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Chair of the AU PSC for the month of October 2020, H.E Ambassador Osama Abdelkhalek, Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Arab Republic of Egypt,

Distinguished Members of the AU PSC,

H.E. Madam Bineta Diop, AU Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security,

H. E. Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UNWOMEN,

Honorable Dega Yasin, Minister of Women and Human Rights Development of the Federal Republic of Somalia,

Your Excellencies,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to thank the Chair of the Council for the month of October 2020, Amb. (----) for convening this open session on Women in Peace and Security, especially at this important juncture. We are not only celebrating the 20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325 and the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Platform of Action, but also concretely looking ahead at the future of the WPS Agenda and how to further strengthen the critical role that women play towards advancing Peace and Security on the Continent.

Ladies and Gentleman,

I also wish to thank my sister Bineta Diop for the tireless work that she and her office continue to put in advancing the WPS Agenda on the continent. Her commitment, advocacy and solidarity with African women and women peacebuilders has been instrumental in ensuring that our Members States continue to adopt and institutionalize National and Regional Action Plans towards the greater implementation of UNSCR 1325.

To date, a record number of 25 Members States have developed and adopted National Action Plans, and it is important to acknowledge the effort that the Office of the Special Envoy has consistently put into galvanizing support not only for the domestication and development of these NAP’s, but for their continued implementation.

I would also like to thank my sister Dr. Specioza Wandira, who could not join us today due to ill-health, and H.E. Catherine Samba-Panza who is engaged in activities related to her campaign as a presidential candidate for the elections in CAR. Together, they have shown remarkable, strong leadership as the FemWise-Africa co-chairs.

Through their stewardship, the FemWise Africa Network continues to grow and play a pivotal role at all levels, in ensuring that African women continue to be more involved, integrated and recognized for their roles as peacebuilders, especially local women whose work often goes unnoticed.

Excellences,

As this distinguished body will recall, the FemWise-Africa Network was instituted within the AU structures 3 years ago as a key response and implementation mechanism of the Commission, mandated with furthering the concrete participation of African women on matters of peace and security. Participation remains a cornerstone of the WPS Agenda, and the FemWise-Africa Network continues to rise, day-to-day, in the effort to meet this challenge at all levels.

In the 3 short years since its operationalization, this Network has brought together nearly 500 women peacebuilders across the continent to not only support the work of the African Union, but also that of our Regional Economic Communities, as well as in the various national and local spaces in which FemWise-Africa members operate.

At a continental level, the deployments of FemWise-Africa members to support the work of the African Union in Sudan and South Sudan, as well as the upcoming deployments to support our work in Mali, Libya, Cote d’Ivoire etc., speak to the firm commitment that the Peace and Security Department and this Commission has placed in advancing the meaningful participation of women peacebuilders at the very highest levels.

Further, their expected deployments to some of our Regional Economic Communities, such as IGAD and ECCAS, also speak to this Commission’s commitment to build sustainable linkages and ensure that the role and participation of women in peace and security is not only enhanced and supported at the continental level, but rather, that this support is collaboratively coordinated and cascades down to the regional and national levels.

Excellencies,

As this distinguished body knows, the peace and security challenges on the continent remain many, and in this past year, have been further compounded by the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. From ongoing security challenges in the Sahel, to those in the Horn of Africa, as well as to parts of North Africa and the Lake Chad Basin, a myriad of conflicts – both intra and inter – continue to plague vast swaths of our continent.

A surge in crime and Gender Based Violence; structural and governance issues; the persistent threat of electoral violence; the rise in terrorism and violent extremism; as well as climatic shocks leading to a rise in human insecurity, mark just some of the security challenges that the continent continues to grapple with.

In effectively responding to these challenges, it is critical that we continue to make every possible effort to ensure that women, who constitute about 50.2% of the population in this continent, continue to be involved, and have their opinions sought, at every step of the peace process. It has been said time and time again that peace cannot be achieved when more than half the population is excluded from peace-making and peace-building processes. Further, it is accepted as fact, that women are affected by conflicts differently than men.

These two small, yet very fundamental statements, remains as true today as they have for hundreds of years before us. We therefore need to be constantly reminded of their validity and use them as guiding principles in helping us craft more inclusive and effective responses and response mechanisms to conflicts on the continent.

As policy makers and peace actors, the critical question we should always be asking is, to what extent are women given the opportunity to mediate and contribute in conflict resolution?

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before I conclude my remarks, on this the 20th anniversary of UNSCR 1325, I am once again reminded that while the Women, Peace and Security agenda has come far and seen many implementation successes along the way, much work still needs to be done to realize this ambitious resolution in its entirety.

But as we move forward, I implore us to take a two-pronged approach towards realizing the tenets of 1325; that is by focusing on strengthening the participation and role of women not only in formal Track 1 and 2 peace processes, but more importantly, strengthening the critical role that women play at the grassroots level in mediating and averting potential conflicts.

A phrase that many of us here are familiar with, is the often-regurgitated statistic that “women continue to make up less than 10% of mediators and signatories at the peace table despite their significant role as mediators and peacebuilders at the community and local levels.

While every conceivable effort should – and will - continue to be put in rectifying the former half of that statement, it is nonetheless crucial that we not overlook the importance presented in the latter half of that statement.

Women across the continent continue to play a crucial role in addressing the root causes of conflict due to close proximity and work at the grassroots, thereby preventing countless conflicts before they manifest and escalate to become national and regional threats. Further, women peacebuilders at the grassroots not only detect early signs of conflict, but also respond to these potential threats, thereby bridging that essential gap between early warning and early response.

It is therefore critical that we continue to leverage on the strength of women-led early response mechanisms, such as the FemWise-Africa Network, whose members have a strong peacebuilding track-record of working at the grassroots and national levels. The COVID-19 pandemic, more than any other phenomena in recent history, has further lent validity to this key principle.

Where international Track 1 peacemaking and mediation efforts have continued to be hampered by travel restrictions, peace work continuous to take place at the grassroots and community levels, as conflicts do not respect pandemic restrictions or border closures.
Therefore, the recently established Regional and National chapters of the FemWise-Africa Network, should be supported- politically, financially and technically - in order to realize their ambitious goals of moving the WPS agenda forward across the continent, through effective peacebuilding initiatives that build upwards from the grassroots and contribute to national, regional and continental efforts.

These Track 3 initiatives, including indigenous approaches to peacebuilding, should further complement and be firmly linked to formal Track 1 & 2 peace processes undertaken at the continental and regional levels. I mention indigenous approaches because for too long we as Africans have allowed others to teach us what we know inherently. Mediation is a long-established African tradition, and in addition to asserting ourselves- as the originators of mediation practice, we should be demanding recognition for our traditional structures and institutions, and the knowledge, experiences and results they have, and continue to produce.

In doing so however, we should also work to ensure that our traditional conflict resolution mechanisms grow in their inclusivity and representivity. To ensure sustainability, women and youth should play bigger and more substantive roles in these structures, and be recognized as valuable contributors to peace efforts at all levels.

Excellences,

As I conclude, I wish to congratulate this distinguished body and the Commission for the support it has consistently lent towards the realization of gender equality and greater women’s participation in all facets of peace and security, as well as governance issues that affect them.

As we move forward towards the realization of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, we will remain committed to continued advocacy for increased women’s political participation in government and governing structures, their increased presence in regional and international organizations, as well as other spaces where they continue to be under-represented.

More importantly we will continue to ensure that the critical work done by women peacebuilders and women organizations at the grassroots, is linked to the work of formal response mechanisms at the regional and continental levels, in order to ensure that Track 1, 2 and 3 peace efforts continually complement each other and are adequately recognized, legitimized and documented.

I thank you.

Posted by Jonathan Doe

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