UN Women - United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women

Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future

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Date: 04 October 2012

Statement by UN Women Deputy Executive Director, Lakshmi Puri at the High-Level debate organized by UNESCO on the occasion of the International Day of Peace. 21 September 2012.

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Distinguished Panelists,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you, Madam Director-General, for your great efforts to promote the empowerment of women and girls. And thank you for inviting UN Women to participate in this important event.

When we talk about common humanity, we cannot forget the role of 3.5 billion women and girls. They are critical agents of sustainable peace and we must fully recognize and use their potential. This will be the focus of my presentation.

I had the privileged of participating in a panel last week on the culture of peace. We all agreed that the commitment to the culture of peace is a core ingredient for the success of the three areas of work of the United Nations, namely sustainable development, peace and security, and human rights.

Gender equality and women's empowerment constitutes another key ingredient. The achievement of gender equality does not only benefit from sustainable peace, it also enables its realization and the achievement of the United Nations objectives at large.

So what constitutes sustainable peace?

Firstly, as it has been said before, sustainable peace is not only marked by the absence of war - it is about the absence of violence more generally. Sustainable peace entails zero tolerance of violence in households and in communities, within countries and across States.

Around the world, one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in some way. Violence against women is therefore a major threat to sustainable peace. It compromises the health, dignity, security and autonomy of women and girls.

Secondly, sustainable peace entails equal participation of all citizens - women and men - in the public life of their country and community. Women's role and participation is essential and has been shown to contribute to more peaceful societies.

Equal representation leads to more participatory and representative political decisions. In turn, this results in a more harmonious society and provides a strong foundation for the development of sustainable peace.

Thirdly, social justice and social cohesion is critical to sustainable peace. There again, women have shown to be particularly effective in creating and sustaining social cohesion and social justice. In fact, women's empowerment constitutes a key component of social justice.

Fourthly, as other panelists have mentioned, access to productive resources, economic recovery and reconstruction are factors that impacts on everyone's ability to live a life of dignity. In this sense, women's economic empowerment is absolutely essential.

The fifth aspect is to embrace diversity and promote tolerance. And there again, women have a special role to play. Achieving sustainable peace requires transforming attitudes that promote violence and discrimination. This means tackling gender stereotypes that often underpin the culture of violence and inequality.

The previous panelist had referred to the special capacity of men for dialogue and I would also emphasize the propensity of women for dialogue, peace-making and peace-building.

The role, contribution and leadership of half of humanity in sustainable peace - 3.5 billion women and girls - is not only a matter of numerical logic, it also has an intrinsic value. Women play an important role and have particular skills in peace-making and peace-building. These are roles and skills they have developed over many years, as mothers, wives and caretakers for family members and the community.

We have also heard today that one of the root causes of conflict is poverty. If you look at poverty, women bear the brunt of it. If you look at violence at home, at work, in public places and in conflict situations, where rape is often used as a weapon of war—women bear the disproportionate burden of violence. This is why a focus on women is essential to achieve lasting and sustainable peace.

Women's agency, their creativity and patience, and their capacity to love and to build consensus—all these qualities make women a valuable constituency for peace. We need to use women's many talents for conflict prevention, mediation, peace-making and peace-building more effectively.

Security Council resolution 1325 and subsequent resolutions, as well as a number of General Assembly resolutions, now recognize the importance of women's contributions into all aspects of sustainable peace-making and peace-building.

Despite these normative commitments made by the international community, implementation lags behind. UN Women is working with partners to realize the Secretary-General's seven-point action plan on women's participation in peace-building. These points are:

  1. To involve women in peace processes and make gender expertise available;
  2. To take into account women's needs and participation in post-conflict planning processes;
  3. To increase financing for gender equality and women's empowerment in post-conflict situations;
  4. To ensure that civilian capacity has specialized skills to rebuild state institutions in a way that makes them more accessible to women and girls and less prone to gender-based discrimination;
  5. To ensure women's representation in post-conflict governance;
  6. To promote women's rights to security and justice in the context of the rule of law - before, during and after conflicts;
  7. To ensure women's participation in economic recovery.

The realization of this plan paves the way for greater progress on delivering on commitments taken by the international community.

I would like to recall the principles at the heart of the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of peace and non-violence, known as satyagraha. These are to seek justice and truth.

Women's agency is by definition an integral component of this approach and therefore essential for sustainable peace. Gender equality and women's empowerment is one vital force of truth and gender justice is both a means and an end to sustainable peace.

Lasting peace depends on equal rights, equal opportunity and the equal participation of women.

Thank you.