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Women's input is crucial to achieving, maintaining peace, Security Council told

Women's input is crucial to achieving, maintaining peace, Security Council told

The contribution of women has been shown to be an important factor in building peace in war-torn areas, but female voices will go unheard without efforts by the international community and warring parties to include them in peace processes, members of the United Nations Security Council were told during a meeting today with representatives from women's organizations.

The women were among others who met informally with Security Council members this morning on the implementation of the security body's resolution last year on women, peace and security, which promised to involve women in peace negotiations while protecting them from the abuses of war. Today's meeting took place on the eve of the first anniversary of the resolution's adoption.

Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, Noeleen Heyzer, the Executive Director of the UN Fund for Women (UNIFEM), said that many people in this morning's discussion had stressed that without timely and well-challenged documentation and analysis, no political response would ever take into account women's lives and therefore there would be a "very weak attempt" to bring about sustainable peace.

According to Ms. Heyzer, speakers during today's debate said there was much cause for celebration since the Security Council had signed its first resolution on women and security, but that there were also several gaps that needed to be addressed.

"We have seen that even after several years, women's protection is glaringly neglected in many war-torn countries and that their contributions to peace-building processes are still being marginalized," the UNIFEM chief said. "Yet we have seen increasingly that the peace process suffers when women's voices are not heard, when they are not at the peace table, when their analyses are not brought to the decision makers, and this is particularly true at this time with the current Afghan situation."

Ms. Heyzer stressed that as long as international protection and assistance systematically neglected women and girls, the world would not be able to address some of the critical concerns of its time, including the unanswered fate of mothers and thousands of children born of rape, the number of women dying of HIV/AIDS, and the issue of rape used as a weapon of war.

Another issue that surfaced strongly in today's discussion in the Council was women's leadership in peace processes, Ms. Heyzer said, noting that the case of East Timor was referred to by many speakers. "When you have the right partnership between the UN system and the civilian society, you will be able to bring about the participation of women in post-conflict peace building," she said.