9574th Meeting (AM & PM)

Amid Spike in Armed Conflict-Related Deaths, Inclusive Prevention Strategies Involving Women, Addressing Root Causes Crucial for International Peace, Security Council Hears

Amidst an upsurge in armed conflict around the world — with the highest number of conflict-related deaths in 30 years — the Security Council heard today of the urgent need to promote inclusive prevention strategies that address the root causes of conflict during its first-ever open debate on empowering all actors, particularly women, to engage in that task.

“We need more prevention,” underscored Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, adding that — ultimately — prevention at the international level “is about the use of diplomacy for peace”.  However, prevention begins at the national level, as national actors can build the mechanisms necessary to manage disputes peacefully in their societies and enact the structural reforms required to address the underlying drivers of conflict.  

The “New Agenda for Peace” — the Secretary-General’s policy brief outlining his vision for the future of multilateralism and the UN’s work on peace and security in a changing world — focuses on how women’s participation is linked to efforts to prevent conflict, she said, observing:  “Simply put, without half the population participating and deciding, there cannot be sustainable peace.”

Building on that was Sérgio França Danese (Brazil), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, who said that peacebuilding — an inherently political process — must be inclusive.  Conflict prevention, as part of sustaining peace, requires a cross-pillar approach, he said, emphasizing women’s key role in preventing and resolving conflicts.  He also noted that the Commission has recognized the role youth should play in successful prevention strategies, pointing out that conflict and social instability have a considerable impact on the economic and political opportunities young people will have in their lives.

Abiodun Williams, Professor of the Practice of International Politics at Tufts University, agreed, stating that the costs of conflict can be counted in human suffering, economic collapse and the instability they provoke within and beyond national borders.  Prevention must therefore be a strategic priority, and peacemaking — to prevent the continuation of conflict — requires dedicating significant diplomatic resources while recognizing that it is a process, not a singular event such as signing a peace agreement.  He also said that preventing recurrence requires understanding that conflict triggers in a post-war environment may differ from those that caused the initial violence.

On that, Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, Programme Manager at the Pacific Women Mediators Network, urged the Council to learn from local peacebuilders.  Such first responders address threats comprehensively and inclusively without differentiating between development, humanitarian or peace-and-security issues.  She also encouraged the Security Council to ask the Secretary-General to appoint a group of experts to develop guidelines on what effective national, regional and global prevention strategies should look like.  “Only transforming our approach from militarized security towards prioritizing human security with a gender lens can bring lasting peace,” she stressed.

Concurring was Francess Piagie Alghali, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone, who underscored the need for the United Nations and other stakeholders of peace and security to move towards people-centred comprehensive strategies that address the root causes of conflict.  Traditional approaches that focus on military security measures are often not enough to do so, she observed.

Mozambique’s representative echoed that, pointing out that the pursuit of military solutions has been a prominent feature of recent conflicts — even when dialogue and negotiation have not been exhausted.  The root causes of conflict must be addressed, and he called on States to invest in the development of strong institutions, protect human rights and implement post-conflict recovery programmes while ensuring the involvement of all sectors of society — including women and youth.

Similarly, Vindhya Persaud, Minister for Human Services and Social Security of Guyana, stated that countries bear the primary responsibility to prevent conflict through poverty reduction, inclusivity, good governance and national peacebuilding strategies.  She also called for enhancing women’s representation in peace and security processes, which continues to lag despite evidence showing that agreements are more likely to succeed with their meaningful participation.  On that, the representative of the Republic of Korea spotlighted studies that show that peace agreements which include women are approximately 35 per cent more likely to last at least 15 years.

“Peace wears the face of a woman,” stressed Arianna Tanca, Minister for Women and Human Right Affairs of Ecuador, who underscored that — without women — structural change leading to equality, reconciliation and non-repetition cannot take root.  She therefore highlighted the Peacebuilding Commission’s role in exchanging good practices and lessons learned from situations where women’s leadership was recognized.  She also said that peace, development and security are interdependent and, where one pillar is absent, crisis and conflict are on the rise.

Kaoutar Krikou, Minister for Solidarity, the Family and the Status of Women of Algeria, also stressed the need to address the root causes of conflict.  There is no development without security and vice-versa, she pointed out.  Joining her was the representative of the United States, who stressed that the Council must view the humanitarian, development and peace nexus holistically.

And no one is better placed to identify root causes in order to prevent their recurrence than the men and women who are agents of change, said Switzerland’s representative.  But these individuals must not remain isolated, and their capacity to defend peace must be strengthened.  Pointing out that, at a local level, civil society — and women in particular — often create “islands of peace”, she said that a prevention strategy must “link these islands to make them national, or even international, archipelagos”.

For her part, Huang Xiaowei, Minister and Deputy Head of the National Working Committee on Children and Women of the State Council of China, said that the role of women is increasingly celebrated and youth participation is further deepened in her country’s pursuit of sustainable peace. However, given the turbulent international situation, it is necessary to further empower women and girls and equip them with the skills and education required to transform their communities, promote development and realize lasting peace.

The United Kingdom’s representative agreed, stating that the Council “could yet be more robust” in advocating for women’s full inclusion in peace, development, mediation and decision-making processes. Further, more women should be invited to brief the Council, and the organ can throw its weight behind inclusive national processes to build and sustain peace.

While the representative of the Russian Federation emphasized that conflict prevention is the Council’s primary task, France’s delegate highlighted “the responsibility to respond when crises arise”.  The representative of Slovenia also similarly urged the organ to promptly respond to crisis situations as they erupt and to scan the horizon for emerging ones.

Japan’s representative, Council President for March, spoke in his national capacity to point out that it is far more difficult to manage conflicts once they break out.  Agreeing, the representative of Malta stressed:  “The cost of conflict far outweighs investments in preventative measures and peacebuilding.”

As the floor opened to the wider membership, speakers from around the world offered their take on preventing conflict by empowering women and youth, the Council’s role in this endeavour and national efforts to this end.

“Achieving sustainable and long-lasting peace is not only about ending conflict,” observed Maria Alexandra Kefala, Deputy Minister for Social Cohesion and Family of Greece, stating that it also entails a positive and inclusive notion of peace that is intrinsically linked to social justice. Building on that, Stavros Lambrinidis, Head of Delegation of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said that more gender equality opens the door for more inclusivity and, thus, more social justice.

“Conflict prevention can only be successful if we recognize the depth of the influence of gender norms, gender relations and gender inequalities,” observed Yuriko Backes, Minister for Gender Equality and Diversity of Luxembourg, also speaking for Belgium and the Netherlands.  She therefore urged the use of strategies for early warning and conflict resolution led or informed by women, also underlining the importance of including youth in conflict prevention to ensure legitimacy, local ownership and embeddedness.

However, Elizabeth Taylor Jay, Vice Minister for Multilateral Affairs of Colombia, pointed out that a major challenge faced by youth is a lack of skills training, which — if addressed — would allow for their significant participation in prevention.  Youth and women — critical actors in wars — must also be considered vital actors in peacebuilding and conflict prevention.  By having their voices heard, “we can establish social peace and avoid cycles of violence,” she said.

“Women’s contributions and their leadership are not optional luxuries, but essential for sustainable peace,” stressed Karen Herrera, Vice President of Guatemala, speaking for the Human Rights/Conflict Prevention Caucus.  Women are fundamental to the durability of peace, and young people are not just the hope of the future — but active enablers of change today.  She therefore underlined the need to foster an inclusive, safe civic space for all actors.

Similarly, Doreen Sioka, Minister for Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare of Namibia, said that only when the international community works together to create a conducive environment for peace to thrive can it achieve tangible progress on the development agenda – including accelerating the empowerment of women.  However, Juana Herrera Arauz, Minister for Women of Panama, pointed out that women are currently excluded from political leadership and peace processes despite evidence that their inclusion is linked to the effective prevention and resolution of conflicts.

Marie Bjerre, Minister for Digital Government and Gender Equality of Denmark, also speaking for Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, echoed that, stating that young women are too often excluded from decisions on issues that affect them.  For its part, the Council should strengthen the role of gender advisers and ensure that peace operations are mandated to include the perspectives of women, youth and local civil society.

Also offering suggestions for the Council was Jan Lipavský, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, who said that a reformed and representative Council might be better equipped to address today’s unprecedented multiple crises.  Türkiye’s representative agreed, also urging “comprehensive reform so the Council becomes the representative, democratic, transparent and effective organ our world urgently needs today”.

Providing an example of that need, Syria’s representative said that “the Israeli war machine has killed more than 9,000 Palestinian women in the past 157 days of genocide — 60 women every day”.  Israel’s delegate, meanwhile, recalled that on 7 October 2023, more than 1,200 women and men in Israel experienced a horrific attack on their human rights.  The representative of Lebanon, for his part, observed that events in his country and Gaza over the past five months confirm collective failure on the conflict-prevention front.

Some speakers, however, painted a brighter picture. Khatuna Totladze, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, highlighted her country’s activities to enhance meaningful participation for women and youth, including through regular dialogue with the conflict-affected among them.  Lord Vaea, Minister for Internal Affairs of Tonga, detailed national and regional policies for women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Eseta Nadakuitavuki, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Protection of Fiji, speaking for the Pacific Islands Forum, said that women and girls in the Blue Pacific Continent have protected food markets in many countries in conflict and post-disaster settings. Yemen’s representative reported that 270 women were appointed to the national judiciary, including 37 attorneys general. 

Betty Amongi, Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development of Uganda, recalled that Ugandan women played a central role in the peace process that ended two decades of brutal war and that their contribution to post-conflict transformation was crucial for rebuilding normalcy, ensuring peace and promoting development.  And Iryna Borovets, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, spotlighted the resilience of Ukrainian women and youth, noting that the latter’s engagement in emergency response has increased twofold and that over 60,000 women serve in the Ukrainian Armed Forces while others master new professions and open businesses amidst the war. 

“The art of peacemaking begins at home and comes out of the hands of women,” observed Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga, Secretary for the Environment and Natural Resources of the Philippines.  Detailing her country’s participation in peacemaking in Africa, Haiti and the Middle East, recalling its refugee centres — frequently managed by women — that welcomed those fleeing the war in Viet Nam and highlighting the contributions of its women in bringing about peace in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, she underscored:  “Peace is possible.”

For information media. Not an official record.