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UN Warned That Without Women in Peace Process, There Will Be No Peace

Women are often the 'true unsung heroes' in conflict situations, said head of UN women's agency

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka speaks at the Open Debate on women, peace and security on 13 October. (Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown)

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka speaks at the Open Debate on women, peace and security on 13 October. (Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown)

Fifteen years after the United Nations passed its landmark resolution recognizing the links between gender, peace, and security, the body has still failed to bring women to the table, the head of the United Nations' women's agency said Tuesday, which has had a detrimental impact on the safety and rights of women, and the sustainability of peace, worldwide.

"A growing body of evidence shows that perhaps the greatest and most underutilized tool we have for successfully building peace is the meaningful inclusion of women," UN Women executive director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka told the assembly.

The day-long Open Debate was held to mark the 15th anniversary the adoption of the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1325, which called for increased participation of women in peacebuilding efforts at all decision making levels, prevention of gender-based violence, protection of women and girls against violence, and the promotion of gender perspectives in peace missions. During the meeting, the Security Council adopted a new text, recommitting itself to this purpose.

However, during her remarks, Mlambo-Ngcuka noted that "the voices of women leaders and frontline activists for peace are rare in this forum," and that her experience has shown that they are often "the true unsung heroes" in conflict situations.

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"I have traveled and followed our work in displacement camps in Central Africa, Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, and to South Sudan, where the women peace activists shoulder the unseen burden of keeping communities together in the worst of times and under the worst of circumstances," she said. "I have seen both the relevance of Security Council Resolution 1325 and conversely the many missed opportunities where it has not been put into effect, with dire cost."

Particularly, she noted that women are often the targets of rising extremism and are most impacted by the record displacement—and that their safety and needs must be addressed.

Mlambo-Ngcuka cited a new global study also released Tuesday which assessed the implementation of Resolution 1325. Summarizing the report's findings, she said that the inclusion of women's leadership and participation in the peace process

  • ensures the inclusion of community needs to achieve deeper peace benefits
  • improves our humanitarian assistance,
  • strengthens the protection efforts of our peacekeepers,
  • contributes to the conclusion of peace talks and the sustainability of peace agreements,
  • enhances economic recovery after conflict,
  • and helps counter violent extremism.

Julienne Lusenge, who heads a coalition of women’s organizations in conflict-torn Congo, also addressed the Security Council on behalf of civil society organizations. Lusenge described how women from North Kivu province asked to take part in peace talks with M23 rebels in 2013 but were told there were only two sides to the conflict: the government and the rebels. 

"You need to take up arms to be at the peace table," she observed. 

Lusenge concluded with a warning: "There will never be lasting peace without the participation of women."

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