At a virtual roundtable discussion on Thursday, the Peace Operations chief, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, stressed the importance of continuing to prioritize the UN’s Action for Peacekeeping’s (A4P) Women, Peace and Security (WPS) commitments during the pandemic.
Against the backdrop that missions have, over the past few years, significantly strengthened their partnerships with women’s local and national organizations and networks, Mr. Lacroix called coronavirus-based disruption to this growth, “one of the pandemic’s thorns”.
“It also disrupted their direct engagement with policymakers, political leaders and each other”, he said.
But, pointing to “a rose in this story”, he maintained that the missions’ close relationships with women’s organizations have allowed them to “quickly and creatively continue to work” through UN assets – such as via radio, phone links and community alert systems – as well as by leveraging women-led structures, including women protection networks, early warning networks and gender working groups.
Mr. Lacroix credited the tools deployed by the mission as helping women and communities to fight against the coronavirus.
“This is making a difference and we can use these tools to sensitize on C19 [COVID-19] and preventative measures supplemented by concrete actions in support of communities”, he said.
Citing May elections in Mali, he elaborated on the political efforts underway to increase women’s participation.
“We supported the role of women voters and candidates – as a result of these efforts we have a number of women in Mali parliament that has increased three-fold”, elaborated the head of Peace Operations.
However, he also flagged the need for some structural challenges, such as for more systemic and pronounced engagement of women.
“We’ve gone beyond organizing meetings, but we need to move further”, he acknowledged.
And pointing out that women are suffering disproportionately with the virus, including sexual and gender-based violence, he said that while the missions were trying to contain it, it remains “one of our major concerns”.
Meanwhile, the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, explained, “we are deliberating the impact of COVID in conflict areas where women battle the infection and insecurity”.