Image: ART/Sergio FabiÃ¡n GarzÃ³n Clavijo
New York: Disarmament research agency UNIDIR called on Thursday for more women to take their rightful place in international security discussions – a move that’s been warmly welcomed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.
Ms. Bachelet said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “had created a new threat to the global peace and security that is the basis for sustainable development and all human rights”; and that the war had compounded negative consequences around the world, particularly for women and girls.
The High Commissioner cited research that correlates high levels of military spending with poor women’s rights and noted that “none of the ceasefire agreements reached between 2018 and 2020” included any provision for people’s gender.
This male-dominated trend has continued in the Ukraine conflict, where only two women have been involved in negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Ms. Bachelet continued.
Cecile Aptel, UNIDIR’sâ€¯Deputy Director, highlighted thatâ€¯on average,â€¯onlyâ€¯one in fiveâ€¯disarmament delegations are headed by women.â€¯â€¯
“Put simply,” she said, “women don’t have an equal opportunity to shape international disarmament and security policies, when these very policies affect everyone.”â€¯
Because of theâ€¯COVID-19â€¯pandemic, whichâ€¯Ms. Aptel insisted had “turned back the clock onâ€¯gender equality”, it is nowâ€¯more important than ever toâ€¯improve women’s participation in arms control and disarmament, she said.â€¯
In the specific area of multilateral diplomacy, womenâ€¯have beenâ€¯affectedâ€¯by the coronavirusâ€¯too, the UNIDIR Deputy chiefâ€¯maintained,â€¯as she explainedâ€¯how when meetings shifted online,â€¯the number ofâ€¯interventions delivered by womenâ€¯dropped – most likelyâ€¯owing to the fact thatâ€¯registered speakersâ€¯were oftenâ€¯maleâ€¯ambassadors.â€¯
“Research shows that women are chronically underrepresented in discussionsâ€¯related to international security,”â€¯saidâ€¯Renata Dalaqua, UNIDIR Programme Lead for Gender andâ€¯Disarmament. “The policies being debated affect everyone.â€¯But women, people of colour, and minorities don’t have anâ€¯equal opportunity to shape them.”â€¯
With at least 20 countries at warâ€¯todayâ€¯– and 14 in Africa alone –â€¯South Africa’s formerâ€¯Deputy Minister ofâ€¯Defence,â€¯Nozizweâ€¯Madlala-Routledge,â€¯who is nowâ€¯Director of the Quaker UN Office in Geneva,â€¯insisted that theâ€¯participation of more women at all levels ofâ€¯international security policy was “notâ€¯only as a right but also as a critical component in improving diversity and therefore also improving theâ€¯chances for more effective and sustainable decisions”.â€¯
But progress in achieving this rightâ€¯has been slow, said Ms. Madlala-Routledge.â€¯â€¯
Security Council oversight
Despite the adoption of four UN Security Council Resolutions on women, peace and security,â€¯“we continue to see a marked under-representation of women,â€¯especially in international securityâ€¯structures and mechanisms”, she added.â€¯
Achieving women’s effective participationâ€¯in areas such as the implementation of peace and disarmament treaties andâ€¯programmesâ€¯requires achieving aâ€¯“criticalâ€¯mass”,â€¯Ms. Madlala-Routledgeâ€¯continued.â€¯Women “need to be present in large enoughâ€¯numbers to be able to effect change”, sheâ€¯insisted, “consideringâ€¯the deeply patriarchalâ€¯nature of most institutions of power and structures of decision making, particularly those dealing withâ€¯international security”.â€¯
UN chief’s priorities
Gender parity in disarmament discussions is aâ€¯keyâ€¯priority of Secretary-General António Guterres, who’sâ€¯consistently called for the meaningful participation of women in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts.â€¯â€¯
Welcoming this policy, UN rights chief Ms. Bachelet noted that this had resulted inâ€¯women’s participation in three out four UNâ€¯(co)-led peace processes in 2020.
“But women represented only 23 per cent of delegates from parties to conflicts in these processes,” she added.
- Somalia: Twin car bomb explosions close to education ministry office in Somalia leave 100 people dead
- UN marks first International Day for People of African Descent
- UN experts urge US to align anti-terrorism programme with international law
- India has world's largest diaspora population: UNDESA report
- Belarus targets women human rights defenders after disputed August elections