Security Council: Women and Peace and Security

(Note: A complete summary of today’s Security Council open debate will be made available after its conclusion.)



ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said “today, we are on a knife’s edge”, citing raging conflicts, rising tensions, erupting coups, authoritarianism on the march, a mushrooming nuclear threat, climate chaos, mistrust in global politics, increasing military spending and record-high displacement due to violence, conflict and persecution. In just over five years, the number of women and girls living in countries threatened by fighting has increased by 50 per cent, he said. “Where wars rage, women suffer. Where authoritarianism and insecurity reign, women and girls’ rights are threatened,” he said, giving examples in Sudan, Haiti, Afghanistan, the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, victims of Hamas’ atrocities and victims of the relentless bombing of Gaza.

This grim backdrop gives renewed urgency to efforts to ensure women’s full and meaningful participation in peace and security, he said. Women are leading efforts on peace, justice and rights around the world, “but still, far too many women’s organizations struggle to fund their essential work, as military spending soars, far too many perpetrators of sexual violence walk free and far too many peace processes exclude women”, he said. Of 18 peace agreements reached in 2022, only one was signed or witnessed by a representative of a women’s group or organization. Women represented just 16 per cent of negotiators or delegates in the peace processes led, or co-led, by the United Nations. Centuries of patriarchy are a massive obstacle to gender equality and, in turn, to a culture of peace. “Violence against women – both on and offline – is endemic; a massive barrier and disincentive to participation in civil and political life.”

At the current rate of progress, it will be almost another half century before women are fairly represented in national Parliaments, he said. Women being involved in processes leads to more enduring peace, and gender-equal Parliaments are more likely to increase spending on health, education and social protection, and reduce corruption. He noted that this year’s women, peace and security report shows good practice and success stories, including near gender parity in Colombia’s peace negotiations to perpetrators of sexual violence in Iraq, Syria and the Central African Republic being brought to justice. He commended the work of UN projects, for instance with local women’s organizations.

But, he said: “Overall, when it comes to women, peace and security, the world must urgently bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality. Concrete progress is slow, stagnant or even going backwards.” He said there must be steps to ensure women’s participation in peace talks, via ambitious Government targets, financing of women’s participation in peace and security, 15 per cent of countries’ official development assistance (ODA) allocated to gender equality, and an allocation of 1 per cent – at a bare minimum – of ODA to women’s organizations mobilizing for peace. He said that, by the end of 2025, the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund’s Invest-In-Women global campaign aims to raise $300 million. He also called for concrete measures to secure women’s full, equal and meaningful participation at all levels of decision-making on peace and security, and all levels of political and civil life, via pushing fair representation in local and national Governments, cabinets and Parliaments. “Quotas, targets and incentives work.” Robust, comprehensive legislation to tackle violence against women – both on and offline – is important. The Summit of the Future in 2024 represents an opportunity to push for progress. “No more stalling, no more coasting, no more delays. The state of the world demands it.”

SIMA SAMI BAHOUS, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), presenting the Secretary-General’s annual report on women and peace and security (document S/2023/725) said: “We meet at a time when the impacts of conflict on women and girls have never been more stark, nor the price we collectively pay through spurning women’s leadership more obvious, as millions upon millions suffer the consequences of the wars of men.” She pointed to the dramatic escalation of violence in the Middle East. UN-Women estimates that, to date, this has resulted in over 1,100 new female-headed households and has displaced more than 690,000 women and girls from their homes, leaving them at greater risk of violence, she reported. “Let me be clear, every act of violence against women and girls, including sexual violence, is unequivocally condemned, irrespective of the nationality, identity, race or religion of the victims,” she stressed, emphasizing that the imperative for collective, multilateral action for peace has never been more urgent.

The Secretary-General’s report highlights his call for a critical transformation in women’s meaningful participation in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, and shares a picture of decline in several countries in the political space for women to participate in decision-making on peace and security – when women’s leadership is needed most. Among the five UN-led or co-led peace processes in 2022, women’s representation stood at only 16 per cent, down from 19 per cent in 2021 and 23 per cent in 2020. In peace processes led by Member States or other organizations, women were also almost completely absent. “A positive exception remains Colombia, where women reached near parity in the new rounds of negotiations,” she said, stressing: “It should alarm us that, 23 years after the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325 (2020), we lack an up-to-date, full, transparent, public accounting of women’s representation in peace talks.”

Women’s participation in peacekeeping has increased in the past year, she said, highlighting achievements last year such as the set-up of mobile courts to convict perpetrators of gender-based violence in conflict-affected settings and the deployment of female engagement teams to learn about the situation of women and girls in the most remote areas. However, as peace operations are withdrawn, the UN’s capacity to monitor and protect women’s rights becomes more limited. “We need women’s leadership now,” she said, pointing out that, in conflict-affected countries, only 23 per cent of parliamentarians and 20 per cent of ministers are women, both below the global average. These numbers can be increased with quotas and by tackling increasing political violence against women and gender-based hate speech. Stressing gender equality must be at the heart of resource allocation, she said bilateral aid to support it in conflict-affected countries declined in 2021.

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