What's In Blue

Posted Mon 7 Mar 2022

Women, Peace and Security: Ministerial-level Open Debate on public-private partnerships

Tomorrow (8 March), International Women’s Day, the Security Council will hold a ministerial-level open debate on women, peace and security (WPS) titled “Advancing the Women, Peace and Security agenda through partnerships: Women’s economic inclusion and participation as a key to building peace”. The Minister of Climate Change and Environment of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri, will chair the meeting, which is one of the signature events of the UAE’s March presidency. The expected briefers are UN Women Executive Director Sima Sami Bahous, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Kristalina Georgieva, and a civil society representative. No outcome is expected.

Non-Council member states are invited to participate in person at tomorrow’s open debate or submit a written statement to be included in the meeting’s official record.

As Ambassador Lana Zaki Nusseibeh (UAE) announced during a 1 March press conference on the Security Council’s programme of work for March, the focus of the meeting will be on the “importance of women’s economic inclusion and public-private partnerships for the prevention of conflict and for post-conflict recovery”. According to the concept note prepared by the UAE ahead of the meeting, a significant gap remains in promoting women’s economic inclusion and participation in conflict-affected settings. As such, the concept note argues that “engaging with relevant partners from different sectors of society can be particularly valuable for advancing women’s full, equal, and meaningful participation in conflict prevention, peacebuilding, and post conflict reconstruction”. Specifically, tomorrow’s meeting aims at drawing attention to “how international partners and public-private partnerships can play a positive role in conflict settings and create conditions for sustainable peace and security” and how this may mobilise tangible support for the WPS agenda. Consistent with the approach presented in the concept note, Council members may argue tomorrow that women’s economic inclusion is a key part of their empowerment, and that it can strengthen women’s participation and leadership, including in peace and other political processes.

At tomorrow’s open debate, Bahous and Council members may refer to the Compact on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action (WPS-HA) and the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF) as examples of initiatives which bring together a range of actors to support the implementation of the WPS agenda’s goals. Launched in July 2021 at the Generation Equality Forum in Paris, the WPS-HA Compact is a multi-stakeholder initiative which brings together governments, civil society actors, private sector entities, research institutions, UN entities and other regional and international organisations. Signatories are required to commit to undertaking action to achieve change on WPS and humanitarian processes. (The range of actions to which signatories can commit is specified in the WPS-HA Compact Framework and includes actions relating to “financing the WPS agenda and gender equality in humanitarian programming”.) The WPHF was launched in 2016 to generate funding for local women’s groups working in conflict and humanitarian crisis contexts. A WPHF private sector overview document defines the fund as a partnership bringing together the UN, governments, global non-profit organisations, corporations and foundations to support women’s peace efforts. Tomorrow, some Council members may also refer to the commitments aimed at advancing gender equality resulting from the Generation Equality forum, which was held in Mexico City from 29 to 31 March 2021 and in Paris from 30 June to 2 July 2021, including $40 billion in financial commitments.

Council members are likely to stress the importance of women’s economic empowerment and to call for further concerted efforts towards this objective. It seems, however, that members may contextualise these elements in different ways in their statements tomorrow. China and Russia have often stressed the importance of development and economic empowerment for the WPS agenda. These members may welcome the theme of the open debate and note that it makes an important contribution to an area of the agenda that has not received adequate attention. Other Council members, however, have often taken the view that an exclusive focus on economic issues could undermine the rights-based foundations of the WPS agenda. These members may recall the importance of rooting economic empowerment in the wider scope of human rights. These divisions were among the factors that led the Council not to adopt a draft WPS resolution proposed by Russia in 2020. (For background, see our 30 October 2020 What’s in Blue story.) In the lead-up to tomorrow’s open debate, it seems that some civil society groups have underlined that while women’s socio-economic marginalisation should be addressed, it is important for women’s economic empowerment to be understood within the framework of human rights.

Tomorrow, some Council members may also emphasise the importance of ensuring that public-private partnerships for WPS comprise socially responsible and gender-responsive private sector entities. They may also call for international and public-private partnership initiatives on women’s economic inclusion in conflict-affected and post-conflict countries to be driven by the priorities identified by local women’s organisations. Some members might call for increased support, including funding, for women’s civil society organisations and networks.

It appears that during tomorrow’s open debate, some Council members may refer to developments affecting women and girls in specific country situations. Some may reference the conflict in Ukraine and the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country. On 27 February, Bahous issued a statement drawing attention to the military offensive’s effects on the lives and livelihoods of women and girls in Ukraine. On 28 February, UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten expressed concern about the situation in Ukraine and called for the protection of civilians, “especially women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by armed conflict and displacement”. She further called on all parties to comply with international human rights and humanitarian law, “including the categorical prohibition of all forms of sexual violence”. The dire humanitarian and socio-economic situation in Afghanistan and its effects on women and girls may also feature in the statements of Council members and briefers at tomorrow’s meeting.

Tomorrow’s open debate is consistent with the statement of shared commitments on WPS, which the UAE has undertaken together with Albania, Norway and former Council member Niger. Among other things, these members pledged to focus at least one mandated geographic meeting of the Council on WPS or to host “a WPS signature event in each Presidency”. It seems that Brazil has recently joined this initiative, which builds on the WPS “presidency trio” initiative by Ireland, Kenya and Mexico during their consecutive Council presidencies in September, October and November 2021.

The concept note poses several questions to help guide the discussion at tomorrow’s meeting, including:

  • How can the Council further consider women’s economic inclusion and participation in its responses to conflicts and in the mandates of UN peace missions?
  • Which tangible actions can the different international partners—public and private—undertake to support gender-responsive, community-driven approaches in a sustainable manner for the economic inclusion and participation of women in local and regional conflict settings?
  • How can the UN and Member States better support the connection of the private sector to women at community levels in conflict settings to strengthen their economic empowerment?

At the time of writing, the Peacebuilding Commission was negotiating a letter of advice to the Security Council on women’s economic inclusion and participation in peacebuilding contexts in connection with tomorrow’s open debate.

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