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Statement at the Peacebuilding Commission Ambassadorial Meeting on Women, Peace and Security

Statement on behalf of Ireland

Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason

Peacebuilding Commission Ambassadorial Meeting:

Women, Peace and Security and Sustaining Peace


21 October 2019


Friends and colleagues,

Thank you first of all to the briefers for their important and sobering messages.

Over the next two weeks, we will be hearing a lot about the significance of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1325. We will be hearing many statements of support for the Women, Peace and Security agenda from high and low. We will see each other at many WPS events and will have the opportunity to hear testimonies from many remarkable women, women like Emma Johnson from Northern Ireland who we have heard from this morning, who are working day and night to build peace in their communities, and whose work often, and sadly, goes unrecognised.

Yet, in the spirit of USG Menéndez who has asked us to be blunt and honest, I must say that I really don’t feel like celebrating the 1325 anniversary in 2020. It is the same sense that prevents me from feeling too celebratory about the 25 year anniversary of the Beijing Declaration. It is a real sense of frustration at the pace of change. It is a sense of frustration at the continued exclusion of women from the negotiating room when the hard deals are driven to end wars and to instead wage peace. It is the sense of frustration that wars, not waged in the main by  women, continue to rage in all their perversity.

It is my deep disappointment that those who wage these wars - once again in the main not women - continue to set the parameters for peace - without women.

The truth is that even after 25/20  years of debate and some investment we have clearly failed to achieve the meaningful participation of women in peace making in peace building.  Inclusion rates are, as we have heard today, shockingly low, despite chinks of light in processes today like Syria and Yemen. We are, to put it bluntly, light years from rectifying an historic injustice and from ensuring that peace is built inclusively, wherever it is hard won, and this was confirmed by the start statistics presented by USG Menénedez and ASG Bhatia of UN Women.

To be even more heretical, if I may, I admit toa niggling concern that WPS week itself seems to confirm a pigeonholing of the topic in a single week of the year, when it ought to be part of the work of this house and in particular the Security Council and of the PBC,  week in and week out.

As the SG points out in his excellent report, less than one in four Security Council resolutions even refer to the importance of ensuring rights for womens’ groups, and as the USG has said, why is that?  

It is more than 20 years since the Women’s Coalition of Northern Ireland sat at the table and helped to shape the Good Friday Agreement, and yet in all that time, the Colombian peace process seems to be the only comparable example in terms of the role achieved for women in the negotiation of a peace agreement.

Women’s involvement in the Northern Ireland Peace Process led to the inclusion of language and provisions on equal opportunity, on women’s rights to equal political participation,on social inclusion, reconciliation, on the needs of victims,on  integrated education and on mixed housing. These elements introduced by women into the Good Friday Agreement have been critical to sustaining peace in the two decades that have followed because they went to the root causes of the conflict, and helped to imagine a positive vision of Northern Ireland for the future.  But as we heard from Emma this morning, there is still much work to be done in Northern Ireland.

What I would like to do today is to briefly suggest some practical ways in which we, here in New York,  can try to reclaim the WPS agenda with the aim of seeing it take effect on the ground in conflict and post-conflict contexts, and close the gap between rhetoric and reality. I have seven short, concrete recommendations. 

One. Last May at the General Assembly debate on the PBC I suggested that the PBC should hold a discussion on Best Practice on Women in Peacebuilding to coincide with and feed in to the Security Council’s Open Debate on WPS. The PBC has an important advisory role in regard to the Security Council, and Ireland believes that the PBC should play its part in ensuring that gender is at the heart of the Security Council’s work. I am therefore very pleased that we have convened this meeting today, and I look forward to the preparation of a substantive chair’s summary with a set of actionable recommendations that we can take forward to the Security Council next week. Ireland proposes that this meeting should become an annual occurence.

Two. To help break women out of the WPS-week box, we propose that all country or region-specific discussions at the PBC should include a gender perspective. We further propose that we should convene expert-level PBC country configuration meetings specifically on gender and peacebuilding.  

Three. The PBC should rightly be applauded for being the first intergovernmental body of its kind to have a gender strategy. However, as we all know, strategies need to make their way off the dusty top shelf. Ireland would like to propose that we hold an annual session examining progress in the implementation of the PBC’s own gender strategy. Accountability is key and we need equally to hold ourselves to account for commitments we have made on gender at the PBC.  

Four. When strategic country briefs are produced in advance of PBC meetings, we should ensure that a gender analysis is fully considered as part of that work, engaging the UN Country Team, DPPA, and DPO along with carrying out local level consultations, to ensure that gender is stitched in to the basic fabric of the PBC’s work at all stages.  

Five. There is excellent work being carried out by NGOs and academic institutions on inclusive peace-making. The PBC can provide the perfect platform to share this best practice, including donor best practice, and to integrate an evidence-based perspective on gender and peacebuilding into our work, and by extension, into the Security Council via our advisory role.  We should invited academic and specialist NGO researchers to brief the Commission.

Six. The Security Council’s Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security is a tremendously under-utilised resource. The PBC should serve as a channel for recommendations and advice from the group, and reflect that expertise back to the Security Council.

Seven. Giving voice to women peacebuilders as we have this morning, and connecting women peacebuilders across the globe, is another way in which the PBC can help to translate WPS aspirations into action. Ireland for its part has supported extensive lesson-sharing exchanges which have seen Northern Irish women  travel to conflict-affected areas including Liberia, Timor Leste, Colombia, Palestine, Jordan and Cyprus to exchange experiences with local women peacebuilders. We have seen for ourselves how empowering it is for women to learn from other women who have successfully penetrated peace processes.  I myself together with Lang our colleague from the Gambia hosted a podcast looking at how this works in real life pre conflict situations. I have hosted women from Syria Liberia Yemen and Afghanistan to look at how they can ensure access.

Finally Chair and colleagues, as we approach the Review of the Peacebuilding Architecture,  surely we have another opportunity to anchor a gender perspective in our work in ways that make it come alive.  Lets not waste that opportunity. We see today’s discussion as just the beginning of that conversation. We look forward to working together to bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality on WPS.


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