Press release: 20 Years on, radical change needed to realize women’s inclusion in peace and political power

Date: Thursday, October 29, 2020

Media contact: media.team[at]unwomen.org

New York, 29 October, 2020 – As 2 billion people across the world struggle to survive in areas afflicted by armed conflict in the midst of a global pandemic, women – who are disproportionately affected by such strife and play a key role as mediators and peacebuilders –remain largely excluded from formal peace processes and post-conflict power structures, a new United Nations report on Women Peace and Security shows.

The report, presented to the UN Security Council during today’s annual Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security that commemorated the 20th anniversary of its landmark resolution 1325, outlines five goals to realize inclusive and sustainable peace in the next decade. These range from women’s full inclusion in all peace efforts and unconditional defense of women’s rights to reversing the historic rise in global military spending, coupled with meeting minimum levels of financial assistance and launching a data revolution that sheds light and propels rapid action.

“As we recover from the pandemic, we face a choice. To continue down the path of increasing militarization, conflict and inter-generational losses. Or to work towards greater inclusion, equality, and prevention of conflicts and crises of all kinds,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

While countries struggle to provide basic services that underpin human security, military spending is at a historic high. In 2019 alone, global military expenditures reached USD1.9 trillion, following the largest annual increase in a decade. “The needs laid bare by the pandemic should be driving decision-making on national investment in peacebuilding, education, health and other vital public programmes with women fully included in all aspects of those considerations,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women. “When we change the face of politics, realize the lessons of decades of women’s activism, alter perspective on budgets for social services rather than weapons, we will be positioned to sustain peace, overcome the climate crisis, recover from this pandemic, or prevent the next one. A COVID response that is truly inclusive represents a transformative opportunity for a more peaceful, sustainable and equitable world. It is time to heed this call”, she added.

Twenty years after the passing of the Security Council resolution 1325, which set a new framework for women’s leadership and inclusion in all aspects of peace, alarming gaps in implementation are holding back impact at a critical moment when a joint and undistracted effort to contain COVID-19 is needed. Peace is a pre-requisite for health, equality and human security. Despite the contributions that followed the resolution, women too often remain sidelined behind those holding the guns. On average, women were only 13 per cent of negotiators, 6 per cent of mediators, and 6 per cent of signatories in major peace processes between 1992 and 2019.

Amongst the group briefing the UN Security Council today was Danai Gurira, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, award-winning playwright and actor, who said: “Most of the times, when women make their mark in spite of impossible odds, it is not because they were given the space and the opportunity, but because they protested against their exclusion and persisted.

Feminist organizations have repeatedly called for disarmament, arms control and shifting military spending to social investment. Women’s groups were also among the first to echo the Secretary-General's call for a global ceasefire to collectively focus in fighting the pandemic, earlier this year. Women peace activists are urging parties to conflict to silence their guns, because countries with infrastructure and health care systems decimated by conflict cannot fight a battle on two fronts.

"Peace cannot come at the cost of women’s rights. All we have achieved hangs in the balance in the current negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government...We therefore urge the international community, including global and regional institutions, member states and donor countries, to exercise your responsibility to ensure that none of the parties involved, including the Taliban, restrict women's human rights, civil liberties or citizenship in any way," added Zarqa Yaftali, Afghan Activist and Executive Director of Women and Children Legal Research Foundation, who also briefed the Security Council.

Women are central to peace efforts, and they get results. The evidence is clear: having women at the peace table generates greater buy-in and strengthens accountability for implementation. Women’s participation also makes peace more durable because, with their input, agreements go beyond the realm of power to the realities of people. However, peace agreements with gender equality provisions increased from 14 per cent in 1995 to 22 per cent only in 2019. 

Without radical action over the next decade to integrate women into all aspects of peace, we risk a continuous state of insecurity, heightened instability and prolonged conflicts.


For a full list of events around the world in the context of the Open Debate and the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325, click here.

For more information, stories of women peace leaders and new data on Women, Peace and Security visit: https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/women-peace-security

For additional data on Women, Peace and Security, click here.