Remarks of United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mia Seppo on the Celebration of 20 Years of UN Security Council Resolution 1325: Women, Peace and Security

Ms. Mia Seppo at the joint event organized by Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and UN Women Bangladesh

Salutations.

Thank you for inviting me to this landmark celebration of 20 years of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security.

The UN recognizes the Government of Bangladesh’s significant contribution toward advancing this watershed agenda, and Bangladesh’s key role in the adoption of the Resolution. It is now 20 years since the adoption of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, when member states jointly acknowledged the disproportionate impact of armed conflict on women and girls, and the critical roles that women play in conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peacebuilding.  

We know that women and girls are particularly vulnerable in conflict situations; sexual violence is often used as a weapon of war, which tears down the fabric of society and causes unimaginable suffering across generations. And violence against women and girls increases during conflict and instability. We know that women’s meaningful participation in peace and political processes is critical at all stages, across the conflict spectrum, in order to create a rising tide of women’s leadership, and for sustainable peace.  

The UN aims to use this Women Peace and Security milestone to accelerate ambition, coordination, and delivery of women’s meaningful participation as a key priority for the next decade. The UN commends the Government of Bangladesh for being the largest contributor of police and troops to peacekeeping missions, including female peacekeepers and police, and for ensuring stability and safety in the communities that they serve, particularly the safety of women and girls. The presence of female officers in the missions help women and girls feel safer and contribute to increased reporting of violence against women and better access to support. As of December 2020, women made up 28% of Bangladesh police peacekeeping contingent and 2% of Bangladesh military peacekeepers are women.  

H.E. Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, reiterated the criticality of gender-responsive recovery and rebuilding efforts, and women’s active and meaningful participation in this process, in his statement delivered to the High-Level International Conference on Women, Peace and Security in Vietnam in December 2020. And Bangladesh’s Permanent Representative to the UN highlighted the need for a holistic approach to women’s role in promoting peace in order to increase women’s leadership in peacekeeping, at a high-level event in October 2020, co-organized by the permanent missions to the UN of Bangladesh, Canada and UK.  

In this regard, I want to express my gratitude to the Government of Bangladesh for its international role in advancing the transformative gender agenda of Women Peace and Security in the UN Peace Building Commission, in the Elsie Initiative Fund for Uniformed Women in Peace Operations, and other international fora.  

Ladies and gentlemen,

In his message to the Security Council last year, the Secretary General stated that the women, peace and security agenda calls for a broader consideration of ways to prevent conflict, prevent gender-based violence and to create peaceful, inclusive communities and societies”.

He went on to say that: as we recover from the pandemic, we face a choice. To continue down the path of increasing militarization, conflict and inter-generational losses. Or to work towards greater inclusion, equality, and prevention of conflicts and crises of all kinds.”

The Bangladesh National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security, adopted in 2019, addresses these broader considerations. In addition to expanding women’s roles in peacekeeping and peacebuilding in conflicts abroad, it recognizes women’s key role in preventing violence in and between communities, rejecting extremism, and in promoting social cohesion and peaceful communities at home, in Bangladesh.

The Bangladesh National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security recognizes that normalization of any form of violence has the potential to lead to escalation, and commits to prevention of conflict and violence, not least sexual and gender-based violence. The Action Plan commits to protecting women’s safety and wellbeing and ensuring that women’s needs, priorities and rights are addressed in emergency situations and to increasing women’s meaningful participation in maintaining peace and security. The development in 2019 National Action Plan was a highly participatory process. For the implementation of the National Action Plan, it is critical to harness the wealth of expertise and experience of Bangladesh’s women, and women-led organizations.

They are at the forefront of building a peaceful, resilient, and inclusive society. They continue to play essential roles on the frontlines in responding to the increase in gender-based violence, hate speech and discrimination against women brought on by the pandemic. Where these women’s rights advocates face limited mobility due to COVID-19, social norms or security concerns, they have taken to social media to challenge gender stereotypes and spread messages of peace and to fight sexual harassment and sexual violence.

In October I joined at virtual youth panel event where I met with young women peacebuilders from across Bangladesh to discuss the role of youth in the Women, Peace and Security agenda.

These impressive young women have unique experiences and perspectives; and they have a critical role in transforming the peace and security narrative from women as victims to women as leaders in building cohesion in communities, preventing extremism and intolerance, and in challenging harmful gender stereotypes.

We need to seize the opportunity to draw on the rich experiences and expertise of the women’s rights movement in implementing and monitoring the National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security.

Women’s meaningful participation is about shifting power. From the many women human rights defenders, young women peacebuilders and women frontline workers in the COVID-19 response that I have met over the past year, the message is clear: we need to do more to remove the barriers to their participation.

So, what can we do to support women’s increased participation?

All of us have a role to play: Member States, regional organizations, decision-makers and influencers, UN entities, and local, national, and regional women’s organizations and other entities.

The Secretary General’s report for the Commission of the Status of Women elaborates on the enabling role of the state:

“states can facilitate a more inclusive and enabling environment in which all women could participate in public life through more ambitious targets, increased political will, sustainable financing and gender-responsive institutional arrangements.”

The UN, the broader development sector and civil society nationally and internationally must actively link women’s rights organisations and young women’s grassroots peacebuilding initiatives to national policy processes. For these organisations and initiatives to sustain, we need to provide them with long-term and flexible funding, proactively consider their security and address the gendered digital divide.

We also need to step up and collectively address gender inequality and gender-based violence, which prevent young women from actively engaging in formal policy processes. We must build high level partnerships to promote gender equality, and mobilize the public for positive change, to fight discriminatory social norms, negative stereotypes, including unfair domestic and care burdens and limited mobility; and to make public and private spaces safe from sexual and gender-based violence.

In the words of the Secretary General, last year to the Security Council:

For governments and international institutions everywhere, gender equality is one of the surest ways of building social cohesion and trust, and inspiring people to be responsible, participating citizens.” 

Peace and security for all can only be achieved and sustained if there is peace and security for women and girls. This includes equal opportunities, protection, access to resources and services and participation in decision-making.

Thank you for your commitment and for listening and I’m looking forward to the discussion.

UN entities involved in this initiative
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women