Our focus should not just be on what women can do. It is also on what men can do — Executive Director

Address by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the "Men on the Stand: Men's roles in implementing UN Security Council resolution 1325” event in New York on 28 October.


[As delivered]

Thank you for organizing this peace forum to mark the 15th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325.

Let me add to what was said about the fact that women are not homogenous. There are still some women who do not support other women, and as has been said, “there is a special place in hell for women who do not support other women”.

It is fitting that this is a peace forum.

The 15-year review of the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 concluded that the prevention of conflict and maintenance of peace was what was most needed – not fighting wars in order to make peace.

It concluded that civil society was key to maintaining peace, as it was key to the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325, and to the realization that gender inequality was a threat to peace and security.

We welcome the strong support by Member States evidenced at the Security Council Open Debate on women, peace and security that took place on 13 October. For the first time, that council’s debate was presided over by a head of state – His Excellency the President of Spain – and the list of speakers was the longest that the Security Council has ever experienced. The resolution that was adopted, Security Council resolution 2242, was supported by 72 nations.

What does this mean? Does it mean that the peace agenda is entrenched and we will see different, far reaching implementation of resolution 1325 and the new resolution 2242? I think that will only happen if we continue to work hard. The good news is that Member States are coming in large numbers to be part of the process. The bad news is that the work for this agenda to move forward is still borne on our shoulders and the shoulders of civil society. I invite you to be as vigilant and diligent as civil society has always been.

The 15th anniversary review shows that when women are at the table in peacemaking agreements, the probability of a peace agreement lasting at least two years increases by 20 per cent – and its chances of lasting over 15 years goes up by 35 per cent.

Despite the letter and spirit of resolution 1325, which emphasizes the centrality of gender equality to stability and peace, the importance of not treating women as victims but rather as peacemakers and peace-defenders, in reality, in that resolution and in the practice of peacemaking and peacekeeping, it is clear that men and boys continue to have a dominant role.

What we are arguing in an event like this, is that while men need to actively work for the inclusion and effective participation of women, they must also use their position now to make sure that peace is kept, that conflicts are reduced, and in fact that the plan for demilitarisation is stronger than the plan to fight wars.

As it stands now, 97 per cent of UN peacekeepers and 90 per cent of UN police forces are men. So only 3 per cent of UN peacekeepers are women. This is also a result of the fact that in many armies and police forces of our countries, women are in a significant minority. Part of the work of this resolution therefore is to encourage the active participation of women in security forces as well as in the peace forces of our countries.

We have seen also that the role of women making peace is not confined to the participation in peace forces, in police forces and security forces. Women’s role as peacemakers is in communities, is in families, is in schools, is in the arts, and in governments through the effective implementation of their policies.

And the recent announcement of this year's Nobel Peace Prize to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet underlined civil society’s vital contribution to promoting reconciliation and human rights and we celebrate this recognition.

The study that reviewed the implementation of resolution 1325 also gives us some critical examples of what happens when women are participating effectively in peacemaking, in negotiating peace agreements, and in implementing them.

It says that women’s inclusion ensures that community needs are addressed in the peace agreements and that the benefits of peace are deeper. We have seen women who participate in peace negotiations addressing issues such as access to food in those countries and communities that were affected by wars, which then led to famine. We have seen women addressing the challenges created by the collapse of education and the role of schools. They address the importance of provision of health facilities. They address the importance of community reparations, which heal whole communities, and it is through these inputs that women have made peace that is more lasting.

Women also focus on improving humanitarian assistance when they negotiate peace. They focus on strengthening the protection efforts of peacekeepers. They focus on contribution to the conclusion of peace talks and the sustainability of peace agreements. They focus on enhancing economic recovery after conflict, and they help to counter violent extremism. They make the peace missions more approachable and they also contribute to lessening the conflict within peace missions, which sometimes leads to peacekeepers becoming violators of the people they are protecting.

In addition, the 2015 report of the UN Secretary-General on women, peace and security recognized several critical facts. Between 1990 and 2010, only 11 per cent of peace agreements even mentioned women or gender issues. In recent years, this has climbed to half of all agreements, and the percentage is higher when the United Nations is involved. There are more women in mediation support teams and more regular consultations with civil society leaders.

Countries and regional organizations are beginning to take more robust action against sexual violence, although more can still be done. Courts and commissions of inquiry are paying more attention to gender-based crimes, even though this has not yet translated into higher levels of prosecution. Women’s participation remains in single digits: in a sample of 31 major peace processes between 1992 and 2011, only 2 per cent of chief mediators, 4 per cent of witnesses and signatories, and 9 per cent of negotiators were women.

So, we have a lot of work to do, notwithstanding some of the progress that we have made.

The importance of a day like this is that we recognize that our focus should not just be on what women can do. It is also on what men can do, as they are the ones who are dominant in the space.

The speakers today are going to be highlighting different ways in which that can be achieved.

On our part, as UN Women, we have been actively championing the involvement of men in addressing gender equality. In our HeforShe campaign, we create opportunities to crowdsource the initiatives of men so that they are able to participate as leaders, as well as engaging with ordinary men in our community.

We are hoping that the different men’s organizations in different parts of the world will be part of what will be deliberated upon today. It is our responsibility to make sure that we take this message to those formations, such as MenEngage who are also actively involved in addressing and supporting the different initiatives that address gender equality.

I look forward to the discussions today.