Remarks by Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the Elsie Initiative Fund: High-Level Virtual Launch of the Second Programming Round

Date: Wednesday, April 28, 2021

[As delivered]

I want to start by acknowledging and thanking Canada for helping to organize us today and also for the enormous support that they have given to this initiative. This year, in March, we hosted the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico, which is a forum that is supporting the acceleration of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action; accelerating the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals; accelerating the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda; as well as responding now to the pandemic.

One of the key outcomes of Generation Equality was a strong call for a Compact on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action. In that call there was also a critical message, calling for accountability and leadership at all levels to support the progress that we want to see for women in this sector.

There was also a call for the acceleration of full, equal and meaningful participation of women in security institutions, highlighting the fact that this is essential in order to make sure that these institutions are true representatives of the people they serve and are able to respond appropriately in a manner that assists of all of the population they are serving.

Last month we also launched the Action for Peacekeeping Plus (A4P). It was noted that women’s participation in political processes in numerous sectors has expanded; and in particular, the fact that women now are 41 per cent of all civilian senior leadership.

However, while the majority of the Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy 2020 Targets have been surpassed, targets for the proportion of women in military contingents still lags behind considerably. The pace of change in women’s representation in national militaries globally remains too slow. So, now we know that progress is possible because we have seen in it one part of our work, I think this should inspire us and fire us to also push further in all other areas that are still lagging behind. Because we cannot wait for 30 years, for instance, for gender parity to be reached by military troops. It is estimated that it will take 12 years for formed police units to reach parity, eight years for individual police officers, and 7 years for military observers and staff officers.

Using the good experience that we have, we should be able to condense these statistics and move even quicker. We have options: the use of innovative, data-driven and tech-enabled peacekeeping that systematically capture disaggregated data across ranks and leadership positions to enable evidence-based reporting and accountability. When we do not have data, we do not know what it is we are trying to fix.

The Elsie Initiative, therefore, is an innovative mechanism designed to support and incentivize UN Member States’ efforts to increase uniformed women’s participation in UN peace operations. The Fund was launched in March 2019, which was a wonderful day, and I am glad that we are now at this phase. It is therefore my pleasure to formally announce and congratulate the Elsie Initiative Fund’s first five recipients which are Liberia, Mexico, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

I commend the commitment of these countries because they have undertaken an in-depth analysis of the multiple barriers for women’s participation in peace operations within the contexts that they work. They have looked at social and cultural gender norms. They have looked at criteria for deployment that exclude disproportionate numbers of women. They have also looked at how women self-select out of deployment because of the pressure that comes with family obligations. And this knowledge is also to be shared with other Member States so that we begin to create a body of knowledge that we can all tap into.

So today, we are launching this in the belief that the leaders that are here, who are ministers and other leaders of the UN, will provide the authentic leadership that is needed for success to be achieved. We want to make sure, for instance, that there is commitment to zero tolerance to sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and abuse, and to bring perpetrators to justice.

I’m proud to announce that the launch of the second programme for the Elsie Fund creates conditions that I hope will inspire more countries to want to be part of the group of countries that I have announced.

We invite troop and police-contributing countries to submit letters of interest to the Elsie Initiative Fund Secretariat by the 31 of July. We will be able to assist you and provide packages and guidelines that will take you step by step.

There is a technical briefing that is planned for the 18 of May by the Elsie Secretariat, which is at UN Women, and there will also be webinars and tutorials in English and French which will provide you with further details. Information is also available in the Elsie Initiative Fund website.

This is a wonderful day. We hope that there will be many more days to come where we will be announcing more countries who are becoming part of this group of countries that are taking this important work forward.

I thank you and I also congratulate our technical committee for their subject matter expertise, Department of Peace Operations, Member States, academic institutions and civil society who have helped us to get to this point. Thank you.