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‘Crippling to our credibility’ that number of women peacekeepers is so low: UN chief

Category: Gender in the world 

Over the past year, we have seen positive examples of progress.

Women’s organizations continue to make an impact – from keeping dialogue alive in Guinea Bissau, to rebuilding communities in Colombia. 

In the Central African Republic and Mali, women successfully contributed to negotiating between armed actors to halt the escalation of intercommunal tensions.

In the Syrian Arab Republic, women have negotiated local ceasefires, mediated the creation of civilian safe zones and coordinated humanitarian and relief initiatives. Similarly in Yemen.

I can personally attest to the critical importance of the work done by the women peacemakers I have met around the world, from Mali to Bangladesh.

Here at the United Nations, the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund is channeling resources to women’s organizations that need them. The Peacebuilding Fund invests more than 30 percent of its resources in gender equality programming. And a growing number of donors are earmarking funds for gender equality.

We are placing this agenda at the heart of our partnerships with regional organizations. The Deputy Secretary-General has made several high-level missions with the AU, focused on women, peace and security and development.

And last month, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Dr. Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, two champions of women, peace and security who exemplify the power of individuals to make a difference and the fact that survivors and advocates are best placed to determine the changes needed to build sustainable peace.

But despite this progress in some areas, the facts on the ground show that we still have far to go.

The participation of women in formal peace processes remains extremely limited.


Between 1990 and 2017, women constituted just 2 percent of mediators, 8 percent of negotiators and 5 percent of witnesses and signatories in all major peace processes.

Conflict continues to have a devastating effect on women and girls.

The United Nations documented more than 800 cases of conflict-related sexual violence in 2017 – a 56 percent increase since 2016.

Women human rights defenders, political leaders, journalists and activists, who play an important role in addressing the root causes of conflict, are targeted at alarming rates.

Women’s marginalization, lack of access to health and education services, and economic disempowerment continue to be both a cause and an effect of conflict.

And funding for programmes to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women in countries affected by conflict is just 5 per cent of total bilateral aid to such countries.


The evidence linking gender equality and peace was recently set out in our joint study with the World Bank, Pathways for Peace. It is convincing and well-known. Maybe that is why the list of speakers for this debate is so long every year. In 2015, this open debate had the highest number of speakers in the history of the Security Council.


But there is a significant gap between what we say in this chamber, and what we do outside.

Every year, we make laudable commitments – but they are not backed with the requisite financial and political support.

We repeat statistics about the sustainability of inclusive peace processes – but that is not how we mediate most conflicts.

We extol the positive influence of women peacebuilders – but provide little space for their participation.

We rely heavily on women’s organizations – but do not fund them adequately.

We recognize the importance of gender analysis – but cut the budgets for such expertise.

To address this gap, I intend to prioritize several action points in the coming year.

First, gender parity has the greatest potential impact on effectiveness and credibility in our field operations. But this is where the numbers are lowest, and the rate of change is slowest.

Women now comprise 41 per cent of heads and deputy heads of our peace operations -- more than ever before. Their differing perspectives are already having a positive impact.

But the number of women in peace operations overall has stagnated. Without decisive action, they will go backwards as some missions are downsized.


I have therefore formed a working group to put emergency measures in place to address this. Some elements will need approval from Member States, and I hope your commitment here today will be reflected in your support for these reforms when we will seize the General Assembly to change some of our rules and regulations. 

It is also crippling to our credibility and protection capacity that women represent only 4 percent of our military peacekeepers and 10 percent of police. The United Nations fully supports the innovative efforts launched by Member States this year to incentivize greater representation.

I remain committed to ending all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse within the United Nations – one of the first initiatives I took when I assumed office. I will continue to work with my Special Coordinator on Improving the United Nations Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, the Victims’ Rights Advocate, and Member States on this issue.


I am pleased that nearly 100 Member States have now signed voluntary compacts with us to tackle sexual exploitation and abuse, and I call on others to join them. The Circle of Leadership of Heads of State and Government is committed to zero tolerance, to preventing and ending this scourge, and to addressing its impact effectively and humanely.

Second, mediation. We know that women’s meaningful participation is directly linked to more sustainable peace. And yet we continue to support and lead processes that are not inclusive.  

The establishment of several women’s networks in recent years is an important trend, as they can play a role in influencing processes for the better.


I am pleased that members of my high-level advisory board on mediation – which is gender balanced – full parity – are here this week to work with representatives of these networks. Women’s participation should not be confined to advisory roles or parallel structures and I welcome the growing sense of urgency from Member States, civil society and others to ensure that we are designing more effective peace processes with much stronger participation of women.

Third, a gendered approach to peace and security means supporting peacebuilding at the local level, even during conflict. As peace processes falter at the national and international level, we must consistently support the local women’s groups that negotiate humanitarian access and support community resilience; learn from them; and build peace from the ground up.

Fourth, financing this agenda is critical, and the UN intends to lead by example. I have created a high-level task force to review our funding on gender equality, including in the peace and security pillar. I will hold UN entities accountable to their commitments to track spending on women, peace and security, with a target of reaching or exceeding 15 percent by 2020.

Finally, from now on, I will include gender analysis in my reports to this Council whenever it is relevant to inform your decisions.

In two years’ time, we will mark the 20th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325, the fifth anniversary of the global agreement on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration.

Gender equality and women’s participation are a unifying thread running through the implementation of these landmark agreements for human rights, sustainable development, and peace and security.

In preparation for this, my report on Women, Peace and Security next year will include an assessment of implementation of the relevant recommendations in the three peace and security reviews undertaken in 2015, particularly the Global Study on implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325 and Security Council resolution 2242, adopted in 2015.

The findings and recommendations from this assessment will be the basis for increased efforts in the year leading up to 2020.  I encourage Member States to initiate similar preparations and reviews.

As we look forward, I urge you to invest in gender equality and women’s empowerment not only as ends in themselves, but as critical means of achieving our overarching aim of preventing and ending conflict and building peace and prosperity in the world for all.  


Thank you.


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