Taking on the Challenge of Fragility: High-Level Panel during European Development Days

Date: 18 Oct 2012

Remarks delivered by John Hendra, UN Women Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director, at the High Level Panel on Taking on the Challenge of Fragility as part of the European Development Days.

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My intervention focuses on the importance of women's participation in peacebuilding. This has been stated in many policy forums just like this. And yet in spite of the rhetoric about women's central role in peace-building, women are rarely invited to peace talks and they are absent from the donor conferences and International Contact Group meetings. Nor are we are seeing increases in funds allocated to women's empowerment in post-conflict settings.

UN Women will launch next week a Sourcebook on Women, Peace and Security, to support improved implementation of the UN's Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security. I will give you one figure of that sourcebook: of the 6 post conflict needs assessments (PCNA) undertaken up to 2010, only 4.5 percent of activities and 2.9 percent of budgets were specifically allocated to women's needs.

This really has to change. As a recent IDS report, “From the Ground Up argues, while it is women who make peace in their homes and communities, it's men who sign the peace deals.

This needs to change for many reasons. Women must be fully engaged in peace-building not only because they have a right to participate in the rebuilding of their societies and to live safe and secure lives free of violence and abuse but also because there are very practical and pragmatic reasons for their inclusion.

Firstly, there is evidence that more inclusive peace processes with more women engaged are those that are more likely to ‘stick'.

Secondly, we know that women, when they have an income, spend more than twice what men spend on health and education, spending that helps to heal individuals, families and communities. The sourcebook that we will launch next week shows that on average women spend 90 percent of their income on education and health which generate peacebuilding dividends, while men spend only 40 percent of their income on the same.

Thirdly, it has been argued that women bring a specific consensus-building quality to public debate that is of specific value to peace talks. Whether we accept this or not, the one thing women indisputably bring to peace processes, given the chance, is an insistence that their own priorities and concerns be addressed in the governance, justice, security, and recovery aspects of a peace agreement.

If addressed, these concerns - including an insistence on quotas for women in post-conflict elections, or an insistence that land and property rights be extended to women, or an assertion that widespread and systematic sexual violence is a war crime requiring specific justice and reparation arrangements - can help build a more robust and sustainable peace.

As part of the International Dialogues, the international community has been asked to be more open to ‘risk taking' in fragile and post-conflict contexts.

‘Risk taking' in these contexts generally refers to funding. However, we must increasingly take risks on inclusion. We need to take the risk of putting policies into practice by including women comprehensively in the work we do in political dialogues, security, job creation, justice and state functioning.


The European Development Days (EDDs) is one of the most relevant forums in Europe on international affairs and development. Organized by the European Commission, the EDDs gather policy makers, practitioners, politicians and development workers from very diverse areas to discuss on recent developments and important initiatives including the approaches that will be adopted in the coming year in the key areas of development cooperation. This year's EDDs focus on “Supportive Inclusiveness and Sustainable Growth for Human Development

To see an archived webcast of this speech during the High Level Panel “Taking on the Challenge of Fragility: Towards stronger commitment of public and private sector together with civil society in fragile states click here ».

To read Welcoming Remarks delivered by John Hendra, UN Women Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director, at another High-Level Panel, on 16 October, entitled “Women Entrepreneurship to Reshape the Economy in MENA through Innovation, click here »

To read a press release on a New Partnership on Women's Empowerment, launched by UN Women and the European Commission, click here »