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UN Women’s Bachelet Outlines New Peacebuilding Initiative

On March 3, 2011, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet spoke at Roosevelt House, announcing a new initiative to boost women’s roles in conflict resolution.  In her address, she described how UN Women will create an international roster of gender experts who can be rapidly deployed to work on issues such as constitutional law, electoral and party law, and legal aid, all of which are critical to post-conflict reconstruction processes. The roster will help women’s associations organize themselves so that they can participate fully and effectively in peace processes. “It will act as a force multiplier for local women’s movements that have seen their ranks decimated by conflict and instability,” Ms. Bachelet said. “Timely technical support will translate their concerns into lasting institutional reforms to maintain women’s participation.” UN Women is the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established in 2010 to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide.

Ms. Bachelet also discussed challenges in implementing the UN Security Council’s five resolutions on women, peace and security. She described the international community’s response to the protection of women during and after conflict, and its efforts to engage women in peacebuilding as “at best, mixed.”

The international community has lately improved its ability to address women’s needs when they are survivors of conflict, she argued. Efforts to combat widespread and systematic sexual violence have been particularly noteworthy. Recent Security Council resolutions have enabled a shift from responding to women’s needs as survivors to more proactively recognizing the need for customized security measures to prevent mass-atrocity crimes. In support of this shift from humanitarian reaction to protective response, UN Women contributes to pre-deployment training for peacekeepers to prevent sexual violence, which is often rampant even after the formal cessation of hostilities.

Ms. Bachelet noted markedly little progress in engaging women in conflict resolution and long-term peacebuilding. She cited women’s persistently low participation in peace talks, where women average fewer than 1 in 10 negotiators. There is continued under-investment in women’s employment or livelihood needs after conflict, with only an estimated 5 percent of post-conflict funds available for activities specific to women and gender equality.

A lack of funding for women’s organizations typically leaves them poorly equipped to insist on inclusion in conflict resolution and recovery efforts. Limited expertise in governance, judicial processes and economic recovery also delays women’s ability to share in the peace dividend.

A recently adopted UN-wide strategy aims to address some of these constraints. The Secretary-General’s 2010 Action Plan on Gender-Responsive Peacebuilding is being implemented by the Peacebuilding Support Office in partnership with UN Women. The plan is geared to ensure that women are consulted during peace talks, that measures such as quotas bolster women’s engagement in post conflict elections, that post-conflict jobs programmes benefit women and men equally, and that reforms to security and justice institutions address threats to women. The Secretary-General has committed all UN entities to dedicating at least 15 percent of post-conflict spending to initiatives for women’s empowerment.

After her address, she joined in a discussion and audience Q&A moderated by Robert Jenkins, Professor of Political Science at Hunter College and Associate Director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies.

The event was a Phyllis L. Kossoff Lecture, an annual forum that brings leading figures in public life to Roosevelt House for conversation and reflection on pressing issues of international and domestic concern. It has hosted guest-speakers from the Dalai Lama to Bill Gates.

To read Ms. Bachelet's complete speech at Roosevelt House, please click here.

To read tweets from the event, please click here.


Published on March 8, 2011

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