UN Women convenes Champions group to support Women, Peace and Security agenda


To amplify the voices of women, women human rights defenders and women’s organizations in conflict-affected settings, UN Women has convened a group of 12 Champions on Women, Peace and Security and Human Rights. The Champions will advise UN Women on emerging issues for peace and security, and advocate for gender equality and women’s human rights in conflict-affected settings.

The group has committed to take up key issues, including increasing women’s participation and influence in peace processes; ending conflict-related sexual violence and sexual exploitation and abuse; support for women human rights defenders; and increasing the financial resources available for the women, peace and security agenda.

“The Champions are vital allies in our work to advocate strongly for the roles of women peacebuilders and human rights defenders. I know their efforts will ensure the broadest possible support for women to come forward and safely take their rightful place as leaders,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. The group of Champions was established in response to calls from Member States and civil society, echoed in the Global Study on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, to increase UN Women’s leadership on women, peace and security and human rights in the United Nations system and beyond.

The Champions are thought leaders in their fields, and represent different constituencies, geographical areas and areas of expertise—from peace negotiations to youth engagement in countering violent extremism. They are: Charlotte Bunch (United States), General Patrick Cammaert Ret’d (Netherlands), Radhika Coomaraswamy (Sri Lanka), Bineta Diop (Senegal), Anne Marie Goetz (Canada), Major General Kristin Lund (Norway), Shadia Marhaban (Indonesia), Luz Méndez (Guatemala), Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah (Namibia), Madeleine Rees (United Kingdom), Hajer Sharief (Libya) and Yasmin Sooka (South Africa).

Messages from some Champions

On youth participation in peace and security

Hajer Sharief. Photo courtesy of WILPF
Photo courtesy of WILPF.

“The United Nations prides itself on leading peacebuilding processes, but for too long, the experiences, perspectives and voices of young people have been missing. When young women are given the opportunity to participate in peacebuilding, they make innovative contributions—they have the capacity to shape the world.”— Hajer Sharief

On financing for women peacebuilders

Madeleine Rees. Photo courtesy of WILPF
Photo courtesy of WILPF

“Women’s meaningful participation is undoubtedly an accelerator for peace. Yet, despite their significant added value, women’s organizations are chronically under-funded, and receive less than 1 per cent of the support that goes to crisis settings. First and foremost, to establish sustaining peace, we must empower local actors—and civil society, in particular.”— Madeleine Rees

On women’s participation in peace negotiations

Shadia Marhaban. Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

“The history of traditional peacemaking is littered with examples of failed mediation attempts and broken peace agreements—evidence that we need to start working differently and more inclusively, if we’re going to succeed at building a more peaceful world. Women negotiators must be respected for their knowledge, capacity and experience—not just on women’s issues, but on topics from power-sharing to constitution-making.”—Shadia Marhaban

On responding to sexual and gender-based violence in peacekeeping settings

Patrick Cammaert. Photo: UN Photo/Joao Castellano
Photo: UN Photo/Joao Castellano

“There is an enormous amount of work to do, to counter sexual violence against women, men, girls and boys. We must send a message to peacekeepers that they have an important role to play, and train them to understand their responsibilities. Deploying more female officers in peacekeeping missions is also key to building trust with the local community, and bringing these crimes to light.”— Patrick Cammaert

On women human rights defenders 

Charlotte Bunch. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

“Women human rights defenders stand on the front lines of the daily struggle to protect and promote women’s rights and gender equality. Governments are responsible for ensuring that women human rights defenders can operate without fear of intimidation, harassment, or worse. In solidarity with their efforts, the international community must support networks and mechanisms for protection, and shine a light on the work and resilience of women human rights defenders.”— Charlotte Bunch