“Commitments must not be simply plans on paper”—Executive Director

Remarks by UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security


UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka delivers remarks at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security held on 25 October 2016.  Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka delivers remarks at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security held on 25 October 2016.Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

[As delivered] 

Mr. Secretary-General,

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

It is an honour to address the Security Council and to present the Secretary-General’s report on Women, Peace and Security on his behalf. 

I thank the presidency of Russia for chairing this debate today, and for proposing to review implementation of the commitments made last year by Member States, regional organizations and the United Nations.

Last year’s Open Debate had the highest number of participating speakers in the entire history of the Security Council.

More than 180 political, financial and institutional commitments were made in the course of the high-level review of 1325, and a new resolution of the Security Council was passed, resolution 2242.

These commitments are important and they can make a difference. They must not be simply plans on paper. We must turn them into actions.

Last year's global study on women, peace and security was welcomed as a guide that can keep us moving forward with our work.

Today we can call on Member States, regional organizations, and the UN to do more to take forward the recommendations of the Study and to turn your own commitments into concrete action.

This Council is well positioned to ensure greater accountability to each other. Every year, and the time is now, you can match words with action. 

UN Women is already responding to many of the findings and recommendations of the global study and the call of resolution 2242.

We are serving as the Secretariat of key new mechanisms, such as the Council’s new Informal Experts Group and the Global Acceleration Instrument.

We are pleased to announce that we will also perform the secretariat function to support the new network of national focal points.

We will respond to last year’s call for greater visibility and leadership in this area.

We will mobilize high-level champions who can amplify our voice, our message, and our presence, and ensure that the women, peace and security agenda has the broadest possible support. 

We are contributing to the implementation of the peace operations review, in collaboration with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Political Affairs.

We are collaborating closely with the Peacebuilding Support Office and other partners to ensure that gender is fully reflected in the Sustaining Peace and youth, peace and security agendas.

I congratulate the Peacebuilding Commission on adoption of its Gender Strategy, a first among our intergovernmental bodies. 

We are also working hard to ensure that the UN’s approach to prevent and counter violent extremism engages women’s leadership and respects and promotes women’s rights.

Distinguished delegates,

Even though there is much more to do, this year’s annual report has several markers of progress.

  • For the first time, the Peacebuilding Fund exceeded the 15 per cent target for funds directly targeting gender equality and women’s empowerment. 
  • The percentage of female beneficiaries of temporary employment programmes has doubled since 2013, reaching 46 per cent in 2015.
  • The percentage of peace agreements containing provisions on gender equality has increased from 22 to 70 per cent in the last five years alone. 

We have several gender justice milestones in both national and international courts in the last few months.  

  • In Guatemala, a national court prosecuted and convicted charges of sexual slavery during armed conflict. This was a first for a domestic court anywhere.
  • The International Criminal Court secured its first conviction for sexual and gender based crimes in this past year.
  • And in Senegal the trial of Hissene Habre saw the first conviction of a former head of state for personally committing rape as an international crime.

   But the report also notes many areas of concern and stagnation. 

  • The percentage of women beneficiaries of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes has declined markedly and is down to only 12 per cent. 
  • In conflict and post-conflict countries which have no quotas, women occupied a mere 11 per cent of seats in parliament, and women’s political participation has not improved significantly over the last five years.
  • In the 12 months since resolution 2242 called for women’s civil society to brief during country-specific deliberations of the Security Council, this commitment has not materialized.  
  • Conflict and post-conflict countries perform significantly worse on maternal mortality and education for girls.

This Security Council is very aware of the atrocities committed against women and girls in war-ravaged countries.

We still count the days since the Chibok girls, were abducted. We remain concerned about the many who have not been found in Nigeria and elsewhere.  And we welcome the release of 21 Chibok girls.

We will continue to count the days until all are released.

There have been extensive reports of the abuses committed against Iraqi and Syrian women and girls trapped between ISIS and the military operations against them, including the current situation in Mosul.

South Sudanese women and girls are raped by armed actors with total impunity.

In addition to these examples of extreme violence against women, we have countless examples of extreme political marginalization of women in public life and decision-making. These must also be of concern to this Council with its considerable powers. 

 In the first year of the Informal Experts Group on Women, Peace and Security, members of the Security Council discussed four country situations: Mali, Iraq, Central African Republic, and Afghanistan.

  • In Mali, there was only one woman out of the 62 Malian members of the committees in charge of monitoring and implementing the peace agreement. Women’s representation among the international mediation members of this committee is also dismal.
  • In Iraq, there was not a single woman in the four command cells chaired by the government and members of the security forces, tribal sheikhs, imams and notable members of the community to administer people’s return to liberated areas.
  • In the Central African Republic, since the end of the transition, women’s representation in national institutions has dropped again, down to eight per cent of members of parliament.
  • In Afghanistan, the magnitude of the investment of the international community in the security sector can offer much more for women.
  • Less than one per cent of the armed forces, and less than two per cent of Afghanistan’s national police are women.

In many of these contexts, the UN shows a similar lack of representation of women.

In the UN special political mission in Afghanistan, women are only 13 per cent of the overall staff, and 11 per cent of leadership positions.

These stark deficits in our own gender balance cannot continue.

We pay a daily price for it in our reputation and our effectiveness.

The incoming Secretary-General’s commitments to take concrete measures to achieve gender parity within the UN is a welcome breakthrough. 

Finally, I want to end by recognizing our current Secretary-General’s contribution to women, peace and security.

Mr. Secretary-General,

The UN system has made important progress on this agenda under your leadership. We know that these issues are close to your heart and that you will continue to champion them in any future role or capacity.

UN Women thanks you for your commitment to women, peace and security. 

And thank you, Mr. President, for the invitation to brief the Council today.

Photos from the Open Debate and events on women, peace and security