UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was unusually blunt on Tuesday: Women are still excluded from many peace negotiations nearly two decades after the U.N. adopted a landmark resolution calling for women to be included in decision-making positions at every level of peacemaking and peacebuilding.
The U.N. chief told the Security Council that sexual and gender-based violence remain weapons of war, a growing number of armed groups promote male superiority and misogyny as part of their core ideology, and women and girls continue "to pay the consequences of conflict."
And Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, head of UN Women, told the council that "violent misogyny is on the rise," with record levels of political violence targeting women.
Guterres and Mlambo-Ngcuka stressed the stark contrast between support from the U.N.'s 193 member states for the resolution adopted in 2000 on women, peace and security and the reality for women caught in conflict in 2019.
"The correlation between gender inequality and a society's propensity for civil or interstate conflict is now well established," the executive director of UN Women said. "And yet, we still live in a world that tolerates and excuses women's continued exclusion from peace and political processes and institutions."
Mlambo-Ngcuka said an independent assessment commissioned by UN Women at Guterres' request last year on progress in implementing recommendations from the 2000 Security Council resolution and two follow-up resolutions found only half were implemented or progressing — "and 10 percent had either gone backwards or were not progressing at all."
From 1990 to 2018, she said, "less than 20 percent of peace agreements included provisions addressing women or gender, and last year none of the agreements reached in U.N.-led processes did."
For all ongoing peace processes, Mlambo-Ngcuka said, "fewer than 8 percent of agreements reached contained gender-related provisions, down from 39 percent in 2015."
The Security Council meeting began with the unanimous adoption of a resolution urging all countries to implement the provisions of all previous resolutions "by ensuring and promoting the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in all stages of peace processes." It urges that this be done both in delegations of parties negotiating agreements "and in the mechanisms set up to implement and monitor agreements."
Alaa Salah, a 22-year-old Sudanese university student studying architectural engineering who joined successful protests that ended the country's dictatorship, told the council how women and men were tear-gassed and arrested, and how both sexes faced sexual harassment and were raped.
She said women were key members in helping shape the Declaration of Freedom and Change — "a roadmap for Sudan's transition from military to civilian rule." But she said only one woman participated in talks with the military.
"Now, unsurprisingly, women's representation in the current governance structure falls far below our demand of 50 percent parity and we are skeptical that the 40 percent quota of the still-to-be formed legislative council will be met," she said.
Speaking on behalf of a coalition of Sudanese women's civil and political groups and the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, Salah urged the Security Council to press the transitional government and parties "to support the full, equal and meaningful participation of women" in all peace processes, as well as accountability and an end impunity.
South Africa's Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor, whose country holds the council presidency and chaired the meeting, said: "The time for change has arrived."