The UAE, which holds the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of March, called on the international community to take action to ensure that women and girls have more prominent roles at the heart of post-conflict recovery efforts.
The Gulf State also urged the private sector to do its part to encourage and develop peaceful societies, a key pillar of which is ensuring gender equality and female empowerment.
“Women are critical to recovery and relief efforts, yet their inclusion remains undervalued and their access to opportunities, resources and markets remains limited, ” Mariam Almheiri, the Emirati minister for climate change and environment said on Tuesday.
Ms. Almheiri made the comment while she chaired a special meeting of the UN Security Council in New York titled “Advancing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda Through Partnerships: Women’s Economic Inclusion and Participation as a Key to Building Peace.”
It is 22 years since the UN adopted a resolution calling for the role of women to be enhanced in post-conflict recovery and reconstruction efforts, yet persistent gender-related gaps and inequalities continue to hinder the implementation of the resolution and prevent the “full, equal and meaningful” participation of women, according to Ms. Almheiri.
The UAE aimed to highlight “the importance of women’s economic inclusion and public-private partnerships for the prevention of conflict and for post-conflict recovery,” according to Lana Nusseibeh, the Emirati permanent representative to the UN.
Ahead of the meeting, Ms. Nusseibeh said it would also examine “how international partners and public-private partnerships can play a positive role in conflict settings and create conditions for sustainable peace and security.”
The Mackenzie Global Institute estimates that the global gross domestic product could be boosted by US$28 trillion by 2025 if gender gaps in the workforce were reduced and the presence of women in leadership positions was increased. Yet despite this huge potential for economic growth, women are still being excluded, Ms. Almheiri said.
“Women must not only benefit from sustainable post-conflict recovery, they must be in the driver’s seat as planners, decision makers and implementers in all sectors of society, to ensure sustainable peace building,” she added.
The role of the private sector in gender-equality efforts has increased greatly since the adoption of the landmark UN Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in October 2000, which was the first to link women to the peace and security agenda by considering the effects of conflict on women and their potential contribution to conflict resolution and sustainable peace.
Ms. Almheiri described the private sector as a key partner in gender-equality initiatives. She said it would be self-defeating to neglect the part it has to play in achieving the aims of the resolution to empower women to play leading roles in a range of issues, including combating climate change, responding to humanitarian crises, and tackling pandemics.
“Public-private partnerships can leverage their unique and multi-dimensional roles in communities, not only to improve women’s individual livelihoods, autonomy and self-sufficiency in fragile settings, but also to strengthen women’s opportunities to engage fully, equally and meaningfully in their communities and to rebuild their nations,” she said.
Ms. Sima Bahous, under-secretary-general and executive director of UN Women, lamented the fact that despite UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s call for a global ceasefire at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the opposite happened: Military spending increased, there were more coups, and the world saw the “multilateral system against the ropes.”
She said as a result of the pandemic and continuous wars the world has lost gender-equality gains that had taken decades to achieve, but added that there is still an opportunity to alter course.
“It is clear to me, more than ever, that we need another model of leadership on this,” Ms. Bahous added.
Countries where women are marginalized are much more likely to become embroiled in war, she pointed out, whereas investing in the economic empowerment of women yields “enormous dividends for both peace and prosperity.”
“We know that women are more likely to spend their incomes on family needs and make a larger contribution to recovery,” Ms. Bahous told the council. “And yet, large-scale reconstruction and investments after conflict are dominated by men and overwhelmingly benefit men, while exclusion, discrimination and antiquated gender norms keep women away from employment, land, property, inheritance, credit and technology.”
She said this truth applies to all conflict zones on the Security Council’s agenda. In Afghanistan, for example, Ms. Bahous said the consequences of “a new gender apartheid include women’s employment plummeting sharply since the Taliban takeover.”
In Yemen, she said, the equal presence of women in the workforce would increase GDP by 27% in a country that is experiencing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
“More than half of the World Bank’s fragile and conflict-affected countries are in sub-Saharan Africa, where economic losses due to gender inequality stand at US$2.5 trillion,” Ms. Bahous said.
Turning to Ukraine, she said that of nearly 1.5 million people who have fled the country since the Russian invasion, the majority are women and children.
“Here too, we risk a backsliding of women’s rights and women’s access to employment and livelihoods,” she added.
The solution, according to Bahous, is obvious: “We need more engagement, greater accountability and shared responsibility.”
She told council members that they could do much more to promote the inclusion of women.
“The Security Council could use (its) resolutions to call for women’s meaningful engagement and inclusion not only in peace building, conflict prevention and recovery, but also in decision-making,” she said.
“Equally, in the prioritization of women-led businesses, women in front-line service delivery, and support for the care economy in all reconstruction and recovery initiatives.”
She also highlighted ways in which private-sector institutions could become champions for change.
“If engaged meaningfully, they can play a positive role in creating sustainable peace in support of the women, peace and security agenda.
“We have the blueprint and the business case to support women’s economic inclusion; what we need is political will to pursue it.” (Source: Arab News)