Helen Clark: 10th Anniversary of Women, Peace, and Security

26 Oct 2010

Launch of Peace Fair and Cyber Dialogue Commemorating the 10th Anniversary of UNSCR1325 on Women, Peace, and Security

Address by Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
25 October 1-3pm

I am delighted to join you today and to launch the Peace Fair and Cyber Dialogue to mark the tenth Anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security.

I extend a special welcome to those joining us via video link from Africa and Asia. The experiences our friends will share with us illustrate two truths: that lasting peace cannot be achieved without having women properly represented in peace processes, and that the full and effective implementation of 1325 overall will not be realized without the active participation of civil society.

The adoption of Resolution 1325 ten years ago was a milestone in the way the international community addresses peace building and reconciliation.

Throughout history, women have been marginalized in both peace building and post-conflict processes: keeping the peace has usually been seen as something that men do.

Yet in the many crises around the world, it is often civilians - especially women and children – who are the most affected. The majority of refugees are women and children; the majority of displaced persons are women and children; and sexual assault and exploitation targeted towards women are increasingly used as weapons of war.

As SCR 1325 affirms, if peace and recovery are to be sustainable, women must be empowered, their voices must be heard, and they must be included as active participants in peace negotiations and peace building.

There are many good examples of women playing instrumental roles in efforts of peace and security. For example:

  • In Guatemala, Burundi, and Bosnia, women’s peace organizations and coalitions played a significant part in helping to bring about peace.
  • In Rwanda after the horrific genocide of the 1990s, women emerged as central arbiters of peace and reconciliation.
  • In Liberia, women pushed for the disarmament of the fighting factions before the signing of a peace accord, thereby making an important contribution towards the peaceful resolution of years of conflict.

Beyond the immediate need to include women at the negotiation table, advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment more generally is crucial for the economic recovery, social cohesion, and political legitimacy which are required for lasting peace.

This morning, UNDP launched a report on financing for gender equality and women’s empowerment in post-conflict recovery and reconstruction. It examines how resources have been allocated in post-conflict settings, focusing on four case studies. We consulted extensively with civil society partners in undertaking the research, and the report and its recommendations are informed and shaped by their experiences.

The study’s findings highlight that there has been underfunding of programmes to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in the post-conflict area.
Yet, the evidence suggests that investing in women and girls is money well-spent, and that it will have multiplier effects across a number of development goals.

In post conflict settings, women play critical role in resettling families, rebuilding communities, and sustaining livelihoods. If women’s needs are excluded in such settings, critical transformative opportunities are lost, and with them the prospects for lasting peace, security, and development.

At UNDP, gender equality and women’s empowerment in crisis prevention and recovery is one of our organizational priorities.

In 2006 we adopted an Eight Point Agenda for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality in Crisis Prevention and Recovery, to give a systematic response to 1325. 

Under that agenda, our Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery committed to spend at least fifteen per cent of its programming budget on gender equality and women’s participation. This target was surpassed in 2008, reaching 24 per cent, and again in 2009, when it reached 23 per cent. Additionally, the Bureau has also required that fifteen per cent of its staff time at headquarters is dedicated to gender-related issues and activities.

Examples of our work include:

  • Burundi, where UNDP and UN partners have supported the Government to encourage women to register, vote, and train to run for office. Nearly 51 per cent of the voters there this year were women, and Burundi now exceeds the thirty per cent quota it had set for women in public office at the council, communal administrator, legislative, and senatorial levels. The percentage of women officials in the senate is currently the highest in Africa and the second highest in the world.
  • Nepal, where UNDP’s support for constitution-building has contributed to women playing key leadership roles in the constitutional design process which began mid-2009. An unprecedented 25 per cent of the participants were women. As well, two out of the ten members of a new national inter-party platform to build leadership and conflict management in the country were women, a first for Nepal.
  • Timor-Leste, where with UNDP support, fifty per cent of the mediators recruited for inclusive peace processes were women. These women were trained to mediate local-level land conflicts in communities targeted for resettlement of internally displaced people. This pool of mediators is currently a stand-by resource for the new Department of Peace-building, and can be deployed as conflicts arise.

UNDP has also instituted an agency-wide gender marker system to assess resource allocations and expenditures on gender equality. The marker sets a standard for the whole UN system, and serves as an important tool in contributing to the implementation of 1325.

Although there is unprecedented international support for robust action on women, peace, and security issues, we should harbor no illusions about the challenges which still lie ahead in the full implementation of 1325 and related resolutions.

Too often women are subject to sexual violence as a method of war, and too often impunity prevails – seeing these crimes go unpunished and continuing unabated after a conflict is formally over. Too often women´s contributions to conflict prevention, peace keeping, and peace building are unrecognized, under-utilized, and under-valued. And too often are women regarded only as victims, rather than also as critical agents of change who are desperately needed in post-conflict settings.

The UN system can certainly do more, for example by increasing the human and financial resources dedicated to women, peace, and security. Member states can also do their part, beginning with adopting National Action Plans on 1325.

The role of civil society is also critical. It played an integral role in the development and adoption of 1325, and continues to be an important player in monitoring and strengthening its implementation.

The period leading up to the anniversary of 1325 has been one of reflection and the UN system continues to learn from civil society partners. The Open Days on Women, Peace, and Security have provided an invaluable opportunity for direct dialogue between women’s peace building organizations, women community leaders, and senior UN country representatives in conflict-affected areas. The themes emerging from those consultations will inform our work on SCR1325 going forward.

On this note, I am honored to open this week-long Peace Fair, and to congratulate all those involved in the organization the impressive programme. We now move to the next part of our programme, the interactive Cyber Dialogue with women in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, and Burundi.

Thank you.