Remarks by Michelle Bachelet at the launch of new documentary “Side by Side : Women, Peace and Security”

Date: Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Speaking at the launch of a new documentary, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet identifies areas for both hope and urgency in the field of women, peace and security. With the percentage of women at peace tables or in the police and military components of peace missions in the single digits, she has highlighted five promising steps taken to engage women in post-conflict recovery processes. Yet she continues to stress the distance between commitments made, and actions yet to be taken.

Let me start by thanking all of our friends from the Government of Australia who conceived of this documentary and made this a reality in record time.

When Ambassador Quinlan asked me to participate in this project and requested UN Women's partnership, I had no doubt that they would produce something very valuable and useful for our advocacy and our trainings, and we were delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate with them.

But I must confess that I had no idea that they would get this done in a few weeks.

Dr. Ryan, please let everyone in your team know that they did an outstanding job, and that we will do our utmost to promote this documentary and ensure that it is seen widely and put to good use.

And thanks to all of you for coming to support this film and for your interest in a topic that is a top priority for us at UN Women, for the Secretary-General, and for many of you and the organizations and governments that you represent, including my colleagues who have so graciously agreed to attend this screening and speak on this panel.

I would like to use these few minutes to impress upon you both a sense of urgency and a sense of hope. Urgency because, as the Secretary-General expressed at the beginning of the video, the progress we have made falls short of meeting the magnitude of the problem. And hope because there is great promise in what can be achieved if we join hands and work together.

We are all worried about violence in Syria and Mali, renewed fighting and population displacement in Eastern DRC, Sudan and South Sudan, continued insecurity in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia, the complexity of transitions in the Arab world, and the precarious recovery of many post-conflict countries where UN missions are preparing to draw down and exit.

But many of us are particularly concerned about these conflicts' impact on women's lives and women's rights and the squandering of the peacebuilding potential of half of the population.

The percentage of women at peace tables or in the police and military component of peace missions remains in the single digits. So does the percentage of post-conflict spending budgeted specifically to empower women or promote gender equality. And yet millions of women and girls are displaced from their land, attacked on their way to and from refugee camps, deprived of education, married off early, targeted and killed for defending human rights, sexually assaulted in detention centers or in their own communities, condemned to a life of indigence, and dispossessed of their livelihood with their hopes vanished.

We write protections for their rights into laws, resolutions, and conventions, but a minuscule percentage receive justice or reparations for the crimes committed against them. We applaud women's grassroots organizations for their role in promoting peace and reconciling communities, but we do not seem to have properly supported them and empowered them.

Women's contributions to peace and democratization do not typically translate into leadership roles in decision-making institutions. In the five parliamentary elections held in countries with UN missions in 2011, there were either small declines or just a modest increase in the number of women elected. The result was an average of a low 10 percent of seats in parliament for women. Out of 11 peace agreements signed in 2011, only two included specific provisions for women.

At the same time, we have now a number of opportunities to improve our record. I will list five of them.

First, the Secretary-General's Seven Point Action Plan on women and peacebuilding sets out the most tangible sets of commitments to date across the UN system to create opportunities for women's participation and leadership in mediation, post-conflict planning, financing, governance, security, rule of law, and economic recovery.

This includes a commitment to ensure that at least 40 per cent of beneficiaries of post-conflict economic recovery programmes are women, and to allocate at least 15 per cent of UN-managed programme funds in support of peacebuilding to address women's rights and advance gender equality. Gender markers are currently being applied by a number of UN entities and are likely to drive up the percentage of spending on gender equality in post-conflict recovery and humanitarian relief.

Secondly, the UN has embarked upon its most ambitious effort to date to strengthen the availability, deployability, and adequacy of civilian capacities for peacebuilding. As part of this process, we are undertaking the first holistic review of the way gender expertise is structured and deployed in post-conflict situations.

Third, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Secretary-General are determined to drive up, at a faster rate, the percentages of women in peacekeeping missions and in positions of senior leadership.

Fourth, there is growing evidence of the strong peace and recovery dividends that could be obtained from investing in women's empowerment. In many post-conflict countries, 40 per cent of households are female-headed, and researchers have found that women spend up to 90 percent of their income on their household's education, health and nutrition, both during and after conflict. In post-conflict countries with electoral gender quotas, women average 34 percent of parliamentarians.

Most promisingly, women's political representation leaps upwards once gender quotas are used, meaning that once quotas are established in one election round, women do even better the next time.

We also know that having more women leaders has a role model effect that enhances the perception of possibilities and aspirations for girls. Increasing the proportion of female teachers above 20 per cent is correlated with the increased enrollment of girls in school, and, in some cases, better student performance. Increasing the proportion of female police officers above 30 percent shows an increased rate of reporting on sexual and gender-based violence.

Finally, UN Women, and its determination to increase its field presence and capacity in conflict and post-conflict countries, presents us with another opportunity. We have seized this opportunity to work with our UN partners on training peacekeepers, increasing the percentage of women in mediation rosters, and improving the gender analysis and the evidence of sexual and gender-based violence in Commissions of Inquiry, to name a few examples.

We hope and expect to do much more in the near future. I look forward to the panel and the discussion, and thanks again to the our host, the organizers, and everyone that has worked in the development of this documentary. All of us at UN Women look forward to continued close collaboration so we can make greater progress.