Tuesday, 11 May 2021
Ceisteanna (Atógáil) - Questions (Resumed) - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
51. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the actions Ireland will take as co-chair of the UN Security Council Informal Expert Group on Women Peace and Security along with Mexico to maximise the ongoing positive impact that increased local female participation in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali has had to date. [24640/21]
What actions will Ireland take, as co-chair with Mexico of the UN Security Council Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security, to maximise the ongoing positive impact that increased local female participation in the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali has had to date?
Ireland has been a long-standing champion of the Women, Peace and Security, WPS, agenda at the UN. It is a key priority for our two-year membership of the Security Council. This agenda recognises the differential impacts of conflict on women, but also their critical agency in conflict prevention and resolution and in peace-building.
Ireland co-chairs the UN Security Council’s Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security. In doing so, we are working closely with senior UN leadership on the implementation of WPS on the ground. So far in 2021, Ireland has co-chaired meetings on South Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Mali.
The meeting on Mali took place on 29 April. It was timed to contribute to upcoming discussions on the renewal of the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali known as MINUSMA. It was addressed by the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General of MINUSMA, Joanne Adamson. Representatives of UN Women and the Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict also participated. In advance of the meeting, Irish representatives met with Malian women from civil society to ensure their views were taken forward into the informal expert group.
Women’s participation in the Malian peace process, and the issues of gender and WPS, are priority actions in the MINUSMA mandate. The mission plays a vital role in building political will on the part of the Malian authorities to promote women’s participation in peace and security matters, and supporting locally-led processes.
At the UN Security Council briefings and consultations on Mali and MINUSMA, Ireland has highlighted the key role of MINUSMA in advancing the women, peace and security in Mali. In particular we have focused on supporting women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in the implementation of the Mali Peace Agreement.
I thank the Minister. I am aware we have troops stationed in Mali and it probably has one of the highest casualty rates of all UN missions. Since the start of the stabilisation mission in Mali, the participation of women within the process has grown from 3% to 31% and it must be said that is a massive increase. There is a critical mass theory across all disciplines that once a grouping reaches a critical mass of 35% we can begin to see tangible culture change. The chief of staff of the Mali mission, Claudia Banz, argues that while there are more women than ever before, their number remains insufficient. She states they are contributing in a significant manner in military, civil and leadership positions and their presence has had a positive impact on news, basic issues, sanitation, food safety, etc. However, there are real, serious challenges. That 31% needs to be increased because of the positive benefits women's participation in the process is having. The Minister might touch on how we are going to increase those numbers.
Ireland has been to the fore on the women, peace and security agenda for many years. There are other countries that are very much with us on that agenda within the UN. We very much want to build that into the mandate for peacekeeping missions as well. Our own experience on this island is that if we have gender balance in the context of both politics and peace negotiations, we are likely to get better outcomes. That is certainly the case in a place like Mali also. We are actually involved in two different missions in Mali. One is the MINUSMA UN mission, where a number of soldiers from our Army Ranger Wing and some others from the Defence Forces are working with a German contingent and doing a really fantastic job there. The other is an EU training mission we are involved in, where we are working with other European states to help to train and prepare the Malian forces to try to deal with local security concerns. At every point we are constantly reminding both the UN and others of the need to ensure there is a genuine effort around ensuring female participation at all levels in the peace process in Mali.
The Minister is right, female participation has certainly helped and changed the whole dynamic of the peace process in Mali and has helped frame the content of the peace talks. Unfortunately, Covid has had a huge impact in Mali, as it has in many countries, in particular in developing ones. It has been said Covid-19 has had the same impact on countries such as Mali as conflict is having. Unfortunately, many women who were participating in the peace process have now pulled away from it to go back to their caring roles in their families and communities. That is going to have a huge impact, not just on the peace process but also on the participation of women in those leading roles as well. That is going to create a huge challenge so I am interested in hearing how that particular issue is going to be addressed.
It has the potential to set back the entire peace process, unfortunately, and the major progress that has been made, particularly through female participation.
It is true to say that in many countries the Covid-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women and their role in society. It has also had a disproportionate impact on girls' education as many schools have closed and the priority in some cases has been to educate boys rather than boys and girls. That is why we are putting an enormous amount of public money from the Irish Aid budget into the education of girls over the next number of years. It is close to €250 million.
As I mentioned earlier, we are seeing in Tigray the impact of conflict on women and girls, particularly when sexual violence is used as part of that conflict, as it increasingly is. That has always been a part of war and conflict but there is certainly much evidence that it is being used now. When there is a peace process that is trying to put things back together after a conflict, women must be part of the healing process.