UNSC Holds Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security

October 28, 2014

The United Nations Security Council held its annual debate on women, peace and security today, with a focus on the theme “Displaced women and girls: leaders and survivors."

Before the debate began, the Security Council unanimously adopted a Presidential Statement reaffirming the need to dismantle the “persistent barriers” facing gender equality, calling on Member States to embrace a “dedicated commitment to women's empowerment, participation, and human rights” and ensure their full and equal participation in peace and security issues.

The debate opened with a message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, delivered by Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. Mr. Ban expressed concern that "unprecedented levels of displacement” and the “immense human and financial cost of conflict” is testing global commitments to addressing the needs of women and girls around the world. He urged member states to “stand against abuses” and called for “greater investments in measures to address this problem.”

Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka also delivered a statement of her own, warning that the shifting trend in conflict is seeing a heightening of targeted violence against women, girls and their communities as extremists take control of territory. During and after conflict, more women die during childbirth, and more girls are forcibly married. Fewer women work and participate in the economy and [fewer] girls go to school. Of primary school age children that are out of school, half live in conflict areas. Only 35 per cent of girls are enrolled in secondary education in these settings,” she said.

She also highlighted positive improvements, including the commitment of over 80 countries to the women, peace and security agenda, the doubling of the percentage of peace agreements committed to advancing the security and status of women and girls since 2011, and the “unprecedented” six women ambassadors sitting on the Security Council.

Despite these improvements, there is still much to be done. “There is now a broad understanding of the importance of women's economic empowerment in post-conflict settings. But peacebuilding and recovery funding still largely ignores women's economic role, and under-invests in their livelihoods,” said Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka.

She argued that “empowered women and girls are the best hope for sustainable development following conflict. They are the best drivers of growth, the best hope for reconciliation, and the best buffer against radicalization of youth and the repetition of cycles of violence,” and urged member states to “dramatically improve” the dire conditions of internally displaced women and refugees in the coming months. 

Iraqi lawyer and founder of the NGO Women for Progress Suaad Allami spoke of the conditions faced by Iraqi women and girls and said that "if the woman is a victim of gender-based violence or trafficking, that's because of her economic conditions that force her to accept or live with this abuse." She also focused on the need for the establishment of social services for victims of horrific atrocities, in addition to support for basic human needs: For Yazidi women who have escaped back to their families, for example, there are no services to help them deal with the stigma of sexual violence, she said. 

Women must be supported in their efforts to connect formal and informal justice systems,” she said, concluding that “all human beings have the right to be safe and live a life of dignity.


Read a full summary of the debate on the UN News Centre website. 

Photo courtesy of UN Women