Valji: Gender Equality “Core to Peace and Security”

Nahla Valji, Officer in Charge of the Peace and Security Section at UN Women, told an IPI audience July 8th that achieving gender equality had a direct effect on the sustainability of peace processes. Speaking at a policy forum considering the Global Study on Resolution 1325, Ms. Valji declared it is imperative “to see gender equality and women’s empowerment as important and core to peace and security.”

Ms. Valji noted that including women in peace processes is about more than just diversity; there is an empirical record of improved results. “We’re now seeing the increased evidence of the correlation between women’s participation,” and, “the finalization of peace processes, the implementation of agreements, and the sustainability of the peace that they achieve,” she said.

The Policy Forum was co-sponsored by UN Women, and Ms. Valji represented the UN agency on the panel. Describing the early findings of the Global Study, she said, “Over the past 15 years, we have built an incredibly strong normative base.” However, she continued, “What we’re not seeing though, is consistent implementation.”

The Global Study, 15 years after its adoption, is a review of Resolution 1325, the landmark resolution of the United Nations Security Council on Women, Peace and Security. It recommends means for the resolution’s full execution in areas such as strengthening the gender architecture of the UN system, and removing obstacles to participation of women in peace and security operations.

Before the panel discussion, participants had met at the UN in small groups, to try to identify synergies with other reports.

Ambassador Christian Wenaweser, the Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein to the UN, also a co-host of the panel, opened the discussion by emphasizing it was essential, “to establish the connections between the different topics, to ensure that things are not looked at in isolation.”

To that end, Ambassador Gert Rosenthal brought to the attention of the panel a key interpretation of the High Level Review on Peacebuilding, for which he is Chair of the Advisory Group of Experts. “There is this idea in the United Nations that peace building is something that happens after a conflict,” he said. “In fact, on an agenda of the Security Council, the agenda item is called ‘post-conflict peacebuilding.’ And we think that’s the wrong concept. Peacebuilding can occur before, during, and after conflict.”

Youssef Mahmoud, IPI Senior Adviser, pointed out that men also bore responsibility for implementing Resolution 1325, criticizing “the prevailing erroneous notion that women peace and security is a women’s only issue that can only be addressed by women and understood by women.” Rather, he continued, it must be conceptualized as “a social agenda – an agenda for women and men.”

Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, Chief of the World Humanitarian Summit Secretariat, commented on the unique value women have brought to her multi-stakeholder consultations for the UN. “I think every regional consultation, something that has been said to us about what is important, it’s actually hope and security,” she said. “And women see things very differently in this sense, hope not just for themselves, but for future generations, for their children. It’s such a powerful message women are telling us.”

Ms. Valji similarly emphasized the need to incorporate women’s unique perspectives and stressed that their voices can even improve early warning mechanisms.

“Women have access to different sources of information, conflict analysis, early warning of conflict in communities,” she said. The Global Study found that women experience greater violence “as militarization and small arms spread in the months before conflict and tensions heighten.” These voices are lost, she explained, but could actually serve “as an early warning indicator, that we can use,” to prevent conflict.

The discussion concluded with the members of the audience posing questions to the panelists. Ms. Mahmood, answering a question about what it would take to ensure women are involved in implementing Resolution 1325, responded by asking her colleague to hold up her cell phone.

With the audience fixated on the device, Ms. Mahmood clarified, “If I had one wish, I would want every woman caught in crisis to have a solar powered mobile phone with unlimited credit, because it’s unbelievable how much information can be disseminated through the cell phone,” she said. “We have to look at the world through the future lens, the world in 2030. How will women have their voice, even when they try to quiet it down? How do we amplify? It’s the power of many working as one.”

IPI Senior Adviser Youssef Mahmoud moderated the conversation.

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