Press Releases

    UNIS/INF/32
    28 October 2004

    Women Playing Key Role in United Nations Peace Efforts

    Parallel to Security Council Debate, UNIS Vienna to Hold Symposium on Women’s Role in Peacekeeping

    VIENNA, 28 October (UN Information Service) -- Reaffirming the important role of women in peacekeeping and women’s special needs in armed conflicts is the focus of a special open debate of the United Nations Security Council today. The event is to mark the anniversary of a landmark resolution (1325) adopted four years ago: the first time that the Security Council highlighted the special needs and the role of women in conflict situations and the peace building process in a separate resolution.

    On the occasion, the United Nations Information Service in Vienna (UNIS) is teaming up with a Hungarian NGO, the Association of Hungarian Women, to draw attention to the special role and needs of women in peacekeeping through a symposium in Budapest. The meeting brings together government and civil society experts as well as military and civilian police personnel with peacekeeping experience to discuss the issue for the first time in Hungary. The Budapest meeting is scheduled to coincide with the Security Council debate and will be held today.

    Women and children have come to be the main target in many armed conflicts today and comprise a majority of the world’s refugees and internally displaced persons. The health consequences women and girls suffer during conflicts are enormous, yet women are often prevented from direct participation in the military decisions and processes related to the conflict. Women and children tend to suffer more from health problems such as malnutrition, loss of livelihood, material deprivation as well as from rape, torture, separation and death during conflicts.

    Today, there are many international organizations and women’s groups working against this discrimination and to increase women’s and girls’ participation in the peace process. Women have been lobbying at the grassroots level and have established an extensive global network. However, this informal work is seldom reflected in the formal peace processes, where women may not even be allowed to enter meetings.

    There are two aspects related to the issue of women and peace and security. The first part is to expand women’s role and participation in peacekeeping by increasing the number of female police officers and military observers. There is also a need to improve the gender sensitive training for all peacekeepers. The second aspect are the concerns of women and children: their unique needs on the basis of understanding how conflicts affect them and also how they can play a role in peace building, reconciliation, and in reconstructing a post-conflict society.

    There have been many positive changes since 2000, such as the peacekeeping missions in Bosnia/Herzegovina, Kosovo and East Timor, which have all worked to promote gender balance in the local police force and the peacekeeping process. There has also been a more general change on two levels. The first shift is increased awareness among women about their rights. The second shift is that it is becoming widely acknowledged that states can no longer deny responsibility for the security and well being of their own citizens.

    Resolution 1325 calls to eliminate all sorts of crimes connected to conflicts, including sexual abuse, trafficking and other violence against women and girls. Though most countries have criminalized those acts, lack of resources and knowledge make implementation a difficult task. In this context, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) can play a more active role.

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