At the UN, 45 nations join to advance women’s roles in peace and security

September 23, 2016 | Swanee Hunt

More than 40 countries have joined a new international network designed to help governments and civil society groups share best practices to advance women as central actors in building peace and security.

Spain and five other nations hosted the inaugural event on September 23 during the annual opening week of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. More than 200 people filled a UN hall for the launch of the network, intended to promote strategies, funding, collaboration and political will to strengthen women’s leadership for sustainable peace.

Former U.S. Ambassador Swanee Hunt, founder and chair of the nonprofit  Inclusive Security, told the assembled diplomats in the keynote address: “When your grandchildren ask, ‘What were you doing to work for peace and security,’ you can answer, ‘I was making a difference.’”

Forty-two national governments and three regional organizations – the African Union, the European Union, and NATO – pledged to appoint an official known as a “focal point” to push the agenda of women’s inclusion on peace and security issues. The network members will gather twice-yearly to trade ideas and experiences.

The Women, Peace and Security Focal Points Network will be “a cross-regional forum aiming at providing a space to periodically share and exchange lessons learned and best practices, including on how to develop and review high-impact national strategies to advance these objectives.”

Ambassador Hunt lauded the leadership of Spain and the other host nations – Canada, Chile, Japan, Namibia, and the United Arab Emirates – for recognizing the need to build coalitions and to united the Global South and Global North to drive change.

“We believe it from our life experience: having diverse people in the decision-making means more gets done,” she said.

She cited UN Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura for his exemplary work to involve women in the effort to halt the deadly Syrian civil war because he knew that these women “were highly invested in peace – women crossed mountains, slept in mine fields, arrived barefoot for meetings. They negotiated with ISIS to open schools and let in humanitarian aid, and they understood the facts on the ground.”

In a joint communique, the network founders declared, “We affirm our commitment to advance women’s participation in decision-making about peace and security processes in order to enhance sustainability and effectiveness of all conflict prevention and resolution efforts, as well as women’s participation in national-level peace and security policies and programs.”

The communique described the newly formed network as “an important tool for identifying and promoting partnerships with civil society and local organizations working on WPS [women, peace, and security] issues; for encouraging predictable and sustained funding for WPS efforts; for promoting capacity building at a local, national and regional level for a variety of actors working on women, peace and security; promoting the development and implementation of high-impact National Action Plans on WPS; and for aligning such national WPS strategies with related strategies and policies, such as those aimed at preventing and countering violent extremism.”