Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller - Opening Remarks at Women, Peace and Security Side Event: A Shared Vision towards the Realization of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda

News and Press Release
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I am delighted to be here for this important event leading up to the 20th anniversary of the Security Council Resolution 1325 next year.

Gentlemen and ladies,

This anniversary gives humanitarian and peace organizations the opportunity to strengthen our collaboration and cooperation so that together we can achieve and advance the women, peace and security agenda.

And as the Secretary General to the United Nations said yesterday in his remarks in the Open Debate of women, peace and security in the Security Council, it is a fundamental question to achieve our main objective to prevent conflict and human suffering.

Just the other day, I read the report on the new Women, Peace and Security Index for 2019, which ranks 167 countries on a range of indicators on women’s well-being. And if you look at the ten worst countries to be a woman, all of them are humanitarian contexts – including Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Central African Republic and Mali. Roughly half of them have UN peacekeeping operations.

In short, we – humanitarian and peace actors – have many common challenges but also a common purpose in advancing gender equality.

We have seen significant progress in the global focus on gender equality across humanitarian and peace operations over the past recent years. This is reflected in the growing number of commitments, tools and guidelines, as well as a shifting international discourse.

In the humanitarian sector, we strive towards a world in which gender equality is integrated across humanitarian action, as outlined in the gender policy of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, which is the primary UN global coordination forum bringing together United Nations agencies and non-United Nations humanitarian partners to better prepare and respond to humanitarian crises.

So, what does this mean concretely? It means, for example, taking into account the needs, the priorities, the capacities and the voices of women and girls when assessing needs and when designing and implementing humanitarian response. And – very importantly – it means ensuring that women and girls participate in all stages of humanitarian planning and programming. But we all still have a long way to go when it comes to achieving gender parity and gender equality.

On the humanitarian side, women’s leadership – and particularly local women’s leadership – is still not prioritized. So it was very encouraging to see in the video just shown how women are getting together among themselves, but we need women to participate in all the fora.

Too few humanitarian operations fully recognize or respond to the specific needs and voices of women.

And too little funding is provided to advance this work.

On the peace operations side, women are still largely marginalized from peace agreement discussions or negotiations, despite universal understanding that the only pathway to sustainable peace is an inclusive one.

And when women are brought to the table, too little thought goes into ensuring diverse groups of women are represented.

Both sectors, humanitarian and peacebuilding, have a tendency to overlook the vital role of local women’s groups to bridge the divide between peace and humanitarian action.

Without basic needs being met, Resolution 1325 remains a luxury that few can afford.

Failure to focus on gender in humanitarian action risks setting a precedent in which gender is excluded in consequent development and peacebuilding.

To start the conversation here today, I want to propose three recommendations to advance our progress to implement Resolution 1325.

First, humanitarian and peace actors must collaborate to facilitate and substantially increase women’s leadership and participation in decision making.

There are positive examples to draw on. In Mali, women are included in national and regional humanitarian needs assessments, as well as in conflict and security early warning plans, alongside NGOs, UN agencies, MINUSMA (the peacekeeping mission) and the Government. Another example is the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the national plan to prevent gender-based violence spans both development and peacebuilding efforts.

Second, we need to invest in local women’s organizations to ensure they have the resources they need to contribute fully to the women, peace and security agenda.

And third, we need to see a greater exchange of lessons learned and best practice in empowering women and addressing their needs across humanitarian response and peace building efforts.

One example is in Lebanon for instance, where the United Nations Interim Force, UNIFIL, shares its own experience and knowledge with humanitarian and development institutions, when it comes to preventing and responding to sexual exploitation and abuse.

All these examples show that we each have an important role to play and also a big opportunity to advance women, peace and security in contexts where peace and humanitarian operations co-exist.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is firmly committed. We prioritize gender equality in our pooled funds. OCHA manages 18 country based pooled funds, as well as the Central Emergency Response Fund. Last year, the Central Emergency Response Fund allocated $79 million to projects focused on gender equality – which is equivalent to 16 per cent of all CERF funding in 2018. And I want to thank all the donors who contribute unearmarked funding to the Central Emergency Response Fund.

OCHA also mobilizes resources for gender equality and the prevention of gender-based violence. And we are galvanizing Humanitarian Coordinators, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee and other leaders to take action. And these are just a few of our many commitments.

These actions have ripple effects. Strengthening gender equality and integrating gender analysis into humanitarian action in turn impacts the gender focus of peace support, post-conflict recovery and development actions. And vice versa.

By working together to share best practices, set ambitious agendas, increase our investment and advocate for change, we can empower and support millions of women to meaningfully participate in decision making and to have their voices heard. Thank you very much for listening.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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