Remarks by Dr GNM Pandor, Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, at the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Global Network of Focal Points, DIRCO, 6 December 2022
“Taking Practical Action to Implement the Women, Peace and Security Agenda Through Inter-Regional Cooperation”
Minister of State for Gender and Culture of the Republic of Uganda, Ms Peace Regis Mutuuzo,
Ms Aletta Miller, Head of the Southern African Office of UN Women,
National Focal Points,
Representatives of the SADC Secretariat and African Union Commission,
Representatives of Civil Society Organisations,
Senior Management of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to warmly welcome you all to the Inter-Regional Focal Points Network Meeting. We would like to especially welcome the new Focal Points – ASEAN, Lebanon, Cote d’Ivoire, Mongolia, and Lesotho. South Africa has the honour to be co-hosting this meeting with Switzerland, and as co-chairs of the Women, Peace and Security Focal Points Network, we have a joint ambition to advance the implementation of the WPS agenda through the identification of innovative and transformative strategies. This meeting converges under the theme ‘Taking Practical Action to Implement the Women, Peace and Security Agenda through Inter-Regional Cooperation.’
We would like to strengthen collaboration between Network members and to enable the sharing of experiences and ideas across regions. The theme of this meeting embodies the idea of cooperation between states, regional and international organisations, and civil society, as a source for innovative strategies to advance the implementation of the WPS agenda. This meeting will provide an opportunity for South-South learning, as well as the inter-regional exchange of lessons learned and experiences between the Global South and Global North.
Building on the priorities of full, equal and meaningful participation of women in peace processes and the protection of women’s rights, this meeting aims to share innovative and transformative actions and strategies derived from the 4th Capital-Level Meeting in Geneva, with a view to achieve our overall goal of advancing the WPS agenda.
Both South Africa and Switzerland have committed to the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) and its Global Acceleration Plan adopted in Paris in July 2021, with South Africa co-leading the Action Coalition on Economic Justice and Rights. This Forum places strong emphasis on the mainstreaming of the needs and rights of women and girls in conflict and humanitarian situations through its compact on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action. This intersectionality between the objectives of the Focal Points Network and the GEF is critical to ensure a holistic approach to the empowerment of women and girls, and gender equality.
To date, just over half UN Member States and territories have adopted the WPS National Action Plans (NAPs) despite rising concerns about human security and the rollback of women’s human rights. Our meeting will be a rallying call for the rest of the world to develop impact-driven NAPs. They can draw on the rich lessons learned by the countries that have developed them, whilst promoting local and national capacity building initiatives, funding, monitoring, evaluation, and peer review of already developed WPS NAPs.
Civil society has been critical in driving the WPS agenda through advocating for the development and implementation of NAPs in various parts of the world. Formalising their engagement and participation and linking official negotiations with civil society peace initiatives will further strengthen the participation of women in peace processes and may assist in reducing gender-based violence in conflict. A strong focus of our meeting this week will be on providing a platform for civil society and regional communities across the globe to dialogue, share and offer recommendations to further the WPS agenda to address key challenges.
The meeting will also focus on the role of local, national, and regional women mediator networks in preventing the escalation of conflicts and crises and ensuring women’s full, equal, and meaningful participation in ongoing peace processes.
We are pleased that in the last few years other networks have been established to accelerate the implementation of the WPS agenda. South Africa is currently also co-chairing the WPS Focal Points Network of the Group of Friends of the African Women Leaders Network (AWLN). It is a network of women peacebuilders with 30 chapters, who galvanise support and engage in critical advocacy efforts. The AWLN also innovatively operationalises Resolution 1325, by working locally and regionally, focusing on local-level initiatives through the AWLN National Chapters. Important platforms such as these galvanise support and engage in critical advocacy aimed at advancing the WPS agenda at national, regional, and global levels. Key to their activities is to share experiences and conduct fact-finding missions through solidarity field missions, for example to Mozambique and Mali.
South Africa fully supports the continuous attention paid to the women, peace, and security agenda. We believe that this demonstrates the UN and its Member States’ sustained commitment to supporting gender equality, women’s empowerment, leadership, and ways to advance women’s full, equal, meaningful, and effective participation in peace processes, including in conflict resolution and mediation.
Despite the Security Council’s efforts to advance the WPS agenda, its implementation has not translated into concrete deliverables at the grassroots level. The UN Secretary-General’s latest report in September 2022 on the WPS agenda recognises both the progress registered but also the persistent challenges. It has become clear that an increase in violent conflicts, growing activity by terrorist and armed groups on the continent, military coups and unconstitutional changes of government have had a negative impact on the advancement of the WPS agenda.
Women in conflict-affected situations are usually marginalised and have limited access to, and control of, productive resources and equal economic opportunities to men. Therefore, the WPS agenda should always be linked with the promotion of women’s economic empowerment. It is through the protection of civil, political, and economic rights of women that their equal and meaningful participation in public life and in decision-making bodies will be realised, including in situations of armed conflict. This also extends to the protection of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.
We believe that women’s organisations and networks are cardinal to foster solidarity, cooperation and coordination on issues concerning women in armed conflict. We are reminded of the activities of our own South African Women in Dialogue (SAWID), which, since its inception in 2003, has shared the experiences of South African women in peace negotiations and peacebuilding with various conflict-affected countries on the Continent such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and The Sudan amongst others. We also recognise the significant role of the Mano River Women’s Peace Network (MARWOPNET) in contributing towards peace in that region, an area once overrun by armed groups. We believe that these are some of the best practices that can be emulated in building resilience and support for women in regions plagued by armed groups.
Similarly, the Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation, officially known as FemWise-Africa, which South Africa also has a chapter, has deployed its members on short and long-term assignments to support various conflict prevention and mediation efforts. They have also been supported by AU Liaison Offices, as well as electoral and peacebuilding missions.
We prioritise the continuous skilling, training, and capacity building of women and youth so that they can meaningfully participate in peace processes. South Africa continues to contribute to training and capacity building for women in peace processes at the continental and local levels. We provide annual youth and women’s training programmes on Conflict Resolution, Mediation and Negotiation offered by our foreign ministry to women from conflict-affected countries. Some of the trainees are now members of various peacebuilding initiatives in their respective countries. Moving forward, we hope that we would be able to empower some of the trainees to develop practical expertise in all three tracks of mediation and conflict resolution.
We have also hosted the Gertrude Shope Annual Dialogue Forum based on the anti-apartheid peacebuilding efforts of Gertrude Shope - a South African leader. The Forum aims to empower women to support peace and stability initiatives in their communities. This has also culminated in the establishment of the Women’s Peace Table, focusing on women-led peacebuilding, social cohesion, and reconciliation. We believe that these can be building blocks that contribute towards the operationalisation of the AU’s Strategy for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment 2018-2028.
South Africa has also joined the Compact on Women, Peace, Security and Humanitarian Action (WPS-HA). The Compact calls for the redesign of peace, security, and humanitarian processes to include women and girls. This includes peacebuilders, refugees, and those forcibly displaced. Committing to these actions will solidify the foundation that has already been laid when President Cyril Ramaphosa led South Africa’s active participation in the negotiations for the Global Acceleration Plan (GAP) of the Economic Justice and Rights Action Coalition of the Generation Equality Forum, which presents a clear action plan to advance economic justice.
As you begin your deliberations, we wish you fruitful exchanges and hope that the discussions over the next couple of days will serve to enhance our cooperation in the WPS space and create pathways for more women to be included in mediation and conflict resolution.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road