Remarks at Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security
16 June 2022
UN Secretary General
New York, 15 June 2022
Gender equality offers a path to sustainable peace and conflict prevention, and yet we are moving in the opposite direction.
Today’s conflicts are amplifying gender inequality, poverty, climate disruptions, and other forms of inequality.
Women and girls are affected differently and disproportionately by the violence, and by the long-term social and economic impacts of these cascading crises.
Millions of girls are out of school, with no prospect of training, a job, or financial independence. Rising numbers of women and girls are suffering from violence in the home.
In some countries, extremists and military actors have taken power by force, cancelling previous commitments on gender equality and persecuting women for simply going about their daily lives.
Around the world, the recent shift away from inclusive politics shows once again that misogyny and authoritarianism are mutually reinforcing, and are antithetical to stable, prosperous societies.
We meet several times a year on this issue. There is consensus among Member States on the importance of this agenda. I issue regular reports; this Council has passed several resolutions.
But on the ground, the situation is going backwards. The reason is simple.
Women’s equality is a question of power.
Today’s political deadlocks and entrenched conflicts are just the latest examples of how enduring power imbalances and patriarchy are continuing to fail us.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban have appointed a government of men, closed girls’ schools, banned women from showing their faces in public, and restricted their right even to leave their own homes. Nearly 20 million Afghan women and girls are being silenced and erased from sight.
In Myanmar, a large proportion of women’s organizations have been forced to close since the military coup. Offices were raided and ransacked; activists were detained. Many fled the country. Women cannot express themselves openly and have no route to political participation.
In Mali, women are becoming poorer and more marginalized as the country goes through successive military coups, and extremists pose an even greater threat.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has forced millions of women and children to flee their country overnight, putting them at risk of trafficking and exploitation of all kinds.
This Council heard last week that as of 3 June, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had received 124 reports of conflict-related sexual violence across Ukraine, mostly committed against women and girls.
And we know that for every woman who reports these horrific crimes, there are likely to be many more who remain silent, or unrecorded.
Women refugees are taking on leadership roles and supporting the response in host countries. Inside Ukraine, women who chose not to evacuate are at the forefront of healthcare and social support. It is important that Ukrainian women participate fully in all mediation efforts.
In Sudan, two years after women’s role in the revolution was celebrated, another coup interrupted the transition and dashed those hopes. Alleged perpetrators of human rights violations remain in power; key reforms are delayed; and violence against women continues.
In all these conflicts we have men in power and women excluded, their rights and freedoms deliberately targeted.
When conflict erupts, neighboring countries and regional organizations can make a significant difference to the women, peace and security agenda, by ensuring that commitments are implemented.
So I am pleased that we are joined today by representatives from the European Union, the African Union, the League of Arab States and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Our collaboration with these organizations on the women, peace and security agenda is reflected not only in joint statements and resolutions, but in our daily work on the ground.
In Sudan, for example, we are working closely with the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, through a trilateral mechanism to steer the political process back to an agreed and legitimate constitutional order.
As they have launched intra-Sudanese talks, all three envoys have asked every delegation to ensure that at least 40 per cent of participants are women.
We have also supported the formation of a stand-alone group of women from all regions of Sudan with a background on gender equality and experience working on women’s rights at the local level, to bring women’s perspectives to the political talks.
I urge regional organizations to strengthen their engagement with this group.
In West and Central Africa, we are working closely with both the Economic Community of West African States and the Economic Community of Central African States. Our collaboration on women, peace and security extends to joint planning and programming and joint engagement with civil society platforms to ensure women are involved in early warning and mediation.
We have also been deepening our collaboration with the Association of Southeast Nations on these issues over the past five years.
This will be crucial to finding a solution to the crisis in Myanmar that reflects the needs of all the country’s people including women in the diaspora, and in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.
The United Nations is continuing to demonstrate its commitment to support women peacebuilders and civil society organizations through our peacebuilding and political missions around the world.
In Afghanistan, we are unequivocal about the fundamental rights of women and girls, including their right to complete their education and pursue a career. I commend this Council for your unanimous support.
In all our peacekeeping and political missions, we continue to support survivors of sexual violence and invest in partnerships with local women leaders and peacebuilders, including by increasing the number of women personnel at all levels.
At the most senior level, we are working to maintain the parity achieved since early 2021 among Heads and Deputy Heads of missions
Supporting survivors of sexual violence as well as women peacebuilders and activists is key. The evidence is growing by the year that securing women’s rights, including their right to equal participation at all levels, is essential to building and maintaining peace.
The participation of women in mediation and decision-making processes is vital to conflict resolution. Their analysis is critical to understanding conflict dynamics and building effective response and prevention strategies. Studies also show that the active engagement of women peacebuilders increases the chances of lasting peace.
That is why we need full gender parity – including through quotas to accelerate the inclusion of women – across election monitoring, security sector reform, disarmament, demobilization and justice systems.
And that is one reason why my proposed New Agenda for Peace, included in the report on Our Common Agenda, puts women and girls at the centre of security policy.
But despite all the evidence, the Women, Peace and Security agenda continues to be challenged and even reversed around the world.
I urge Council Members and all Member States to consider why that is.
I urge you to reflect on the fact that, despite consistent agreement on the value of women at the peace table, there is still a huge gap in their participation, and in the implementation of promises made for their protection, human rights and dignity.
I encourage you to commit to increasing support to women’s civil society, conflict prevention and peacebuilding work.
At this time of proliferating crises, the international community must pursue proven strategies for peace and stability.
Protecting and promoting women’s rights is such a strategy.
The Women, Peace and Security agenda is one of our best hopes for a more peaceful future and a livable planet.