A golden chance for the UAE and for Arab women

The seat at the UN Security Council gives the UAE a chance to root for women in peacekeeping roles

Lana Nusseibeh, centre, the UAE’s permanent representative to the UN, confirms the country’s commitment to tackling violent extremism and strengthening the role of women. Wam

The UAE has kicked off 2022 by taking a seat on the UN Security Council, the world’s highest authority entrusted with maintaining global peace and security. For the next two years, the UAE will be the only Arab state represented at this global forum, with an opportunity to play an active role in helping to prevent and resolve crises, including in the Arab region.

Among its priorities, the UAE has vowed to make the full and effective implementation of the Women, Peace & Security agenda a cornerstone of its tenure on the UN Security Council. This agenda recognises the devastating impact of conflict on civilians, in particular women and girls, and affirms that women’s participation in creating and upholding peace is necessary.

Wafaa, a 20-year-old displaced Syrian orphan, works inside a sewing workshop, at Dafa rehabilitation association in Damascus, on December 5, 2021. Reuters

As a stable and influential state striving towards gender equality at home and abroad, the UAE is indeed well-positioned to actively advance women’s contribution to their countries’ peace and security and already a leading Arab supporter of international programmes that aim to increase the participation of women in peace, security and post-conflict reconstruction.

Emirati women have made significant progress towards gender equality, spurred by the leadership of Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Mother of the Nation and Chairwoman of the General Women's Union. Today, Emirati women account for half of Parliament Members, 9 of the 33 ministers and 64 per cent of education and health workforce. Last year, the UAE launched a mission to Mars to become the first Arab country to venture into space. Women made up the majority of the mission’s scientific team led by Sarah Al Amiri, The Minister of State for Advanced Technology and Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency.

The UAE’s progress in gender equality notwithstanding, the Arab region as a whole still struggles to fully realise women’s rights, including in the areas of peace and security. The Arab world is home to many protracted conflicts that have taken a distinct toll on women. Yet, none of the ceasefire agreements concluded between 2018 and 2020 took into account the violations against women or sought to address them.

Women have been woefully underrepresented in peace efforts in the region, making the latter less likely to lead to lasting solutions. This is particularly regretful for our region, as evidence shows that having women at peace talks generates greater buy-in and strengthens accountability for the implementation of peace agreements. Women’s participation also makes peace more durable because with their input, agreements are more inclusive and representative of a larger share of society.

On the Security Council, the UAE can rally behind UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s call to double down on “truly inclusive peacemaking” and put women’s participation and rights “at the centre of everything we do – everywhere we do it”. As a fellow Arab state, the UAE can actively engage with conflict parties in the region to promote women’s rightful and beneficial participation in negotiations and peace processes. It can also promote the appointment of women peace envoys and mediators, particularly from the region. These steps would go a long way in breaking traditional monopolies on peacemaking and ensuring women’s rightful place at the negotiating table.

The next two years thus present a golden opportunity for the UAE to lead by example and elevate the voices of Arab women in efforts to promote inclusive, prosperous and peaceful societies across the region.

Published: January 19, 2022, 10:00 AM
Susanne Mikhail

Susanne Mikhail

Susanne Mikhail is the regional director of UN Women for the Arab States