INTERNATIONAL: More Needs to be Done to Ensure Gender Equality in Peacebuilding, Ban Warns

Friday, October 8, 2010
UN News Centre
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 

Ten years after the adoption of a Security Council resolution calling for equal participation by women in post-conflict peacebuilding, much remains to be done to ensure they can play their part in shoring up peace, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a report released today.

“Now is the time for systematic, focused and sustained action, backed by resources and commitments on the part of all stakeholders – national and international, public and private, women and men,” he writes, laying out a seven-point action plan aimed at changing practices among all actors and improving outcomes on the ground.

These include ensuring that women are fully engaged in all peace talks and post-conflict planning, including donor conferences, that adequate financing is provided to address women's specific needs and advance gender equality, and that women participate fully in post-conflict governance as elected representatives or decision makers, including through temporary special measures such as quotas.

The plan also calls for rule-of-law initiatives to encourage women's participation in seeking redress for injustices committed against them and in improving the capacity of security actors to prevent and respond to violations of women's rights, and for prioritizing women's involvement in economic recovery, such as employment-creation schemes, community-development programmes and delivery of front-line services.

“Ensuring women's participation in peace-building is not only a matter of women's and girls' rights. Women are crucial partners in shoring up three pillars of lasting peace: economic recovery, social cohesion and political legitimacy,” Mr. Ban says, noting that several world economies that grew the fastest during the past half-century began their ascent from the ashes of conflict, based in part on women's increased role in production, trade and entrepreneurship.

“Recognizing the ability of women to contribute to sustainable peace and the obstacles they face in attempting to do so requires an approach to peacebuilding that goes beyond restoring the status quo ante. Rebuilding after conflict is an enormous undertaking, but it also represents an opportunity to ‘build back better.'”

Mr. Ban stresses that strengthening national capacity and ensuring national ownership are crucial elements of effective peacebuilding since external support can bring countries only so far in their quest for sustainable peace.

“Enabling women to contribute to recovery and reconstruction is integral to strengthening a country's ability to sustain peacebuilding efforts,” he says. “Similarly, efforts to facilitate an increased role for women in decision-making processes must be based on recognition of the fact that peacebuilding strategies cannot be fully ‘owned' if half the nation is not actively involved in their design and implementation.”

Increasing the confidence of women in the political process requires robust action in the immediate post-conflict period to bring more women into public office, elected and appointed and Mr. Ban says creating a “critical mass” of women officials is crucial, as this will encourage women to engage more substantively within male dominated institutions, especially in the uniformed services.

“Increasing women's political presence must begin even before conflict ceases,” he writes. “Peace negotiations not only shape the post-conflict political landscape directly, through peace agreements' provisions on justice, power-sharing and constitutional issues, but also indirectly, by lending legitimacy to those represented at the peace table.”

He notes that progress made by the UN itself in promoting greater engagement by women in peace processes has been too slow, with women constituting less than 8 per cent of negotiating delegations in UN-mediated efforts and less than 3 per cent of peace agreement signatories. He pledges to appoint more women as chief mediators in such processes and to include gender expertise at senior levels in mediation support activities.

With regard to gender equality in the political process, Mr. Ban acknowledges that it is up to sovereign States to choose an electoral system, with the UN proposing and facilitating but not imposing. “But neither may we abdicate our responsibility to remind States of their international commitments, including the need to increase the proportion of women in elected bodies and other public institutions,” he stresses.

“We should harbour no illusions, however, about the challenges of implementation [of the action plan],” he concludes. “Revising procedures and designing programmes requires careful deliberation.

Additional resources are also needed, and the Secretary-General urges Member States to make substantial, long-term investments in women's security and productive potential, which act as “force multipliers for lasting peace.”