Remarks by Deputy Executive Director Åsa Regnér at the Challenges Annual Forum 2018

Remarks by Åsa Regnér, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women at the Challenges Forum 2018: Action for Peacekeeping - Strengthening the Effectiveness of Future Peace Operations.


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Excellencies, distinguish panelists, dear friends,

Allow me to start by thanking the Folke Bernadotte Academy, the Swedish Armed Forces and the International Forum for the Challenges of Peace Operations (Challenges Forum) for including UN Women in this year’s forum to discussAction for Peacekeeping - Strengthening the Effectiveness of Future Peace Operations.

The Action for Peacekeeping Initiative and its rapid and comprehensive adoption by the international community is a very important step forward in the peace and security agenda.

The challenges faced by peacekeepers have multiplied over the years. It is necessary for the peacekeeping community—troop and police contributing countries, donors, the Security Council and other UN forums, and UN organizations—to reflect on them and commit to address the new and standing challenges so to secure a lasting and effective peace for the most disadvantaged in the world’s most troubled locations.

The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which acknowledges that ending poverty must go hand-in hand with strategies that build economic growth and addresses a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection, faces huge challenges in particular in the case of conflict and conflict affected countries and regions. Yet, the leave no one behind principle of the 2030 Agenda demands priority and bold attention to be given precisely to most disadvantaged situations.

In this effort, it is critical to continue to stress that conflict, post-conflict and displacement situations often exacerbate and compound existing violence and discrimination against women and girls. Indeed, war, violent conflict, terrorism and violent extremism have differential and devastating consequences for women and girls. Yet, despite this, women remain largely invisible to, and excluded from, peace processes and negotiations.

In attention to this situation, the Declaration of the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative, member states and the UN system collectively commit to implement the Women, Peace and Security agenda and its priorities by ensuring full, equal and meaningful participation of women in all stages of the peace process and by systematically integrating a gender perspective into all stages of analysis, planning, implementation and reporting.

As we approach the 20th anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, in 2020 the pillars of that agenda—prevention, protection, participation, and relief and recovery—remain as relevant today as they were then.

In our commitment to Action for Peacekeeping, we should reflect on the importance of those themes to the Declaration. We should also reflect on the role and needs of women and girls in peacekeeping; not only in those areas of the declaration that specifically refer to them, but in all aspects of peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

In all the international peace and security dialogues we should advocate for them to explicitly consider the needs and abilities of women and girls as well as the roles of women as peace makers in their communities.

In this context, I would like to state that transitions are critical moments. They are a measure of how effective UN’s actions are towards sustainable peace and stability. Gender equality is closely linked to less violent societies. Transitions need to ensure that gender equality and women’s empowerment are an integral part of the society when a peacekeeping mission has left. We have good and not good examples of how transition processes take care of this aspect. What kind of a legacy and what kind of a society does a peacekeeping mission want to leave when it closes down?

The protection of civilians is a core mandate for peacekeeping operations, though it is primarily the responsibility of host states. Also, protecting civilians women and girls who are affected by conflict in many deep and enduring ways – including sexual violence, poverty, hunger, lack of education–, is fundamental to a lasting peace that advances gender equality and the economic empowerment of women.

It is therefore fundamental to improve the capability and effectiveness of peacekeeping forces to ensure gender responsiveness in their protection of civilians action plans so to ensure that women and girls benefit directly from this.

Peacekeepers set an example to the whole society. Sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers is a problem that impacts the society. It can’t be met with impunity. It is critical to address the issue. It is linked to how those societies tolerate violence and abuse against women. This is an issue member states as well as the UN must urgently solve.

For women and girls, as it is for most non-combatants, meaningful peace is not only the absence of militarized violence.

The human security needs of women and girls – economic, social, physical, psychosocial, the need for education and for shelter, must also be met before women and girls experience peace and security. The absence of battle is little comfort when sexual violence is rampant, or your children are starving.

Security Council resolution 2242 mandated Member States to double the number of uniformed peacekeepers by 2020.

The Action for Peacekeeping Declaration also commits member states and the UN System to increasing the number of civilian and uniformed women in peacekeeping at all levels and in key positions.

The United Nations Gender Parity Strategy likewise calls for substantial increases in the number of women peacekeepers, uniformed and civilian.

UN has to lead by example in showing that both women and men are needed in bringing peace and security to communities. UN will not be able to have female peacekeepers if member states, and especially troop contributing countries, don’t have women in their security sector and also make it possible for those women to be appointed to international positions.

In this regard, I welcome the appointment of the second ever female force commander, Major general Cheryl Pearce of Australia as commander of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus. Of course, Major General Kristin Lund of Norway was the first woman in this position.

I also very much welcome the Member State led initiatives to provide creative solutions to make peacekeeping more gender balanced, such as financial initiatives and international trainings of military females.

I thank again the organizers for this opportunity to further develop the Action for Peacekeeping Agenda, and note that UN Women stands ready to assist in any way to progress the interlinked causes of peace and women’s equality and economic empowerment.

I thank you!