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Read here the GWL Voices for Change and Inclusion Statement for the Generation Equality Forum:

/ About the Generation Equality Forum Paris /

The Generation Equality Forum is a global gathering for gender equality convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France, in partnership with youth and civil society.

The Forum kicked off in Mexico City in March and will culminate in Paris from 30 June to 2 July 2021, launching a series of concrete, ambitious and transformative actions to achieve immediate and irreversible progress towards gender equality.

COVID 19 has exposed and accelerated existing gender inequalities. The Generation Equality Forum is our chance to make a difference.

Register now and virtually join in Paris from 30 June to 2 July:  🔗 forumgenerationegalite.fr/en/get-involved/register 

/ GWL Voices Events /

Monday 28th June


Tuesday, 29th June


/ Deeds Not Words Campaign /

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Multilateralism by Women

Today, 24 April, in celebration of the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace, we, the members of GWL Voices, reaffirm our commitment to building a stronger multilateral system. 

Multilateralism, cooperation, and concerted action are more needed than ever as we define policy options and economic and financial arrangements to recover and rebuild our societies after the multiple and sobering effects of the COVID19 pandemic. The best way to address this health crisis is closely linked to the health of our multilateral system. 

We are 54 women who have worked in governments and in multilateral organizations in support of promoting humanitarian relief, advocating for human rights principles and normative policies, advancing sustainable development, and resolving some of the world’s most complex conflicts. We have found through years of experience that it is thanks to the multilateral system, that the world is advancing in the key areas of concern: peace and security, human rights, condition of women, public health, etc.. However, the pace of progress remains slow and the gains have been put at risk by the recent attacks against multilateral institutions. As women, we need to highlight that this is particularly true in the case of women rights and gender equality.

The COVID19 pandemic is testing the limits of the multilateral system in delivering public goods, in particular the human right to health: geopolitical competition among powerful states and the defense of the economic interests of transnational corporations is jeopardizing the equal and universal access to COVID19 vaccines. As a result, many of the about 3 million deaths could have been avoided with a more adequate multilateral response. 

Justified concerns about unchecked globalization have mutated into a backlash against the very principles that give power to the people, such as human rights, gender equality and social justice, including humanitarian crises and inadmissible violence against women in conflict zones, such as the recent horrific events in Tigray and the regress in democratic advances in Myanmar.

We are seeing a rise of nationalist sentiment, in extremism, in attacks of international law and norms. This is creating a difficult environment for the decisions we need to take in the coming months and years. Just when we need multilateralism more than ever, global cooperation is being undermined in some quarters.

Our multilateral architecture which is built around the United Nations System needs to be reformed in order to better address the structural inequalities that affect the world and respond to the global, multidimensional threats that humanity is facing. A reinforced and functional multilateralism is essential to deliver peace and stability, human security and sustainable development for all. We are convinced that strengthening multilateralism is, at the same time, the best tool to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement and accelerate the gender equality agenda through the effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda established in UN Security Resolution 1325.

They are the product of years of negotiations, of research and analysis, of the biggest stakeholder consultation in UN history. They offer hope and guidance. They address many of the factors fueling dissatisfaction with the international system, from material deprivation to poor governance. Implementing them will do more to convince people of the value of multilateralism, than any speech or campaign as we recover from COVID19.

The efforts for recovering from the COVID19 crisis offer a golden opportunity to galvanize our commitment with multilateralism, and to change the way we do business. It is a chance to make the UN more effective, more transparent, more accountable and more relevant to “we, the peoples”. 

It is also an opportunity to make progress on addressing four major deficits in the UN system:

First, the democracy deficit, which has seen the Global South in general, and Africa in particular, underrepresented – most prominently in the Security Council, of course, but also in international financial institutions. But it is also how we involve all segments of society in the decisions that lead to global commitments and their implementation at national level.

Second, the deficit in the “equal rights of men and women and of nations large and smal”,, which we see in the divide between those who mandate peace operations and those who put their citizen’s lives on the line, or in our approach to refugees – developing countries host the lion’s share, over 80%, while rich countries are reluctant to accept significant numbers. 

Third, the stakeholder deficit. Our multilateral system has not found meaningful ways to include the multitude of actors – parliamentarians, local government, civil society, the private sector, trade unions, youth, cities – in global decision-making and delivery. Often, these actors are better placed to engage with constituencies, build public support for sustainable lifestyles and to provide services. It is time we redefined what we mean by a truly global partnership.

And fourth, the communications deficit. The UN has still not found ways to capture the public’s imagination, to tell success stories and communicate its challenges. The UN is yet to provide meaningful answers to those who have lost faith in the international system, and to push back against those who peddle misinformation.

We need to move from words to actions. This commemoration must reaffirm the values and principles of gender equality, international cooperation and collective action, sovereign equality of states, self-determination of peoples, the prohibition of the threat and use of force in international relations, the universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the protection of our ecosystems and the compliance with international law. 

The commemoration is an opportunity to consider the most transformative next steps in each of these areas, and work towards realizing them, in particular:

  • Strengthening multilateralism and international cooperation by revisiting the procedures and distribution of power of the institutions within the United Nations System and the regional integration mechanisms.
  • Democratizing the multilateral system by increasing the representation of all social actors in the discussions and decision-making processes, in particular of those more vulnerable that have been traditionally marginalized and excluded from international politics. 
  • Promoting more equality within states and among states in order to end poverty, hunger, corruption, gender discrimination, violence, human rights abuses and conflict.
  • Increasing transparency and accountability in the multilateral system 

This is our chance to overhaul the multilateral engine; to convince and convert the sceptics, and to multiply its supporters. We cannot miss it!    

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Tigray Statement

As members of GWL Voices for Change and Inclusion and concerned global citizens, we are closely following the situation in Tigray and the increased reports of alleged atrocities, that include accusations of systemic gender-based violence.

Violence against women and girls, including sexual violence in conflicts, represents an abhorrent practice and constitutes cruelty beyond comprehension. Allegations of rape being used as a weapon of war call for urgent investigation, preventative and/or mitigating action and support to victims.

As women dedicated to promoting human rights and humanitarian action, advancing sustainable development, and committed to contributing to the search for solutions to the world’s most complex problems, our concern over the protracted situation in Tigray, reports of human suffering, including growing allegations of grievous gender-based violence, evoke our worst moments as humanity:conflicts in which women and girls have been ruthlessly and cruelly targeted, and generations scarred for life.

We therefore urge the Security Council to act urgently to uphold the principles enshrined in UNSCR 1325 and call on all parties to the conflict to take all measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, in particular rape and al forms of sexual abuse, in situations of armed conflict. We also recall the commitments set forth in UNSCR 1612UNSCR 1674UNSCR 1820 ,UNSCR 1882 ,UNSCR 1888 , UNSCR 1960, UNSCR 2106, UNSCR 2122, UNSCR 2467, UNSCR 2493, addressing the necessary protection of women and girls during conflict and condemning in the strongest form any instance of rape as a weapon of war.

To date, the lack of a UNSC pronouncement through a Security Council resolution or Presidential Statement on Tigray represents a grave vacuum in our global leadership and united commitment to act decisively and swiftly when allegations of rape and other forms of gender-based violence are systematically reported in conflict zones.

We join our voices and echo the alarms raised as expressed by multiple humanitarian organizations, including the that of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, in her statement, and the briefing offered by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, in his 15 April 2021 briefing to the Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia.

The people of Tigray, and notably its women and girls, require that we as global citizens act with unity of purpose and urgency to investigate and prevent all forms of gender-based violence.

How many victims does a conflict need for it to be addressed? How much gender-based violence can a conflict stand without it being addressed?

Let’s stop this. Let’s help girls and women live the lives they deserve, without constant fear and violence.

The world is watching, act now, avoid further suffering.

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Myanmar Statement

Myanmar is on the brink of becoming a failed state [1] . The rapidly deteriorating and increasingly violent crisis in post-coup Myanmar is producing atrocious consequences including over 500 deaths and more than 2,000 people detained since the military takeover of power on 1 February 2021. This crisis presents risks to both the people of Myanmar, threatening their lives and the enjoyment of their rights, and the ASEAN region as a whole. In fact, the risks to ASEAN are some of the greatest it has faced since its founding in 1967.

Risks to civilian protection, regional security, and development gains include:

  • Increased bloodshed and violence against civilians, including women and children, inside Myanmar
  • The likelihood of a protracted civil conflict, involving a broad civil insurrection against the Tatmadaw
  • A major humanitarian crisis inside Myanmar characterized by widespread food insecurity and growing numbers of internally displaced persons, and exacerbated by diminishing humanitarian access for both international and local aid organisations
  • Greater refugee flows to neighbouring countries and the wider region and the lack of a regional protection strategy to assure refuge and humanitarian assistance to people fleeing Myanmar
  • A downward spiral of Myanmar’s domestic economy and a rise in poverty
  • The very real possibility that Myanmar becomes a failed state with security, capacity, and legitimacy severely compromised, which could contribute to a rise in transnational crime across the region, including arms smuggling, drug trafficking, human trafficking and other illicit business activities

We, GWL Voices for Change and Inclusion, urge these actions to be taken to prevent the continuation of the fatal consequences that are taking place in Myanmar:

  • The military must cease its violence against the peaceful Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) protesters,including women, release all political prisoners, and relinquish control [2]. As of 3 April, it has been confirmed that 604 people have been killed following this junta coup. The actual number of fatalities is likely much higher. Additionally, a total of 2729 individuals have been detained in relation to the attempted military coup on February 1. Women have been at the forefront of the CDM, leading advocacy both on the ground and online. The military has traditionally used rape as a weapon of war against the ethnic minorities and will likely use sexual violence against female detainees. There have also been recorded instances of soldiers targeting female protestors with derogatory language and threats of sexual assault. We underline the military’s crimes against the Rohingya and reiterate the call in the General Assembly resolution on authorities to combat incitement of hatred against the Rohingya and other minorities.
  • Urgent unfettered humanitarian access to people in need in Myanmar. We call on Myanmar’s neighbouring countries to provide access to territory and protection for those fleeing violence in Myanmar.
  • The international community should not recognise the military to avoid granting it legitimacy. Any engagement with the military should be strictly limited to resolving the crisis. The international community should instead focus on engaging with the CRPH and other leaders that the people of Myanmar consider legitimate, such as ethnic leaders (including the Rohingya). GWL Voices agrees that a new charter that brings the military under civilian control and allows for an ethnically and religiously inclusive nation-building process is needed. The United Nations and its member states are urged to give official recognition to the Interim National Unity Government, which represents the will of the people, as the legitimate government of Myanmar. The support of the international community is a concrete step towards meaningful dialogue, restoring democracy, and mitigating the escalation of violence.

Myanmar suffers from a multi-faceted crisis that is political, economic, and ethnic. The country needs a political system which can provide freedom and stability. Meanwhile, its economic system needs rapid growth and development. Myanmar must also resolve complex ethnic conflicts as well as address its vulnerability to climate change. The young generations want to see Myanmar become a 21st century country, not move further backwards.

We, GWL Voices for Change and Inclusion, advocate for the implementation of these actions. The international community cannot look away from the situation in Myanmar. Silence is a non-action that will lead to the worsening of the situation.

This document is signed by GWL Voices members as a collective, with the exception of : Navi Pillay disassociates given her responsibilities as a judge].

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Safeguarding and advancing women’s economic empowerment in the wake of COVID-19: An opportunity to build back better

The following paper reflects the vision of GWL Voices for Change and Inclusion on recommended action points required to mitigate the consequences of the COVID -19 pandemic on women’s economic empowerment. It is intended to serve as an advocacy document to position strategic messages by #GWL members in multilateral fora and processes, including in the context of the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and Generation Equality Forum.

COVID-19 has become an unprecedented and unpredictable global crisis. Whilst it is still too early to completely and fully understand the long-term effects, social and economic forecasts predict extremely concerning scenarios, with particularly devastating effects for women.

With plummeting economic activity, women are in a worse position to face this crisis. Not only as a direct consequence of the pre-existing precariousness and vulnerability of female employment, but also because, unlike any other modern recession, the downturn triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has hard-hit highly feminized sectors, such as the manufacturing, hospitality or retail industries. 

Emerging data also confirms a differentiated and more acute impact on women-led SMEs worldwide, partly as a result of their lower access to digital technologies and skills, financial services and assets and business networks, as well as their high levels of informality.[1]

Across the world, women’s employment is in fact overwhelmingly informal. With limited labour and social protection, it is not surprising that women informal workers have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis. Domestic workers have been at particular risk. While the need for caregiving and cleaning services has increased, lockdowns and quarantine measures have made it difficult to maintain pre-pandemic working arrangements, resulting in a loss of income and employment among this largely female workforce.[2]

Although job destruction has disproportionately affected low-paid and low‑skilled jobs, women across all income groups have been largely affected, because of the burnout associated with juggling and balancing increased work andhome commitments during the pandemic. In fact, globally, the rising demand for care in the context of the COVID-19 crisis as a result of school closures and confinement measures, has not only deepened and exacerbated the already disproportionate burden of women’s unpaid care and domestic work but has also led to reductions in working time and permanent exit from the labor market. Available data overwhelmingly confirms that women, that already spent on average three times as much time as men on unpaid care and domestic work before the pandemic, are still doing the lion’s share.[3]

As the crisis exacerbates labour market instabilities along with gender inequalities in access to economic resources and in the division of unpaid care and domestic work, many more women are expected to fall into destitution. The disproportionate impacts on women could therefore reverse decades of gains achieved in gender equality in the labor market, as well as exacerbate existing disparities and the perspectives of recovery.

GWL Voices for Change and Inclusion call leaders, across the world and from all segments of society, to increase commitments to address these impacts and integrate gender equality as a central and fundamental element of all response and recovery efforts, as a catalyst for building back an inclusive, sustainable, resilient future for everyone. 

RECOMMENDED ACTION POINTS: 

Employment protection 

  • Provide targeted support to feminized sectors and occupations, including through the provision of fiscal stimulus packages to sectors where women are over-represented.
  • Support women-led enterprises and businesses, including through cash grants, subsidized and state-backed loans, tax and social security payment deferrals and exemptions. 
  • Expand and strengthen gender-responsive social protection systems, with floors to cover all women in formal and informal employmentthrough a combination of contributory and non-contributory schemes.
  • Promote legal and policy frameworks to facilitate and incentivize the transition of workers and economic units from the informal to the formal economy, including by introducing simplified tax and contributions assessment and payment regimes, in line with ILO Recommendation No. 204.

The care economy

  • Implement measures to reduce and redistribute domestic and care responsibilities within householdsand to reconcile work and family life, including in the context of remote work schemes. 
  • Prioritize investments in the care economy and in the design of comprehensive care systems, including through the provision of affordable quality childcare and long-term care services for the sick and elderly. 

Legal reforms

  • Reform and eliminate laws that directly or indirectly discriminate against women and enact legislation to promote women’s economic empowerment.  
  • Ratify ILO Convention 189 and ensure domestic workers are granted the same rights and protectionsunder the law as other occupations.

Building assets 

  • Ensure women’s financial inclusion as a key enabler for women’s economic participation and respond to the unmet demand for credit, especially among women-owned micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises. 
  • Ensure increased access for women and girls to Internet and mobile technology, including through investments in education and digital literacy initiatives, in order to reduce the digital gender divide. 
  • Promote and facilitate access for women to STEM studies and careers.
  • Provide women with training in business strategies, digital skills and financial capabilities to promote their resilience and competitiveness.

Public and private sector practices 

  • Adopt measures to promote an increased participation of women-owned businesses in public procurement processes
  • Integrate gender equality principles into business practices and culture, such as equal pay for work of equal value, parental leaves, gender-responsive supply chain practices and policies to prevent and eliminate violence against women. 
  • Promote gender lens investing in women-led or -owned businesses; companies supporting gender equality in the workplace and companies developing products/ services that impact women’s quality of living.

Macroeconomic policies 

  • Ensure trade policies are gender responsive and remove trade barriers that limit women’s access to international markets.
  • Ensure gender-responsive fiscal policies to secure resources for gender equality and women’s rights policies. 

Leadership for economic recovery 

  • Support and promote women’s active participation and leadership at all levels in COVID-19 economic response and recovery plans.
  • Support and fund locally led women-centered solutions to drive systemic change to build women’s economic resilience at the community level.

Changing social norms

  • Develop national policies with adequate funding to address the increased prevalence of gender-based violence during the pandemic, including to eliminate violence and harassment in the workplace in line with the ILO Convention No.190.
  • Implement measures to transform gender-discriminatory norms and practices that deny women their socioeconomic rights and restrict their economic opportunities and autonomy.

Tracking gender data for better decision-making 

  • Invest and collect sex disaggregated data to ensure that the gender-differentiated impacts of the pandemic are recognized and effectively addressed in the crisis response and recovery plans.

[1] UN Women, 2020, Guidance for action: Supporting SMEs to ensure the economic COVID-19 recovery is gender responsive and inclusive.  

[2] Solidarity Center, 2020. “Domestic workers left out in the cold”.

[3]ILO, 2020, Observatorio de la OIT: La COVID 19 y el mundo del trabajo. Quinta edición. 

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To the leaders of those countries who can make a difference in Yemen:

Of the many humanitarian crises and military conflicts in the world today, the deadly combination of both in Yemen stands out. The terrible war raging since 2015 has decimated the economy and left millions weakened from malnutrition and disease. Briefing the United Nations Security Council on November 11, the UN humanitarian relief coordinator stated that widespread starvation had left the population with little resistance to diseases.  “Yemenis are not ‘going hungry’. They are being starved,“ he attested. “All of us-parties to the conflict, Security Council members, donors, humanitarian organizations and others- should do everything we can to stop this. Time is running out.” (https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/11/1077422)

Five years of conflict have left Yemen a dangerously fertile environment for the spread of many diseases, including the Covid-19. Roughly 80 percent of the population – 24 million men, women, and children – need humanitarian assistance due to disease, malnutrition, and repeated large-scale displacements forced by the  fighting. Indiscriminate bombing and shelling have destroyed or damaged more than half the country’s health care facilities, further reducing already insufficient numbers of hospital beds, medicines, and life-saving equipment like respirators. The flood of ill patients is further collapsing an already overwhelmed medical sector.  As a result, Yemen has few resources to combat the potential spread of the virus.

No effective Covid-19 response for the region is possible while Yemen’s war continues; instead, the war-fueled spread of the virus will be  a calamity both for Yemen and its neighbors.  It is not too late; however, a successful fight against continued military destruction and disease in Yemen will require coordinated action by the international community, support from Yemen’s neighbors, and sober moves by Yemen’s warring factions.  

For five years, Yemen’s warring factions, supported by regional and global actors, have sought power no matter the fate of Yemen’s civilians.  For all these parties whose years of fruitless fighting have devastated the country, the present moment offers an existential opportunity to embrace a peaceful transition to a stable and democratic Yemen. They must join the UN Secretary-General’s call for a ceasefire, end the sale and accumulation of weapons, and fully support the peace process and humanitarian relief.  

First, global powers should use their wide influence to endthethreat to international peace and security posed by the combination of continued war in Yemen and the pandemic.   The UN Security Council , with the firm support of its permanent members should issue a resolution to demand an immediate ceasefire, comprehensive and inclusive UN-led peace talks, and a humanitarian surge.  

The Security Council’s resolution must recognize  how dependent Yemenis are on imports of food, fuel and medical supplies and demand the lifting of restrictions on commercial imports.  In addition, effective Security Council action must recognize the need for an urgent increase of international funding.  Blockades and other restrictions on Yemen’s medical and commercial imports must be lifted. Interference with humanitarian efforts by any actor cannot be justified;  combating disease and starvation should take priority as Yemen faces down its ongoing health and food crisis and the threat of this  pandemic.  

To have the most immediate effect, a humanitarian surge should channel considerable support to Yemeni institutions, civil society organizations and fair-minded local leaders, including peace mediation councils. In the absence of effective state institutions, both are now on the front lines of the fight against disease. The private sector has risen to the occasion to locally produce masks and spread awareness of the pandemic, but they need assistance and the necessary medical supplies. There is dire need to encourage peaceful conflict mediation, for which Yemeni women in particular have played an important role.  Responsible civil society voices should be used as a resource and their voices amplified in the digital spaces that will now be used for these discussions.  

Regional powers also have an obligation to accelerate humanitarian relief and back peace negotiations, recognizing their share of responsibility for Yemenis’ current hardships.  Provision of humanitarian action can mitigate the spread of the pandemic.  Saudi Arabia’s cease fire provides a good example.  The cease fire should be maintained and expanded to all parties and local armed groups. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have the greatest power to bring about peace by offering the carrots and sticks needed to push Yemeni parties to the UN’s negotiating table.  Iran also must  recognize its obligation to work for peace in Yemen. 

No single party is fully responsible for Yemen’s humanitarian crisis and no single party can end it. But EVERY single party has a moral duty to engage in finding a solution. All those involved must now recognize the urgency of the situation and take the actions available to each of them to end it.     

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Statement on the Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to the World Food Program (WFP)

On December 10th, 2020 the head of the World Food Programme received the Nobel Peace Prize in the name of world´s largest humanitarian organization. As a group of Women Leaders who have joined voices in support of humanitarian relief and as strong supporters of multilateralism, we join the World Food Programme and its staff in 88 countries in this celebration.

As we approach the end of 2020, the year humanity has faced one of its worst crises, the Nobel prize comes as a recognition to humanitarian relief workers and to resilient populations all over the world. However, the prize also comes as a strong reminder that hunger is a basic deprivation, immediately affecting the most vulnerable when difficult times arise and that efforts to combat food insecurity must be upscaled.

According to the Report The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020, the number of people affected by hunger globally has been on the rise since 2014 thus confirming that we are not on track to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030. Covid – 19 has contributed to the increase of hunger in the world and the Norwegian Nobel Committee has noted the ability of the WFP to intensify its effort during 2020. Further, the Committee notes the linkages between armed conflict and food insecurity thus emphasizing the need to increase attention to food security in favor of peace.

David Beasley, Executive Director of the WFP has warned that 270 million people currently face starvation while wealth continues to increase globally even through the pandemic. Further, a recent FAO report Gendered impacts of Covid-19 and equitable policy responses in agriculture, food security and nutrition states that the pandemic response is already having a gender-differentiated impact as has happened with previous crisis that document how women are hit harder during difficult times. Among those most vulnerable affected by hunger, we find women and girls.

Food insecurity in Latin America has tripled and doubled in West and Central Africa according to Care International. Several countries report that people have had the need to reduce the number of meals they eat given difficulties to access food. This reality is affecting both developing and developed nations even though improvement in gender disaggregate data is required to be able to design public policy more accurately.

As our initial Open letter as GWL Voices for Change and Inclusion stated, we take the opportunity of this important recognition to call on leaders to redouble efforts for the achievement of  the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as the agreed upon global agenda capable of the transformations the world needs. While Covid – 19 represents additional challenges, it also represents an opportunity to ensure that fresh resources allocated for the response are invested to construct those transformations placing people at the center.

GWL Voices call is specially directed to the need for gender-based analysis for response policies, particularly regarding food security, given the special circumstances of vulnerability of women in general and rural women in particular, who face greater constraints to access resources deeply affecting their income generating capacity and their ability to provide for their families. Experience shows that women are instrumental to address crisis and that providing them tools to do so makes them efficient partners for development.

GWL Voices supports the Declaration on the Commemoration of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the United Nations which emphasizes the commitment to put women and girls at the center  and calls for the need to celebrate the prize awarded to the WFP, while acknowledging the call to redouble efforts to address global hunger and particularly its impact on women and girls.

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Letter to the security Council 18 JUNE 2020

18 June 2020

Excellencies,

As a follow up to our letter of April 18, 2020, addressed to His Excellency Mr. José Singer Weisinger, President of the Security Council for the month of April 2020, we would like to reiterate our call for a resolution from the Security Council regarding the impact of COVID19 on peace and security, and the need for a global ceasefire. 

Since that time, we have witnessed efforts from several States to pursue negotiations towards a final agreement among members of the Security Council.  We hope that this can happen under your able leadership. 

Such a resolution would not be without precedent.  The Security Council has had a leading role in addressing global heath crises in the past, with Resolution 1308 addressing HIV/AIDS and peacekeepers, and Resolution 2177 declaring the spread of the Ebola virus a “threat to international peace and security”.

Clearly, the COVID19 pandemic is having wider and deeper impacts. 

Since our initial letter, the pandemic has reached every country on the planet and has caused the death of more than 400.000 people worldwide.  In addition, the subsequent mitigation measures have unleashed a profound global socio-economic crisis that has seen a dramatic increase in poverty and hunger.  The United Nations predicts that a world-wide recession will push 420 million more people into extreme poverty.  This cannot be acceptable.  Nor can it be acceptable that the pandemic is disproportionately impacting countries in conflict and those most vulnerable, including women and girls -who are suffering the unprecedented rise of violence-, marginalized groups such as migrants and internally displaced persons.  The Security Council can and must step up to this challenge.

His Excellency Mr.Nicolas de Rivière President of the Security Council New York

His Excellency Mr. Christoph Heusgen Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations New York

We see with great hope that Germany and France are taking up the Presidency of the Security Council for the months of June and July.  We would like to take the opportunity to congratulate your respective countries on this joint presidency, which not only carries a strong symbolic meaning but also sends a much-needed message of cooperation and unified purpose to advance the work of the Council.

We would also like to commend both Germany and France for leading the Alliance for Multilateralism.  We fully endorse the need for a strong, efficient and accountable multilateral system that upholds international law and fosters cooperation and solidarity.

Excellencies, global leadership and collective action are needed more than ever.   A Security Council resolution on COVID-19 would undoubtedly send a positive message on the irreplaceable role of the United Nations and the relevance of the principles enshrined in its founding Charter. 

The world needs a strong, coordinated and authoritative global response to the current pandemic.  The voice and stand of the Security Council will certainly be a worthy response to this global outcry. 

Please accept, Excellencies, the assurances of our highest consideration.

Members signatories of this letter

  • Amat Alsoswa     
  • Carol Bellamy 
  • Federica Mogherini  
  • Flavia Pansieri
  • Helen Clark
  • Irina Bokova
  • Isabel de Saint Malo
  • Jessie Mabutas
  • Karen AbuZayd
  • Madeleine Albright
  • Margaret Chan
  • Margot Wallstrom
  • Mari Simonen
  • María Elena Agüero
  • María Eugenia Brizuela de Avila
  • María Fernanda Espinosa Garces
  • Mary Robinson
  • Noeleen Heyzer
  • Purnima Mane
  • Radhika Coomaraswamy
  • Rebeca Grynspan
  • Susana Malcorra

#GWL- Voices for Change and Inclusion

@womenleadersg

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2020

by the DOMESTIC VIOLENCE GROUP

25 Nov., International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

On March 11, 2020 WHO declared the Covid19 outbreak as a global pandemic. One of the worst global crises, with severe consequences, it has added new challenges to existing ones. WHO estimates that around 10% of the world’s population is infected. Marginalized populations bear the major brunt. Women, regardless of whether they are infected or not, suffer in multiple ways, some of which are invisible. These primarily relate to women’s safety in their homes as lockdowns have prevented them from escaping abuse and/or seeking external support.

Even before the pandemic, overall gender-based violence has been on the rise with one out of three women experiencing violence, often through their partners, at some stage in their lives (UN Statistics). GWL Voices for Change and Inclusion is cognizant of and condemns all types and forms of violence against women but has chosen at this point to focus on domestic violence in particular. Since the pandemic began, domestic violence is experiencing an unprecedented surge with tragic consequences. Help lines in many countries (Argentina, Cyprus, Singapore, and UK for instance) have registered a two to three-fold increase compared to pre-pandemic data. Increases have also been recorded in countries, like Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, the USA and across other continents (UN Statistics). A new study (Massachusetts, USA) revealed that when restrictions on non-essential activities were lifted, physicians saw a near-doubling of severe physical injury in domestic abuse cases in comparison to previous years. The severity of injuries prompted concerns that, as a result of the lockdown, care- seeking was delayed, despite the escalation of violence.

A combination of factors exacerbates women’s vulnerability to domestic violence during the Covid19 pandemic. These include the impact of lengthy stay-at-home periods, job and income losses deepening family stress due to the pandemic but also the fact that women and girls are often locked down with their abuser and are therefore unable to access support services. In fact, some survivors of domestic violence reported that the infection itself, has become an assault weapon. The pandemic’s socio-economic impact has also affected the availability of health and social services including those providing much needed support to survivors, such as shelters and refuges. The net result is that domestic violence is unabated, unaddressed, and, sometimes, under-prioritized. Action to deal with this enormous and widespread social ‘disease’ remains scattered and inadequate.

The Secretary General’s forward-looking call for “peace in the home” (April 2020) during the pandemic has brought renewed global attention to the issue of domestic violence. This was reinforced by the UN Executive Committee call (June 26, 2020) for a political engagement strategy for senior leaders at all levels, evidence-based advocacy on gender-based violence and strengthening of civil society organizations as full partners in the response and recovery work. Actions to eradicate domestic violence in a coordinated and effective manner are imperative and these demand leadership at all levels to become a collective responsibility. Currently, men are sadly missing in the equation.

GWL Voices strongly supports the SG’s approach to address this long-standing and pervasive problem that threatens women especially during this pandemic. GWL Voices endorses multilateralism as a framework that will succeed in the eradication of domestic violence at all levels and believes that the SG’s call against domestic violence should be supported globally at all levels.

GWL Voices recognizes that the fight against domestic violence cannot succeed without collective efforts between national leaders as well as leaders from other sectors and social strata. This letter is a call to leaders, from all segments of society especially male, to sign on to standing up against domestic violence through advocacy and practical action including resource mobilization to ensure that women’s safety gets the attention it deserves. GWL Voices believes that the SG’s Spotlight Initiative represents a strategic opportunity and calls for the creation of a group of male leaders to support and contribute directly to such advocacy and resource mobilization efforts at eradicating domestic violence. GWL Voices will seek synergies with efforts made in this regard by similar groups such as HeforShe, White Ribbon Campaign, and the Unite Campaign itself.

To rid the world of domestic violence, we need perseverance, zero tolerance, and adequate resources used in a coordinated and effective way by leadership at all levels. Lack of action is neither an option nor a choice. Only then will the home and the world be a better place for us to live in.

Open Letter

8 March 2019

We join our voices as women colleagues who have worked in governments and in multilateral organizations in support of promoting humanitarian relief, advocating for human rights principles and normative policies, advancing sustainable development, and resolving some of the world’s most complex conflicts. We ourselves have leveraged multilateralism in order to drive positive change for peoples and our planet. Now we collectively call attention to the need to achieve full gender equality and empowerment of women across all ambits of society and the critical importance of multilateralism as a vehicle in support of that.

As women leaders in our respective fields, we have struggled locally and globally to respond to challenges ranging from the elimination of hunger to achieving peace and security, and from the provision of emergency humanitarian aid in the aftermath of natural and human-induced disasters to the promotion of human rights, including those of women, children, marginalized populations, and those living with disabilities. Our work at its best was based on the principles of sustainable development and the need to build long term resilience. It has also been underpinned by our determination to have a positive impact on the lives of those with and for whom we work, particularly the most vulnerable. We are deeply convinced that for peace to be achieved and sustained, the full participation and potential of women must be unleashed.

Our shared sense of purpose and responsibility to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment derives from our experiences. Despite decades of notable advances, a reality in which opportunities, freedoms, and rights are not defined by gender has not been universally attained. Even more concerning, we are seeing in some places that the basic rights of women are interpreted as direct and destabilizing challenges to existing power structures. That can lead to efforts to roll back hard-won rights and frameworks agreed on in support of gender equality and women’s empowerment, not least those encapsulated in the historic Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995 and Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

As women increasingly occupy meaningful spaces in local, national, and international political structures and in socio-economic, scientific and sustainable development debates, and as we engage through civil society in many campaigns, we see now, close to a quarter of a century after Beijing, more movements gaining traction which seek to halt the gains made and erode the rights won by women.

This regression is what fuels our collective effort now under the banner of “Women Leaders – voices for change and inclusion”. As women leaders, we call on leaders in governments, the private sector, and civil society to reinvest in policies and in legal and social frameworks that will achieve gender equality and inclusion. Ours is a call for a redoubling of current efforts which are insufficient in many places. Above all, we seek to underscore that the risk posed by politics that seek to halt and erode gender equality is a risk not only to women, but also to all of humanity because half the population is prevented from contributing to its full potential.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement, the Convention on the Eradication of Discrimination Against Women, and many other global agreements, treaties, and conventions have been achieved through multilateralism and demand our collective effort in order to realize their ambitious vision. They represent the hopes and aspirations of current and future generations. Yet, these transformative agendas and agreements are increasingly and disconcertingly called into question.

We attach our names to this open letter in the belief that, by bringing together our voices and leveraging our experiences, as women leaders from diverse backgrounds, we will amplify the reach and impact of our message.

In the coming weeks and months, we will speak through different means and publish a series of opinion pieces and essays in publications around the world that draw on our diverse – and yet shared – experiences and perspectives as women leaders in our respective fields. It is our hope that this compilation of work will serve not only to impart insights on the importance of women as multilateral actors, but also to be a call to action to the women leaders and advocates of tomorrow. The space that we collectively occupy as women leaders in our fields across the public, private, and civil society spheres was not opened up easily and can never be taken for granted. It is the result of the sacrifices and struggles, of generations of women. Political forces today threaten to erode the progress that we have made at both the national level and through landmark global agendas. Whether those forces succeed will depend on whether the women leaders and advocates of today and tomorrow and all who stand with them recognize the urgency and peril but also the opportunity of this current moment and act accordingly.

#GWL- Voices for Change and Inclusion

@womenleadersg

Letter to the security Council 8 APRIL 2020

8 April 2020

Excellencies,

The world is confronted with the worst crisis since the Second World War, a crisis with unprecedented political, economic, social and humanitarian consequences. The coronavirus pandemic has affected more than 1,400.000 people and is still spreading, causing immense human suffering. Over 80.000 have lost their lives and short-term projections are tragic.

Four billion people are in lockdown, the outlook for the global economy is worsening by the day, causing massive unemployment and disruptions at all levels. Health systems in many countries are under severe stress.

Apart from the devastating human consequences of the Covid-19 epidemic, the economic uncertainty it sparked, will cost the global economy USD$1 trillion in 2020, according to the latest estimates of UNCTAD. ILO estimates that 1,25 billion people will be either jobless or will see a reduction of their income. FAO is alerting to the need to ensure food supply chain and production and warns of the threat to food security worldwide.

The devastating result is shrinking economies, loss of job opportunities; rising inequalities; and a surge in poverty with a dangerous impact on efforts to fight climate change and ensure a sustainable path for development. Decades of efforts to reach and implement important international agreements are under threat of being lost – the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement are at risk.

His Excellency
Mr. José Singer Weisinger President of the Security Council New York

Copy to:

His Excellency
Mr. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande President of the General Assembly New York

8 April 2020

His Excellency
Mr. António Guterres Secretary-General New York

The combination of economic and social stresses brought on by the pandemic, as well as restrictions on movement, have dramatically increased the numbers of women and, girls and boys facing abuse, in almost all countries. Many women under lockdown for Covid-19 face violence where they should be safest – in their own homes.

The worst affected will be the developing countries and the most vulnerable among them, who do not have solid health systems and economic or financial capacity to respond to a crisis of such proportion. For those, it is crisis within a crisis. They need special assistance and support.

The virus is tragically affecting millions of refugees, displaced persons, and people in conflict-affected areas. Health systems in war-ravaged and postconflict countries have reached the point of total collapse.

The world is entering an extremely dangerous period with severe consequences for peace and security. The virus does not know geographical or political borders, political systems of ethnic and religious divides.
It indiscriminately hits everywhere and everyone.

This is the greatest peacetime challenge that the United Nations and humanity as a whole has ever faced.

The threat is global and needs a global response. In humanity’s recent history, there has never been a moment when global action and coordination are vital for lives of people and for peace.

The role of the United Nations leadership in this global response is paramount. In the year of its 75th anniversary, the UN should demonstrate unequivocally that multilateralism is relevant and that it works. The UN Charter defines the role of the UN Security Council in the maintenance of international peace and security. It is the time now that it rises to its responsibility and declares loud and clear that this pandemic is a threat to international peace and security.

UNSC has recognized health threats in the past. It adopted Resolution 1308 on HIV/AIDS and peacekeepers. It took, for the first time, a bold decision by adopting a historic Resolution 2177 that declared the spread of the Ebola virus a “threat to international peace and security” and called for resources and action.

It was a major decision unanimously supported by the 15 UNSC Members on a draft resolution submitted by 130 sponsors, more than any previous one in the history of the United Nations.

Clearly the coronavirus pandemic is going far wider, killing far more people than 2014-2015 West Africa Ebola did, and it requires urgent action by the UNSC. An unprecedented situation requires unprecedented steps to save lives and to safeguard peace and security.

What is now required is leadership and deep commitment to the Charter of the United Nations. If the Security Council members are unable to initiate the adoption of such a resolution, the only other recourse is Article 99 of the UN Charter:

“The Secretary General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”

In this way, all 15 Members of the UNSC will stand in front of their collective and individual responsibilities. The UN Secretary General has already declared that “The UN must fully assume its responsibilities first, by doing what we have to do our peacekeeping operations, our humanitarian agencies, our support to the different bodies of the international community, the Security Council, the General Assembly”.

The UNSG made another important statements, calling for a cease fire, urging warring parties across the world to lay down their weapons in support of the biggest battle against Covid-19 – the common enemy that is now threating humankind and, this morning, against the rise of domestic violence by asking for peace in the homes.

There are a number of important decisions and appeals launched recently. The UNGA adopted unanimously a Resolution titled Global Solidarity to Fight COVID-19, calling for increased global solidarity and international cooperation.

G-20 leaders invited to consider bold and urgent measures to give to the global economic problem a global response in order to prevent that a global recession becomes a global depression.

These decisions need to be bolstered by the voice of the UN Security Council that should act decisively now. It is now time to act.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration.

Signed electronically by Members of the Group of Women Leades, Voices for Change and Inclusion

  • Aïchatou Mindaoudou   
  • Amat Alsoswa     
  • Ameerah Haq
  • Angela Kane
  • Ann Veneman
  • Carol Bellamy
  • Carolyn McAskie
  • Catherine Bertini                                             
  • Christiana Figueres
  • Cristina Gallach
  • Elisabeth Lindenmayer 
  • Ertharin Cousin 
  • Fatiah Serour  
  • Flavia Pansieri
  • Geeta Rao Gupta
  • Gillian Sorensen
  • Gina Casar                                                      
  • Helen Clark
  • Irina Bokova
  • Isabel de Saint Malo
  • Jessie Mabutas                                              
  • Josette Sheeran 
  • Judy Cheng-Hopkins
  • Karen AbuZayd
  • Karin Sham Poo                                                          
  • Kathleen Cravero 
  • Kathy Calvin
  • Louise Arbour   
  • Louise Frechette
  • Madeleine Albright
  • Margaret Chan
  • Margot Wallström
  • Mari Simonen
  • María Elena Agüero
  • María Eugenia Brizuela de Avila
  • María Fernanda Espinosa Garces
  • Mary Robinson
  • Melanne Verveer
  • Navi Pillay
  • Noeleen Heyzer 
  • Patricia O’Brien
  • Purnima Mane
  • Rachel Kyte
  • Radhika Coomaraswamy
  • Rebeca Grynspan
  • Rima Khalaf
  • Sahle-Work Zewde
  • Shamshad Akhtar
  • Sigrid Kaag
  • Susana Malcorra
  • Valerie Amos
  • Zainab Bangura

#GWL- Voices for Change and Inclusion

@womenleadersg