At Security Council Debate, Delegates Call for Women’s Inclusion in All Peace Processes, Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Many of the challenges the world faces today, from proliferating conflicts to worsening assaults on human rights, are connected to the trampling of women’s rights and to deeply ingrained misogyny around the world, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told the Security Council today, opening its annual day-long open debate on women, peace and security.
“Women and girls are often the primary targets of violence and abuse in conflict settings,” she said, stressing: “They must be in the vanguard of our response.” Presenting the latest report of the Secretary-General on women, peace and security (document S/2022/740), she observed that despite the well-documented benefits of strengthening women’s resilience and leadership, progress has been slow, creating a barrier to bringing about inclusive and sustainable peace, stressing: “We must do better.”
Pointing out that while between 1995 and 2019, the percentage of peace agreements with gender equality provisions increased from 14 to 22 per cent, within the same time frame, women constituted just 13 per cent of negotiators, 6 per cent of mediators and 6 per cent of signatories in major peace processes. Against this backdrop, she called for more women mediators and negotiators to be put forward; and for greater support to be extended to the underfunded frontline work of women peacebuilders. In addition, she called for the swift implementation of five actions identified by the Secretary-General, ahead of the decade on women’s rights.
She went on to highlight the work of the Organization across the world to promote women’s meaningful representation and participation in peacemaking efforts, including in Sudan, where the Mission’s strategy for a gender responsive process included a 40 per cent target of women in delegations to the peace talks, adding: “Today, let us recommit to putting women’s participation at the centre of everything we do — everywhere.”
Sima Sami Iskandar Bahous, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), sounded a similarly rousing call to action, underscoring the need to do more to support women, including female human rights defenders around the world, from Iran to Tigray, Ukraine and more, who are under attack and continue to risk their lives.
Citing a number of setbacks in progress, including a decrease in women’s representation in United Nations-led peace processes in 2021 from the previous year, and a 72 per cent shortfall in funding aimed at preventing and responding to gender-based violence in humanitarian emergencies, she warned: “Denying women space, access or funding because of safety concerns emboldens perpetrators and, in their eyes, validates their tactics.”
Bineta Diop, African Union Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, pointing out that her office is the first of its kind in the world, said the women, peace and security agenda is a core priority of the Union, which follows the model of solidarity missions that reach out to women in crisis situations and has been deployed in Mali, Somalia and South Sudan, among other countries.
Painting a vivid picture of struggles faced by women across the continent, including threatened livelihoods, sexual violence and kidnapping, from the Lake Chad Basin to the Sahel, she urged Member States to create a safe space for women and girls in conflict situations, and called on the Council and the United Nations to better support their leadership by ensuring that women’s organizations have access to predictable and flexible funding and implementing deliberate measures to increase their meaningful participation and inclusion in peace negotiations, among other measures.
The urgency and high stakes of tackling such issues was vividly brought to life by Zahra Nader, the Editor-in-Chief of Zan Times, a woman-led newsroom that covers human rights violations in Afghanistan, who described the devastating situation in which Afghan women find themselves. “Today, an estimated 20 million women and girls who grew up in Afghanistan going to school, to work, who grew up being able to go where they liked and to speak their minds, are, under the Taliban, deprived of these fundamental human rights because of their gender,” she said.
Painting a distressing picture of an across-the-board crushing of the rights and girls, with women being ordered to stay home or arrested for so-called “moral crimes”, and of a dramatic increase in forced and child marriages, sometimes to Taliban members, she said, “The truth is that we don’t know — and will probably never know — the full extent of violations taking place because United Nations monitoring is thin on the ground; the Afghan media, especially women journalists, have been crushed by the Taliban; and the international media have mostly left.”
Noting that the Council has met 11 times since the takeover of the Taliban in August 2021, she observed that none of its efforts have pressured the Taliban to change course, stressing: “When it comes to women, peace and security, there is a major gap here at the United Nations between words and action — and the Taliban have no respect for words.”
During the ensuing debate, in which representatives of some 80 Member States and other entities participated, speakers observed that 22 years after the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), it is yet to be accompanied with concrete changes on the ground, with women continuing to pay a heavy price in conflicts around the world. Many speakers emphasized the need to ensure the participation of females in all peace processes, and for robust support and protection to be provided to women human rights defenders. A number of speakers expressed alarm about conflict-related gender-based violence occurring in Ukraine, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, among other places, and emphasized the need to hold the perpetrators of such abuse to account.
Several speakers lauded the courage of women leaders and human rights defenders in Ukraine and Afghanistan, and of female protestors in Sudan, Yemen, Myanmar and Iran, with the representative of the United States pointing out that the Iranian people are currently protesting because Mahsa Amini “was killed by the Iranian morality police for the crime of being a woman”. She underscored the importance of ensuring that the women, peace and security agenda is deliberately and strategically integrated into the Council’s country resolutions.
Echoing such points, Irene Fellin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Women, Peace and Security, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), said it was sad to see women’s rights being challenged in places such as Iran and Afghanistan. Moreover, horrific war crimes are having a disproportionate impact on women and girls amidst the Russian Federation’s war of aggression on Ukraine. NATO’s new Strategic Concept, adopted in Madrid in June, explicitly recognizes that women, peace and security, as well as gender equality, are integral to the Alliance’s values and actions.
The representative of Mexico also spotlighted many places in the world where women found themselves victims of violence and reprisals, including in Myanmar, where they are attacked and tortured for peaceful protest, declaring: “To them, we say today: their struggle is not in vain.” Mexico will continue to advocate on their behalf in the Council and with the Informal Expert Group on Women and Peace and Security, which it co-chairs with Ireland, and will incorporate a gender-transformative perspective in work and resolutions and products it adopts.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s delegate said that, through seven months of resistance against the Russian Federation’s war, the international community has witnessed that “current resilience in Ukraine has a particularly female face”. Women are organizing, leading, taking charge of children’s education, and bear the sole responsibility for care of themselves, children and the elderly. They are also on the front lines of military defence, numbering 50,000 in the armed forces, she said. Stressing that Russian Federation forces actively target women, using rape and sexual assault as part of its military strategy, she called for the prosecution of all perpetrators of these crimes.
Sylvie Valérie Baïpo-Temon, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Francophonie and Central Africans abroad of the Central African Republic, said that with her country’s return to constitutional order, women occupy many important positions, such as in defence, diplomacy and reconciliation. The presidency of the constitutional court is also held by a woman, she added. Many initiatives to advance women’s resilience and leadership have been implemented, she said, spotlighting a follow-up committee dealing with the trafficking of persons — an issue that affects women in particular.
Meanwhile, the representative of Lebanon, citing a quote from UN-Women, stated that “at the current rate of progress, it may take close to 300 years to achieve full gender equality,” stressing: “We cannot wait 300 years.”
For her part, Iran’s delegate denounced allegations made by “certain Western countries” that claim to support the rights of her country’s women, which she characterized as “nothing more than a political attempt to politicize women’s rights” and advised them that they are not required to act as guardians or caretakers of Iranian women or speak on their behalf. Expressing regret over the death of Ms. Amini, she highlighted that a thorough investigation had been carried out and its findings have been shared with Member States and United Nations-affiliated organizations.
Also speaking today were ministers and representatives of Gabon, Albania, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Ireland, China, Brazil, Norway, France, Kenya, Russian Federation, Ghana, India, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Finland, Canada, Türkiye, Liechtenstein, Philippines, Luxembourg, Malta, Egypt, Ecuador, Colombia, South Africa, Switzerland, Japan, Poland, Italy, Austria, Greece, Republic of Korea, Namibia, Jordan, Germany, Slovenia, Portugal, Iran, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Chile, Spain, Malaysia, Estonia, Latvia, Australia, Viet Nam, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Belgium, Yemen, Thailand, Croatia, Guatemala, Georgia, Dominican Republic, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mali, Lithuania, Netherlands, Morocco, Niger, Kuwait, Guyana and Israel, as well as the European Union, Palestine and International Committee of the Red Cross in their capacity as Observers.
The meeting began at 10:09 a.m., suspended at 1:13 p.m., resumed at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 7:55 p.m.
Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the perilous state of peace in the world cannot be separated from the destructive effects of patriarchy and the silencing of women’s voices, pointing out that the challenges the world faces today, from proliferating conflicts to worsening assaults on human rights, are connected to the trampling of women’s rights and to deeply ingrained misogyny around the world. She called for the challenging of such misogyny, as well as the social, political, and economic structures and norms that sustain it. Further, everyone must stand firm against armed groups who use violence as a weapon of war, and misogyny as part of their propaganda, recruitment and fundraising tactics. “Women and girls are often the primary targets of violence and abuse in conflict settings,” she said, stressing: “They must be in the vanguard of our response.”
Despite the well-documented benefits of strengthening women’s resilience and leadership, with females being more likely to foster inclusive modes of governance and coexistence; more likely to build peace and silence the guns; and more likely to invest in sustainable development, progress in this regard has been slow, she said. She pointed out that between 1995 and 2019, the percentage of peace agreements with gender equality provisions increased from 14 to 22 per cent, while four out of five peace agreements still ignore gender equality. Moreover, around the same time period, she stated that women constituted on average just 13 per cent of negotiators, 6 per cent of mediators and 6 per cent of signatories in major peace processes. Noting that the current state of affairs creates a real barrier to inclusive and sustainable peace, she stressed: “We must do better.”
Towards this end, she called for the dismantling of patriarchal norms excluding women from power; putting forward more women mediators and negotiators; establishing more exchanges with women mediators; and securing greater and more predictable financing, particularly to support the underfunded frontline work of women peacebuilders, who diffuse tensions and save lives in the hardest to reach places. Ahead of the decade on women’s rights, she called for the swift implementation of five actions identified by the Secretary-General. She emphasized the need to pay special attention for the protection of women human rights defenders, who face rising threats, reprisals and violence, before spotlighting work done by the Organization in this regard. In Afghanistan, the United Nations Mission has publicly condemned violence against women human rights defenders — including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detention, and torture. The Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund has opened a special window to support female activists at risk.
Across the world, the Organization has pushed for women’s meaningful representation and participation in peacemaking efforts, including in Sudan, where the Mission’s strategy for a gender responsive process included a 40 per cent target of women in delegations to the peace talks, she continued. Meanwhile, when a female candidate for Parliament in the Central African Republic was under threat, peacekeepers arrived swiftly, and the armed actors left, she said, adding: “Today, that former candidate is a member of Parliament.” She called on such examples to be built on, including by members of the Security Council. Despite numerous examples of the peacebuilding and conflict-preventing benefits of fostering women’s equality, she warned that “We are moving in the opposite direction”. She went on to underline the need for full gender parity — including through special quotas to accelerate the inclusion of women — across election monitoring, security sector reform, disarmament, demobilization and justice systems. At a time of conflicts and crises, protecting women’s rights and promoting their inclusion is a proven strategy for peace and stability, she said, stressing: “Today, let us recommit to putting women’s participation at the centre of everything we do — everywhere.”
SIMA SAMI ISKANDAR BAHOUS, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said that female human rights defenders around the world, from Iran to Tigray, Ukraine and more, are under attack and continue to risk their lives. Citing recent data from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) which showed that 60 per cent of the nearly 350 individual cases of intimidation or reprisals for cooperation with the United Nations in the past year had concerned women, she pointed out that more needs to be done. The international community must strengthen reporting and coordination on the United Nations side and build up further partnerships with Member States, regional organizations and civil society; provide material and political support to women human rights defenders and their organizations; and review and update legislation and administrative measures for asylum, temporary relocation or temporary protected status needed due to gender-based persecution. “Denying women space, access or funding because of safety concerns emboldens perpetrators and, in their eyes, validates their tactics,” she underscored.
On inclusivity, she went on to note that women’s representation in United Nations-led peace processes saw a decrease in 2021 from the previous year, at only 19 per cent. The proportion of women in COVID‑19 task forces was only 16 per cent in conflict-affected countries, she added, and today women’s representation in national parliaments is 5 per cent lower in those countries than the global average. Stating that quotas and temporary special measures remain the best tools to set right such damaging imbalances and promote equality in decision-making, she urged all those supporting peace processes to insist on women’s direct and formal participation, and to insist on strengthening women’s resilience and leadership as a path to peace.
Turning to funding, she pointed out that 2021 saw a 72 per cent shortfall in funding aimed at preventing and responding to gender-based violence in humanitarian emergencies. Funding for women’s organizations in conflict-affected countries decreased from $181 million in 2019 to $150 million in 2020, she added. In Afghanistan, she stressed, 77 per cent of women’s civil society organizations have not received any funding in 2022 and are no longer running programmes. Calling on the international community to reverse this trend, she further urged Member States to live up to their words and to fund women rights defenders as well as the work of the United Nations and its partners.
BINETA DIOP, African Union Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, said her office, which was formally institutionalized within the African Union, is the first of its kind in the world — an example of how to strategically position women’s leadership in the governance of peace and security. It works tirelessly to ensure that the voices of women echo ever louder in conflict prevention and resolution as well as in post-conflict reconstruction processes, and that they are protected in violent conflict. Referring to the report of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki, she noted that 22 years after Council resolution 1325 (2000) was passed, women continue to face discrimination, under-representation and protection challenges. The triple crisis of COVID‑19, climate change and conflict have exacerbated the political, social and economic fabric within women and girls making it urgent to invest in strengthening women’s resilience and leadership.
Noting the crisis in the Lake Chad Basin, she said the continued presence of Boko Haram, the shrinking of the body of water, and the long distance for women to collect firewood have resulted in the depletion of women’s livelihoods, their kidnapping and forced recruitment into the insurgency with many experiencing sexual violence and falling into refugee and displacement camps. She called for essential commodities, such as energy-saving cooking stoves and other necessary tools, to empower those women. In the Sahel, many kidnapped girls who have experienced violence wish to return to school, she said, stressing the need for appropriate institutions and facilities to accommodate their unique situation. Conflict-related sexual violence such as in the Great Lakes region and other parts of the continent remain a serious protection concern and deepens the political and humanitarian crisis, she said, urging Member States to create a safe space for women and girls in conflict situations.
The women, peace and security agenda remains a core priority of the African Union, with the formulation of critical policies, platform and solutions, she stressed. Detailing its various initiatives in that regard, she said the African Union model of solidarity missions, which reach out to women in crises situations, has been deployed in countries such as Mali, Somalia and South Sudan, among others. She called on the Council and the United Nations to better support women’s leadership by ensuring that women’s organizations have access to predictable and flexible funding, combining peacebuilding efforts with women’s economic empowerment as mutually enforcing strategies, implementing deliberate measures to increase their meaningful participation and inclusion in peace negotiations, and protecting the demobilized female ex-combatants from social stigmatization and ensuring their smooth social integration. Detailing other areas for action by Member States, she urged the Council to strengthen collaboration with the African Union Peace and Security Council to align priorities and actions on the ground in support of women’s full participation in peace processes in line with established frameworks.
ZAHRA NADER, Editor-in-Chief of Zan Times, a woman-led newsroom that covers human rights violations in Afghanistan with a focus on women, LGBTQI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex] and environmental issues, said that Afghan women are in a devastating situation. The recent suicide bombing at the Kaaj education centre, in which at least 55 people, including 51 Hazara girls and women, were killed symbolized the assault on women’s rights under Taliban rule, she said, noting that she herself is a Hazara woman. “Today, an estimated 20 million women and girls who grew up in Afghanistan going to school, to work, who grew up being able to go where they liked and to speak their minds, are, under the Taliban, deprived of these fundamental human rights because of their gender.” Among other things, women are ordered to stay home or arrested for so-called “moral crimes”, girls are banned from school above the sixth grade and male relatives who fail to enforce the Taliban’s misogynist policies are punished. The Taliban’s return has also led to a dramatic increase in forced and child marriages, sometimes to Taliban members, she added.
“The truth is that we don’t know — and will probably never know — the full extent of violations taking place because United Nations monitoring is thin on the ground; the Afghan media, especially women journalists, have been crushed by the Taliban; and the international media have mostly left,” she said. Moreover, the Taliban terrorize into silence anyone who dares to oppose them. Women are the Taliban’s main target, she said, spotlighting recent violent crackdowns on anyone protesting their misogynist policies. “The Taliban view women protesters — indeed any Afghan women who speak out — as the enemy, because they are exposing the depth and breadth of the Taliban’s abuse of the Afghan people.” By speaking out, Afghan women are the main obstacle to the Taliban’s desire for international recognition, she noted, adding that the Taliban are also targeting marginalized communities, such as ethnic and religious groups and LGBTQI people, putting some women at even greater risk.
Since the takeover in August 2021, the Security Council has met 11 times on Afghanistan, adopted three resolutions on women’s rights and renewed the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), yet these efforts have failed to pressure the Taliban to change course, she said. The United Nations looks stumped about what to do next and the Council seems unwilling to use the tools at its disposal to signal to the Taliban that violating women’s rights is unacceptable. “When it comes to women, peace and security, there is a major gap here at the United Nations between words and action — and the Taliban have no respect for words,” she said.
She recommended that the Council, among other things, call on the Taliban to respect the human rights of all Afghans, to lift all restrictions on women’s rights, to dismantle the Ministry of Vice and Virtue, and to reinstate the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. The Taliban must not be granted formal recognition and the Council should consider adding Taliban leaders responsible for human rights violations to the United Nations sanctions list. The Secretary-General and his Special Representative for Afghanistan and Head of UNAMA should press the Taliban at every opportunity to respect the rights of women, girls and other marginalized groups. The United Nations must also engage meaningfully with civil society groups representing Afghan women and take women’s concerns and priorities into account in its decisions. Every day that the Council fails to act, the harm inflicted on Afghan women and girls deepens, and if it fails to act in Afghanistan, then women in the world’s other conflict zones will know that the women, peace and security agenda is no more than an empty promise, she said.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), Council President for October, speaking in his national capacity, noted the meeting was a landmark occasion for women to hold their heads high. He noted many States are collapsing under the weight of armed gangs, and women pay an inhuman price — which they should not bear. They must participate in all stages of conflict prevention and resolution. Almost 22 years after adoption of Council resolution 1325 (2000), women and children continue to pay a heavy price. He reaffirmed Gabon’s call to silence the guns, particularly in Africa, and prevent them from fuelling armed conflicts and driving the resurgence of sexual and gender-based violence. The international community must focus on conflict prevention rather than engage with systems that generate it, and implement the Arms Trade Treaty to prevent it. His country aims to reduce gender inequalities and promote women’s participation in all decision-making processes — and in addition, remains committed to accountability for perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict. He called for the intensification of national, regional and international efforts for the comprehensive, inclusive and effective implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) and its related resolutions, as well as to strengthening the gender perspective in all stages of peace processes.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), noting that her country has codified its commitment to women’s participation and safety in peace and security processes, called on other countries to do the same. She stressed that risks have gone up for women and girls around the world, including women leaders and human rights defenders, especially in areas of conflict such as Ethiopia and Ukraine. On Afghanistan, she shared that her country has implemented mechanisms to strengthen women’s engagement in policy discussions and to increase their economic resilience. She further noted that people in Iran are protesting now because Mahsa Amini “was killed by the Iranian morality police for the crime of being a woman”. She emphasized the importance of ensuring that the women, peace and security agenda is deliberately and strategically integrated into the Council’s country resolutions.
MEGI FINO (Albania) said appropriate support and resources must be provided to relevant United Nations entities, especially to OHCHR. It is also necessary to increase funding for women-led and women’s rights organizations in fragile or conflict-affected countries, and commit to a zero-tolerance approach to reprisals against women activists and human rights defenders. Partnerships with civil society organizations must be strengthened to identify the best ways to improve the protection and resilience of women civil society activists and human rights defenders. She called on the Council to support women’s meaningful participation in peace processes and hold accountable the entire United Nations system, as well as host States of peacekeeping operations, in that regard. The Council must follow up on recommendations and priority issues raised by civil society briefers, she added. Her country currently ranks among the top five gender-balanced Governments in the world, with 70 per cent women ministers, she highlighted, detailing Albania’s other initiatives to support gender equality.
LANA NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) stressed it has been almost 400 days since girls in Afghanistan have not been allowed to attend secondary schools, and that this, and the many other restrictions emplaced by the Taliban, is completely unacceptable. Despite the resistance of women and girls around the world to repeated acts of misogyny, armed groups exacerbate acts of violence in all its forms. While regional women’s networks and organizations provide a foundation for collective resilience against conflict, bilateral contributions went down from 0.4 per cent to 0.3 per cent in just one year. Accordingly, she asked the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) to consider funding them as part of the United Nations regular budget. In the age of digitization, if females are to be on par with their male peers in the economy, their digital literacy and connectivity are bare necessities. However, their voices need to be heard and amplified in school, with their classmates, and in all the other facets of public life. With the international community still battling the misconceptions of females as victims and survivors, not agents of change, she echoed the call by Melinda Gates: “we need to stop talking about empowering women, and just give them power.”
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom), pointing out that his country is the penholder of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), whose twenty-second anniversary it is today, emphasized the need to strengthen the global response to conflict-related sexual violence, given the findings of the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict, which record a 20 per cent increase in sexual violence against children, and a 41 per cent increase in the abduction of girls. To galvanize the response to conflict-related sexual violence, the United Kingdom will host an International Conference on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict on 28 and 29 November, during which it will launch a political declaration, he said, urging Member States to endorse it. The United Kingdom is also committed to protecting women human rights defenders and briefers who courageously speak at the Council.
FERGAL TOMAS MYTHEN (Ireland), pointing to Ukraine, Afghanistan and Haiti, said that the situation of women in conflict has worsened over the last two years. To reverse this trend, those who defend women’s rights must be defended. Citing crackdowns in Iran after the death of Mahsa Amini, and the persecution of activists in Myanmar, he said that those responsible must be held responsible. Women must also be involved in all decision-making, including in the Council, he said, citing Northern Ireland as evidence that sustainable peace agreements require inclusive participation. The United Nations must lead by example and make women’s participation a requirement in all peace processes, while the perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence must be held to account.
GENG SHUANG (China) said Member States must follow through on gender equality, so that women can have more opportunities for participation — an important condition for lasting peace. All countries should take action to eliminate all forms of discrimination and ensure women’s equal and effective participation in national governance. The Council must put Africa in a more prominent position on its agenda. It should also further invest its energy and resources to help diffuse conflict and support reconstruction there, so that peace benefits every woman on the continent. Urging support for women’s economic empowerment, he pointed out that since last winter China has imported 1,600 tons of Afghan pine nuts. This initiative is helping Afghan women generate income and lift themselves out of poverty. His country has always advocated for gender equality, supported the women, peace and security agenda, and contributed to the global cause of women’s development, he said, citing China’s efforts in that regard.
ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico) affirmed support for women activists, human rights defenders, peacebuilders and civil society leaders risking their lives in defence of human rights around the world, in line with her country’s feminist foreign policy. She went on to express support for indigenous women, Afro-descendent women, women with disabilities and others from marginalized groups, who continue to be victims of threats, sexual and gender-based violence or reprisals around the world. That includes in Afghanistan, where egregious violations of the rights of all women and girls have been committed since the return of the Taliban, resulting in the loss of access to basic services such as health and education; in Myanmar, where women are attacked and tortured for peaceful protest; and in Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where lack of access to justice for brutal acts of sexual violence remains the norm. “To them, we say today: their struggle is not in vain,” she said, adding that Mexico will continue to advocate on their behalf in the Council and with the Informal Expert Group on Women and Peace and Security, which it co-chairs with Ireland, and will incorporate a gender-transformative perspective in work and resolutions and products it adopts.
MELINA ESPESCHIT MAIA (Brazil) said that women are organizing themselves and creating networks that help their communities and defend their rights, even in challenging and dangerous environments, as demonstrated during the recent visit of the Informal Working Group on Women, Peace and Security to Lebanon. Highlighting the indispensable support of UN-Women to such networks, she underlined the need to improve its ability to assist them through increasing financing and improving their capacity. She called for more support to be lent to women peacekeepers, whose award-winning work has helped empower the host female population against sexual violence, and to act on persistent challenges that prevent gains from being made in tackling sexual violence in conflict. Emphasizing the need for effective action, she said: “The Secretary-General’s report is clear: we are not working hard enough. We must work even harder.”
MONA JUUL (Norway), pointing out that conversations that advance peace and security processes often happen in informal spaces, underscored the vital importance of the leadership of local and regional women mediators, peacebuilders and human rights defenders in that regard. Drawing attention to Norway’s experiences and its advocacy for the formal inclusion of women in all their diversity, she said her country, in partnership with UN‑Women, has long supported women’s organizations in Colombia in strengthening implementation of the gender provisions in the peace agreement. Their advocacy must have made a mark, she said, noting that the unique needs and priorities of women human rights defenders are at the centre of the Government’s new emergency protection plan. In Somalia where women remain largely underrepresented in formal and informal decision-making bodies, Norway is working for a stronger role for Somali women in peace and reconciliation, she said, noting also her country’s work to support women in Syria and Mali.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) called for the establishment of robust mandates and resources for the protection and participation of women in United Nations missions and operations. The Council, further, must more systematically impose sanctions on the perpetrators of sexual violence committed in times of conflict — which may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. As women bear the full brunt of the consequences of the multiplication of conflicts, coups d’etat and displacement, France carries out feminist, ambitious and resolute diplomacy. The country co-chaired with Mexico the Generation Equality Forum in June 2021, which mobilized more than $40 billion in unprecedented funding. She noted her Government’s €6.5 million funding in 2020‑2022 for the Global Survivor Fund for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence. France is committed to continuing its efforts to increase the number of women in the peacekeeping workforce and represent them at all levels of responsibility.
EVA NTHOKI (Kenya) said the international community must build women’s resilience and leadership in line with their current context and immediate threat environment. Also needed is comprehensive implementation of all four pillars of the women, peace and security agenda, she said, stressing that investment in one pillar should not be in isolation of the rest. On capacity-building and training, she said identification of areas that need new skills and competencies, and establishment of concurrent institutions, are important steps in ensuring resilience. Her country has institutionalized women leaders training programmes within Government training institutions, she said, noting significant progress in training and recruiting more women into senior positions, including advisory, representational and field operations for both civilian and uniformed personnel. She called for adequate financing for women’s organizations in conflict-affected countries, as well as adequate financing to actualize the Sustainable Development Goals and women’s integration in national frameworks, and roll-out of women, peace and security national action plans.
GENNADY V. KUZMIN (Russian Federation) stated that the leading role in the protection of women in a conflict should be borne by national Governments, while measures adopted by the United Nations and civil society should support and complement the States’ efforts. Stressing the need to avoid duplication in the work of various United Nations bodies, he called on the Council to focus its work on women in armed conflict, including the development of national action plans. Pointing out that while his country has repeatedly emphasized the need to invest in science, health care, social protection and development as a contributor to peace and security, he underscored that the Informal Expert Group on Women and Peace and Security has failed to meet the requirements of transparency and agreement among Council members as a key condition for intergovernmental dialogue, with its activity bearing the “hallmarks of politicization”.
CAROLYN ABENA ANIMA OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana) shared that to advance gender equality, especially in her country’s security agencies, its police service has developed a gender policy to mainstream gender in its operations and administration, also highlighting that her State has deployed 2,769 uniformed personnel, of which 15.6 per cent are women, as a top‑10 troop-contributing country. To build their resilience and leadership, she encouraged Member States as well as United Nations entities to ensure the meaningful and full participation of women in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding processes and negotiations. Further noting that the increased presence of armed groups creates fear, anxiety and panic, especially among women and children, she urged Member States to provide counselling services as well as mental and psychosocial support.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) highlighted that his country’s development narrative has witnessed a transformational change, from women’s development to women-led development, and from exclusively Government-led to multi-stakeholder-inclusive governance model. Its Constitution ensures the participation of females in local governance by mandating not less than 33 per cent reservation of total seats for women. More than 1.3 million elected women representatives who constitute nearly 44 per cent of the total elected representatives, are leading the political decision-making at the grassroots level. Citing its various good governance initiatives, he said his country has leveraged digital technologies to provide greater access for women to finance, credit, technology and employment. Online bank accounts have been opened for over 445 million people, he said, noting that 55 per cent of those account holders are women. Noting India’s development partnership approach, he said that under its “solar mamas” project, over 15,000 mostly rural women with no formal academic training from 83 countries have received training in solar engineering and related skills in India providing light and power to over 1,200 villages and 5,000 people worldwide.
SYLVIE VALÉRIE BAIPO TEMON (Central African Republic), noting her country’s dark history of conflicts, said women’s sense of responsibility and self-sacrifice for others is an engine for the resilience of Central African women. They have organized themselves to accommodate orphans seeking decent shelter, contributed to humanitarian work and supported recovery projects. With the country’s return to constitutional order, women occupy many important positions, such as in defence, diplomacy and reconciliation. The presidency of the constitutional court is also held by a woman, she added. Initiatives to advance women’s resilience and leadership have been and continue to be implemented. For example, a follow-up committee deals with the trafficking of persons — an issue that affects women in particular. She called on the international community to provide States affected by armed groups with the means to advance women’s leadership, so that they can prosper in the political, social, economic, cultural and personal spheres.
GISELE NDAYA LUSEBA, Minister for Gender, Family and Infants of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said despite substantial investments her country has made to improve the status of women, these have borne little fruit because of the resurgence of armed groups in the east of the country, adding that support for such groups has been devastating for women in her country and slowed the implementation of Council resolution 1325 (2000). Despite such challenges, she touched on steps taken to implement the resolution, in particular to foster a safe environment for the participation of women and youth in peacebuilding, including a national gender policy; a plan to guarantee the stringent enforcement of sentences in cases of sexual violence involving women and girls; training for women peace mediators; the forming of a steering committee; a network for women in peace; and early warning mechanisms.
The country has a normative framework for the advancement of women, she said, noting that this is borne out by the political participation of women in Government, with them holding 27 per cent of senior positions at present. Further, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has undertaken reforms in the police, army and judiciary, and is seeking to recruit more than 20,000 young women to these institutions.
JOHANNA SUMUVUORI (Finland), speaking also on behalf of Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, said that threats, violence, harassment and hate speech against women peacebuilders and human rights defenders pose a serious threat to their lives, physical integrity and efforts for peace and conflict resolution. The international community must ensure that women can exercise their right to participate in all aspects of public, social and political life by providing concrete protection measures from threats and violence. Particular attention must be paid to those who experience multiple, intersecting discrimination, she added.
In calling on the Council to incorporate the views, expertise and experiences of women human rights defenders and peacebuilders into its work and conclusions, she urged continued visibility and appropriate support before, during and after briefings. Member States must adopt a zero-tolerance policy to address reprisals and follow up with robust and systematic accountability measures against all perpetrators. Support for women peacebuilders and women’s rights organizations must recognize women’s agency and provide sufficient, predictable and sustainable funding for grass-roots-level action and capacity-building for women’s networks. As only 5 per cent of official development assistance (ODA) to conflict-affected countries is dedicated to advancing gender equality, Member States must redouble their efforts, she emphasized.
JACQUELINE O’NEILL (Canada), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends for Women, Peace and Security, called on the United Nations to lead by example and make women’s participation in United Nations-led peace processes a requirement. Adequate funding and necessary protection should be provided for women peacebuilders, human rights defenders, civil society leaders, journalists and media workers, and advocates for gender equality. The Council should ensure that peacekeeping operations and special political missions provide, monitor and report on support to women peacebuilders and women human rights defenders at risk. Perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence and discrimination must be held accountable, she added, encouraging the Council to make conflict-related sexual violence a criterion in sanction regimes. “We are witnessing a reversal in generational gains,” she said, adding that the international community must act now to close gaps in implementing the women, peace and security agenda.
Speaking in her national capacity, she said that the focus must be on addressing the factors that require women in conflict situations to be resilient in the first place. Like other countries, Canada is drafting its next National Action Plan for implementing the agenda, with its primary civil society partner calling on the Government to focus on the “peace” in women, peace and security and to bring a more feminist lens to “security”. In addition, the Government has made public the results of an independent assessment of barriers to the meaningful participation of women from the Canadian Armed Forces in peace operations, using methodology developed through the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations.
FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Türkiye), speaking also on behalf of Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Australia, said that recent events have shown how fragile gains can be easily rolled back and how women’s rights, fundamental freedoms and well-being can be violated with impunity. Given conflict-related sexual violence remains a persistent problem as a routine tactic of war in situations of armed conflict, the international community must coordinate and scale up efforts to prevent it and strengthen accountability, he urged. It must also support national efforts to ensure survivor-centred approaches and the provision of comprehensive assistance — including sexual and reproductive health services — for all victims and survivors.
Respecting, protecting, promoting and fulfilling the human rights, safety and well-being of all women and girls are essential for achieving sustainable and resilient peace and development, he said. Women’s political and economic empowerment is crucial to conflict prevention and resolution, peacebuilding, stabilization for societies emerging from armed conflict and strengthened resilience against future crises, he added. He then expressed concern over the increasing challenges and threats to the safety and freedom of peacebuilders, journalists, defenders and civil society leaders, and reiterated his support for the gender parity strategies of the Secretary-General and the Department of Peace Operations.
KHRYSTYNA HAYOVYSHYN (Ukraine), associating herself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said that while peace and security are fragile, people — men and women — remain incredibly strong. Through seven months of resistance against the Russian Federation’s war, the international community has witnessed that “current resilience in Ukraine has a particularly female face”. Women are organizing, leading, and taking deliberate decisions to defend their communities and country in combat and non-combat roles. She noted they have taken charge of children’s education and bear the sole responsibility for care of themselves, children and the elderly. Women are also on the front lines of military defence, numbering 50,000 in the armed forces. Ukraine is the first United Nations Member State to adopt a national action plan on the conditions of war. She stressed that Russian Federation forces actively target women, using rapes and sexual assaults as part of military strategy. She called for the prosecution of all perpetrators of these crimes.
MYRIAM OEHRI (Liechtenstein) said that the killing of Mahsa Amini in Iran must be condemned in the strongest term. The Council should also send a strong message to end violence against civilians in Myanmar, including the killing and arbitrary detention of women activists, and to call on Member States to prevent the flow of arms into that country. “We furthermore expect the Security Council to include the women, peace and security agenda across its work, including in its country specific files.” Full implementation of that agenda by Member States not only contributes to gender equality, but also helps to create sustainable peace. She went on to express particular concern about the risk of sexual exploitation and trafficking of women and children fleeing from Ukraine because of the Russian aggression, and in that regard noted her country’s Finance against Slavery and Trafficking initiative.
ANTONIO MANUEL REVILLA LAGDAMEO (Philippines) noted that his country is proof that peace is possible and more durable with the meaningful participation of women, as a formerly elusive peace was achieved in the southern Philippines through a women-led peace process, leading to the forming of what is now the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Among the first acts passed by the Bangsamoro Parliament created the Bangsamoro Women Commission, which launched a plan on women, peace and security, he said, adding that the partnership with the United Nations and the Government has been instrumental in implementing the women, peace and security agenda, spotlighting in this regard, a partnership between UN-Women and the Government in 2021 to provide leadership workshops for former female combatants and families of former insurgents.
OLIVIER MAES (Luxembourg), aligning himself with the European Union, Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security and the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect, stated that to support females in difficult situations, the international community should focus on three pillars — justice, education and support for regional and national efforts. On justice, he stressed that “sexual- and gender-based violence committed by Russian Armed Forces as part of the war of aggression waged against Ukraine by Russia should be punished”. He further reiterated his country’s commitment towards a safe school environment, in the spirit of the Safe Schools Declaration. Emphasizing the need to work hand in hand with regional and national partners, he shared that his Government has worked with the Pan-African Centre for Gender, Peace and Development to promote the rights of women and girls.
FRANCESCA MARIA GATT (Malta) noted that the Russian Federation’s war in Ukraine has displaced millions of women and girls, leaving them especially vulnerable to conflict-related sexual violence, while courageous women in Myanmar and Afghanistan continue to be threatened and millions in Syria still live in catastrophic humanitarian conditions. Further citing their plight in Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as women’s protests for change in Sudan and Yemen, she stressed their daily struggles “ignite our resolve to act”. She called for redoubled efforts to end impunity and strengthen accountability when it comes to investigating cases of intimidation, attacks or reprisals against civil society organizations and women human rights defenders. Women-led initiatives often make communities more resilient to the impact of conflict, she noted, encouraging Member States to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, whose commitments can contribute to facilitating the participation of women in decision-making at all levels.
OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt) shared that his country has raised awareness of sexual exploitation and abuse as an integral part of the comprehensive training received by its forces prior to their deployment in peacekeeping operations. He stressed the importance of striking a balance in the implementation of the four pillars of the women, peace and security agenda — prevention, protection, participation, and relief and recovery — while ensuring national ownership and taking into consideration the cultural and societal specificities of countries in an armed conflict or emerging from one. He further called for renewed political and moral commitments to empower women experiencing armed conflicts and post-armed-conflict situations, including by investing in women’s resilience and leadership.
CRISTIAN ESPINOSA CAÑIZARES (Ecuador) said he recently participated in a forum about the impact of armed conflict on women and girls, in which he heard “heart-wrenching testimony about how senseless violence destroys lives and hopes”. He reaffirmed Ecuador’s commitment to issues of women, peace and security, particularly with respect to violence against women in situations of conflict, stressing that his country strives to work so that the silent pain of victims can become words heard at the Council. Such testimony, as well as cooperation from regional organizations, will enable the issues experienced by women in conflict-zones to be tackled through a holistic perspective. Multilateralism must be an ally to women, contributing to the strengthening of national accountability systems and ensuring redress to victims of armed groups. Recalling an appeal made on 26 September to the Taliban to reverse their decision to impede girls’ access to secondary education, he stressed the right of women to participate in all spheres of social life.
LEONOR ZALABATA TORRES (Colombia) spotlighted her country’s policies and programmes which incorporate intersectional gender perspectives. Guaranteeing the rights of women — including to sexual and reproductive health — is a sine qua non for women and their contributions to peace and security, she said. She then highlighted her country’s national efforts which included affirmative measures to guarantee gender equality, a roadmap and national action plan to implement resolution 1325 (2000), legislation and a feminist foreign policy. Peacebuilding, she emphasized, must recognize the various problems and challenges which women experience in all their diversity. Transformation is possible if women have decision-making power, she further stressed.
NTHABISENG MALEFANE (South Africa) said that despite Council efforts, implementation of the women, peace and security agenda has not had concrete results on the ground. Armed groups have expanded activities, undermining State authority and violating international human rights law including conflict-related sexual violence, and restriction of women and girls’ participation in public life. A key challenge is the difficulty in holding armed groups to account. However, she stressed that measures to combat them should not be used against women civil society organizations, human rights defenders or journalists. Women are marginalized in conflict situations, she noted, and therefore the agenda should be linked to promotion of women’s economic empowerment. Women’s organizations and networks foster cooperation and coordination, she noted, citing a number of them on the African continent. Training and capacity-building are crucial for women to meaningfully participate in peace processes at continental and local levels.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) stated that her country will seek to integrate the women, peace and security agenda in all contexts of the Council’s agenda. Noting that Switzerland will also continue to support the creation of networks of women mediators and peacebuilders as it has done in Lebanon, she underscored that it will focus on women’s participation in peace processes and will continue to listen to the voices of civil society. Pointing out that the increase in attacks on schools, targeting female students and teachers, as well as the large number of conflict-related sexual violence incidents, signify a disturbing negative trend, she emphasized that the Council must use the instruments at its disposal to ensure accountability of the responsible actors, pointing to the inclusion of sexual and gender-based violence as criteria towards sanctions regimes as one such instrument.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) stressed the importance of comprehensive and context-specific measures which ensure the human security of every individual to achieve sustainable peace and resilience in conflict-affected countries. In placing support for women’s leadership and resilience at the core of its second national plan on women, peace and security, Japan has also provided on-the-ground assistance through leadership and livelihood skills training for females and civil society organizations in Afghanistan, Cameroon and Nigeria. Japan looks forward to hosting the sixth World Assembly for Women, which should strengthen partnerships and accelerate actions between Member States and relevant stakeholders, he said.
KRZYSZTOF MARIA SZCZERSKI (Poland), associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said that this year’s anniversary of the unanimous adoption of resolution 1325 (2000) is not a moment for celebration, given the negative impact on women of the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan and the Russian Federation’s aggression in Ukraine. The international community must be more decisive, focused and coordinated in implementing the women and peace and security agenda, including through mechanisms that will empower all women and make good use of their resilience and strength. He went on to stress the need to engage boys and girls in building a culture of gender equality, peace and security, and sustainable development and prosperity.
MAURIZIO MASSARI (Italy) said his country has a long-standing tradition of promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment, and devotes significant efforts and resources to promoting women’s participation in peace and international mediation processes. At the national level, Italy is implementing its fourth action plan on women, peace and security for the period 2020 to 2024, and is a proud supporter of the Mediterranean Women Mediators Network, launched in October 2017 to promote gender equality and foster women’s inclusion in peace processes, mediation efforts and peacebuilding in the Mediterranean region. At the international level, it is strengthening its partnership with the United Nations system in support of women and girls through increased core funding to UN-Women, as well as policy commitments.
ALEXANDER MARSCHIK (Austria), associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends on Women, Peace and Security, said the Russian Federation’s illegal war against Ukraine painfully shows the devastating effects of armed conflict on women and girls, including the use of sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war. “We need decisive action to sanction such crimes,” he said, underscoring Austria’s support for the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine in Vienna and the ongoing investigations of the International Criminal Court. He outlined the ways in which Austria supports the women, peace and security agenda, including an international conference on the safety of journalists on 3 and 4 November. That event will include a focus on female journalists, who face an increased risk of harassment, discrimination and violence, both online and offline, particularly in conflict zones, where women’s voices often remain unheard, he said.
MARIA THEOFILI (Greece), associating herself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said that security threats faced by women war correspondents and media workers undermines their crucial role in contributing to peace, security and development. The 29 cases of conflict-related killings of women verified by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), among them human rights defenders and journalists, is possibly the tip of the iceberg. “Against this backdrop, silence is not an option.” Impunity for crimes against women journalists, especially those committed in times of conflict, must be adequately addressed, she said, adding that a gender perspective to peace-related initiatives should also aim at enhancing their security.
JOONKOOK HWANG (Republic of Korea), aligning himself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, as well as Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey, Australia, and the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect, shared that his Government recently allocated $2 million in emergency funds to underpin the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) activities for survivors of gender-based violence in Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova. Drawing attention to the multiple difficulties faced by the women defectors from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, who make up 72 per cent of the nearly 34,000 defectors who arrived in his country since the 1990s, he emphasized that the principle of non-refoulement should be equally applied to the defectors from its northern neighbour.
BJÖRN OLOF SKOOG, Head of Delegation of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, stressing the need to acknowledge that women leaders are often targeted for speaking up, urged the Council to continue to invite women human rights defenders and civil society leaders, while taking all the necessary actions and precautions to ensure their safety. Noting that women and girls in areas affected by armed groups are often the victims of gender- and sexual-based violence, he shared that the bloc has set up consultative mechanisms with grass-roots women activists in all conflict-related settings and has conducted capacity-building and mentoring for women’s leadership. He further introduced that in 2021, more than 70 per cent of the bloc’s new crisis response and conflict prevention actions had gender equality and the participation of women in peace processes either as their main objective or as a significant component.
NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), stressing that the proliferation of armed groups and small arms and light weapons continues to play a key role in modern armed conflicts, reiterated the need to better integrate considerations of small arms and light weapons into the women, peace and security agenda. Encouraging States to consider how to integrate control of such weapons in their women, peace and security national action plans, he also called on the Council to support the collection of data regarding weapons, disaggregated by age and sex. Pointing out that the inclusion of women in traditional security institutions alone will not ameliorate the implementation gaps, he emphasized that a more comprehensive approach that takes account of security alongside the removal of structural inequalities across society is required.
JEANNE MRAD (Lebanon), quoting UN-Women in affirming that “at the current rate of progress, it may take close to 300 years to achieve full gender equality,” stressed that “we cannot wait 300 years.” She shared that for the first time, around 50 per cent of her country’s army cadets graduating in 2022 were women, adding that the nation had lately witnessed a record number of women candidates during the last parliamentary elections. Highlighting the importance of strengthening women’s participation and leadership in United Nations peacekeeping missions, she underscored that women peacekeepers in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) have played an important role, though their number is still very low.
KATHERINE ANAS AHMAD AL-HALIQUE (Jordan) cited examples of the country’s support for women’s leadership to achieve peace, with the percentage of female army recruits increased from 6.8 per cent in 2017 to 9.6 per cent in 2021, and in General Security/Police Force, from 4.77 per cent to 6.2 per cent for the same period. Consequently, the percentage of women in leadership positions in the army increased from 0.2 per cent in 2017 to 1.64 per cent in 2021. After Jordanian women joined the United Nations peacekeeping forces in 2007, she noted 146 have participated in peacekeeping efforts in Congo, Cyprus, South Sudan and Fiji, during which they performed duties with refugees and participated in training local police forces. The female component of the Royal Medical Services participated in many external missions such as Liberia Hospital and Congo Hospital.
ANTJE LEENDERTSE (Germany), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of the African Women Leaders Network, said that women are far more than passive victims and survivors. “We must shine a light not only on the plight of women, but amplify their role as agents of change,” she said. Discussing the Network’s efforts, she said that its 30 national chapters are key agents for women, peace and security in Africa. However, only 0.3 per cent of bilateral aid to fragile and conflict-affected countries goes to women’s organizations, thus excluding some of the potentially most important actors in conflict resolution and management. This needs to change, she said, adding that the Council must open more space for civil society briefers. She also drew attention to the second Men’s Conference on Positive Masculinity, to be held in Senegal on 10 November, on the theme “Advancing Actions and Promoting Positive Masculinity to End Violence Against Women and Girls”.
Speaking in her national capacity, associating herself with the European Union, the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, and the Group of Friends of the African Women Leaders Network, she said that Germany is very concerned about the large-scale pushback against the gains in women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights. The ongoing crackdown on women’s rights in Iran is a current issue of particular concern. She underscored the ways in which Germany supports the women, peace and security agenda, including through the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund, for which it was the largest donor in 2021. Going forward, it will keep supporting the growth of regional networks which enable women civil society activists and leaders to convene in safe spaces to work together and exchange their experiences.
BOŠTJAN MALOVRH (Slovenia), aligning himself with the European Union, Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security and the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect, pointed out that for the first time his country has a female President of the National Assembly and a record number of women elected to the Parliament. Stressing that women’s empowerment is also a long-standing foreign policy priority for Slovenia, he shared that its Peace Operations Training Centre has conducted trainings on gender equality and gender mainstreaming for Venezuelan women, Afghan refugee girls in Iran, and Syrian refugee women and girls in Lebanon. He further noted that in conflict, post-conflict and transitional environments, where women already bear a disproportionate burden of deprivation and are also a target of armed groups, organized crime or even terrorist groups, women’s organizations need to be able to provide support.
ANA PAULA BAPTISTA GRADE ZACARIAS (Portugal), aligning herself with the European Union and the Group of Friends on Women, Peace and Security, stated that while more than 20 years have passed since the adoption of Council resolution 1325 (2000), the international community is witnessing a global backlash against gender equality, restricting women and girls’ full and equal enjoyment of human rights. Pointing out that protecting the rights of women in conflict situations is a collective responsibility, she stressed the need of a collective action, building bridges with institutions such as UN-Women, OHCHR and civil society organizations. She further highlighted the need to stop intimidation and reprisals against women peacebuilders, adding that any form of reprisal, harassment or arbitrary detention must be met with a response and accountability must be ensured.
ZAHRA ERSHADI (Iran) denounced allegations made by “certain Western countries” that claim to support the rights of her country’s women, adding that they are “nothing more than a political attempt to politicize women’s rights”. Expressing regret over the death of Mahsa Amini, she highlighted that a thorough investigation had been carried out and its findings have been shared with Member States and United Nations-affiliated organizations. Pointing out that her country’s women are smart, well-educated, dedicated, patriotic and aware of their rights, and understand how to engage with the Government in a peaceful and constructive manner to advance their rights, she advised the Western States that they are not required to act as guardians or caretakers of Iranian women or speak on their behalf.
MARITZA CHAN VALVERDE (Costa Rica) encouraged public-private partnerships to promote the post-conflict recovery of local communities by hiring and supporting widows and empowering their political participation. There is also an urgent need to expand existing funding mechanisms for women human rights defenders and create new streams to support women-led and LGBTI-led civil society organizations in conflict-afflicted areas, she noted. She further called on the Council and all United Nations bodies to recognize crimes of persecution based on a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, physical characteristics and expression. United Nations agencies in humanitarian settings should expand access to justice for survivors of sexual violence, she added. She then called for the integration of young women into peace, development and security efforts.
CAROLYN SCHWALGER (New Zealand), aligning herself with the Group of Friends for Women, Peace and Security, said women’s meaningful participation in all peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts must be the centrepiece of the New Agenda for Peace. She then emphasized the need to address long-standing leadership barriers and redouble resilience efforts. As a member of the Peacebuilding Commission and through its support for the Peacebuilding Fund, New Zealand will continue to ensure gender-responsive engagement which brings women’s diverse perspectives to the fore. All Member States should prioritize the creation of safe and enabling environments for all women peacebuilders, women human rights defenders and women civil society leaders, she urged.
PAULA NARVÁEZ OJEDA (Chile), aligning herself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, stressed that the international community will not succeed in paving the way to long-term peace without measures to prevent and condemn sexual- and gender-based violence, in particular the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and harmful practices. In this regard she identified the economic empowerment of women; collection and analysis of disaggregated data; and access to education as three transformative actions towards the women, peace and security agenda. Acknowledging the financing gaps in terms of collecting the data required to foster the gender-inclusive approach, she called on the international community to reduce military expenditure and channel more resources into the education system and social protection.
ANA JIMENEZ DE LA HOZ (Spain), aligning herself with the European Union and the Group of Friends on Women, Peace and Security, spotlighted her country’s feminist foreign policy, support for other countries’ national action plans and promotion of the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) Women, Peace and Security Programme and the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) Women’s Platform, among other initiatives. To strengthen women’s resilience and leadership, the international community must engage bilaterally and multilaterally and provide a conducive environment for women’s organizations, human rights defenders and activists, she said. As such, Spain will continue to finance mechanisms, instruments and funds that promote the women, peace and security agenda. There must also be greater coordination between the Council and other bodies including the Human Rights Council, she urged before turning her attention to the situation in Afghanistan and Ukraine.
IRENE FELLIN, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Women, Peace and Security, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), said that it is sad to see women’s rights being challenged in places such as Iran and Afghanistan. Moreover, horrific war crimes are having a disproportionate impact on women and girls amidst the Russian Federation’s war of aggression on Ukraine. NATO’s new Strategic Concept, adopted in Madrid in June, explicitly recognizes that women, peace and security, as well as gender equality, are integral to the Alliance’s values and actions. “When we think human security, we also think gender perspectives. They complement and reinforce each other.” However, political commitments do not work in isolation, she said, emphasizing the need for accountability and leadership by everyone. She went on to cite Ukraine, “a NATO partner,” as an example of resilience as its people stand up for values shared by most.
RAZALI ISMAIL (Malaysia) called for more action to dismantle the barriers towards peace and security. There must be better protection for women peace advocates through political, financial and capacity building support. Malaysia supports increasing the number of women personnel in peacekeeping missions at all levels and in key positions, he added. At the regional level, Malaysia will continue to apply a gender lens in its collective efforts to integrate women, peace and security with other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members. For its part, the international community must improve gender equality in peace processes and create conducive environments for women peacekeepers and peacebuilders, he stressed.
REIN TAMMSAAR (Estonia), aligning himself with the European Union, noted that the war in Ukraine has forced over 12 million people, mostly women and children, to flee their homes. He added that women are continuously forced to endure unjustified struggles even for the most basic needs and rights, such as in Afghanistan, where females are deprived of education, jobs, political and social rights, or in Ethiopia, where they have faced mass displacement. On the other hand, he stressed, the international community has witnessed extraordinary examples of courage and dedication by the “brave women of Iran”, who stand united in their fight for basic rights at the cost of their lives.
ANDREJS PILDEGOVIČS (Latvia) cited resolution 1325 (2000) and the nine resolutions adopted in the following two decades, recognizing also the suffering that armed conflicts bring to women and girls, and declared sexual violence a war crime. However, women and girls are experiencing immense suffering, including sexual violence, because of the unprovoked, unjustified war that the Russian Federation chose to wage against its neighbouring country Ukraine. For the crimes committed the Russian Federation must and will be held accountable, including through a special tribunal for the crime of aggression. Latvia has welcomed more than 35,000 Ukrainian refugees, he noted, and is supporting establishment of a rehabilitation centre in Ukraine to help victims of war crimes, and will support the development of that country’s national action plan on women, peace and security.
FIONA WEBSTER (Australia) noted that where women are absent — by force or discriminatory norms and structures — peace does not prevail. Australia is gravely concerned by the growing levels of hostility towards women, particularly those facing intersectional inequalities. The reprisals, intimidation and violence against women peacebuilders, human rights defenders, community activists, protestors, students and educators are abhorrent. The international community must stand with everyone and every organization fighting for peace and security, grounded in gender justice. She further condemned last month’s deadly and disproportionate use of force against protesters in Iran – stressing that all women and girls have the right to be fully and equally part of peacekeeping operations, peace negotiations and political processes. Australia supports the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund, regional networks of women negotiators and mediators, and gender justice initiatives in the investigation and prosecution of international crimes.
TRA PHUONG NGUYEN (Viet Nam), in describing women as agents of change, spotlighted her country’s commitments to their advancement and enhanced participation. Women and their empowerment are critical to a culture of peace and play a vital role in educating young people and children on peace’s value, she said. Women’s leadership and contributions should be guaranteed and promoted at all levels by mainstreaming their rights, interests and needs. The United Nations must increase the number of women peacekeepers and ensure their meaningful contributions, she continued. She then echoed the call to earmark at least 15 per cent of ODA to advancing gender equality in conflict-affected countries.
CORNEL FERUȚĂ (Romania), aligning himself with the European Union, said the topic of the debate is timely, with Europe facing unprecedented challenges to peace and security on the continent, due to the Russian aggression against Ukraine, which severely affects women. He stated that more than 2.6 million Ukrainian refugees crossed the border into his country, mostly women and children, adding that some of those women returned to defend their country. Romania has a proactive approach to the empowerment of women, both as a human rights objective and as a precondition for social justice, development and peace, she said, spotlighting in this regard the adoption and implementation of a National Strategy and a National Plan of Action for Women, Peace and Security 2020-2023.
KRASSIMIRA TZONEVA BESHKOVA (Bulgaria), associating herself with the European Union, Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security and the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect, noted the warning that the world is experiencing a reversal of generational gains in women’s rights. Whether this is due to terrorist groups motivated by religious extremism, mercenaries serving the Russian war machine against Ukraine or ill-trained conscripts, armed groups are usually male-composed and often involved in sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls. The full, equal and meaningful participation of women and girls in all aspects of life is crucial and should not be seen as something that comes after peace is achieved — rather, one of the instruments to contain armed groups plaguing regions. Stepping back from commitments, as witnessed at many spots on the globe, is equal to ruining individual lives and societies with bullets, she stressed.
MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia), associating himself with the European Union, noted advocating for women leaders in conflict is crucial, calling for further effort to grow numbers of deployed women in United Nations missions such as the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), which reached 13 per cent of deployed women, which is more than the target of 9 per cent set for 2022. He urged for more focus on the Russian Federation’s ongoing unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine, resulting in unprecedented suffering for women and girls as they are largely displaced and facing risks of human trafficking and sexual and gender-based violence. He expressed support for the Safe Schools Declaration and encouraged all States to endorse it, stressing the situation of Afghan women and girls is particularly alarming, as their right to education and work are now at stake.
FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, an observer for the State of Palestine, said Palestinian women have long played a prominent role in leading and shaping the national liberation struggle and carrying its share of the nation’s burdens. Since its inauguration in 1929, the Palestinian women’s movement has been a unifying force that has helped rally people around one identity and one national vision for justice and freedom. Yet for all their gains, Palestinian women and their families face widespread violence and terror by both the Israeli occupying army and settlers, she said, adding that Israel targets human rights defenders, including women. Without doubt, the Israeli occupation remains the main obstacle for achieving women rights, peace and security in Occupied Palestine. The impact is generational, continual and enormous.
KARL LAGATIE (Belgium), associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends on Women, Peace and Security, stressed that failure to address inequalities, to guarantee women’s rights and end conflict-related sexual violence prevents the full, equal and meaningful participation of women at all levels of decision-making. In this regard, the global anti-gender movement is particularly disturbing, reversing generational gains. He cited Belgium’s support for the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Mali and now also in Ukraine, supporting women-led organizations to participate in decision-making, prevent conflicts and respond to crises, such as engendered by the Russian Federation’s war of aggression in Ukraine. A gender-transformative approach is needed everywhere, he stressed.
ABDULLAH ALI FADHEL AL-SAADI (Yemen) said that his Government has set up a national committee to investigate allegations of human rights violations and allegations of violence against women. These cases are referred to specialized jurisdictions and those responsible are prosecuted. The Ministry of Social Affairs is working with the Ministry of Interior Affairs and civil society to identify the concerns of women, men, children and young people. Yemen’s Presidential Council is promoting equal citizenship and the empowerment of women and young people. Women are increasingly participating in Government activities. Eight women have been appointed to subcommittees of the Presidential Council to lend their expertise to the effort of achieving lasting peace. Women also participate in the implementation of the ceasefire and are part of the group negotiating with the Houthis. Women have also been appointed as judges in Yemen. But Houthi militia continue their actions against Yemeni women, depriving them of their political and economic rights and hampering their freedoms, he said.
SURIYA CHINDAWONGSE (Thailand) said women must participate as leaders in peace processes and policy decision-making at all levels. The Thai Government’s National Measures and Guidelines on Women, Peace and Security seek to enhance women’s role in addressing conflict and political and social unrest. Working with UN-Women, the Thai Government is developing new measures and guidelines. Thai peacekeepers are working with local community leaders, including women and girls, to address their vulnerabilities and boost their empowerment through capacity- building and training, using their experience and best practices. Increasing female personnel in United Nations peacekeeping operations must be encouraged, as their abilities to build trust and gain access to communities and women in host countries are invaluable assets.
IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ (Croatia), speaking on behalf of the Friends of the Responsibility to Protect, consisting of 55 Member States and the European Union, emphasized the pivotal role of the women and peace and security agenda in advancing women’s participation in political processes, peacebuilding and conflict prevention. The inclusion of women is also important for preventing atrocity crimes, he said, noting that genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing all entail a gender perspective and have a gender impact. Addressing root causes of gender-based discrimination and violence, as well as elevating women’s voices on their unique experiences and needs in atrocity situations, can enhance prevention strategies and contribute to lasting peace, he said.
“Women’s full, equal, effective and meaningful participation and leadership must be integral to all efforts across the humanitarian, development and peace nexus, and gender equality and human rights must be a central part of all peace agreements,” he continued. In that context, Member States must step up their support for the women and peace and security agenda, Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and subsequent related resolutions as well as contribute to their swift implementation. They must also work to prevent and respond to all forms of sexual and gender-based violence and discrimination targeting women and girls, including by ending impunity for serious crimes committed against women and girls and by ensuring that all incidents of sexual violence are fully investigated, prosecuted and tried in a competent court in line with international standards, he said.
MARÍA DEL ROSARIO ESTRADA GIRÓN (Guatemala) said armed violence is a scourge threatening the physical and moral integrity of people and preventing development. Noting the Arms Trade Treaty would prevent the diversion of weapons, she said Guatemala prioritizes the involvement of women as agents of peace and prevention — 300 women have deployed as staff, military and civilian personnel in various missions, proving they can operate as well as their male colleagues and have a positive impact in those environments. She also insisted on the role of regional organizations and national action plans for the implementation of these commitments, to ensure that the needs of all social groups are met, especially the most vulnerable.
DAVID BAKRADZE (Georgia) shared that his Government is finalizing its fourth national action plan on women, peace and security for 2022-2024, which is based on its approach to integrate gender perspectives in the security sector and in decision-making processes. He also stated that women and girls are disproportionately affected by wars, conflicts and crises, including “Russia’s illegal, unprovoked and brutal war against Ukraine” which has highlighted the importance of emphasizing women as well as the women, peace and security agenda. He further noted that women and girls living in the “Russia-occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions of Georgia” continue to suffer from persistent violations of their fundamental human rights and are unable to benefit from his Government’s human rights protection framework.
JOAN MARGARITA CEDANO (Dominican Republic) said efforts to support women’s resilience and leadership as they work to achieve sustainable peace is very important. Promoting them means promoting peace. Promoting their leadership and work as human rights defenders is a shared responsibility and necessary to curb armed violence around the world. Unfortunately, the price women have paid as human rights defenders or for their rightful seats at negotiating tables is very high. The Council has met to discuss the reprisals women face, including prison or being disappeared. Many obstacles remain to women’s participation in peace processes and peacebuilding, she said, noting that women will not give up as they are convinced their contributions bring common benefits for all. “This is what we call resilience,” she said. The full representation of women, with their unique and inclusive perspective, is necessary. She referred to efforts such as the “Silence the Guns in Africa” project, efforts to educate women in Afghanistan and work to obtain information about the disappeared in Syria.
MUHAMMAD ABDUL MUHITH (Bangladesh), aligning himself with the Group of Friends for Women, Peace and Security as well as the Group of Friends on the Responsibility to Protect, and recalling his country’s experience of sexual violence against women during its war of liberation in 1971 when over 200,000 women had been violated, shared that his country has given shelter to over 1 million Rohingyas, a large majority of whom are women and girls. Stressing that material support to women peacebuilders and their families, including psychosocial support to women victims, is essential for meaningful participation of women in peacekeeping and peacebuilding in conflict situations, he emphasized that effective early warning, community engagement and information campaign by the peacekeeping missions can ensure a conducive environment for the women peacebuilders.
MOHAMMAD KURNIADI KOBA (Indonesia), in encouraging the meaningful contributions of women across the peace continuum, called for the highest political support and establishment of platforms which bolster human capital. In 2020, Indonesia established the Southeast Asian Network of Women Peace Negotiators and Mediators to exchange best practices and strengthen women’s capacities on peace negotiation and meditation. He then spotlighted his country’s work to empower women in Myanmar and Afghanistan. As the international community must amplify women’s leadership to foster enduring and sustainable peace, the United Nations should have a specific and targeted focus on women’s empowerment and protection in Afghanistan, he urged. Investing in women’s resilience and leadership is investing in a sustainable and peaceful future, he stressed.
ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali) noted the country has been going through a deep and multidimensional crisis since January 2012, of which the first innocent victims unfortunately remain women, children and the elderly. These vulnerable strata of society are regularly the object of physical, psychological and moral violence on the part of outlaw armed groups and other organized crime organizations. Malian women have remained strongly mobilized, through associations, non-governmental organizations and cooperatives, supporting civilian populations, and continuing their fight against gender-based violence, he said. The Government granted Malian women a quota of 30 per cent of elective and nominative positions in the country’s institutions and administration, contributing to their empowerment.
RYTIS PAULAUSKAS (Lithuania), aligning himself with the European Union, called the acts of violence and use of lethal force by the Iranian authorities against protesters and women human rights defenders “shocking”. Expressing concern over how Belarus denies women many rights and freedoms guaranteed by international human rights law, and is imprisoning women activists and women human rights defenders, he also voiced concern over the situations in Afghanistan and Haiti. Noting that widespread sexual and gender-based violence is used as a weapon of war to humiliate, intimidate and terrorize the population, not only in Ukraine but in most armed conflicts around the globe, he emphasized the importance of holding those responsible to account and ensuring a full, effective and speedy implementation of the women, peace and security agenda.
YOKA BRANDT (Netherlands), aligning herself with the European Union, the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, the Group of Friends of Women in Afghanistan and the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect, stated that it is “painfully evident” that progress in women’s and girls’ rights is being reversed while the number of violent conflicts is increasing. Placing an emphasis on inclusivity and intersectionality, she underscored that full, equal and meaningful participation of diverse women leaders, women peacebuilders and women human rights defenders from all backgrounds and at all levels is crucial to reaching lasting peace. Further highlighting the need to address the root causes of conflict and instability, including unequal power relations, she pointed to the need to combat gender stereotypes and negative social norms at the root of gender-based discrimination and gender inequality.
MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco) shared that her Government had launched in March its first national action plan on women, peace and security, adopting an inclusive approach involving all ministries and national institutions as well as civil society representatives. In light of recent conflicts, health threats and natural hazards, she pointed out that the action plan has focused on three basic pillars — increasing the participation of women in preventive diplomacy, mediation and peacekeeping operations; promoting a culture of peace and gender equality; and realizing women’s economic independence. She further highlighted that her country was one of the first to implement gender-responsive budgeting to ensure equality between men and women in public financing.
SAMADOU OUSMAN (Niger) called for greater cooperation and coordination to ensure accountability and end the stigmatization of survivors of sexual violence. In implementing the women, peace and security agenda, Niger established a national plan based on prevention, participation, partnership and involvement, which emphasizes the removal of obstacles for women’s involvement in the sustainable prevention of conflicts and strengthening of social cohesion. He spotlighted Niger’s national and legislative efforts, as well as its international initiatives, which included the establishment of the Group of Friends of Women of the Sahel with the African Union and European Union. He then emphasized the negative impacts of the climate crisis on humanitarian needs, development and women, peace, and security.
FAHAD M. E. H. A. MOHAMMAD (Kuwait) said that despite the constantly growing interest in women's empowerment, there is still a long way to go to achieve that goal in all areas. “History has shown that women have always been and remain the first victims of war, conflict and unrest,” he added. Despite the commitments in the various resolutions adopted by the Security Council on women, peace and security, it should be underscored that this agenda item requires further engagement and political will to ensure its comprehensive implementation. Women’s participation in peacekeeping and peacebuilding has a positive impact on the outcome of those operations. The participation of women increases the duration of peace agreements and their sustainability. The achievements of Kuwait’s women continue to increase year after year, especially as they have gained their political rights, including the right to standard elections in 2005. Kuwaiti women have for years participated in political decision-making through the various high posts that they occupy in Parliament, Government and as ambassadors. Kuwait will continue its efforts to empower its women and promote civil, political, economic and social rights in accordance with its Constitution and the Sustainable Development Goals.
CAROLYN RODRIGUES-BIRKETT (Guyana) called for addressing existing barriers in building resilience and strengthening women’s leadership. She then spotlighted her country’s national efforts to promote women’s political participation, leadership and representation. At the international level, Guyana has advocated for women’s inclusion and empowerment, contributed to humanitarian efforts to protect women and children and consistently supported the establishment and implementation of mechanisms to realize women’s full and equal participation in conflict prevention and peacemaking processes. As an intersectional approach is imperative, Member States must fulfil their obligations of the existing frameworks for women in peace and security, she urged.
REUT SHAPIR BEN NAFTALY (Israel) said her country was the third in the world to have a woman who fulfilled the highest political responsibilities as Prime Minister, adding that gender equality is also enshrined in Israel's Declaration of Independence. Terrorism and war are global phenomena which, unfortunately, the Israeli people are exposed to on a regular basis. Over the years, such mass casualty events and emergencies in Israel brought about the need for a comprehensive multidisciplinary continuum of care based on cross sectoral cooperation and the proactive approach to emergency preparedness. Israel stands ready to bring about better involvement of women in conflict solving and resilience building. Humanitarian aid and guidance aimed to promote the global resilience of women is also being provided by Israeli civil society organizations. Most recently, such a training programme was designed for Ukrainian professionals and conducted in Israel. Tragically, many women around the world are still fighting for their most basic human rights. The brutal suppression of women's rights by the Iranian regime, as well as the horrific repression of those protesting such brutality leading to the deaths of hundreds of demonstrators at the hands of the Iranian police, clearly contradicts the basic principles of human rights, as well as the United Nations Charter, she added.
ALEXANDRA BOIVIN, representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), pointed out that international humanitarian law requires parties to an armed conflict to assess and take steps to reduce civilian harm. There was a need to better understand the interplay between civilian harm and gender inequality. Highlighting that women become the primary breadwinners, leaders and activists in times of war, she underscored that women’s capacities to adapt to and take on new roles are critical for the stability and protection of their communities. Pointing out that more needs to be done to ensure that the clear prohibition of sexual violence under international humanitarian law is integrated into national law, military doctrine and training programmes, she also recommended States to incorporate a gender perspective in their national action plans and other relevant policies.
ZAHRA ERSHADI (Iran), taking the floor a second time, wished to counter the “baseless claims” made against her country by the representative of Israel, adding that it “always had an agenda of deception and the use of lies”. Characterizing that country as “a Zionist, expansionist regime” she said Israel was attempting to deflect attention from atrocities perpetrated against women and girls in occupied Palestine. The Council had failed to uphold the United Nations Charter due to a permanent member giving Israel “carte blanche” and encouraging it to commit more heinous crimes, she said, calling on the 15-member organ to resort to action rather than words.