Women, Peace and Security: Arria-formula Meeting
On Monday afternoon (8 March), International Women’s Day, Council members will convene virtually for an Arria-formula meeting entitled: “Call to Lead by Example: Ensuring the Full, Equal and Meaningful Participation of Women in UN-led Peace Processes”. The meeting is co-hosted by 12 Council members (Ireland, Mexico, Estonia, France, Kenya, Niger, Norway, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Viet Nam). Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo; Special Envoy for Syria Geir O. Pedersen; Bronagh Hinds, an advocate for women’s rights from Northern Ireland; and a female peacebuilder from Yemen are expected to brief. UN member states and observer missions, UN entities, and NGOs can participate in the meeting, which will be broadcast on UN WebTV. The meeting will open with statements from Ireland and Mexico, followed by the briefings, and then statements by the other co-sponsors, other Council members and the wider UN membership. Ireland will chair the meeting and publish the interventions made in the meeting, as well as statements submitted in writing by NGOs.
According to the concept note shared by the co-sponsors, the focus of the meeting will be on the UN leading by example by making women’s full, equal and meaningful participation a requirement in UN-supported peace processes. Full, equal and meaningful participation is defined as “direct, substantive, and formal inclusion of diverse women in positions of power so that they can influence the outcome of negotiations and other processes as well as their implementation”. The co-sponsors argue that such participation has intrinsic value that is self-evident. They further emphasise that evidence supports the notion that women’s participation increases the chances of reaching peace agreements, contributes to their quality and substance, and makes them more durable. The concept note also stresses that the UN carries a distinct responsibility to lead in that regard. Another aspect of the meeting will be to promote the participation of marginalised women, young women and women from grassroots organisations in peace processes and to consider how to overcome obstacles that prevent such representation.
According to data on 34 peace processes in the years 1992 to 2019 by the Council on Foreign Relations, women on average represented six percent of mediators, 13 percent of negotiators and six percent of signatories of peace agreements.
Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo might give a general overview of the UN’s efforts to promote the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in UN-led peace processes. In recognition of last year’s International Women’s Day, Secretary-General António Guterres on 6 March 2020 committed to doing everything in his power “to make sure women are represented in all decision-making at the United Nations, including in peace processes”. In his statement to the Council during last year’s open debate on women, peace and security on 29 October 2020, he emphasised the importance of “women’s meaningful and effective participation in mediation matters.” The Secretary-General further said that “women must be included as a priority from the outset”. He argued that this contributes to social cohesion, economic advancement, stability, and peace. Guterres called on the UN and its member states to consider how to utilise funding, support and political influence to create the conditions to incentivise women’s participation and equal representation in peace processes.
As the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, Geir Pederson is facilitating the talks of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, 28 percent of whose negotiators are women. Resolution 2254 of 18 December 2015, which focused on a political solution to the conflict in Syria, encouraged “the meaningful participation of women in the UN-facilitated political process for Syria”. In January 2016, the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria established the 17-member Syrian Women’s Advisory Board (WAB), which has a consultative role. During her 22 November 2019 briefing to the Council (S/PV.8674), Sabah Alhallak—who is a member of both the Syrian Constitutional Committee and the WAB—said that “there can be no democracy in Syria without women’s full, equal and meaningful participation”. However, according to Alhallak, “these fundamental issues continue to be overlooked in formal, high-level processes to this day”.
Bronagh Hinds was the chief strategist of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition and one of two female negotiators—out of a total of 20—of the Good Friday Agreement, which supported ending the conflict between British Protestant unionists and Irish Catholic nationalists in Northern Ireland, or “the Troubles”.
The Yemeni peacebuilder is expected to address the challenges of women’s participation in the peace process and propose a way forward. One female negotiator participated in the 2018 Stockholm Agreement between the government of Yemen and the Houthi rebel group on the side of the government. The Stockholm Agreement included the establishment of a ceasefire in Hodeidah governorate. In mid-2018, the Office of the Special Envoy for Yemen created the eight-member Yemeni women’s Technical Advisory Group, which has a consultative function in the peace process.
Generally, the participation of women in peace processes is supported by all Council members. The Council has called for women’s full participation in peace processes since its first resolution on women, peace and security, resolution 1325 of 31 October 2000. In its latest resolution on women, peace and security, resolution 2493 of 29 October 2019, the Council urged states to ensure and promote “the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in all stages of peace processes”.