The Culture of Peace as the agenda for a new global civilization: Where are we now?

Remarks by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri during an interactive discussion at the High-level Forum on the Culture of Peace, held at UN Headquarters in New York, 6 September, 2013.

Date : 06 September 2013

Your Excellency, Ambassador Joy Ogwu, Permanent Representative of Nigeria,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Panelists,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank the organizers for once again inviting UN Women to participate in this very important forum on the Culture of Peace. UN Women is the global champion of women and girls, and women and girls are the foremost global champions of the culture of peace. The UNESCO Charter says that war begins in the minds of men; well, peace begins in the minds of women.

Last year I also spoke here on a panel on the theme of “The Culture of Peace at the core of humanity’s agenda: New partnerships, new developments.” At that time, I spoke of gender equality and women’s empowerment as a precondition to achieving human rights, peace and security and sustainable development around the world. I argued that gender equality is a force multiplier for these endeavors, and that in fact women and girls are the biggest peace constituency around the world, numbering 3.5 billion people. As the UN Security Council said in 2000 at the dawn of the new millennium, “peace is inextricably linked with equality between women and men.”

I highlighted some examples of how UN Women is working to create an enabling environment for women to contribute to peace through all our priority areas – women’s leadership and participation, economic empowerment, ending violence against women, gender-responsive planning and budgeting, and women, peace and security. The UN Security Council Resolutions (on women, peace and security) reaffirm women’s participation and leadership in the prevention of conflict, in conflict resolution, recovery, reconstruction and development. This recognizes women’s propensity for dialogue, peacemaking and peacebuilding.

Today’s theme – “The Culture of Peace as the agenda for a new global civilization: Where are we now?” – gives me the opportunity to recall that the link between peace and gender equality is recognized in the Declaration on the Culture of Peace, which states that “the fuller development of a culture of peace is integrally linked to, inter alia, eliminating all forms of discrimination against women through their empowerment and equal representation at all levels of decision-making”. Indeed, gender equality is a precondition for the realization of a just, equitable and peaceful society.  The culture of peace is about social justice, cohesion and harmony, which women and girls are committed to.

So, where are we now? While in recent years, we have seen great strides ahead for women and girls around the world, and while there is greater consciousness today than in any time in history about the importance of achieving gender equality, partly due to the creation of UN Women two and half years ago, women and girls’ themselves and civil society advocacy. Yet women and girls continue to face discrimination and inequalities every day, in every respect, and everywhere around the world. We continue to deny ourselves the contribution of half of the world’s population. 

These inequalities are demonstrated through women and girls’ unequal access to decent work and pay; denial of their basic education and health care; under-representation in political and economic decision-making; and their suffering from the most extreme manifestation of inequality, injustice and violation of their human rights – violence against women in multiple forms, in peacetime and in war.

If we want to achieve the Culture of Peace, we must tackle the structural causes that continue to perpetuate these inequalities and discrimination. At the heart of our efforts must be gender justice.

We are at a key point in history. In the context of what the UN and the international community are working on with the post-2015 development agenda, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to set a new development agenda for the world we want; a world where the culture of peace is a reality for all.

UN Women is advocating for gender equality and women’s empowerment to be central to this framework. We believe that the new framework must include a comprehensive stand-alone goal on achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment. At the same time, gender perspectives should be mainstreamed in all other areas.

The stand-alone goal must be transformational and address the structural causes of gender inequalities and discrimination. It must provide the impetus to realize a transformation in gender relations, which is also essential to the promotion of a culture of peace.

We propose three focus areas for this enhanced gender equality goal:  first, freedom from violence; second, capabilities and resources, including access to health, education and economic opportunities; and third, voice, leadership and participation in decision-making.

Franklin D. Roosevelt said – “If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.”

Only when we eradicate barriers to women’s participation at all levels, provide equal opportunities to women and girls, punish violations of rights and perpetrators of violence against women, address women and girls’ priorities, secure and create an enabling environment for women and girls to live free from violence and all forms of discrimination, can we honestly be on the path to achieving a culture of peace and a new global civilization that we all dream of. 

Thank you.