By Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Zainab Hawa Bangura
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, and Zainab Hawa Bangura, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
NEW YORK (IDN-UN Women) - On 24 July 2016, we celebrated with the people of Colombia the historic commitment by the Government and FARC-EP at the Havana Peace Talks Table to ensure that one of the agreement’s fundamental objectives is to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women.
The implementation of this commitment will be the critical test of whether peace will endure, and fulfil the highest aspirations of Colombians for a just, equitable, inclusive and democratic society.
We have witnessed the culmination of a critical phase of work of the Gender sub-Commission, which is a unique mechanism in the history of conflict resolution.
The gender provisions of the agreement ensure that women’s participation and empowerment are central to main aspects like rural development, political participation and eradication of illicit drugs. The Gender sub-Commission has also addressed the rights of women victims of the conflict to truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition, as well as their rights in provisions for the end of the conflict.
In the Colombian conflict the level of sexual violence committed particularly against women and girls has been severe. Too often, victims of such crimes suffer in silence and shame. They may be stigmatized, ostracized and marginalized in their communities, resulting in poverty and destitution. In Colombia, the silence around sexual violence in the conflict has been broken, with a firm commitment to afford survivors the justice and support that they deserve.
The United Nations salutes the unprecedented work of the Peace Talks Table and its Gender sub-Commission, which has brought women’s voices into the process. Women are a vibrant force for peace and reconciliation, and this must be reinforced in the final agreement and, crucially, during the implementation phase.
We look forward to the institutionalization of the Gender sub-Commission in post-conflict arrangements, as a guarantor for implementation of the commitments that have been made. This peace process represents an historic opportunity to transform the status of women in Colombian society through fundamental structural change. We must now ensure that women are included in all aspects of decision-making, with specific provisions for gender balance, and in power and wealth-sharing arrangements.
The peace process has already reduced the humanitarian impact of the armed conflict. These tangible and significant dividends of the peace negotiations will help to build the crucial momentum for the plebiscite by which the Colombian people will decide on the agreement’s ratification. For transformational change, and for peace to take root, it will be essential to secure the broad participation of women and men, and of all civil society.
This is a moment of great hope. It renews our confidence in diplomacy, and strengthens our belief that other long-standing conflicts, no matter how complex and protracted, can follow Colombia’s example and ‘sign up’ for peace. It is also a testament to friendship, as we acknowledge the discreet but crucial role that countries like Cuba and Norway have played as the formal guarantors of the peace process.
UN Women has had the privilege of accompanying this peace process since 2013, in close coordination with the Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, at the request of the Peace Talks Table. We will maintain our support to the successful closure of the current negotiations and the implementation phase.
We reaffirm our commitment to continue to stand with and support Colombia and its people on their journey toward lasting peace. [IDN-InDepthNews – 26 July 2016]
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.
Photo: Representatives of women's organizations and networks that were part of the first delegation of gender experts at the talks in Havana present their proposals for building a peace deal with the Government of Colombia and FARC-EP negotiators in December 2014. Photo courtesy of the Peace Talks, Havana, Cuba.