Women’s meaningful participation in peace and political processes and dedicated funding to ensure that is a key condition to achieving sustainable peace. But when conflicts and humanitarian crises intensify, gender equality commitments are often pushed aside, when in fact, – they need to be implemented and reinforced. This became evident during a high-level dialogue where women leaders and UN representatives discussed the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda in peacekeeping and humanitarian contexts.
On 24 October, the Department of Peace Operations (DPO) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) hosted a high-level dialogue to strengthen accountability in the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda in peacekeeping and humanitarian contexts. The Permanent Representatives of Canada, Ecuador, Germany, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States to the UN, and the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security supported the event, which followed the UN Security Council’s annual Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security.
Twenty-two years since the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, women still remain at the margins of decision-making in many conflict and post-conflict contexts. While progress has been made, much more needs to be done to ensure that concerted leadership and accountability is leveraged to strengthen the participation of women in conflict and humanitarian settings, participants acknowledged.
High-level Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Leadership Dialogue held at the Permanent Mission of Germany (UN Photo)
Funding to women’s organizations needed urgently
Under-Secretary-General of Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, highlighted how peacekeeping missions can expand the political space for women by working together with host-countries and communities, as well as women civil society, peacebuilders, and leaders. “The ultimate objective of UN Peacekeeping is to create the conditions for political solutions and sustainable peace. We can only achieve this when women are meaningfully engaged, and when we advance gender equality.” Coordinated approaches within UN Country Teams on the ground ensured that these efforts can be long-lasting, as humanitarian crises have a direct impact on security and therefore, stability.
However, according to the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), in 32% of humanitarian crises, local women’s organizations are not consulted during the planning and formulation of crisis responses. This is detrimental for the sustainability or success of peace, because women leaders and their grassroots networks are universally recognized for their crucial role in effective humanitarian action and peacebuilding. Speaking at the event, Heli Uusikyla, OCHA’s Acting Director of Humanitarian Financing and Resource Mobilization, called for “dedicated funding to ensure local women's organizations are given a chance to meaningfully participate.”
Challenges still remain in delivering quality humanitarian and development action in conflict settings and the UN “must continue to invest in women’s transformative leadership even if society says no” added UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan, Sara Beysolow Nyanti, joining the conversation remotely from South Sudan’s capital, Juba.
Sara Beysolow Nyanti, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan, Anny Modi, Executive Director of the Afia Mama NGO in the DRC and Lizbeth Cullity, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the Central African Republic, remotely participated in the panel discussion (UN Photo)
With more than 25 years of experience of working on women’s rights in Mali, Mama Koité, the President of Mali's Women’s Platform, shared powerful examples of her work and the importance of women’s participation in the peace process and political life in Mali. “When the armed groups refused to talk to one another, it was the women who came knocking on the door and ensured that they sat together.”
“The Malian people are thirsty for peace,” she added, and leveraging the power of women leaders and their grassroots networks as catalysts for dialogue and mediation was the best way forward.
Mama Koite, President of Mali's Women’s Platform (UN Photo)
“There is no peace without women’s rights, ” said Congolese women’s rights activist Anny Modi, who highlighted the low number of women parliamentarians and their virtual absence from the ‘Nairobi Process’, a regional platform to discuss solutions to the conflict in theDemocratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). “We don’t have women sitting around the table [and] this is making it very difficult for the women’s perspective of peace resolution to be integrated and reach an agreement for sustainable peace,” she noted.
Modi, who herself survived displacement and violence in her country in the early 2000’s, has now become ‘the voice of the voiceless’. She shares valuable perspectives on how to ensure women’s participation with the President of the DRC and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the DRC. “Through this space that has been created for women, we are able to contribute to the peace process,” she said, and also relay the updates and information to the communities on the ground.
Interested in knowing more? Listen to our podcast “Seeking Peace”
‘Seeking Peace’, a new podcast series featuring compelling stories of women peacekeepers and peacebuilders in conflict settings was also launched during the high-level event.
Hosted by former US Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues and Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, Melanne Verveer, “Seeking Peace” explores the role of women around the world in bringing lasting peace to their communities, as politicians, grassroots activists, journalists or uniformed peacekeepers.
This five-episode weekly series features Anny Modi and many other women leaders who are, against all odds, breaking gender norms and pushing the needle to advance women’s participation everywhere, on the ground and at the United Nations. The podcast is now available on popular podcast platforms.