Women’s Engagement in Economic Recovery

Date: 18 Nov 2011

Remarks of Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women at High Level Meeting of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Executive Board of UN Women. 18 November 2011.

[ Check against Delivery ]

Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates,

I am pleased to be here today for the first meeting of the Peacebuilding Commission, UN Women and our Executive Board.

Both the Peacebuilding Commission and UN Women are born out of UN reform — to strengthen the effectiveness of the United Nations and to deliver better results in advancing core principles and goals.

We both share the goal of advancing the equal participation and full involvement of women in all efforts for peace and security.

This is a core priority for UN Women, as articulated in our Strategic Plan adopted by our Executive Board. And it is a responsibility of the Peacebuilding Commission as inscribed in its founding resolution.

We meet today to discuss one key aspect of peacebuilding — women's engagement in economic recovery, and we have progress to build on.

We have made this progress together as UN bodies and Member States by initiating partnerships, making commitments, and developing strategies and frameworks for accountability.

Guiding us forward is the Secretary-General's 2010 report on women and peacebuilding with seven practical and concrete recommendations.

The report calls on the UN and partners to ensure that women receive at least 40 percent of post-conflict employment days. It calls for the provision of adequate financing to address women's specific needs, advance gender equality and women's empowerment.

The UN commitment to provide 15 percent of all post-conflict funding to meet women's needs is a step in the right direction.

The report calls for local development and infrastructure programmes to involve women's civil society organizations. And it calls for women to be promoted as “front-line service-delivery agents — in areas such as health care, agricultural extension and natural-resource management.

The report also calls on us to ensure women's equal participation in all stages of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. This brings me to wonder what the impact would be if we put even a portion of the money that goes to DDR into women's economic recovery?

I submit that this investment would be a smart one.

Women build peace by investing in their family and community well-being, which, after all, is the foundation of peace and recovery.

Thus for recovery to be effective and sustainable, women have to be equally engaged in programming and they should equally benefit from support and funding for economic recovery.

This is particularly important in post-conflict situations. Conflict produces more female-headed households — women who struggle single-handedly for the survival of their children and family and for development. And they know what they need.

Women's assertion of their needs for recovery resources — such as access to a departed spouse's land and property — can provide the resources needed to support a family, and speed economic recovery.

Research shows that investing in women brings high returns. Women are more likely than men to spend their income on health and education to improve their children's and family's well-being.

Investing in women's economic capacities and employment is an investment in social services delivery, which is a prerequisite for long-term peace and recovery.

Also women's greater participation in the workforce often provides them with the resources, status and networks they need to enter the political sphere and build durable peace.

We also have mounting evidence to show that leaving women out actually damages economic recovery. Data from South-Asia shows that the lack of women's participation in the workforce across the continent leads to losses totaling an estimated $89 billion dollars every year.

The Secretary-General's report on women's participation in peacebuilding points out that several of the world's economies that have grown the fastest during the past half-century began their ascent from the ashes of conflict. And their success stemmed in part from women's increased role in production, trade and entrepreneurship.

In spite of all of this, women's equal engagement in post-conflict employment remains challenging and their numbers in post-conflict employment remain low. Data from post-conflict countries reveal that women receive a very small percentage of jobs in employment generation programmes.

Clearly we can and we must do better.

UN Women is committed to making greater progress for women and peacebuilding. We are stepping up our support to women's participation and leadership and economic empowerment.

We are partnering with the World Food Programme, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the Food and Agricultural Organization to provide targeted support for the economic empowerment of rural women.

We are supporting research and analysis to build an evidence and business case for women's engagement. Soon you will hear more about the research underway about integrating women into economic recovery, from Patricia Justino of the Institute for Development Studies.

And we are embarking on a new way of working through partnership, leveraging the expertise, reach and resources of partners in government, civil society and the private sector to achieve greater impact and register more robust results.

I would like to stress that we are building the field capacity of UN Women to provide stronger strategic support to partners with a focus to move from small scale projects to large-scale approaches. Of course, key to success is the mutual partnership between all of us here in this meeting.

In closing, I would like to suggest three ways that we could generate greater progress for women and peacebuilding by working together.

Firstly, under the Peacebuilding Commission's mandate for marshaling resources, I ask you to consider a commitment to marshal resources for gender equality and women's empowerment. Ideally this would include a positive reference to the 15 percent target of all post-conflict funding to be allocated to meet women's needs.

Secondly, I would like to propose that you consider holding bi-annual country-specific configuration discussions together with UN Women on the progress and challenges of integrating women into peacebuilding.

And thirdly, I would like to invite the Chairs of the configurations and host governments to enter into dialogue with UN Women on country priorities for women's peacebuilding. In this regard, I propose that UN Women facilitate in-country meetings with women's groups for the missions of the Peacebuilding Commission.

In closing, let me thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak today on the important topic of women's engagement in economic recovery.

I sincerely hope that this is the first step in a long and dynamic partnership between UN Women, the members of our Executive Board, and the Peacebuilding Commission.

I thank you.