More than two decades ago, 15 countries at the UN pushed for women's rights within the peace-building framework. This unanimous vote led the UN to adopt what came to be known as Security Council Resolution 1325. One of the four pillars of this resolution was participation – the legal enabling of women to have a seat at the table during peace negotiations.
Participation was an integral part of the document, which also held that women and girls are disproportionately affected by armed conflict and that a balanced gender perspective was needed to address issues that uniquely afflict women and girls during conflict. The document's other pillars pertained to preventing violence against women in conflict, protecting women economically, and providing relief in post-conflict areas, that is, making sure that aid is distributed to women and girls.
Last week, it was fitting for Abu Dhabi to be the venue of the UN's International Conference on Women, Peace and Security, which ended with the call for Arab countries to involve more women in the peace processes. In 2020, the UAE was ranked first regionally in the Gender Equality Index. Having nine women ministers in the Cabinet is by itself indicative of women's empowerment, and progress in the country continues to ensure that women are also at the forefront of peace-building dialogue.
In too many conflicts around the world, women are subject to violence, including wartime sexual violence. In the case of Afghanistan, women are subject to a near-complete erasure, as an Afghan activist and journalist pointed out at the forum. Reaffirming the indispensability of women – not just in societal roles but in conflict prevention, resolution and peace-building – is crucial in today's uncertain world.
The UAE's agenda has women at the centre of its plans for peace and security. It is as a part of the same effort that in June last year the Fatima Bint Mubarak Centre for Women, Peace and Security was established. And at the conference this week, Sheikha Fatima, Mother of the Nation, reaffirmed "the continued support of the UAE to the global movement to support women in the peace and security sectors".
UN data shows that women’s contribution to peace agreements results in peace lasting 15 years or more, with agreements 64 per cent less likely to fail. The numbers speak of the immense value that women bring to negotiations. This is a reality that can guide countries in the region and around the world and in diplomatic circles that are endeavouring to resolve conflict.
Susanne Mikhail, regional director of UN Women for the Arab States, said at the conference: “There is a cost to exclusion that can be easily quantified." We live in times where multiple crises intertwine – global conflict, energy prices and the continued ripple effects of the Covid-19 pandemic continue to destabilise communities, of which some are coping with the added stressors of climate disasters.
In 2020, at the peak of the pandemic, and at the 20th anniversary of Resolution 1325, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said "an inclusive peace process, with women meaningfully represented, offers the best hope for a sustainable solution [for global conflicts]".
To be sure, his words have many takers globally, and the sentiment was echoed amid the dignitaries who convened last week in Abu Dhabi.
Despite the challenges that were discussed at the forum, it is a testament to the country's continued efforts to strive for gender equality that the UAE has put its weight behind women's participation in peace-building, conflict resolution and its unwavering commitment to the all-important Resolution 1325.