Twenty years ago, thanks to the advocacy of women peacebuilders and particularly those in Africa, the United Nations Security Council adopted the landmark resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.
This was the first-time women were recognized not only as victims of war but as people with their own agency and expertise, who are valuable assets to findings peaceful solutions to conflict.
Since then, there have been nine additional Security Council resolutions on WPS and several African Union instruments have been put in place.
Between 1990 and 2016, the proportion of peace agreements that included references to women increased from an average of 12 per cent between 1990 and 2000 (before the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325), to 32 per cent by 2015.
Sadly, this positive trend has recently regressed. In 2018, only 4 of 52 agreements contained gender responsive provisions – that’s less than 8%.
I would remind about what I said this morning – this is essentially a question of power. This demonstrates that men are not so easy in leaving power in this regard. Power is not easily granted. Power needs to be taken.
This book was published in close cooperation with the African Union Commission and features an enormous variety of women: from rural villages and cities; from privileged upbringings and from humble backgrounds.
What these remarkable women have in common is their work to promote peace and mediate conflicts in communities, often without recognition or payment, and sometimes at great personal risk. They are pathfinders, leaders; pioneers and courageous innovators.
More than anything, the women in this book want less talk about women, peace and security, and more action. The women in this book are counting of us, the international community, and on their leaders and the leaders of other nations to do more than make speeches about them. They want actual investment in them as equal stakeholders who care about the future of their communities and nations. They know in intimate detail – equal to their male counterparts – the logistics, tactics, violence and human cost of war.
We need to do much more to ensure women’s equal participation in peace processes, and to put survivors at the heart of our approach to sexual and gender-based violence in conflict.
The absence of women at the table is also linked to entrenched mindset and social perception issues – for by now we are all aware of studies that prove women’s participation to greatly increase the chances of a peace agreement being long lasting.
Gender inequality is, as we know, a question of power. That is why it is so important that power changes and more women are in position of responsibility in governments, on boards and the United Nations.
We need to do more to challenge and shift the overall power dynamics in society. For example, we need more women presidents, parliamentarians, hedge fund managers and CEOs.
On this, I am proud to say that the United Nations has began to do its part. We have reached gender parity across our senior leadership for the first time in our 75-year history. Like many of the women in this book, we have outstanding women with immense expertise, who will help steer the Organization through the touch global challenges and into the future.
Also like the book, we are investing in our young women. We are listening to them through dialogue channels ahead of our 75th Anniversary and through the Decade of Action and the Beijing+25 Action Coalitions. And I mean, we are really listening. In my travels, I try as much as possible to arrange meetings like this one to hear directly from you about your experiences and what you think needs to be done differently.
The time for us to move from words to action on this agenda was yesterday. We are already behind schedule.
What do you propose we do differently?
What these remarkable women have in common is their work to promote peace and mediate conflict in communities. I think with their lessons we can move faster and we can go much more far away in our fight for peace and in our fight for prosperity, peace, justice and equality in Africa.
Secretary-General's remarks at the “She Stands for Peace” book launch