Remarks at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace, and Security

Ambassador Michele J. Sison
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
October 27, 2017


Thank you to the Chef de Cabinet who briefed us on the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda. And thank you also to Executive Director of UN Women Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; the Secretary-General of the Organization of La Francophonie, as well, Madame Michaelle Jean; and to our terrific civil society briefer from Colombia, Ms. Rojas, for their important perspective.

Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, the esteemed Indian jurist and social activist, once said, “I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved.” So as we engage in this debate today, I think we should keep Dr. Ambedkar’s simple but important idea in mind.

The role of women in maintaining international peace and security is more critical than ever, but we must continue to move from rhetoric to reality when it comes to fully implementing the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda. Today’s debate should remind us all of the collective work that is still required to see more women gain positions of leadership in government, civil society, and gain seats at the negotiating table. As the Secretary-General’s report makes clear, we have so much more to do to achieve inclusivity.

For our part, the United States remains committed to advancing full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325. Earlier this month, the United States took a major legislative step to advance the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda. On October 6th, the U.S. Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017 was signed into law. This reflects a growing body of evidence confirming that the inclusion of women in peace processes helps reduce conflict and advance stability over the long term. This act, for example, requires my government to develop a comprehensive strategy to expand women’s participation in security operations. This law reflects a now indisputable fact – when women are involved in efforts to bring about peace and security, the results are more sustainable.

We are taking other important steps to advance this agenda, particularly through women’s economic empowerment. We know that women’s full participation in the economy leads not only to national growth and prosperity – it also bolsters stability for all. That is why the United States has helped spearhead the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, or “We-Fi.” This initiative, which already has $340 million in donor commitments, will support women entrepreneurs in developing countries by increasing their access to finance, markets, technology, and networks – everything needed for them to start and grow a business.

I’d like to turn now to the Secretary-General’s report. First, we were disheartened to learn that the number of women participating in UN co-led peace processes has gone down. Research shows that the participation of women and civil society groups in a peace negotiation makes the resulting agreement 64 percent less likely to fail, and 35 percent more likely to endure at least fifteen years. We welcome the Secretary-General’s commitment to addressing this, but I must underscore that we all need to do more to improve women’s meaningful participation in peace processes. In this regard, we welcome the development of the High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation, and we hope it will find effective ways to achieve equal representation of women in mediation.

Now we cannot talk about the involvement of women in peace processes without applauding one recent example – Colombia. In large part because of the inclusion of women in Colombia’s peace negotiations – women like Ms. Rojas – Colombia’s peace agreement includes over 100 gender-specific provisions. So when women effectively influence a peace process, it’s more likely that an agreement will be reached, will be implemented, and will be sustained, and we are confident Colombia will continue to be important example of this.

Second, we welcome the Secretary-General’s commitment to improve impact evaluation of gender-inclusion efforts. Whether on corporate boards, in government, or in a post-conflict zones, we know that gender parity makes teams more effective and makes women more empowered. We look forward to results being included into next year’s annual report.

And, third, we welcome increased attention on the nexus between violent extremism and women, peace, and security. In our view, women continue to be an underutilized and under-tapped resource in the fight against violent extremism. Women are, of course, local peacebuilders and grassroots civil society activists. They are in touch with their communities, and thus should be seen also as a first line of defense in detecting radicalization in their communities. My country is dedicating increased focus and resources to understanding the variety of roles that women play in this space – including how women can play more vital roles in preventing terrorist ideologies from taking root.

We are grateful that there are women defying terrorist ideologies across the globe – oftentimes putting their own lives at risk to do so. For example, when the Taliban attacked Kunduz in 2015 and attacked again in 2016, they tried each time to kill Ms. Sediqa Sherzai, a brave journalist who runs Radio Roshani in Afghanistan. Ms. Sherzai leads discussion programs and call-in shows, and she urges women to assert their rights to an education and to lead as vital voices in their communities. Courageous omen activists like Ms. Sherzai are making a difference, and thanks to the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda at the UN, we are hopeful these gains will continue.

In conclusion, Mr. President, the United States remains fully committed to robust implementation of the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda. We welcome the Secretary-General strong commitment to this issue, and we look forward to continuing to partner with the UN and other Member States to advance these goals.

Thank you, Mr. President.