Foreign Secretary Ambassador Masud Bin Momen
Senior Secretary, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, Ms. Kazi Rowshan Akhter
Principal Staff Officer of AFD, Lieutenant General Waker-Uz-Zaman
UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Mia Seppo
Excellencies/Ambassadors and High Commissioners
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am happy to join the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the landmark UN Security Council Resolution 1325 that subsequently shaped the “Women Peace and Security agenda” of the UN system. For the last 20 years, the resolution has guided us in our endeavor to incorporate the role and participation of women in nation-building efforts, development and peace process across the globe.
The violence and trauma that our women suffered during our war of liberation in 1971 have a lasting footprint in our national psychology. The painful experience demonstrated how women suffer during conflicts. It also taught us how women can contribute in the recovery and reconstruction in the post conflict situation. Recognizing the important role and contribution of our women “war heroes,” immediate after the independence the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman included women in the rebuilding of the country. From that perspective we could establish a clear co-relation between women, peace and security.
As has already been highlighted, Bangladesh played a pivotal role in adoption of the historic resolution 1325. However, on this special occasion of the 1325’s 20th anniversary I would like to elaborate that historic role for all of us to be proud of Bangladesh’s global leadership and to put on record the pioneering role of Bangladesh at the United Nations.
More than 20 years ago, on the International Women’s Day on the 8th of March in 2000, Bangladesh held the Presidency of the UN Security Council, and representing the country the then Permanent Representative Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury led the initiative to get an agreed statement issued on behalf of all 15 members of the Council with strong support from civil society that formally brought to global attention the contribution women have always been making towards preventing wars and building peace. The Council recognized in that significant, norm-setting statement that “peace is inextricably linked with equality between women and men”, and affirmed the value of full and equal participation of women at all decision-making levels.
That is when the seed for UNSCR 1325 was sown. The formal resolution 1325 adopted by consensus on 31st of October 2000 as a result of this conceptual and political breakthrough led by Bangladesh on 8th of March 2000. The unexplained silence of the Security Council for 55 long years on women’s positive role was broken forever due to Bangladesh’s forward-looking and determined initiative in spite of many obstacles during negotiations.
The key focus of 1325 is that women – equal half of humanity – bring in a new breadth, quality and balance of vision to our common effort to move away from the cult of war towards the culture of peace. Empowered women bring important and different skills and perspectives to the policy making table. Women’s equality makes our planet safe and secure.
Adoption of 1325 opened a much-awaited door of opportunity for women who have shown time and again that they bring a qualitative improvement in structuring peace and in post-conflict architecture.
Since then women, Peace and Security agenda has become our national priority. With a visionary woman leader at the helm, our predominant focus has been to ensure the development and eventual empowerment of women. Since our independence, we have been investing resources to equip women and girls to meaningfully participate and contribute to all aspects of our life.
Our women are playing key roles in the disaster management, rescue and recovery. One third of our volunteers responsible for rescue and recovery are women. They play essential preventive role in the context of emerging security threats, including violent extremism.
We have pioneered in women’s peacekeeping. We sent over 1900 women in various Peacekeeping missions including in difficult ones. Currently 139 women military officers and 183 women police officers are serving as the blue helmets.
Bangladesh has also been sending women corrections and judicial officers to the UN peace missions. Recently 04 of our women judges have been selected for deployment in UNMISS & UNSOM.
These statistics are not just numbers. They signify our strong confidence in the ability of women and the viability of the policy vision of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
We consider women as agents of peace. Their peacemaking role has been facilitated by our progressive laws & regulations, and our Government’s affirmative actions towards their empowerment.
Our National Action Plan on Women, Peace & Security, is yet another example of our policy vision. The NAP recognized adverse effects of conflict on women and girls and prioritized gender equality in all aspects of our engagement in international peace and security, including peacekeeping and peace building.
Globally there has been some progress in the implementation of WPS agenda. Women’s political empowerment has seen improvement in recent times. Women are increasingly being drafted as peace negotiator and facilitator in peace processes in many conflict situations.
However, the improvements, though encouraging, has not been remarkable in many cases. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said very succinctly that “The truth is that north and south, east and west – and I’m not speaking about any society, culture or country in particular – everywhere, we still have a male-dominated culture.”
As the latest report of the Secretary General on the implementation of WPS agenda revealed, the progress has been “too slow, too narrow, with setbacks and easy to reverse.” Representation of women in peacemaking and peacekeeping has remained very low – 6% in mediation, 6% as signatories, 13% in negotiations. As of 2020, 5.4 per cent of UN military personnel and 15.1 percent of police personnel were women.
Financing continues to remain a challenge. It is also disheartening that bilateral aid for women’s empowerment as decreased from 5.3% to 4.5%. ODA for women’s organizations remained the same (0.2%) during the entire decade.
We must reverse this depressing trend and redouble our efforts to ensure women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in peace process.
We are encouraged to see the adoption of a stand-alone resolution on women in peacekeeping. As many as 97 countries including Bangladesh cosponsored the resolution. We also welcome Secretary General’s ‘Call to Action: Women Transforming Peace and Security’, which has been issued on the occasion of 20th anniversary of WPS agenda. We support the UN’s Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy and the Secretary General’s efforts towards ensuring gender parity in senior appointments.
However, there is clearly much more to be done, not only in enhancing the number of women peacekeepers on the ground, but also women in leadership positions; in peacekeeping as well as in peace negotiations. Also existing geographical imbalance needs to be addressed urgently in a transparent manner.
Bangladesh is doing its part.
We are championing the A4P WPS agenda along with other partners both in peacekeeping and peace building. Apart from leading WPS discourses in the General Assembly’s Special Committee on Peacekeeping operations, we have also been advocating for internalization of WPS in peace building activities and also implementing the gender strategy action plan of the PBC. As part of the Group of Friends on WPS Bangladesh regularly contributes to relevant Security Council open debates.
We have already taken measures to deploy more women officers to fulfill the target set by the UN of 15% Staff Officers/Military Observers in UN peacekeeping missions.
As a role model of women empowerment, Bangladesh has undivided commitment to the WPS agenda. The Government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is working tirelessly to realize the inherent potentials of women and girls for the overall development of the country. As Bangladesh remains in the cusp of graduation into a middle income country, we remain firmly committed to engaging women equally in all spheres of our national life.
I would like to conclude by quoting few lines from a famous poem of our national poet:
সাম্যের গান গাই-
আমার চক্ষে পুরুষ-রমণী কোনো ভেদাভেদ নাই!
বিশ্বের যা কিছু মহান সৃষ্টি চির কল্যাণকর
অর্ধেক তার করিয়াছে নারী, অর্ধেক তার নর।
It means, I sing the song of equality. In my eyes, there is no difference between men and women. Whatever great have been achieved that cater for human welfare, half is done by women, half by men.
I thank you all.
Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu