UN Security Council Open Debate: Role of women in prevention and resolution of conflicts in Africa
Statement as delivered by Carolyn Schwalger, Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, March 28, 2016.
We have made significant progress in the fifteen years since this Security Council passed its landmark resolution on women, peace and security.
The fundamental importance of addressing the impact of conflict on women and girls is now widely acknowledged. We have agreed frameworks in place.
However, practical implementation lags behind, particularly with women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution processes. Meaningful participation is the exception rather than the rule.
This was evident at last week's open debate on conflict prevention in the Great Lakes region.
Empirical evidence confirms that meaningful participation by women during all stages of conflict resolution contributes strongly to preventing escalation and sustaining peace.
Including women works.
Failure to include women in peace processes perpetuates inequality. It makes breaking the cycle of conflict more difficult. We know this.
And yet we continue to hear arguments that women’s participation is peripheral, rather than essential.
We hear cultural justifications for the exclusion of women from the negotiating table or mediation roles.
And we are asked to delay women’s involvement until the reconciliation phase, often after an agreement has been reached.
These outdated attitudes and approaches must be challenged.
Highlighting examples of how women have made a difference in preventing and resolving conflict in Africa demonstrates the practical benefits of women's participation.
Take, for example, the role women’s groups continue to play in de-escalating and preventing election-related violence.
The establishment of ‘women’s situation rooms’ and the deployment of trained female election monitors in Senegal, Kenya, Nigeria, and most recently in the Central African Republic, have had a measurable impact on preventing, monitoring and mitigating incidents of violence and intimidation.
Women’s groups also play a key role in deescalating crises and advocating for an end to conflict.
The critical role played by the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace movement in ending the conflict in Liberia is well documented.
Women have mobilised to support peace in Burundi by bringing parties together to engage in dialogue. A nationwide network of women mediators, established by the UN in close partnership with the Ministry of Interior and civil society organisations, has effectively prevented violence at the local level, dispelled false rumours, and mitigated the impact of the ongoing political crisis on everyday people.
As the mediation process in Burundi moves forward, these gains must not be side-lined or suppressed.
The efforts of these women – undertaken with minimal resources and at personal risk – deserve more than our applause. They deserve support and empowerment.
Because what they do works.
We have taken particular note of the steps called for by Ms Paleki Ayang to end sexual violence in South Sudan as a necessary ingredient to rebuilding peace in her country.
We must facilitate the active contribution of women in peace operations in Africa. We must ensure that UN operations are appropriately prepared and equipped to address the needs of women and girls in conflict and post-conflict settings.
New Zealand lies far from the African continent. However, we strive to make a modest, practical contribution to these efforts.
New Zealand has long reflected women, peace and security considerations in our doctrine, policy and training for uniformed personnel serving internationally.
Last November, an all-female New Zealand Defence Force team provided training on the ‘Operationalisation of Gender’ at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Ghana. This training incorporated conflict prevention techniques through the inclusion of women, increasing the employment of women in conflict prevention and resolution processes, and women’s experiences of leadership in conflict.
Our experience in gender-sensitive approaches to community policing in post-conflict settings has proven the value of women’s participation. Female police officers interact better with the local female population. The presence of female personnel empowers local women, ensuring they are not seen only as victims, but as actors and providers of safety and security.
Regional leadership has played an important role in African efforts to support the role of women in conflict prevention and resolution.
We commend the African Union’s Gender Peace and Security Programme. It has framed the integration and strengthening of the African peace and security architecture’s responsiveness to gender issues.
Finally, we urge this Council to incorporate the perspectives of women in its work as a matter of course. We should encourage greater participation by women in all mediation efforts and conflict prevention processes.
It is simple: when women are included as active participants there is a far greater chance of ending conflict and achieving sustainable peace.