Sahel Conference says women’s full participation essential to conflict resolution and economic recovery


Press release

Some 40 women from the Sahel met today to underline the crucial contributions women from the region are making to economic recovery, political stability and conflict prevention, and to explore ways to enhance their role in these areas.

Organized by the European Union, the Office of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Sahel and UN Women, the Conference on Women’s Leadership in the Sahel gathered women from Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, as well as representatives from the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) today in Brussels.

The Conference is a first step in efforts to ensure that the voices of women from the Sahel are heard and that their perspective is taken into account when addressing the challenges in the sub-region.

“Ultimately, the women of the Sahel will be instrumental in putting the region on a path to stability,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi. “I want to tap into the potential of women to accelerate progress in the Sahel. The discussions that took place today and the recommendations by the participants will help us in seeking sustainable solutions for the Sahel.”

Catherine Ashton, High Representative from the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, said: “All over the world, where women prosper, societies prosper; where women suffer, so do the societies they live in. This is also true for the Sahel and this is why we met today to listen to women leaders from this region, where both African and international efforts are crucial to bring a solution to the crisis. Today’s discussions helped shape a common vision on how we can empower women to help political stability and economic prosperity in the Sahel. It is an important step towards the High-Level Donor’s Conference on Development in Mali, which the EU, France and Mali will convene on 15 May in Brussels.”

In looking at ways to create more opportunities for women’s full participation, the participants, both from governmental institutions and civil society organizations, decided to establish an advisory group which will provide information and facilitate consultations with the international community and regional institutions. The conclusions of the Conference will also be presented at the High-Level donor’s conference in support of development in Mali on 15 May, in Brussels, in line with the recognition by the participants of the need to have a comprehensive and regional approach.

“It is well established that for peace to be sustainable – a peace that extends beyond the simple act of signing a peace agreement – it needs to be rooted in justice and inclusion,” said Lakshmi Puri, Acting Head of UN Women and Assistant Secretary-General. “There can be no comprehensive strategy to address the sustained and systemic crisis without women’s full participation. This has been stressed by many UN resolutions, by the international community, as well as by women’s organizations themselves. We hope this Conference will usher in concrete efforts to increase the participation of women and gender experts in conflict resolution and in the transition to peace, economic recovery, democracy and stability,” she added.

Among the recommendations designed to help sustain efforts towards peace, security and development in the Sahel, the participants emphasized the need to ensure that at least 30 per cent of participants in decision-making and politics are women, including through the adoption of positive measures. They also agreed on the need for national governments, regional organizations and the international community to support an increased participation of women in conflict-resolution initiatives and to strengthen their entrepreneurial skills and access to services. Regarding resources, the participants also called for sustained and predictable financing for initiatives dedicated to gender equality.

Related links:

News feature: Women peace advocates put forth key recommendations for Sahel region

Summary report (French only)

Resume des conclusions – Sahel (French only)

For more information, please contact:

European Union
Michael Mann

Office of the Special Envoy for the Sahel
Vannina Maestracci

UN Women
Oisika Chakrabarti
+1 646-781-4522