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Statements and speeches Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Women’s Day: “Enduring peace will only be built with women at the table,” says Türk

International Women’s Day

08 March 2024

Delivered by

Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Without women at the tables of power, there can be no peace. No justice. No democracy.

Without women - in all their diversity - there is absolutely no progress at all.

We mark International Women’s Day at a time of unparalleled crisis. Climate change is pummelling our planet and threatening humanity’s existence. Inequalities are widening, deepening and triggering more suffering. And the multiple conflicts raging around the world are causing unimaginable human tragedy.

In times of conflict, women keep families, and entire communities, together. I have seen this myself time and again, bearing witness to their incredible resilience and strength.

But they also suffer particular harm.

I think of the thousands of women today being deliberately targeted in warzones, by rape or sexual violence.

I think of the millions of women who are left responsible for keeping their families alive, or for taking decisions on whether to stay or to flee.

The pregnant women who have no choice but to deliver their babies in a bombed-out shelter, without medical assistance.

Or the millions of women and girls who have had their power and agency stripped away because of the utter senselessness of war.

This should shock us all into action.

It also begs the question of how we possibly got here.

Women have lived through centuries of patriarchal power structures.

Centuries of misogyny and male domination.

The normalisation of hate. The silencing of voices.

And the total failure of male-centric global governance to adequately deliver solutions.

Today’s conflicts – largely ignited and driven by men – are pushing global security into freefall.

Military spending has reached record highs and profits from arms trades are skyrocketing.

But I want to ask today, where is the investment in peace?

And where is the investment in gender equality that we so desperately need to achieve it?

At the grassroots level, courageous women human rights defenders, peacebuilders and women’s organizations have powerfully led efforts to build peace and spur social transformation.

The shifts we have seen towardsgender equality are remarkable.

Yet at the negotiating tables making the peace and reconciliation decisions that matter today, the voices of women and girls remain marginal at best.

The data paints a grim picture. Of 18 peace agreements reached in 2022, only one was signed or witnessed by a representative of a women’s group or organization.

Just a slim portion of bilateral aid supports feminist, women-led, and women’s rights organizations in countries affected by conflict or crisis.

Lack of participation of women in peace and peacebuilding processes is a mark of their underrepresentation more broadly in leadership positions across all sectors.

Still today, not one country in this world has achieved gender equality.

And pushbacks against women and girls and the value of gender equality continue to undermine the rights, freedoms and autonomy of half of humanity.

This is the biggest election year in history, where we have an opportunity to shift the status quo, to bring more women into leadership, and to change the trajectory of global peace and security’s downward spiral. The results of these elections carry the potential to influence policies for women´s empowerment and gender equality – and for peace - for years to come.

Enduring peace will only be built with women at the table. The international community must urgently make this a reality.

We need more women in our governance systems and greater investments in peace, social protection and climate justice.

We need peacebuilding and reconstruction policies that challenge governments – and transform them – to include women and women’s voices.

Sustained funding and support for women peacebuilders, women human rights defenders and women’s organizations, including funds for when their security is at risk.

Safe and open spaces for dialogue and women’s equal participation in political processes.

We need foreign policies informed and guided by feminist principles. I welcome the steps some countries have already made to do this.

And finally, we must address the root causes of gender-based discrimination to overcome the vicious cycles of conflict and repression.

Next year will mark 25 years since the adoption of the landmark UN Security Council Resolution 1325 which affirmed that peace and security efforts are more sustainable when women have an equal and meaningful voice in conflict prevention, relief and recovery, and peace processes.

I honour and stand in solidarity with all the women and girls who are defending human rights amidst conflict.

We know that women’s and girls’ rights form the backbone of sustainable peace and development. Pulling our world back from crisis and conflict depends on the steps we decide to take now to ensure women and girls are leading and shaping all the critical decisions that will affect not only them, but all of humanity.

Thank you.