Security Council urged to incorporate gender perspective in approaches to peace
Women are increasingly playing a role in preventing wars and fostering peace but more remains to be done to fully incorporate a gender perspective into conflict resolution and reconstruction, senior United Nations officials told the Security Council today.
Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, reported on progress achieved by various UN missions in addressing gender-based violence, responding to human trafficking, incorporating gender perspectives in disarmament plans, facilitating the participation of women in civil administration, and combating HIV/AIDS.
East Timor, Mr. Guéhenno said, provided "perhaps the best example of how maintaining the focus of gender can yield significant results." During elections there, political parties voluntarily included women on their tickets. "As a result, women represented 27 per cent of the total number of candidates returned to the Constituent Assembly - the highest ever under a UN-sponsored election," he said.
The Under-Secretary-General also took the occasion to reiterate Secretary-General Kofi Annan's "zero-tolerance" policy on the engagement of peacekeepers in acts of sexual exploitation, harassment and the trafficking of women and girls. He urged troop- and police-contributing countries to take disciplinary, "and, if needed, criminal action," against their nationals who committed such acts. For its part, the UN was strengthening procedures for disciplinary action against anyone accused of such "unacceptable" behaviour, he added.
Also addressing the Council in a day long debate involving over two dozen countries was Angela King, the UN Special Advisor on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women. She reported on a recent study that illustrated how women in many conflict areas have been able to function as active peacemakers. At the same time, she cautioned that "traditional thinking about war and peace ignores women or regards them only as victims."
The study contained several useful recommendations for addressing this problem, including incorporating a gender perspective in all peace and humanitarian operations and ensuring that peace agreements hold the parties accountable for protecting women and children, she said. Warring States, mediating countries and the UN should strive to include women at all stages of peace processes and post-conflict reconstruction. The UN and its Member States should also work to increase the number of women in policy-making positions, she added.
Noeleen Heyzer, the Executive Director of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), shared the initial findings of a global study on the impact of armed conflict on women and women's role in peace-building. Among other recommendations, the study called for incorporating women into peacemaking efforts, she said, pointing out that "the whole peace process suffers when women are absent." It also recommended the adoption of codes of conduct to prevent peacekeepers or aid workers from committing violence against women.