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Secretary-General's remarks at Roundtable Discussion on Women, Peace and Security in Peacekeeping Contexts

8 Oct 2020

[scroll down for French]

Excellencies, colleagues and friends,

Today, I have the honor of meeting – albeit remotely – four formidable women leaders who strive for peace in their regions and countries.

Thank you for joining us as we mark both the 75th anniversary of the United Nations and 20 years since the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1325 that Melissa has referred. 

That resolution was a landmark -- a ground-breaking step spearheaded by the women’s movement and women leaders. 

It recognized, officially for the first time, women’s leadership as foundational to international peace and security. And it underscored the link between gender inequality and fragility, and between women’s security and international security.

Since then, the United Nations has worked relentlessly to advance the women, peace and security agenda. 

Women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in achieving and sustaining peace is a priority for the UN, essential for successful peacekeeping and a centerpiece in our Action for Peacekeeping initiative. 

In the COVID-19 crisis, it has been women who have had the trust of divided communities to credibly disseminate public health messaging. Yet, it is women who are under siege, bearing disproportionate care and economic burdens and facing an alarming surge of violence in the home.

In situations of conflict, it is often women who are brokering peace at the community levels. And our operations’ partnerships with women leaders and their networks have proven critical to build trust and help prevent and resolve conflicts.

Yet women continue to be actively sidelined once those processes move to the national and international levels.   

Data through 2018 show that globally, women constituted only 13 per cent of negotiators, 3 per cent of mediators and 4 per cent of signatories. 

Women continue to have to fight for their voices to be heard, despite the mountain of evidence on the correlation between women’s participation and the sustainability of peace

Today, we will hear some of the voices from four very different settings in which the United Nations supports peace processes: the Central African Republic, Cyprus, Darfur and Mali. 

And If I may be allowed a short personal comment on these situations:

I would like to say that two years ago, I visited Mali during Ramadan – in my yearly Ramadan solidarity visit.

Three years ago, I spent UN Day in the Central African Republic, that I visited several times as High Commissioner for Refugees.

In the early months of my tenure, I met with the leaders of the Cypriot communities and participated actively in the Crans-Montana negotiations that, unfortunately, did not achieve the results we would want to have.  

And in my previous capacity as High Commissioner for Refugees, I visited Darfur several times.

Across these engagements, I have seen not only the plight of the people affected, but also the central role of women in alleviating suffering and in forging peace.

In Sudan, the inclusion of women as signatories in the recent Juba peace talks is a notable achievement. Darfuri women have consistently advocated and worked for peace and security in the on-going national political transition. And by the way, in the whole of Sudan, women have an absolutely essential role of leadership in all the fantastic movement of the people that led to the present democratic transition.    

In the Central African Republic, for the first time in the history of the country, women participated in the Khartoum peace talks, and one woman was a signatory to the agreement signed last year. This was a result of persistent and strategic advocacy by local women’s organizations. It is critical that we build on this momentum in the forthcoming elections, so that women participate meaningfully as voters and candidates and the elections are inclusive.   

In Mali, women leaders across political lines are playing key roles in the current transition and in the search for peaceful and inclusive solutions.  I congratulate Ms. Bintou Founé Samaké, who is with us today, on her recent appointment as Minister of Women, Children and Family Affairs. This is an important recognition of the tireless work of women civil society leaders for peace and security in Mali.  

And in Cyprus, women were engaged on both sides of the peace table during the negotiations that took place from 2015 to 2017. Since then, women’s bi-communal peace walks have strengthened dialogue, cooperation and trust.  


Chers amis,

Les exemples sont nombreux.

Pourtant, nous sommes tout à fait conscients qu’en raison des revers politiques, du manque d’investissements dans les organisations de droit des femmes et, soyons honnêtes, des mentalités bien ancrées et de la domination des hommes, les progrès demeurent lents.

Cela doit changer.

Les femmes ne doivent pas seulement être consultées mais pouvoir activement participer. Elles ne doivent pas seulement être invitées mais mener les discussions ; pas seulement être impliquées, mais se voir garantir des droits et un traitement juste.

L’efficacité du leadership des femmes a été particulièrement évidente pendant la pandémie. Nous devons rebondir de cette crise en nous engageant pour un leadership équilibré entre les genres dans tous les domaines. C'est à la fois un droit fondamental et un impératif pour une paix et un développement durables. Je continue de plaider en faveur de mesures temporaires spéciales et de quotas dans tous les secteurs, y compris la représentation politique et la prise de décisions en matière de paix et de sécurité.

L'égalité des sexes est une question de pouvoir. Nous avons besoin d'un changement radical pour repenser et redistribuer la façon dont le pouvoir est détenu et exercé dans notre monde et dans nos sociétés.

L’Organisation des Nations Unies est fermement résolue à faire de cela une réalité.

Mme Samaké, Mme Ekomo, Mme Osman et Mme Zenon - nous avons hâte d'entendre vos expériences.

Je suis certain que votre sagesse peut nous aider à atteindre nos objectifs communs d’un monde pacifique et inclusif pour tous. Je vous remercie.