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3rd international conference on “Action with Women and Peace”
Seoul, 25 November 2021

Statement by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

It is a great honour to take part in this remarkable initiative, led by the Republic of Korea, to hold high-level and context-specific discussions on the advancement of women’s participation in peacebuilding and to raise visibility about the specific impact of conflict on women and girls. 

Women peacebuilders, activists and human rights defenders have long stood on the front lines of the struggle against abuse of power, militarism, and violence. That is why Security Council Resolution 1325 was so ground-breaking in recognizing women’s human rights, their participation, and their protection as essential to the maintenance of international peace and security. 

Twenty years after its adoption, we are still very far from having realized this vision. 

Women remain underrepresented in negotiating and decision-making. In 2020, women represented only 23 per cent of delegates in peace processes, with strikingly low figures in countries such as Afghanistan, where only one woman was involved in the March 2021 peace negotiations. These deficits matter. 

Decisions on peace that do not reflect women’s realities, their rights, their perspectives, their knowledge, and their demands, are not sustainable - and neither are they likely to be effective.

In Afghanistan, since the Taliban’s ascension into power, Afghan women and girls face a drastic reversal to their human rights. They are denied freedom of movement and resources to protect them from gender-based violence. Girls are being prevented from attending high-school and women from going back to their jobs. And, women human rights defenders and journalists are being targeted for their work. We must defend the rights of Afghan women and girls from diverse communities and we must continue to advocate for them to be able to develop their full potential and meaningfully participate as active agents in building the future of their country. 

In Myanmar, the widespread use of sexual and gender-based violence for decades during Tatmadaw’s operations needs to be framed in the wider socio-economic and political discrimination against women and girls in Myanmar, in particular those belonging to ethnic minorities. Sexual violence by security forces continues to be reported, including in detention, in a context of impunity and limited accountability. We must continue to call for these crimes to be investigated, perpetrators prosecuted and punished; and, stress the criticality of ensuring a survivor-centred approach. 

Colleagues, this important event today will no doubt contribute to these efforts. I wish you fruitful discussions. 

Thank you.