The Role of Women Is Imperative for Peace

By Haifa Fahoum Al Kaylani, Founder Chairman, Arab International Women Forum, and Ibrahim Gambari, Co-Chair, Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance

Haifa Fahoum Al Kaylani

UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (adopted in 2000) recognized, for the first time, the vital contribution of women in conflict prevention and resolution. As a symbolic act and practical call to action, the Resolution acknowledged what we have experienced throughout our careers in diplomacy, business, academia, and development: that the involvement of women in peace processes significantly improves the prospects for a more enduring peace. Each year since, the role of women in keeping and building peace has figured more prominently in the commemoration of International Women’s Day, today, 8 March. This is rightly so.

And yet, sixteen years on, formidable political, socio-cultural, and economic obstacles remain to the full participation of women in peace efforts, whether as peacemakers or as citizens—something the Resolution was supposed to help overcome. This is a major conclusion of the Commission on Global Justice, Security & Governance, on which we proudly serve.

Ibrahim Gambari

In our report, Confronting the Crisis of Global Governance, we view gender inequality as a fundamental global governance challenge, especially in conflict-affected environments, where, compared to men, women suffer harm differently and disproportionately. Despite the call in Resolution 1325 for greater female participation in peace processes, they remain acutely underrepresented in UN-brokered talks. Research carried out by UNIFEM/UN Women reveals that, in fourteen diverse cases since 2000, women’s participation in peace negotiation delegations averaged less than eight percent, and less than three percent of their signatories were women.

Today, only two of twenty-two UN Under-Secretaries-General are women, and in UN Missions, women make up less than one-third of the international civilian staff, 21 percent of senior professional levels, and only 18 percent of national staff. Moreover, the recent Global Study on the Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 found that only 54 countries have formulated National Action Plans for Resolution 1325. Entire regions, notably the Americas and Middle East, are lagging behind.

Meanwhile, the plight of millions of women, men, and children in the Greater Middle East seeking refuge in nearby Europe and beyond reminds us daily of the need for urgent action to prevent and end ongoing wars. From sitting at the negotiating table to building the blocks for long-term reconciliation and peaceful coexistence, women are poised to contribute, when given the opportunity, to the fair and enduring solutions that are so essential to reduce human suffering.  

To ensure that women’s voices are heard and decision-makers made more accountable, particularly in fragile states, the Commission proposes several innovations to advance a vision of “just security.”

First, strengthen the role of women in peace processes. Global and regional institutions should appoint women to prominent peacemaking roles. International actors that support peace processes should demand women’s inclusion in negotiating teams and as signatories to ensure that their experiences and priorities are represented.

Second, employ National Action Plans for Resolution1325 as an effective tool of foreign policy. Incorporating such plans into a country’s foreign policy can secure and sustain political will and resources—two critical components for ensuring that a plan’s objectives are met and leaders held accountable.

Third, tackle the socio-economic factors that disadvantage women’s status in society. The

Commission recognizes several such factors, including the lack of access to education, reproductive health services, and decent work opportunities in the formal economy.

Finally, the Commission strongly endorses the UN’s goal of empowering women to become national and world leaders in the 21st century. The Campaign to Elect a Woman UN Secretary General, organized by a group of female scholars and civil society leaders, is an excellent example toward achieving this goal.

Current possible candidates to succeed Ban Ki-moon include UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova, UNDP’s Administrator Helen Clark, and former Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General Amina Mohammed. Their high-level qualifications and proven leadership skills demonstrate that a woman leader can be selected for the UN’s top job based on merit. Whoever is appointed should ultimately place a premium on improving UN recruitment, retention, and the advancement of women to serve in senior posts.

All too often women, especially in violent conflict and post-conflict settings, struggle to achieve dignified livelihoods and exert decision-making power, lack access to critical services, and suffer serious physical and mental harm—a toxic triple threat that devastates lives and undermines women’s ability to contribute to society. The ideas we lay out above should be considered and acted upon with a sense of urgency. We will only begin to meet the most pressing global governance challenges when women, who are disproportionately victims, are part of the solution.

Haifa Fahoum Al Kaylani

Founder & Chairman, Arab International Women's Forum

Mrs Haifa Fahoum Al Kaylani, Founder Chairman, Arab International Women’s Forum is well known in international government and business circles as a high-impact change agent focusing on leadership in cultural and gender issues.

An economist and graduate of the American University of Beirut and Oxford University, she brings a wide range of skills and experience to her personal mission of encouraging greater cultural understanding between Arab and international communities, supporting a strong role for women in that process.
Mrs Al Kaylani holds senior roles in several cultural, commercial and educational UK and international organisations. These include: Board Member, The Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard Kennedy School; Advisory Board Member, The Middle East Institute, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; Advisory Board Member, The Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World, Lebanese American University, Beirut; Board Director, EastWest Institute, and Board Member, The Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. Mrs Al Kaylani serves on The Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance. Mrs Al Kaylani became the first Honorary Member, the Euro Mediterranean Association for Cooperation and Development (2012) and serves as a Freeman of the City of London.
Haifa Al Kaylani received recognition as one of the Women eNews 21 Leaders for the 21 Century (2006); was included in the Muslim Power 100 Leaders in the UK listing (2007) receiving the Education Excellence Award; she is a recipient of the International Alliance for Women 2008 World of Difference Lifetime Achievement Award; and was named one of the 20 leading Muslim women in the UK in The Equality & Human Rights Commission Muslim Women Lists 2009-2012 and received the United Kingdom Muslim Woman of the Year Award in 2013.
Haifa Al Kaylani was presented with an Award for an Outstanding Contribution as a Women Leader of Palestinian Origin and was honoured by the Qatari Businesswomen Association and presented with an Award for her contributions to the growth and development in the Arab region. She was the recipient of the Global Inspirational Leadership Award 2013 and was honoured for individual achievements as a role model and having made contributions worthy of acknowledgement towards the role of women in Emerging Economies by the Georgia General Assembly.
Mrs Al Kaylani was included in the Power 100 List, compiled by Arabian Business Monitor and recognised on the Arabian Business Power 500 List published by Arabian Business Magazine and placed in the highest ever recording of 118 women in a list of Arab men and women leaders .Mrs Al Kaylani was Inducted in 2013 by the Centre of Economic Leadership & Development into The Global Women Leaders Hall of Fame as a distinguished achiever and symbol of female achievement globally. Mrs Al Kaylani received The Excellence in Life Award presented by The Global Thinkers Forum in Dubai December 2014.
In 2015, Mrs Haifa Fahoum Al Kaylani, received “The Pearl Initiative Recognition for a Career Focused on Arab Women in Leadership”, presented by the Pearl Initiative Honorary Chairman H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Narayan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Social Development in the United Arab Emirates on the occasion of The Pearl Initiative & United Nations Global Compact Forum held in Dubai.

Published: 16/03/2017