacebuilding. Malaysia has recently deployed its largest number of women peacekeepers serving in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
MAURIZIO MASSARI (Italy), associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said women and girls in Ukraine are being forced to flee their homes and face dire humanitarian conditions due to the Russian Federation’s aggression. In Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, meanwhile, women and girls continue to face violence and violations of their rights. He welcomed the decision by some Council members to mainstream the women, peace and security agenda across all their work, noting that the matter is also a priority for Italy. The Government helped launch the Mediterranean Women Mediators Network and is committed to tackling multiple forms of discrimination against women and involving them in all aspects of decision-making in all its work around the globe. Describing the contributions of the private sector as critical, he encouraged more multi-stakeholder solutions, adding that Italy’s COVID-19 recovery plan is also designed to ensure women’s strong participation in the labour market.
DANG HOANG GIANG (Viet Nam) pointed out that women have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, especially in regions affected by conflict. Among gender-sensitive response measures across countries, too few are aimed at women’s economic security, he said, calling for the full engagement of women at all stages of all processes, including economic policymaking and implementation. Viet Nam also calls for more multifaceted programmes and for building the capacity of conflict-affected women at the local, national and international levels, he said, emphasizing the importance of dedicating a minimum of 15 per cent of official development assistance (ODA) to advancing gender equality in countries affected by conflict. He went on to underscore the importance of the United Nations, Member States and non-governmental actors incorporating private-public partnerships into national plans, especially in the socioeconomic development sphere. Also, the mandates of United Nations peace operations could be adapted to further support the role of women in peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction, he said, highlighting the key leadership roles that Vietnamese women have assumed in his country’s political and business sector. They have also demonstrated their ability as active United Nations peacekeepers, he added.
SURIYA CHINDAWONGSE (Thailand) said more efforts are needed to link the women, peace and security agenda and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly Goal 5 on gender equality and Goal 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions. Women are active players in peace processes. They must be included in the decision-making process at all stages to ensure their full and equal participation. Female personnel in the United Nations peacekeeping operations have contributed positively to the success of those missions. Their ability to access communities and to build trust has proven to be a valuable skillset. As a troop-contributing country, Thailand is pleased to have reached a high ratio of women peacekeepers to male peacekeepers and will continue to work to further promote women’s participation at higher levels. Women’s economic empowerment is key to achieving the 2030 Agenda and promoting sustainable peace.
MARITZA CHAN VALVERDE (Costa Rica) said that although the women, peace and security resolutions do not explicitly mention widows, 50 per cent of the female population in post-conflict contexts are widows. They shoulder their communities’ social and economic recovery and are a decisive factor in recovery efforts. Their economic inclusion not only prevents the rise of inequalities, but proactively protects their human rights, while challenging gender norms. Therefore, Costa Rica encourages the Council, as well as Member States, to diversify their partnerships, directing their financial support towards non-governmental organizations that have thematic expertise and can have a high impact through their economic and social investment. It is also crucial to recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid work and care and eradicate the stigmatization of informal work. Reducing and redistributing care requires investments from both the public and private sectors.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) stressed the need for strengthening and addressing barriers to the political and economic participation of women and girls in conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction, particularly through initiatives that enable their inclusion. “When more women work, our economy grows,” she said, recalling the High-Level Global Conference on Youth-Inclusive Peace Process recently co-hosted by her country, which recognized the need to invest adequately in the efforts of young women peacebuilders. She went on to emphasize the critical importance of partnerships and funding, highlighting her country’s financial contribution to several United Nations agencies and departments, as well as the Qatar Fund for Development, which recently signed a grant agreement with the Digital Citizen Fund to finance a vocational training project for girls and women in Afghanistan. The Qatar-based Silatech Foundation also supports young women in conflict and post-conflict situations, with access to job opportunities, vocational training, technological platforms and career guidance, she said.
ZAHRAA M. SALIH MAHDI NASSRULLAH (Iraq), noting that women play a role in her country’s recovery efforts, said the Government has taken a range of steps in this regard. Pointing to the election of 96 women to Parliament, she highlighted other achievements, including the Government’s ongoing action plan to implement resolution 1325 (2000), which engages women in various processes. Capacity-building initiatives also address the financial inclusion of women, alongside such projects aimed at their empowerment as one involving banks that aims at allotting 25 per cent of business loans to female entrepreneurs. Welcoming the role of UN‑Women in, among other things, facilitating women’s access to the labour market, she said the Government continues to work to ensure their inclusion and stands ready to learn from other Member States and the United Nations.
AMAL MUDALLALI (Lebanon) noted that women usually face conflict with courage and resilience, but their voices are not heard at negotiation tables. Citing UN-Women figures, she said that between 1992 and 2019, women made up just 13 per cent of negotiators, 6 per cent of mediators and 6 per cent of signatories in major peace processes around the world. “It is important now, as we handle the aftermath of current or future conflicts, that women’s role is equal to the pain and suffering they go through,” she emphasized. Highlighting the link between democracy and women’s empowerment, she said “the more democracy thrives, the more diversity and inclusivity we have”, while pointing out that in 2021, the global proportion of women parliamentarians has increased by only 0.6 per cent to reach 26.1 per cent, and that it will now take 135.6 years to close the worldwide gender gap. Stressing the need for an equal, full and meaningful role for women in the next review conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and in arms control and disarmament processes generally, she called for strong partnerships, including cooperation and coordination between the Security Council and the Peacebuilding Commission, in partnership with other United Nations entities.
NOA FURMAN (Israel), condemning the violence in Ukraine, said that women’s rights have always been integrated into her country’s policies. Women represent one third of the Government, and although this is not enough, the number is rising. Israel supports resolution 1325 (2000), being the first country to implement its provisions in its legislation, and now has a minister that handles related issues. The idea of fostering positive cooperation to ensure women’s economic inclusion has been part of Israel’s efforts since 1961, and under Prime Minister Golda Meir, efforts included such projects as the Mount Carmel Centre, which has since trained more than 30,000 women. Highlighting landmark joint debates in the region that touched on science and technology, she said such activities aim at “breaking glass ceilings” and offer a source of inspiration for the international community. For its part, Israel stands ready to share its good practices and to join partnerships in related efforts.
MARTÍN JUAN MAINERO (Argentina), highlighting women’s crucial role in the prevention, resolution of and recovery from conflict, urged the Council to deepen its engagement on that important topic. A lack of resources on the ground has been one of the main barriers to the women, peace and security agenda’s successful implementation, and the large amount of time women spend in unpaid work is an obstacle to their being able to meaningfully take advantage of job opportunities and social services. Meanwhile, women remain largely absent from decision-making roles and from the development of peace processes in their countries and communities. Against that backdrop, he recommended that peace and reconstruction processes that include specific gender provisions be translated into concrete programmes and tangible reforms.
AMRIT BAHADUR RAI (Nepal) cited systemic exclusion and underrepresentation of women in conflict prevention and post-conflict rebuilding processes, adding that their economic empowerment and their participation in the political process are prerequisites for sustainable peace and development. As a post-conflict country, Nepal has seen a historic transformation in women’s participation since the signing of its Comprehensive Peace Accord in 2006. The country’s Constitution now guarantees 33 per cent of seats in federal and provincial parliaments, and 40 per cent seats in local government, to women representatives. The country has also implemented targeted incentives for women, including tax exemption in property ownership and free or low-interest loans for women entrepreneurs. He advocated for the critical role played by the Secretary-General’s special envoys and United Nations agencies in promoting women’s meaningful participation, including through their regular consultation with local female community leaders and civil society actors.
NATALIIA MUDRENKO (Ukraine) said her country was a member of the Security Council when resolution 1325 (2000) was adopted. Even against the backdrop of the war, Kyiv remains committed to further promoting the women, peace and security agenda. All-out Russian invasion of her country, including from the territory of Belarus, has changed lives of Ukrainians dramatically, with women and children among the most vulnerable. More than 1.7 million refugees, mostly women and children, have fled from Ukraine to seek safety. Every day, women and children lose their lives from Russian bullets, shells, bombs and missiles. As of now at least 41 children were killed by Russian occupiers. On 7 March, in Mariupol, a 6-year-old girl died of dehydration. She was alone in the last moments of her life as her mother was killed by Russian shelling earlier. Citing cases of sexual violence committed by occupiers, she said all arrangements on humanitarian corridors are being undermined by the Russian side. In Mariupol, the Ukrainian forces removed mines and roadblocks to ensure evacuation on the previously agreed route. Russian Federation forces immediately shelled this route. These acts constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. Justice will be served sooner or later.
Economic inclusion of Ukrainian women who have been forced out of their homes is another important task, she insisted, expressing hope that countries hosting refugees are creating a legal framework that will allow the refugees access to social benefits and permit them to work and earn money to keep their families. The war has again highlighted the role of Ukrainian women in defending their native soil from the Russian occupiers. Ukrainian women not only bravely cover the rear but also often join ranks of their country’s armed forces. At the beginning of 2021, there were up to 57,000 women in Ukraine’s armed forces, comprising 22.8 per cent of the total, according to the Ministry of Defence. Today, Ukrainian women show that they are not afraid of taking up arms to defend their children and their land. This was not their choice until the Russian murderers decided to deprive their children of the future. It is now the common task for the entire international community to stop the Russians from killing Ukrainian women and children and ensure a safe future for them.
FRANÇOIS JACKMAN (Barbados), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and recalling the region’s long history of activism for gender equality, led by women, noted its continued support for implementing all four pillars of resolution 1325 (2000) and subsequent related resolutions. Welcoming the critical focus on economic justice for women in conflict settings, he said the existing challenges in the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda is most acutely observed in this regard. Efforts to promote and achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment, including through economic justice, must be central to peacekeeping and peacebuilding actions across all conflict-affected countries and regions. The erosion of gender equality gains can be seen, particularly in countries navigating conflict, climate, ecological and socioeconomic crises. As such, it is more critical than ever to enshrine the principles of the women, peace and security agenda and gender equality, as well as ensure women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in all aspects of development, including economic recovery, in conflict settings.
Strongly condemning gender-based violence, he said efforts must be amplified to address the disproportionate impact of intersecting crises on women and girls in conflict settings. Effective multilateralism can facilitate women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in peacebuilding, conflict response and prevention, which is crucial particularly in light of growing levels of hostilities against women, including political violence. Encouraging increased communication and collaboration between international and regional partners, the private sector and women’s civil society, he said efforts must aim to close the gaps in promoting women’s economic inclusion and participation in conflict-affected settings, adding that peace and security are prerequisites for achieving prosperity and sustainable development.
GABRIELA LILIÁN GONZÁLEZ HERNÁNDEZ (Uruguay), aligning herself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said lasting peace hinges on the inclusion of females. Women, however, face such challenges as gender gaps and a disproportionate impact of the pandemic’s consequences that are hobbling their full participation in peacebuilding and other areas. As such, partnerships and private sector support can make inroads towards these and related goals, including the financial inclusion of women. Uruguay will soon launch an action plan to implement the women, peace and security agenda and is working to ensure that more women are deployed in peacekeeping operations. Currently, Uruguay is working with Cornell University and partners on an assessment of opportunities for women in peacekeeping with a view to providing an innovative methodology to assess barriers. Having finalized the study on such obstacles, Uruguay is using the results for national decisions on how best to overcome them. Uruguay will also continue to work towards implementing resolution 1325 (2000) and towards including women in all related processes.
JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) said that the economic inclusion of women plays a major role in conflict prevention and recovery. Given the significant role of women in achieving sustainable development, his country is committed to implement international instruments, including resolution 1325 (2000). His country is also committed to achieving the noble goal of making a quantum leap in increasing women peacekeepers. Although women leaders showed their ability, they remain excluded in decision-making in conflict settings. Further financial support is needed to increase their participation. All parties to conflict must respect international laws, especially those related to the rights of women and girls, including the Geneva Convention and its protocol of 1977. His country managed to achieve remarkable progress in gender equality and women’s advancement.
MD MONWAR HOSSAIN (Bangladesh) said women’s economic inclusion and full and meaningful participation in public life played a crucial role in his country’s history. Women’s empowerment is one of the 10 priority initiatives of its current Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina. Bangladesh also prioritizes public-private partnerships, and all its Government ministries have introduced gender-responsive budgeting. Noting that the pandemic disproportionately affected women, with job losses compounding their challenges in many developing countries, he urged States to prioritize support to them in their pandemic recovery plans. As a climate change-vulnerable country, Bangladesh also advocates strongly for climate-resilient investments and partnerships that focus on women. In addition, he spotlighted the role of United Nations peacekeeping operations in promoting women’s empowerment as part of their mandates and noted that peacebuilding tasks should be strengthened with a focus on women.
SNEHA DUBEY (India), taking the floor for a second time, said that she wished to respond to the remarks made by the representative of Pakistan. Jammu and Kashmir are and will always be an integral part of India. This includes the areas that are under the illegal occupation of Pakistan, she said.