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'Women are central to sustainable solutions'

  • Published at 01:10 pm April 12th, 2019
Antonio Guterres
File photo: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres Reuters

Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security has been in effect for almost 20 years

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has told the Security Council that women's rights, voices, and participation are "central to sustainable solutions" for challenges the UN faces worldwide.

He insisted that women's rights, voices, and participation, must be at "the centre of peacekeeping decision-making," on Thursday—at a Women in Peacebuilding Open Debate organized by the Security Council—reports UNB.

The UN chief referred to the Council’s landmark Resolution 1325 on Women and Peace and Security, affirming the participation and involvement of women as "a key element in the maintenance of international peace and security."

Guterres emphasized that the UN's Strategy on Gender Parity is an "essential system-wide effort" to enhance women's representation at all levels and in all arenas.

"This is not just a question of numbers, but also of our effectiveness in fulfilling our mandates; and there is evidence that more women peacekeepers lead to more credible protection responses that meet the needs of all,” he added.

He noted that in patrol units, women can better access intelligence to provide a holistic view of security challenges, and at checkpoints they promote a less confrontational atmosphere.

“Within troop contingents, women lower incidences of sexual exploitation and abuse; yield greater reporting of sexual and gender-based violence; and can access local women's networks, leading to more inclusive peace processes,” said the UN Secretary-General.

Step towards parity

Guterres thanked the more than 150 Member States that have signed on to his Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative, which calls for women's participation at every stage of peace operations, and integrates a gender perspective into all: analysis, planning, reporting, and implementation.

He thanked the US for launching the Elsie Initiative at last week's Peacekeeping Ministerial — to break down the barriers to increasing women's participation in peace operations.

In support of the UN's commitments in these areas, Guterres noted a range of actions, including the Gender-Responsive Peacekeeping Operations Policy, saying: "It commits us to promoting leadership and accountability both for gender equality and for the women, peace, and security agenda".

Since December 2015, the number of women in uniform has increased by only around one per cent, which his is clearly not enough for him.

The Secretary-General informed the Chamber, "This year we rolled out the Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy that targets a range of 15-to-35 percent of women's representation by 2028; which includes military, police, justice, and corrections personnel.”

To face the challenges of this achievement, he asked for assistance from the Member States to focus on women in battalions and formed police units; and for the sustained recruitment and deployment of women within national services.

Noting that, for the first time in UN history, the senior leadership is close to achieving gender parity, Guterres reiterated his commitment to sustaining that progress: "We need to bring the same spirit to our peace operations. This is crucial for our effectiveness, credibility, and reputation".

“Pushing gender equality”

The first female Force Commander and current Head of the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) mission, Major General Kristin Lund told the Council that the "momentum of pushing gender equality must be kept up."

Regarding her experience teaming up with Lisa Buttenheim—the Special Representative, at the time, in Cyprus— she said: "For once, I did not need to convince my boss that gender was important. Both of us had gender equality in our spine."

The Major General enumerated some examples of her work participating on women helping women on missions and reaching out to local communities; she noted many reasons why the armed forces have a difficulty keeping women in their ranks.

She outlined frequent obstacles created by male culture in military settings, giving the example of how "posters with half-naked women" hang in mission gyms.

She also mandated that the all-male teams in military skills competitions must have females, saying: "Gender is on the top of my agenda. Troop and police-contributing countries must do more," 

"We, out in the field, need to be able to reach out to the whole society. Only you can make that happen," the Force Commander concluded.

Diversity is strength

Chairing the meeting, German Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen said: "Women are no better peacekeepers than men, but they are different, and this diversity is strength."

Pointing out that Resolution 1325 has been in effect for almost 20 years, she said: "It is still far from full, effective, and meaningful participation of women in peace operations."

To change this, Ursula suggested, among other things, that: successful female mentors share their stories with younger women; more women join national forces, ready to deploy to international peacekeeping missions; and national barriers preventing women from joining peace operations be assessed.

She added "The peacekeeper's blue helmet symbolizes protection and security. Let us make this helmet be worn by more women. For the sake of peace."