The UN should appoint more women at peace and security leadership positions (03/09/2015)
Opening of the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women - Statement by Mrs Pascale Boistard - 9 March 2015
Mr. President of the General Assembly,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As this month’s President of the Security Council, it is an immense honor for me to address such a large audience on this very special occasion, an audience representing governments and civil society organizations from around the world that share a common goal : gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.
This is a special occasion because we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, by reviewing and assessing the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as well as the 23rd special session of the General Assembly on “gender equality, development and peace for the 21st century.”
It is also a special occasion because this is the first time that a Security Council president – a woman president, as it happens – is addressing the Commission on the Status of Women. While each UN body continues to work to fulfill its own particular mandate, concern over how to achieve the goal of gender equality is shared both by the member states and within the UN.
In this context, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality of the Sexes and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) plays a vital role in supporting member states and in providing coordination for the UN system and other actors to promote gender equality and empower women.
It is also the Security Council’s role to contribute to women’s empowerment and gender equality through its Women, Peace and Security agenda. To achieve this goal, 15 years ago the Security Council adopted its first resolution connecting the experience of women in conflicts to its agenda : resolution 1325.
Another six resolutions have been adopted since 2000 to expand the Women, Peace and Security agenda in several areas : women’s leadership and their participation in conflict resolution, recovery, restoring peace and decision making ; the acknowledgement of sexual violence linked to conflict as a tactic of war and a challenge for international peace and security ; and the need to combat such violence.
The expansion of the Women, Peace and Security agenda has led to concrete advances : nearly 60 gender counselors are currently deployed in several peacekeeping operations ; most peace agreements include references to women ; most mediation processes include at least one woman ; last year the UN appointed the first woman, Major General Kristin Lund, as force commander of peacekeeping operations in Cyprus , where the official UN representative, Lisa Buttenheim, is also a woman, making it the first operation in the world led by a female duo ; and finally, 96% of special political mission reports, as well as 67% of peacekeeping mission reports include references to the Women, Peace and Security agenda.
But what does this mean on the ground ? How have these institutional and regulatory changes decided by the Security Council actually improved women’s lives and helped them exercise their rights ? That is what we try to assess whenever the Security Council visits countries affected by or recovering from conflict, as will be the case this week in the Central African Republic and Burundi.
Measuring the actual impact of decisions on the ground is a real challenge for the UN, as oversight, reports and documentation incorporating sex-disaggregated data are still insufficient in many places. But we must know that millions are still excluded by decisions relating to peace-building and conflict resolution, along with access to natural and economic resources and even basic services. Millions are forced to flee disasters linked to climate change, to pandemics such as Ebola, and to violent, barbaric crimes committed by non-state armed extremist groups such as Daesh in Syria and Iraq or Boko Haram in West Africa. Every day, thousands of women and girls are still abused, raped or killed. And impunity for sex crimes or crimes based on gender remains a major problem in a large number of regions affected by conflicts, where women don’t dare speak out about the violence inflicted upon them daily. The responsibility of the Security Council, in cooperation with other UN bodies and agencies, member states and civil society, is to work together more intensively to support and empower these women.
But in our own house too, within UN bodies, there are still enormous challenges. Only 19% of peacekeeping operations are led by women and only 25% of leadership positions at the UN are held by women, while more than 95% of the soldiers and police officers serving as peacekeepers are men.
And abuse and sexual exploitation must never be tolerated within the UN system. Exactly 10 years ago, in March 2005, Prince Zeid published a report pointing a finger at sexual exploitation and abuses perpetrated by UN peacekeeping staff. While much progress has been made to prevent and end such behavior, including the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy, we must not slacken in our efforts or relax our vigilance. We must remain mobilized to denounce, monitor and investigate such acts in order to make the UN an abuse-free zone, both in the field and at our headquarters.
The UN must appoint more women to leadership posts in the areas of peace and security as chief mediators, special envoys and assistants to the Secretary-General. Gender integration begins in our heads. Let us allow the minds of the UN to serve as models for those outside.
The UN will have the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to the Women, Peace and Security agenda this October, during the High Level Review of the 15th anniversary of resolution 1325 and its Global Study on the implementation of the resolution.
As the current president of the Security Council, looking ahead to that crucial moment, I call on all the members of the UN to mobilize their efforts, their will and their resources to help implement the Women, Peace and Security agenda, which concerns us all.