“WOMEN’S EQUALITY AND EMPOWERMENT ADVANCES THE CULTURE OF PEACE”*


“We should always remember that without peace, development is impossible, and without development, peace is not achievable, but without women, neither peace nor development is conceivable.”

Keynote Speech by Ambassador Anwarul K. CHOWDHURY
Former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations and Founder of the Global Movement for The Culture of Peace (GMCoP) at
UN Commission on Status of Women (CSW)’s 63rd Session | Side Event
Organized by Bangladesh and GMCoP on “WOMEN’S EQUALITY AND EMPOWERMENT ADVANCES THE CULTURE OF PEACE”
Presented at the
United Nations Conference Room A
New York,   21 March 2019

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At the outset, let me thank the Acting Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to UN Tareq Mohammad Ariful Islam for his well-presented welcoming remarks. It is a pleasure for the Global Movement for the Culture of Peace (GMCoP) to collaborate with Bangladesh in organizing this side event of the ongoing UN CSW-63 session on this very relevant and interlinked areas of women’s equality and empowerment and the culture of peace.

My special appreciation goes to Shah Asif Rahman, Counsellor in the Bangladesh Mission, for effectively organizing this event. I am delighted that Sadia Faizunnessa, who served earlier in the Bangladesh Mission to UN and was responsible for the areas of our discussion this morning, is joining us as a panelist. Many in this room would know Sadia from that time for her collaborative work with them. She is now the Consul General of Bangladesh in New York after serving as Director General in the Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh. It is a pleasure to see Paivi Kannisto, Chief of the Peace and Security Division, UN Women with whom I had collaborated in the past for UNSCR 1325 as the opening speaker in our panel.

A special word of thanks and sincere appreciation to our dear moderator, Iris Spellings, Representative to UN of Peace through Unity and of Global Movement for The Culture of Peace (GMCoP), for introducing the theme of this side event in a succinct way and also for reminding us about the upcoming 20th anniversary of the UN’s adoption of the Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace on 13 September 2019.

A statement from the Fourth World Conference on Women, in Beijing in 1995 declared that “the dynamic movement towards a culture of peace derives inspiration and hope from women’s visions and actions”.

It further underscored that full respect for the human rights of women; the release of women’s creative potential in all aspects of life; the equal participation of women in decision-making; equal access to educational opportunities for woman and girls; the promotion of equality between women and men are all seen as prerequisites to attaining the culture of peace.

The core message of this 1995 statement continues to be equally relevant today.

Recent UN reports submitted to CSW’s annual sessions underlined that unfortunately overall progress towards gender equality had been unacceptably slow, with stagnation and even regression in some areas. It has been particularly emphasized this year that women’s rights are under threat from a “backlash” of conservatism and fundamentalism around the world.

Reiterating this assertion, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said very succinctly that “The truth is that north and south, east and west – and I’m not speaking about any society, culture or country in particular – everywhere, we still have a male-dominated culture.”

The current President of the UN General Assembly pointed out that in the year 2005 it would have taken 30 years to close the gender gap, but now, she told the CSW-63 that if current trends continue, gender parity will not be reached for “107 years”

My work has taken me to the farthest corners of the world and I have seen time and again the centrality of women’s equality and the culture of peace in our lives. This realization has now become more pertinent in the midst of the ever-increasing militarism and militarization that is destroying both our planet and our people.

We all know that Charter of the United Nations accords the responsibility for “international peace and security” to its Security Council. For 55 years since its formation, that Security Council found women as only helpless victims of wars and conflicts.

On 8 March 2000, as the President of the Security Council, I could initiate and mobilize the Council to recognize unanimously in a 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 the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 was sown.  It was finally adopted on 31 October of the same year.

We all know that the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 was presented to three women peace leaders. In its citation, the Nobel Committee referred to 1325 and 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.”

An essential message that I have experienced from my work for the culture of peace is that we should never forget that when women – half of world’s seven plus billion people – are marginalized, there is no chance for our world to get sustainable peace in the real sense. It is my strong belief that unless women are engaged in advancing the culture of peace at equal levels at all times with men, sustainable peace would continue to elude us.

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. Women’s equality makes our planet safe and secure.

Sustainable peace is inseparable from gender equality.  As Kofi Annan has said, “For generations, women have served as peace educators, both in their families and in their societies. They have proved instrumental in building bridges rather than walls.”

When women participate in peace negotiations and in the crafting of a peace agreement, they keep the future of their societies, their communities, in mind. They think of how their children and grandchildren will grow up and spend their life in their homeland, how they will benefit from the peace agreement in a sustainable way. They have the greater and longer-term interest of society in mind. Whereas, historically in post-conflict situations, men are interested in ensuring that, following the peace agreement, they will retain authority and power in the government or in the cabinet or in any other power structure.

The Mano River Women’s Peace Network, for example, brings together women in West Africa from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and, in pursuing their vision of peace, rallied together to call for disarmament and played a crucial role in paving the way to solving the conflict by having the three heads of government sitting at the same table and reach an agreement. Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee led this joint peace initiative by the women of the Mano River region. The Women’s Peace Network was awarded the UN Prize for Human Rights for 2003 by the General Assembly in recognition of its outstanding achievement.

The slogan of the Global Campaign on WPS which we launched in London in June 2014 reiterates “If we are serious about peace, we must take women seriously”.

Let me assert again that patriarchy and misogyny are the dual scourges pulling back the humanity away from our aspiration for a better world to live in freedom, equality and justice.

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

Let me end by emphasizing that feminism is not intended to pit women against me or men against women. Feminism is about smart policy which is inclusive, uses all potentials 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.

We should always remember that without peace, development is impossible, and without development, peace is not achievable, but without women, neither peace nor development is conceivable.

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