UAE, Norway and others push for more women peacemakers

Women seldom get seats at the table when peace deals are hammered out, the UN Security Council heard

Sri Lankan soldiers in Colombo participate in a passing-out parade before they leave for UN peace-keeping duties in Sudan. December 24 2021. EPA

The UAE, Norway, Niger and Albania on Tuesday pushed ahead with plans to see women play a bigger role in peace talks and to ensure they are better safeguarded from violence and reprisal attacks.

The four countries hold, or recently held, two-year seats on the UN Security Council and are co-ordinating efforts to stop violence and discrimination against women in Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar and other turbulent nations.

Addressing the council, UAE ambassador Lana Nusseibeh said women “play crucial roles in conflict and post-conflict settings” by promoting “sustainable and lasting peace” when soldiers finally lay down their guns.

“Time and again, these women face discrimination, intimidation, marginalisation, and violence,” Ms Nusseibeh told the 15-nation body.

Some even “face sexual and gender-based violence, including harassment and rape,” she said.

“These reprehensible acts not only destroy the lives of individuals and communities, but also create an environment that corrodes the social fabric and undermines the prospects of peace and recovery,” she said.

Ms Nusseibeh called for education programmes to overturn centuries-old biases against women, more women in senior UN peacekeeping jobs and for more women to bring their “unique and valuable insights” to UN meetings.

In March, when the UAE holds the council’s rotating presidency and selects the agenda, members will debate how private sector firms can help improve the lot of women in the world’s hotspots, she added.

She addressed UN talks alongside ambassadors from dozens of countries, Norway’s Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt and Michelle Bachelet, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Ms Bachelet said women were too often excluded from peace talks, with women making up only 13 per cent of peace negotiators and 6 per cent of signatories to major global peace deals these past three decades.

Some 35 women human rights activists, journalists and trade unionists were killed in seven war-torn countries in 2020 – more than in each of the previous two years, said Ms Bachelet. These figures were doubtless “an undercount”, she added.

From Afghanistan to Colombia, Libya, the African Sahel belt and Myanmar, women campaigners face “arrests and detention, intimidation, sexual violence and harassment via smear campaigns”, the UN human rights chief said.

“These human rights violations significantly undermine global efforts to prevent conflict and sustain peace – because they deter women from participation and leadership,” she told the council.

Updated: January 18, 2022, 7:42 PM