South Africa had the honour to hold the rotational presidency of the United Nations Security Council for the month of October 2019. As part of our presidency, we put the issue of women’s involvement in peace and security initiatives around the world firmly on the agenda.
We insisted on this because women from diverse contexts across the world continue to face obstacles and resistance, they continue to bear the brunt of armed conflict and their personal, economic, civil and political security is persistently undermined.
Women’s efforts to ensure their participation in peace processes continue to be undermined and if we fail to address the barriers in the next 20 years and beyond, we must face the reality that we are falling short of our ambitions to realise the objectives we set as an international community. Together, the UN, member states, regional organisations, civil society and other actors supporting peace processes must hold each other accountable to maintain and go beyond the current progress in the area of the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda by 2020 and beyond.
The myriad and complex conflicts in the world underscore the need to reinforce the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda.
UN Security Council Resolution 1,325, which was passed 19 years ago and its subsequent resolutions underpin the women, peace and security international normative framework.
South Africa views the women, peace and security agenda as a means for women to mediate in conflict situations and as essential to end the use of force as a means of settling disputes.
The report of the UN secretary-general that we have before us provides us with a useful overview of the successes and gaps in the implementation of this agenda. The report provides us with concrete recommendations that should move us from rhetoric to action, so that we can effectively implement the commitments we have set ourselves.
It is within this context that South Africa saw it fit to present a resolution focusing on the full implementation of the WPS agenda. The resolution recognises that although there has been great progress made, great opportunities still lie ahead of us.
As we exchange views on how to strengthen implementation of the WPS agenda, particularly as we move towards the 20th anniversary of the adoption of resolution 1,325 next year, it is also imperative for the international community to take into account the findings, including recommendations made in the 2015 global study on the implementation of resolution 1,325, commissioned by the UN Security Council. I believe that some of the recommendations are still relevant in terms of elaborating practical and attainable deliverables and it is for this reason that South Africa advocated for its inclusion to embolden the message on the full implementation of the agenda.
Our deliverables must be visible and discernible. They must be clearly aimed at ensuring the meaningful participation of women in all levels of peace processes; increasing the number of women in uniformed and civilian components of peacekeeping operations; investing in women as peacebuilders, such as in mediation and negotiation; protecting the human rights of women, particularly sexual and reproductive health rights; and advancing accountability for heinous crimes such as sexual violence.
South Africa has been a proponent of the women, peace and security agenda since its inception and we remain committed to implementing the agenda, so that it can also support and contribute to silencing the guns across the world, and work towards saving “succeeding generations from the scourge of war”, as we committed to at the founding of the UN.
South Africa has been engaged in training women across all of these areas. We are, therefore optimistic that the operationalisation of the Global Alliance of Regional Women Mediators Networks will advance some of these objectives.
On peacekeeping, South Africa will continue to ensure the meaningful participation of women in peace support operations. The South African National Defence Force comprises 30% women. This has enabled South Africa, as a troop-contributing country to UN peacekeeping missions, to deploy more females in the frontlines of armed conflicts. The South African contingent of the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) to Monusco is composed of 14.5% women and the officer commanding the South African force is a woman.
South Africa will continue to actively participate in existing global initiatives, such as the Women, Peace and Security Focal Points Network; the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations; and the UN Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping Initiative. These initiatives serve as instruments to raise awareness on the importance of the women, peace and security agenda.
We remain resolute in our commitment to advance the cause of the women, peace and security agenda through implementing the recommendations and guidelines emanating from the various resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council.
- Naledi Pandor is the South African Minister of International Relations and Co-operation.
OPINION: Naledi Pandor