Statement by Amb Byrne Nason at Arria Meeting on Inclusion of Women in UN-Led Peace Processes
Statement08 March 2021
Dear friends, a chairde,
Fáilte romhaibh, welcome to this Open Arria Formula meeting on the auspicious date of International Women’s Day.
Ireland is delighted to co-host this meeting with Mexico, our fellow co-chair of the Informal Experts Group on Women, Peace and Security. Along with our ten additional co-sponsors – Estonia, France, Kenya, Niger, Norway, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Viet Nam - I believe we might be setting a new record!
The strong interest in today’s discussion among Council Members is heartening. We stand together in this call to action to ensure the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in UN-led peace processes.
25 years ago, in 1996, before Security Council Resolution 1325 was adopted, a group of determined women in Northern Ireland came together to contest elections to decide who could participate in peace negotiations. This cross-community, anti-sectarian coalition secured two seats and went on to participate in the talks, playing a key role as honest brokers and securing provisions in the Good Friday Agreement on issues like victims’ rights and reconciliation. Through their trusted position in the community, they were crucial in winning public support to approve the peace agreement in a referendum. One of those women, Bronagh Hinds, is with us today.
For Ireland, the WPS agenda is personal. We witnessed at first hand the powerful impact of women’s meaningful participation in peace negotiations.
The participation of women in peacebuilding is not naïve idealism. Gender equality is not an aspiration reserved for peaceful countries, somehow too difficult or inconvenient for countries in conflict. The evidence shows that women’s participation in peace processes leads to better outcomes in the substance and quality of peace agreements, as well as their durability.
Yet, sadly, real participation has not been the norm.
Yes, there have been some bright spots – in Liberia and Colombia to name a few.
But we need to be honest with ourselves and with each other. Two decades on from the adoption of Resolution 1325, the participation of women in peace negotiations remains unacceptably low, and that includes negotiations facilitated by the United Nations.
It is worth reminding ourselves just why the WPS agenda is so important. It offers nothing less than the tools to transform peacebuilding and achieve sustainable peace. Instead of relying on the instigators of conflict to create peace, the participation of women disrupts the status quo that begot the conflict in the first place by establishing an inclusive vision of peace.
By failing to achieve the promise of 1325, we are depriving ourselves of the means to achieve peace.
When something is not working, we need to change how we do it.
At today’s meeting, our hope is to show our strong support as Member States for the United Nations to insist on the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in peace and political processes it leads or co-leads. We want to give concrete political impetus to the UN in making this a requirement.
The UN exerts a special moral authority. For those of us smaller Member States in particular, it incarnates our hopes for peace. In order to be a guardian of peace in our world, the ideal of equality – in particular gender equality – must permeate all areas of the UN’s work.
That is why our focus today is on the role of the United Nations in leading the way on women’s participation. If the United Nations does not insist on this, what hope have we that other actors will do so?
We acknowledge that there are deeply embedded structural barriers impeding women’s participation, and that the UN is working in some of the most difficult contexts for peace. We will soon hear from Special Envoy Pedersen regarding Syria and from Rasha Jarhum regarding Yemen.
We 100% support and commend the efforts of USG DiCarlo, Special Envoy Pedersen and their colleagues to push through on this and to advance the participation of women. What we want to make clear today is that you have our backing to press harder. It is not easy to insist on women’s participation in these contexts. But we believe that it is necessary, and it is overdue. Not to do so seems to be an unforgivable missed opportunity.
As I said earlier in another meeting earlier today, Women are not asking permission to be at the table. We are demanding to be at the table. Participation is our right. Tokenism will not satisfy that right: we need direct, substantive inclusion of diverse women so that they can influence the course and outcome of negotiations.
I hope you will join us in this call to action. We look forward to hearing from you this afternoon.
With that, I give the floor to my esteemed colleague, Ambassador de la Fuente.