The UAE on Thursday called for more women to lead UN peacekeeping operations, saying they are best suited at looking out for the interests of women in war zones.
Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE ambassador to the UN, noted that women held only eight of the top 23 jobs in UN blue helmet operations, saying it was time to “turbocharge closing this gap”.
"The participation and inclusion of women throughout the conflict continuum cannot be haphazard or an afterthought. It must happen early, intentionally, and consistently if peace operations and processes are to be responsive to women’s needs," Ms Nusseibeh told the UN Security Council.
The UN has 90,000 peacekeepers deployed in a dozen hotspots, but their track record on protecting women is patchy and some have even been found guilty of raping, abusing and exploiting civilians.
The UAE will push hard for preventing violence and atrocities against women in war zones when it takes its two-year seat on the Security Council in January, added Ms Nusseibeh.
“The singular ways conflict affects women are again in full view in the international community today,” she said.
“But we know that women are not only victimised by conflict; they are also true agents of peace.”
She spoke at the UN Security Council’s annual meeting on women in conflict zones, alongside UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Sima Bahous, the new executive director of UN Women.
Ms Nusseibeh emphasised the importance "robust investments" in women for fostering the root causes of peace.
"Their experiences, needs, and perspectives must inform the conception and execution of UN missions – on the ground and in boardrooms," she said.
Mr Guterres made an appeal for reversing a decline in women's rights in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Yemen and elsewhere around the world.
“We need to fight back, and turn the clock forward, for every woman and girl,” said Mr Guterres.
“Women will no longer accept reversals of their rights. They shouldn't have to, in countries in conflict, or anywhere else.”
Ms Bahous, a veteran Jordanian campaigner and diplomat, said the UN was failing women activists who put their lives on the line.
At least 35 women activists, journalists and trade unionists were murdered last year, said Ms Bahous, but that was a “significant undercount” as data from only seven war-torn countries were being tracked by the world body.
“We are falling short of providing protection to these women, even those who risk their lives to collaborate with the UN,” Ms Bahous said.
She pointed to Libyan and Colombian women whose lives have been put in danger as they advocated peace deals designed to end civil conflicts that have ravaged both countries for years.
“The rapid takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban was preceded by a wave of killings of women civil society activists and journalists, and the targeting of academics, vaccinators and women judges,” she added.