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Women’s Economic Empowerment for Peace building, High-Level Ministerial discussion

United Nations, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Speech, Ireland, Africa, Middle East and North Africa, 2013

I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak today at this important event.

The economic empowerment of women remains both an essential part of peacebuilding efforts, and an enormous challenge. As the World Bank has been telling us for many years, and will no doubt re-iterate here today, supporting women’s economic empowerment is “smart economics”.  However, it also goes beyond economics.  As the UN Secretary General pointed out in his report on Women’s participation in Peacebuilding, women’s economic activity not only contributes to durable peace, but greater female participation in the workforce often provides the status and networks needed for insertion into, and long-term participation in, the political sphere.

Empowerment is about much more than acknowledging the important work which women already do.  It’s also about how power and resources, such as land, are distributed and who makes the decisions. We need to identify and support interventions which strengthen women’s voices in decision-making during peace-building and to ensure that women have a voice in decision-making from the initial peace-making process to the establishment and development of local and national governmental institutions.

Almost 13 years have passed since the Security Council adopted resolution 1325 on women. Peace and security. While achievements have been made since then, much more needs to ensure that women are participate in peace negotiations and shape peace agreements to ensure the full participation of women in society. Ireland has recently completed a mid-term review of our own National Action Plan on 1325 and would encourage all UN member states to develop their own plans without delay.

Fostering and consolidating women’s economic empowerment is crucial to the full participation of women in society and must therefore be a collaborative effort. It requires action to be taken within UN bodies and in cooperation with other international organisations, the international community and, most importantly, it requires action by local communities in post-conflict countries.

The UN Special Envoy for Great Lakes, Mary Robinson, has made a strong commitment to “mobilise the women of the Great Lakes” in translating into reality the commitment set out in the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC.  This was the theme of a high-level discussion, Women and peacebuilding in the Great Lakes, which Ireland hosted in June.  A particular focus of the discussion was how to create a regional women’s platform and discussions are now underway as to how some of the World Bank Funds can be ring-fenced for women’s groups.

In a week when Ireland is sending over 100 peacekeepers to the UNDOF mission, I feel it is important to acknowledge the role of UN peacekeepers as the early peacebuilders.  Through our presence at UNIFIL, Ireland has supported UN initiatives to ensure that local women’s organisations in South Lebanon have a voice in how UNIFIL implements its mandate there and our peacekeepers have worked to support the expansion of the Women’s Agricultural Cooperative in Bint Jubayl.

No discussion of women’s empowerment would be complete, however, without a reference to the role education can play in this process.  I recall that when Malala Yousafzi addressed the UN last June she spoke of empowerment through the “weapon of knowledge”.  Education is a catalyst for achieving equal participation in society and achieving women’s integration into long-term economic recovery.  International support for the delivery of education and training programmes, particularly in post-conflict societies, is key to ensuring that women’s economic empowerment is sustained in the long-term.

The peace-building process brings with it many challenges but also offers new opportunities for post-conflict societies.  For women and men, it is a chance to work together to change the discriminatory legislation and practices of the past which may have denied women their rights and limited their potential.  It is an opportunity which should not be missed.