Sustainable Peace Cannot Be Built Where Rights of Women Are Ignored, Says Deputy Secretary-General at Security Council Open Debate
Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks at the Security Council open debate on peacebuilding and sustaining peace, in New York today:
I would like to start by expressing my gratitude to Japan for hosting this debate.
Peace is the core mission of the United Nations. It is our raison d’être. This mission is now under grave threat.
People’s sense of safety and security is at a low in almost every country, with six in seven worldwide plagued by feelings of insecurity. The world is facing the highest number of violent conflicts since the Second World War.
Two billion people, one quarter of humanity, live in places affected by conflict. This is causing grave human suffering, both directly in conflict zones and indirectly by adding to poverty and food insecurity and reducing access to education and health care. It is imposing severe constraints on people’s ability to fulfil their potential and contribute to society.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict-affected countries were lagging on the Sustainable Development Goals. Projections indicated that by 2030, more than 80 per cent of the world’s extreme poor would live in fragile and conflict-affected countries. In other words, conflict and poverty are deeply intertwined. The pandemic has only aggravated this dire situation.
The war in Ukraine is devastating the lives of millions of Ukrainians. It has also compounded a food, energy and finance crisis worldwide, especially amongst the world’s most vulnerable people and countries.
Recalling the words of the Secretary-General, the world is at a “key inflection point in history”. Rethinking our efforts towards achieving sustainable peace is an absolute necessity. There is only one route to durable peace. To the peace that withstands the crises of our times. It is the route of sustainable development.
Inclusive, sustainable development that leaves no one behind is essential in its own rights. It is also humanity’s ultimate prevention tool. It is the only reliable tool that can break through cycles of instability to address the underlying drivers of fragility and humanitarian need.
Investments in development, investments in people, investments in human security, investments in our shared prosperity, are also investments in peace. And yet, our investments in recent years have fallen far short.
As we approach the midway point of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we see that our current progress is far off-track.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many millions more people — over 200 million more — have fallen into poverty. An additional 820 million people — families, mothers, fathers, children — are going hungry. More women and girls are having their rights trampled on — erased from public life and constrained in private life. The global financial system is failing developing countries, and economies are failing to serve the vast majority of their citizens — except for a small elite.
These challenges are not just development issues. They pose a threat to our peaceful coexistence.
Development deficits drive grievance. They corrode institutions. They allow hostility and intolerance to flourish. When we fail to meet the development needs of our time, we fail to secure peace for our future.
The triple planetary crisis of biodiversity loss, climate change and pollution does not merely threaten our environment. It also threatens to unleash destructive forces that drive wedges in our societies, erode social cohesion and ignite instability.
As you embark on this discussion of peacebuilding and sustaining peace, I urge you to consider the fundamental role of sustainable development in securing peace for current and future generations.
May I impress upon the Council four observations for building and sustaining peace that is built on a bedrock of inclusive, sustainable development.
First, our efforts at achieving peace must be based on a shared understanding of peace and its pathways.
The follow-up discussions on the Common Agenda Report of the Secretary-General happening in 2023 under the preparations for the Sustainable Development Goals Summit and the Summit of the Future open key opportunities to further a shared understanding of the pathways to peace.
The New Agenda for Peace will provide a unique opportunity to articulate a shared vision for how Member States can come together to address these challenges — and to honour the commitment they made in the UN75 Declaration: “We will promote peace and prevent conflicts”.
Prevention and peacebuilding therefore will be at the core of the New Agenda for Peace — through a comprehensive understanding of prevention, linking peace, sustainable development, climate action, and food security.
The New Agenda for Peace will aim to identify additional ways to support national prevention and peacebuilding priorities and to channel the international community’s support to nationally—owned violence reduction initiatives.
Initiatives that are human-centred with a comprehensive, prevention focus.
Initiatives that are grounded in the core notion of human security and aim to build more resilient societies that can address existing and new forms of risks.
Allow me to stress that all Member States are exposed to risks. And no country lives in a vacuum. All Governments must be prepared to take measures that address grievances and prevent violence.
Inclusion will also be at the centre of the New Agenda for Peace. We know that inclusive processes are more likely to be effective and to bring about sustainable peace.
Inclusion involves the meaningful participation of all constituencies and communities, particularly those traditionally underrepresented, in peace and security processes, but also in the social, economic and political life of a country.
This adds up to recognizing and ensuring, in the broadest possible way, that human rights are pivotal in the New Agenda for Peace.
My second point is that investing in inclusion is not only right; it is wise.
Inclusion leads to more public support and greater legitimacy. It strengthens societal resilience and addresses structural inequalities, which are major risk factors of violent conflict.
Among other things, inclusion means addressing fundamental gender inequalities.
I have just returned from Afghanistan where I conveyed these messages to the de facto authorities.
A society based on exclusion and repression can never flourish. A society where the rights of women and girls are trampled on is no society at all.
Women’s full participation in politics and the economy makes a society more likely to succeed. Sustainable peace cannot be built where the rights of women are ignored.
On the global stage, we have made some progress on inclusion. But this progress is still far too slow.
Women remain largely shut out of local, national, regional and international decision-making.
In his latest report on women, peace and security, the Secretary-General warned that the world is currently experiencing a reversal of generational gains in women’s rights.
The percentage of women represented in political fora and peace processes has decreased in recent years. Military expenditures are growing, while funding for women human rights’ organizations is falling.
We need transformational change to break this cycle, halt the erosion of women’s rights and ensure gender equality in order to build and sustain peace.
Young people also play a key role in promoting peace, security and stability worldwide, as recognized by the Security Council resolution 2250 (2015). To this end, all those involved in peace should support the establishment of dedicated regional and national frameworks for youth engagement in peacebuilding.
Youth, peace and security should be more widely reflected in the mandates of special political missions and peacekeeping operations. We also hope that the Council will consider hosting an annual open debate dedicated to youth, peace and security, as a platform for engagement with youth-led civil society and young peacebuilders.
Conflict prevention and conflict resolution efforts must be shaped through inclusive processes, involving the leadership of women and youth, and reflecting their priorities.
It is essential that all peacebuilders, including women and young people, are protected against reprisals and attacks resulting from their work,
My third point concerns the importance of the Peacebuilding Architecture, and in particular the need to explore how the Security Council can further leverage the role and advice of the Peacebuilding Commission.
The Peacebuilding Commission forges crucial partnerships and collective responses to peace and security threats, representing a valuable complement to the work of the Council.
Increasingly, it provides advice on important thematic and cross-cutting agendas. And it highlights country-specific and regional peacebuilding needs, in countries and regions including the Central African Republic, Colombia, the Great Lakes region, and West Africa and the Sahel.
I urge the Council to capitalize on the Commission’s comparative advantages, to integrate crucial prevention and peacebuilding lenses more squarely into your work.
My fourth and final point is that the success of our collective efforts to advance sustainable peace worldwide will depend on adequate investment in peacebuilding.
I am heartened by the unanimous adoption of the resolution on financing for peacebuilding by the General Assembly in September 2022. The resolution emphasizes the need for greater political, operational and financial investment in prevention and peacebuilding efforts in order to sustain peace.
The resolution also underscores the need to invest in local initiatives and in stakeholders active at the local level. This is essential for building societal resilience.
I commend the commitment of Member States to achieving sustained, adequate, and predictable financing for peacebuilding, including through the consideration of assessed contributions for the Peacebuilding Fund.
The Secretary-General’s Fund remains the United Nation leading instrument to invest in peacebuilding and prevention, in partnership with the wider United Nations system and together with national authorities. We cannot allow crises — of which there are many — to divert funding away from these core efforts.
I look forward to today’s debate.