“The task of ensuring human wellbeing and happiness needs the engagement of men and women; it cannot be relegated to one half of the world. And active cooperation for such noble ends cannot be secured unless men and women work together. “Women have been experiencing the growth of a new consciousness, an integral element in the evolution of self-government. As a result, many women believe they can best represent human interests in government, particularly in matters that concern them directly, for which tradition and experience have prepared them,” stated Lilian Wald, an American Jewish nurse and advocate for peace and the central role that women should play in it during her speech at the Women’s Peace March Organizing Committee on August 12, 1914.
Unfortunately, more than a century later, this quote still rings true. According to the latest report on Women and Peace and Security by the Secretary-General, presented at the Women, Peace, Security Annual Open Debate in October, only 16% of the delegations involved in UN-led or co-led peace processes in 2022 consisted of women. This is a decline from 2021 (19%) and a significant drop from 2020 (23%).
Furthermore, many processes exclude women as mediators, negotiators, or signatories, and funding for gender-responsive peace efforts is severely lacking. As the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, pointed out during the debate: “Around the world, and across these crises and conflicts, women continue to risk their lives. They are caring for those around them, trying to carry their families, communities, and nations to peace. We can no longer fail to offer them the best support. They are showing us what to do, and I commend their example.”
The current geopolitical landscape is far from favorable. A UN Women assessment on Gaza in mid-October reported over 3,400 Palestinian lives lost, with more than 12,500 injuries, 53% of which were women and children. And these numbers continue to grow, the latest reports indicate that there are over 11,000 lives lost as of November, 13. Moreover, gender-based violence is escalating, and over 1.5 million people have been displaced, nearly half the total population.
The UN Women report emphasizes the significance of gender perspectives in this conflict, as it results in higher risks and levels of gender-based violence, elevated risks of exploitation, trafficking, forced marriage, and the loss of livelihood and housing. Elderly women, particularly those with disabilities, are facing neglect and violence.
It is evident that women are not only essential but imperative in peace and security processes. That’s why the Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 (S/RES/1325) on women and peace and security 23 years ago, on October 31, 2000. This document reaffirms the vital role of women in all aspects of peace and security, from conflict prevention to post-conflict reconstruction. Resolution 1325 urges all actors to enhance women’s participation and incorporate gender perspectives in all UN peace and security efforts. However, gender inequalities persist.
At GWL Voices, empowering women in peace processes is both a moral imperative and a crucial step for sustainable peace. For that reason, GWL Voices members and team have publicly declared their support to the #WomenForPeace initiative led by the UN Deputy Secretary-General.
“In this moment, we need women to fully participate in peace processes. It is unacceptable that, after 23 years of Resolution 1325, it is still lagging behind. We, women for peace, make this call to make peace lasting and resilient,” said GWL Voices President and co-founder, Susana Malcorra.
We also support the work that GWL Voices’ member and Executive Director at Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace & Security, Melanne Verveer, is doing with her team in raising awareness about the gender inequalities in peace and security through the 2023 Women, Peace and Security Index.
As we continue working to promote gender equality in the multilateral system, we urge action to bridge the gender gaps in peace and security and support the Women For Peace initiative. “There is no peace without women, and we stand for the lives and dignity of women and girls suffering from violence and the scourge of war,” said GWL Voices Executive Director, María Fernanda Espinosa. Here are useful resources to continue working towards sustainable peace.