UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday called for the involvement of more women in conflict prevention and mediation, saying ``their participation is essential to building blocks in reinforcing democracy'.
Ban made the call at a UN Security Council open debate on the role of women in achieving global peace and security. 'Women's participation remains low, both in official and observer roles. This has to change,” he said, pledging that the United Nations would lead by example by addressing the issue. He, however, noted that the number of women leading UN peacekeeping, political and peacebuilding missions had gone up to six out of 28 missions over the past year.
The secretary-general also disclosed that the UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA) had increased the proportion of women candidates in its roster of senior mediators, team members and thematic experts to 35 per cent.
Ban said: ``In the field, our teams are supporting women so they can engage in peacebuilding and conflict prevention, management and reconciliation'.
He decried widespread and systematic abuses of women's rights during conflict, saying that, ``while there is undoubtedly progress in women participation in UN work, I am deeply concerned about the persistence of serious abuses of women's rights'.
``Last year at this time, I lamented the mass rapes that had occurred in Walikale, in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). My alarm has not diminished. We must respond swiftly and effectively to such crimes wherever and whenever they occur,' he stated.
PANA reported that the debate marked the 11th anniversary of the adoption of Securiy Council resolution 1325, which demanded action to reverse the ``egregious and inhumane treatment of women and girls, the denial of their human rights and their exclusion from decision-making in situations of armed conflict, in peacemaking and peacebuilding'.
However, presenting Ban's latest report on the issue, the UN Women's Executive Director, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, expressed concern that implementation of the council's resolution on the issue had been so uneven.
He wrote: ``Proactive steps must be taken to accelerate implementation of key elements of this agenda, such as strengthening women's engagement in conflict resolution and deterring widespread and systematic abuses of women's rights during conflict'.
``Specific actions to address the low numbers of women in conflict resolution and in the implementation of peace agreements are required,” he stated.
He said: ``Member State participants in contact groups supporting specific peace processes should offer negotiating parties various incentives, such as training, logistics support or adding a negotiating seat, in order to ensure women's inclusion on delegations'.
``I encourage Member States to increase the number of women in their foreign service and national security establishments and to take steps to ensure that women diplomats are engaged in leadership roles in conflict resolution,' the UN chief wrote in report.
He also welcomed increases in the number of women in police and troops contributed to the UN and urged member states to do even more.
He also called on member states to strengthen measures to ensure the equal participation of women in peace agreement implementation bodies.
PANA learnt that the report covers findings in five areas of the women, peace and security agenda, which included prevention, participation, protection, relief and recovery, and coordination and accountability for results.
It also noted that there was growing recognition of women's roles in peace and security, and highlighting an increasing number of innovative measures and good practices.