Delivered by H.E. Lana Nusseibeh

Madame President,

The United Arab Emirates would like to thank Albania for organising today’s open debate and thank you, Minister Xhaçka, for chairing this meeting and for being such a WPS champion yourself. We continue to support increased Council engagement on the Women, Peace and Security agenda – and thank Albania for being a strong partner for our shared WPS commitments.

When conflict breaks out, it rarely affects only the groups or states directly involved. Regional organisations are closest to the situation, with a deep understanding of conflict dynamics and spillover effects. Their role is essential throughout the conflict continuum. They are also key to addressing cross-border issues, including refugee flows and internal displacement, terrorist attacks, and food insecurity. Sadly, all issues we face across the globe today.

As the Council engages with regional organisations in conflict prevention and resolution, we must also amplify their critical role in implementing the WPS agenda. Regional Action Plans are important because these organisations publicly commit to the WPS agenda and provide tangible accountability. Moreover, when they convene negotiations, facilitate peace processes, and deploy observers, they can substantively increase the alarmingly low number of women negotiators – currently only 13% on average. This number is unacceptably low – but could be easily addressed. We need to focus on three main areas: Strengthened networks, localised security, and gender-responsive leadership.

First, we stress the need for benchmarks and targeted funding for women’s organisations and networks at all levels before conflict erupts. Deepening partnerships between regional organisations and local women leaders can promote their roles in conflict resolution, preventive diplomacy, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding. As of 2018, women’s organisations received only 0.13% of total Official Development Assistance, despite countless appeals to the centrality of women’s participation to sustainable peace. Strong partnerships are the backbone of the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women and can help women and girls build greater resilience when military coups and seizures of power occur. We echo the UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous’ call to fully utilize these networks.

Second, regional security frameworks should systematically include diverse local and religious nuances, to guarantee that they are widely accepted, trusted, and implemented. This not only means consistent investment in training women peacekeepers, observers, and protection officers from their regions, but also the embedding of local dynamics into the design and implementation of security sector reform. Coupling specific knowledge of local conflicts with international security training can help shape comprehensive conflict resolution frameworks and respond to all groups affected by the conflict, particularly women and girls.

Third, we need to strengthen gender-responsive leadership, including by appointing women to high-level positions. These should include women in targeted positions who can advocate for WPS, as well as overall leadership positions, like the extraordinary women we have heard from today. This is an issue that the entire international community must work on – as of 2020, almost half of the world’s 30 major international organizations have never been led by a woman, and in 2021, only 18 out of 194 heads of delegations at the high-level week of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly were women. If we do not achieve gender-responsive leadership, we will not succeed in institutionalising gender equality and the Women, Peace and Security agenda – and may as well stop paying it lip-service. Albania’s numbers shared by you, Madame President, are a fantastic global benchmark to aspire to.

Although we believe these rights and truths to be universal, we must in parallel embrace local nuance and work within them. Last fall, I met with a remarkable group of Afghan women. One of them – a former journalist – explained to me that one of the most powerful arguments against the ongoing assault on the rights of women and girls is the example set by Muslim-majority countries where women are free and equal agents of their lives. She gave the example of a country like my own – the UAE – as an aspirational model. This courageous woman was speaking to the power and importance of relatability, affiliation, and nuance – the very same strengths that regional organisations bring to this agenda. Properly empowered and supported, regional organisations can expand and complement international practices that may overlook contexts and identities of the conflict. Regional agents uniquely respect, reflect, and represent their audience. That is invaluable for all the dimensions of this work, but perhaps nowhere more so than for the women and girls who bear the brunt of conflict worldwide. We should reflect that fact in our support to them.

Thank you, Madame President.