Office of the UN Special Envoy for Africa’s Great Lakes discusses women’s participation and contribution to peacebuilding in the region

A woman casts her vote at a polling station in Kenya.

20 Aug 2020

Office of the UN Special Envoy for Africa’s Great Lakes discusses women’s participation and contribution to peacebuilding in the region

Nairobi, 20 August 2020 – The Office of the UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes convened a virtual meeting on 20 August 2020 to explore ways of ensuring women’s effective participation and contribution to decision-making processes with respect to prevention, management and resolution of conflicts in the region.

The meeting, the third in a series of roundtable consultations on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) in the Great Lakes region, which started in July, also discussed women's participation in peacebuilding in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Participants, who included members of the Advisory Board of the Women’s Platform for the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework; representatives of the African Union; the Southern African Development Community; the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region; relevant UN entities; civil society organisations; as well as women advocates and academics, discussed lessons learned, good practices and actionable regional programs to facilitate women’s effective participation in peacebuilding in Africa’s Great Lakes region.

The Advisory Board has made women’s participation in governance and peace processes one of its priorities.

A high-level regional workshop on "Participation, Representation and Protection of Women in Electoral Processes in the Great Lakes Region", held in late 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, committed to creating safe spaces for women in electoral cycles. Countries organising elections in 2020, such as Burundi, Tanzania and the Central African Republic (CAR), were urged to put in place measures that would promote an inclusive electoral process that guarantees the full participation of women.

Today’s meeting noted that member States of the Great Lakes region are making significant progress in advancing the WPS agenda, with an increasing number of women holding executive positions in several countries.

However, capacity building and funding remain some of the major challenges to women’s meaningful political participation. This situation has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is adversely affecting the full participation of women and youth in political and peacebuilding efforts.

The consultative meetings seek to achieve the following outcomes: improved and coordinated advocacy for resource mobilization to support women-led political processes and peacebuilding initiatives, particularly advocacy and building capacities of women mediators at grassroots level; and effective participation of women in the design of gender responsive policies and programmes, including gender-sensitive budgeting in the response to and recovery from the COVID -19.

The meetings are held in line with the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000), which affirmed that peace and security efforts are more sustainable when women are equal partners in the prevention of violent conflict, the delivery of relief and recovery efforts. It urges actors to incorporate a gender perspective in all peace and security efforts, and calls parties to conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from all forms of gender-based violence.

In a statement delivered on his behalf at today’s meeting by Donata Garrasi, Director of Political Affairs, Special Envoy Huang Xia noted: “The year 2020 also marks two other significant anniversaries, including the 75th anniversary of the United Nations and the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action for gender equality. These instruments should serve as a compass for us to reflect and act together to preserve and increase the gains made in the promotion of women's rights.”

The Office of the UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, headed by Ambassador Xia, is the main organizer of these meetings.