Keynote Speech* by
Ambassador Anwarul K. CHOWDHURY
Former Under-Secretary-General
and High Representative of the United Nations;
Initiator of UNSCR 1325 as President of UN Security Council and
Founder of the Global Movement for the Culture of Peace (GMCoP)
presented by the The Light Millennium and Co-Organizer/Co-Sponsors
New York,   11 April 2019

*copyrighted material

“The Council recognized in that 8-March-statement that peace is inextricably linked with equality between women and men, and affirmed the value of full and equal participation of women at all decision-making levels. That is when the seed for Resolution 1325 was sown and, following this conceptual and political breakthrough in March 2000, it was finally adopted on 31 October of the same year after intense negotiations.”*

Greetings to you all!

I thank the Light Millennium as the lead organization, its energetic President Bircan Unver as well as the co-organizer and the co-sponsors for holding this event  to support and raise awareness about the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 while connecting with the SDG’s Goal-5 relating to women and girls and Goal-16 which is popularly known as the “sustainable peace goal”. I find a very cogent and coherent synchronicity among Resolution 1325, Goal-5 and Goal-16. The concept note of this event aims to connect Women and Peace and Security resolution in correlation with the concept of “Secularism”, which, the note claims, is the missing key component of the Resolution1325. I wonder whether such a co-relationship exists and would love to find one during this afternoon’s discourse.

Many of you are aware of my tenacious, more-than-two-decades-long work and advocacy for advancing the concept of the culture of peace and its objective of individual and collective transformation for sustainable peace. One soul-stirring inspiration that I have experienced from that work is that we should never forget that when women – half of world’s seven plus billion people – are marginalized, the prospects for our planet getting sustainable peace in the real sense would continue to elude us.

Two most significant developments since the 1995 fourth world conference on women in Beijing under the United Nations aegis have been the adoption of the UN Security Council’s history-making resolution 1325 on “Women and Peace and Security” and the UN consensus on the inclusion of an autonomous, self-standing goal for equality and empowerment of women and girls in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – that is in Goal 5.

UNSCR 1325 is very close to my intellectual existence and my very humble contribution to a better world for each one of us. To trace back, more than 19 years ago, on the International Women’s Day, 8 March in 2000, as the President of the Security Council, I was able to issue, following extensive stonewalling by some powerful countries, an agreed statement that formally brought to global attention the role and contribution women have been making towards the prevention of conflict and building of peace. This aspect of women’s role had remained unrecognized, underutilized and undervalued by the Security Council since its first meeting.

The Council recognized in that 8-March-statement that peace is inextricably linked with equality between women and men, and affirmed the value of full and equal participation of women at all decision-making levels. That is when the seed for Resolution 1325 was sown and, following this conceptual and political breakthrough in March 2000, it was finally adopted on 31 October of the same year after intense negotiations.

Adoption of 1325 opened a much-awaited door of opportunity for women who have shown time and again that they bring a qualitative improvement in structuring peace and in post-conflict architecture. When women participate in peace negotiations and in the crafting of a peace agreement, they have the broader and long-term interest of society in mind. As I reiterate time and again, women bring a new breadth, quality and balance of vision to a common effort of moving away from the cult of war towards the culture of peace.

This morning, while speaking on women in peacekeeping in the Security Council, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that “As we approach the 20th anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 on “women and peace and security”, we need to do far more to ensure that women’s rights, women’s voices and women’s participation are at the centre of peacekeeping decision-making. This is central to sustainable solutions in all the contexts in which we work.” That way, he made women’s rights and participation relevant and essential in all contexts of UN’s work.

My own experience particularly during last quarter century has made it clear that the participation of women in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding ensures that their experiences, priorities, and solutions contribute to longer-term stability and inclusive governance.

I have seen time and again how women – even the humblest and the weakest – have contributed to building the culture of peace in their personal lives, in their families, in their communities and in their nations.

The valuable contribution and involvement of women in the eternal quest for peace is an inherent reality. Women are the real agents of change in refashioning peace structures ensuring greater sustainability.

We recall that in choosing the three women laureates for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, the citation referred to 1325 saying that “It underlined the need for women to become participants on an equal footing with men in peace processes and in peace work in general.”

The Nobel Committee further asserted that “We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society.” UNSCR 1325 is the only UN resolution so specifically noted in any citation of the Nobel Prize.

In this context, I lament that the CSW – UN’s Commission on the Status of Women – has not taken advantage of 1325 as a major norm-setting decision of the UN. This resolution has more mandatory implementation obligation as per article 25 of the UN Charter. On 22 March this year when the CSW-63 adopted its Agreed Conclusions, it merely acknowledged “the need to address effects of armed conflict and post-conflict situations on women and girls, including victims and survivors of sexual violence, and their access to social protection systems”, without emphasizing women’s equality of participation and affirming the contents of 1325.

The core focus of 1325 is “participation”. The main question is not to make war safe for women but to structure the peace in a way that there is no recurrence of war and conflict. That is why women need to be at the peace tables, women need to be involved in the decision-making to ensure real and faithful implementation of 1325. I believe wholeheartedly that women’s equality makes our planet safe and secure.

I recall Eleanor Roosevelt’s words saying “Too often the great decisions are originated and given shape in bodies made up wholly of men, or so completely dominated by them that whatever of special value women have to offer is shunted aside without expression.”      

I believe strongly that we would not have to be worrying about countering extremism facing today’s world if women have equality in decision-making enabling them to take measures which would prevent such extremism.

In this context, I am encouraged by a growing understanding of the role of women in conflict resolution and the specific skills and abilities they bring to the decision-making process. To mention a few:

– The Netherlands has introduced a programme entitled “Engendering the Peace Process”, which encourages Israeli and Palestinian authorities to appoint more women to negotiating teams and political decision-making posts in the on-going Middle East peace process.

The African region developed a “First Ladies for Peace Initiative” organizing conferences on peace and humanitarian issues, presenting their outcomes to African Union heads of state and government.

– Belgium has supported the use of women mediators in conflict situations and has developed an initiative for peacebuilding between the women of two parties in conflict.

– Georgia has adopted a Plan of Action for Improving Women’s Conditions, which includes the development of a mechanism to ensure the active involvement of women in decision-making in armed conflicts and peace-building.

Much, nevertheless, remains to be done.

Empowering women’s political leadership will have ripple effects on every level of society. When politically empowered, women bring important and different skills and perspectives to the policy making table in comparison to their male counterparts. I underscore often that when women join politics, they want to DO something, when men join politics, they want to BE something.

As I assert often, patriarchy and misogyny are the dual scourges that are pulling back the humanity away from our aspiration for a better world to live in. Gender inequality is a real threat to human progress!

I will emphasize here that none of the 16 SDGs will make headway in any real sense, until we make progress in realizing the objective of women’s equality and empowerment.

On a somber note, let me alert that we are experiencing around the globe an organized, determined rollback of the gains made as well as new attacks on women equality and empowerment – yes, in all parts of the world and in all countries without exception.

That global reality is dramatically evidenced in the fact that the UN itself despite being the biggest champion of women’s equality has failed to elect a woman secretary-general yet to reverse the historical injustice of having the post occupied by men for its entire seven-decades of its existence.  UN Secretary-General Guterres deserves our appreciation for achieving 50-50 gender parity in his senior management team for the first time in UN history.

Let me conclude by saying what many of you would have heard me repeat often. But that does not take away its value and relevance. In fact, I believe it needs reiteration till it becomes widely accepted as policy perspective by all. Now let me assert it emphatically that feminism is a smart policy which includes whole populations, uses all potential and leaves no one behind. I am proud to be a feminist. All of us need to be. That is how we make our planet a better place to live for all.

Before I conclude, I would to like to say a few words to the young people who have joined us for this event. I would ask you – the youth of today – to look into yourselves. In a world where material pursuits are the be-all and end-all of human endeavor, find a real space for spirituality in your life. I am confident that you will make every effort to rid yourselves and your fellow men and women of the evils of intolerance and prejudice, ignorance and selfishness that compel us to repeat the cycle of discrimination and violence.I love toquote Albert Einstein’s words very often in which he alerts the humanity – and this applies to all of us: “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

About Ambassador Anwarul K. CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh): Keynote Speaker on UNSCR #1325), former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations & Founder of the Global Movement for the Culture of Peace (GMCoP).

Ambassador Chowdhury is a Former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations. As a career diplomat, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the united Nations. President of the UN Security Council, President of UNICEF Executive Board, UN Under-Secretary-General, the Senior Special Advisor to the UN General Assembly President, and recipient of the U Thant Peace Award. UNESCO Gandhi Gold Medal for Culture of Peace. Spirit of the UN Award and University of Massachusetts Boston Chancellor’s Medal for Global Leadership for Peace and 2018 Global Women’s Peace Award, Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury has a wealth of experience in the critical issues of our time – peace, sustainable development, and human rights.

Ambassador Chowdhury’s legacy and leadership in advancing the best interest of the global community are boldly imprinted in his pioneering initiative in March 2000 as the President of the Security Council that achieved the political and conceptual breakthrough leading to the adoption of the groundbreaking UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women and peace and security. Equally pioneering are his initiatives at the United Nations General Assembly in 1999 for adoption of the landmark Declaration and Programme of Action on a  Culture of Peace and in 1998 for the proclamation of the “International Decade for Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World (2001-2010)”.

• Photo Album: Opening Session

Event photo credit: Demet DEMIRKAYA, The Light Millennium

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