Lakshmi Puri speech on mine action

Remarks by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri at a panel discussion on “Empowering Women in Mine Action” on the occasion of the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, organized by the Permanent Mission of Japan and the United Nations Mine Action Service, New York, 4 April 2014.

Date: Friday, April 4, 2014

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Thank you to the chair, Director Marcaillou, and to the panelists. I am very pleased to represent UN Women at this discussion on women’s participation in, and contribution to, mine action.

We have just seen vivid depictions from Colombia and South Sudan on how women play important roles in demining programmes, from clearing contaminated terrain inch by inch, to clearing pathways for children to return to school in Colombia, to the revival of economic activities in local communities in South Sudan, and livelihoods to be protected.

These films really highlight to me the urgency of the work that we are engaged in in the women, peace and security field. While we have waited so many years for advances at the policy level, and the women and girls in mine-affected communities cannot wait any longer to plant their seeds or tend to their animals.

Although mine clearance is slow and deliberate, the results are the key to opening up opportunities for security, development and ultimately peace. In fact, I would argue that women’s empowerment is also an endeavour that is painstaking and slow. But, without women’s full participation and protection of their rights, sustainable peace and development are not achievable.

Since the previous speakers have discussed mine action in detail from their experience, I would like to make some remarks about the forward-looking priorities for the women, peace and security agenda, which include gender-responsive mine action and other areas related to women’s participation in peace processes, peacebuilding and recovery and protection in conflict and post-conflict contexts.

Last year, the Security Council passed two additional resolutions on women, peace and security, including 2122 (2013) in October. Resolution 2122 was the first Security Council resolution that said that women’s empowerment was critical to peace and security. The year 2015 will be an extremely important one due to the convergence of so many global policy events, the post-2015 development framework, the 20-year review of the Beijing Platform for Action and the 15-year anniversary of resolution 1325.

As the international community moves towards these important events, we as UN Women are emphasizing three advocacy points to guide the negotiations around women, peace and security in the global policy agenda.

First, we need less process and more results for women and girls. In every sphere, we have seen the proliferation of action plans, frameworks, policies and agendas. While advancing the policy framework is a crucial step, I think we can see that these policies have often been promoted in lieu of the kind of political, operational and programmatic responses that might make more of an impact. In this regard, mine action has already developed a body of good practice that should be carefully studied to see how other fields can learn from your innovations.

Second, this agenda needs to be treated with political urgency. In my dealings with decision-makers in all kinds of fora, I still find that the issue of women, peace and security is treated as an afterthought. We still face the attitude that women’s priorities are a secondary concern, after the men with guns deal with the so-called “hard” issues. This attitude deprives women of their right to participate and goes against the spirit of not only 1325, but the UN Charter itself.

This attitude also means that women’s contributions to peacemaking and peacebuilding are undermined or under-utilized. As we can see from the positive impact women have on mine action, as de-miners, as community sensitizers, as information providers, women’s participation enhances effectiveness. Policymakers need to see that we are not just advocating for women’s participation for the sake of participation, but also because the efficacy of peacebuilding hinges on the mobilization of the energies and talents of all citizens, especially women and girls.

Third, women, peace and security must be adequately resourced. It goes without saying that the resources allocated to women, peace and security have been and continue to be woefully inadequate. We, as the UN, have committed to allocating 15 per cent of all recovery funding to women’s empowerment and gender equality by the end of this year.

A recent indicative baseline commissioned by UN Women in partnership with UNDP and the Peacebuilding Support Office revealed that in 2012 only six per cent of recovery funding was allocated to projects that have gender equality and women’s empowerment as the main objective. We are still far from reaching our own target, but these commitments have led to improved tracking and monitoring, which can provide a better picture of where we are and what needs to be done to accelerate the pace of change. I hope that all governments will rigorously examine their own performance in terms of funding allocations to women, peace and security. We are very much looking forward to Japan’s National Action Plan, especially since Japan has always been a leader on mine action.

Mine action is ultimately about transformation: the literal transformation of turning unusable land into farms and markets and the more abstract transformation of societies moving from war into peace. We also see women, peace and security as transformative.

As 2015 races towards us, we must remember that the women, peace and security agenda is not about simply adding women to the existing peace and security paradigm. Rather, women, peace and security is about transforming that paradigm through a vision of a more equitable, peaceful and prosperous world. As we can see from today, brave, effective and professional women de-miners are on the frontline of this transformation.

Thank you for your attention and I look forward to our discussion.