UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged the international community to protect and promote women’s rights amid “proliferating crises.”
“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 UN chief told the Security Council ministerial-level open debate on women, peace and security.
The Women, Peace and Security agenda is “one of our best hopes” for a more peaceful future and a livable planet, Guterres said, highlighting the positive role regional organizations have played in protecting and advancing the key agenda, Xinhua news agency reported.
In spite of the fact that gender equality offers a path to sustainable peace and conflict prevention, the UN chief said the world is moving in the opposite direction.
“Today’s conflicts are amplifying gender inequality, poverty, climate disruptions, and other forms of inequality,” he said, noting how women and girls are disproportionately affected by violence, as well as the effects of these cascading crises.
Despite these factors, the number of girls out of school and without prospects of financial independence continues to rise, as do the numbers of women and girls experiencing violence in their homes.
“Misogyny and authoritarianism are mutually reinforcing, and are antithetical to stable, prosperous societies,” he said, reminding that “women’s equality is a question of power.”
As in Afghanistan, Mali, and Sudan, entrenched conflicts and deadlocks highlight enduring power imbalances.
“In all these conflicts we have men in power and women excluded, their rights and freedoms deliberately targeted,” the secretary-general said.
A neighboring country or regional organization can make a significant difference when a conflict breaks out, he noted.
As such, Guterres expressed his appreciation for UN collaboration with the European Union, the African Union (AU), the League of Arab States and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – all of which participated in Wednesday’s debate.
The secretary-general gave the example of the UN-AU and regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development partnership, in Sudan, to steer the political process back to an agreed and legitimate constitutional order, aiming to ensure that at least 40 percent of participants are women.
Through its peacebuilding and political missions around the world, the UN supports women peacebuilders and civil society organizations, including by supporting survivors of sexual violence and investing in partnerships with local women leaders and peacebuilders, and by increasing the number of women personnel at all levels.
“Supporting survivors of sexual violence as well as women peacebuilders and activists is key,” he said. “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.”
In addition, there needs to be full gender equality – including through quotas – across election monitoring, reforms in the security sector, and disarmament, demobilization, and the justice system.
Despite the evidence, “the Women, Peace and Security agenda continues to be challenged and even reversed around the world,” said the UN chief, urging all member states 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,” he concluded.