U.S. Permanent representative urges action to advance agenda on women in Africa

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Inspite of the significant progress in advancing women, peace and security agenda in Africa, much remained to be done, Amb. Samantha Power, Permanent Representative of the U.S. to the UN, has said.
Power made this known on Monday in New York in her remarks at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security: the Role of Women in Conflict Prevention and Resolutions in Africa.
She said it was undeniable that some progress on the women, peace and security agenda have been made across Africa since the adoption of Resolution 1325 in 2000.
“We appreciate the efforts of the 18 African countries which have developed National Action Plans that seeking to institutionalise the greater participation of women throughout government and society.
“There is still much work to be done,’’ Power said.
She urged UN Member States to help women overcome systemic obstacles to political participation, address gender-based violence and translate the women, peace and security norms established by the Council into concrete success in the real world.
“When women actively participate at all levels of political decision-making, we know that we are all safer.
“That our efforts at peace building are stronger and that around the world, constitutions and peace agreements are more inclusive, just and lasting.
“Women in Africa continue to face and overcome systemic obstacles to their political participation in all levels of decision-making.
“In February 2013, for example, 11 countries in the Great Lakes region of Africa signed a peace accord to address decades of violence in eastern areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“The Framework for Peace, Security and Cooperation for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the region was a landmark document to be sure.
“It was also negotiated and adopted without women participating in the negotiations and the technical committees formed to oversee the implementation and monitoring of the agreement also did not include women,’’ she said.
Power said that the world was confronted with the egregious use by violent extremist groups, such as Boko Haram and ISIL, of gender-based violence, not to mention kidnapping and slavery, strategically employed to achieve their aims.
She said the abduction of over 250 Chibok girls from a school in northern Nigeria by Boko Haram militants in April 2014, and this militant group’s ongoing use of women and girls as suicide bombers, remained tragic reminders of how extremist groups were manipulating gender to achieve their ends.
As the international community responds to violent extremist threats, including across Africa, we must ensure that the needs and perspectives of women and girls most affected by extremist violence are integrated into our larger approach to countering violent extremism.
“Our efforts to support survivors of gender-based violence across Africa will be incomplete unless we also commit to fight impunity.
“It is for this reason that the United States has supported mobile courts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which have led to 1,924 trials and 1,336 convictions of gender-based violence since the year 2009.
“U.S. assistance has also supported the training of 5,505 providers of services to survivors.
“It has also strengthened 1,103 local organisations serving gender-based violence-affected populations and provided 20,125 gender-based violence survivors with a holistic package of legal services.
“The Security Council’s active engagement remains absolutely vital to achieve real and tangible gains for women yearning to be included in peace processes, even as we recognise that we still have much work to do,’’ she said.
Power said a study on assessing women’s inclusion and influence on peace processes in Geneva revealed that when women have been included in peace processes, their inclusion was mainly due to normative pressure applied by women’s groups and their international supporters.
This, she said, was done in Burundi, Somalia, Darfur and Kenya in recent years.
“So our words and resolutions and debates do have an effect on the ground, where it counts the most.
“Let me give just one small example of where engagement of the international community has had a strong impact.
“In Sierra Leone, a programme sponsored by the U.S. to strengthen women’s local political participation became a strong vehicle for empowering women during the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
“The women there leveraged their convening authority to host outreach sessions with health care providers and local populations on the Ebola response.
“The effort ultimately yielded important recommendations for community-led Ebola responses; standards which were adopted by the Government of Sierra Leone,’’ she said.
Also speaking, the Executive Director of UN Women, Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngouka, urged the Council to focus its efforts on conflict prevention.
This was the strong message in all three of the 2015 peace and security reviews on peace operations, the peace-building architecture and the implementation of Resolution 1325.
She reiterated that women’s meaningful inclusion in conflict prevention and resolution processes was directly linked to the sustainability of peace agreements and the decrease in levels of reoccurring violence.
An example of this, she said, was the effective efforts of a women’s network of mediators in Burundi in addressing thousands of local-level conflicts, in particular in the lead-up to the 2015 elections.
She also underscored the importance of Council members being receptive to conflict-related gender analysis so that the Council can enhance its own ability to prevent, respond to and resolve conflict.
Mlambo-Ngouka lamented that extremists groups placed the subordination of women at the forefront of their agenda, but the promotion of gender equality remained an afterthought in national and international responses. (NAN)

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