Strengthening women's role in building and sustaining peace

Statement delivered by Asako Okai On the occasion of the International Conference on Women, Peace and Security – Strengthening Women’s Role in Building and Sustaining Peace from Commitments to Results. Plenary Session 3: The Future of Women in Peacekeeping.

December 8, 2020

Excellencies, heads of agencies, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.

Allow me to extend my sincere gratitude to the Government of Viet Nam for its commitment to the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, and hosting this much-needed discussion to celebrate the landmark 20th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325.

In this particular session on THE FUTURE OF WOMEN IN PEACEKEEPING, I want to begin by congratulating Viet Nam for already reaching the 2028 target set by the Security Council to double the number of female uniformed security personnel in field operations. While this is really a commendable development, let me provide perspectives from the lead development agency, on what can be done to complement the effort to increase the number of female peacekeepers.

Women are key to achieving sustainable peace and development solutions. Whether peacebuilding, peacekeeping, or conflict and crisis response, the international community must invest more in the meaningful inclusion of women at all stages from participation to prevention, protection to resolution and recovery. Evidence shows that women’s involvement in peace negotiations contributes to the quality and durability of peace agreements, as well as a higher number of provisions aimed at political reform and higher implementation rates. We all know this in theory, but what is hindering us from translating our commitments to actual results?

In this regard, let me offer you the top recommendation that emerged from the recent International Symposium on Women in Peacekeeping co-organized by Viet Nam’s Ministry of Defense and UNDP on 26 November this year. The symposium highlighted the need to invest in gender-responsive analysis to uncover the norms and stereotypes that block women’s full engagement in peacebuilding and peacekeeping. It also pointed out the importance of promoting an enabling domestic policy environment through dedicated National Action Plans on Women, Peace and Security which should consider policy options, such as maternity and paternity leave and childcare support, for ensuring women are not penalized for care responsibilities.

Subsequently the symposium recommended the creation of gender-strong units in the field, as well as of innovative training for security forces, both police and military to address key capacity gaps. We need to identify promising female police officers and soldiers to participate in high-level officer training to increase the supply of higher ranking female officers for peacekeeping operations deployment. When decision-makers are women, they can better drive gender-responsive efforts.

In the context of COVID-19, let me congratulate Viet Nam for proposing the newly approved UNGA resolution for the establishing December 27 as International Day of Pandemic Prevention.  The pandemic issues were also addressed in the symposium.  The women peacekeepers stressed the need to: strengthen training for undertaking peacekeeping mission safely in the context of COIVD; providing sufficient PPE for missions on the ground; and guidance to peacekeepers as educators and role models for local communities on preventive behavior.  

Distinguished participants,

Let me emphasize that integrated missions and missions in transition are prime opportunities to work across the humanitarian-development-peace nexus and foster gender-responsive peacebuilding efforts beyond the life cycle of the UN missions.

It is critical that our work across the nexus is fully integrated from the very beginning of peacekeeping operations in order to ensure that gender is seen as a whole-of-society issue and not simply a security concern addressed by uniformed services. The UN Country Team must work hand-in-hand with peacekeeping - as sustainable peace and development are mutually reinforcing. Increasing the number of female peacekeepers needs to be complemented by an integrated approach across various sectors, across the government and society.

That is why UNDP engages with peacekeeping missions to advance gender equality, across rule of law and access to justice, security sector reform, human rights, and democratic governance.

For example, earlier this year, in South Sudan, together with the mission UNAMISS, OHCHR, and the UN Team of Experts on Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict, we established the first joint programme to focus on the issue of conflict-related sexual violence, a terrible and profound violation of women’s human rights. In October, the first workshop including senior military commanders and military, prepared the groundwork to integrate the conflict-related sexual violence action plan into the military training curriculum.

And I am also pleased to note that UNDP, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and UN Women are working together under a gender justice partnership to create a women-only roster of judicial and corrections officers in 2021, including government provided personnel, and a training module to promote gender parity in peace operations.

In our approach to sustaining peace, national ownership is key to the success of these initiatives. UNDP supports strengthening of national institutions, national policy development and planning & budgeting exercises.

 At the level of political decision-making, our Global Parliamentary Handbook on WPS identifies ways in which parliaments can review national peacekeeping efforts in line with national action plans, secure resources for gender training of security forces and peacekeepers and criminalize sexual exploitation by peacekeepers.

We wholeheartedly welcome the recent adoption by Viet Nam’s National Assembly a resolution on the country’s engagement in UN peacekeeping operations with gneder dimensions. We hope the others will follow suit.

In Somalia for example, UNDP, working with UN partners including the mission, and development partners, supported the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development to draft the first Somali Women’s Charter.  The Charter stands as the gender framework for the new national development plan, a remarkable feat in this context.

UNDP takes a whole-of-society approach to empowering women peacebuilders, peacekeepers, mediators and women as agents of change. We foster partnerships with a wide cross-section of women activists across ethnic groups, youth, elderly, religions, political affiliation, in order to adequately represent the diversity of women’s lived experience, and for addressing violent extremism and promoting peace and security.

Distinguished participants,

To build a just, inclusive and peaceful society where gender equality is mainstreamed requires a coordinated and joined-up cooperation.

UNDP stands ready to support the Government of Vietnam in its ambition to become a regional hub on Women in Peacekeeping that facilitate research and training to foster a community of women peacekeepers to share lessons learned.

I close my remarks by urging us all to build forward better, which we can only do by accelerating the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.

Thank you.