By Eleanor Bennett, WILPF Research and Communications Fellow
Visual: WILPF/Eleanor Bennett)
The General Debate of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA73) was held on 18-25th September 2018 under the theme “Making the United Nations Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies”. Chaired by H.E. Ms. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, the fourth woman and the first Latin American woman to become President of the UNGA, the meeting enabled country representatives from 197 Member States and observer delegations to put forth their concerns, positions and priorities around the most pressing issues of today, including climate change, increased militarisation, gender inequality, among others.
WILPF’s Women, Peace and Security and Disarmament Programmes monitored the debate for references to women, disarmament and conflict prevention, as well as references to our focus countries, and shared a report as part of our accountability work. Only 34 speakers (17.2 per cent) provided specific and policy-oriented statements aimed at ensuring that women’s rights and women’s participation were at the core of the Global Agenda for Peace. Many references were generalised and vaguely asserted the importance of women’s empowerment and gender equality. “Member States have to commit to political rather than technical change”, said Abigail Ruane, WILPF’s Women, Peace and Security Programme Director at the annual meeting of the WPS Focal Points Network. This includes addressing structural discrimination, supporting consistent gender analysis, ensuring safety and justice for women human rights defenders and ensuring strong funding for WPS and gender equality.
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