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Engaging the Global South: the role of women in addressing key challenges

  • Rome
  • 14 February 2024

        According to the latest Women, Peace and Security Report of the UN Secretary General, more than 600 million women and girls lived in conflict-affected countries in 2022, a 50% increase since 2017.  

        It is well established that women’s and girls’ lives are disproportionately affected by humanitarian emergencies such as those related to conflicts, food insecurity and climate change. These crises are not gender neutral, and often exacerbate pre-existing discriminatory practices. Yet women continue to be excluded from the platforms and the processes leading to policy responses, which in turn continue not to reflect their needs, while policymakers miss the opportunity to benefit from their perspectives.

        As women continue to bear different and additional burdens of conflict, recognition of the gendered effects of war is essential to develop holistic responses that address the differential experiences of conflict and security crises, as well as women’s needs, interests and views.

        At the same time, women are not solely victims: where women can overcome structural barriers to their participation, they are in a unique position to contribute to sustainable solutions and enhanced peace and stability. Their insights and knowledge and the roles they play within their communities and families are key.

        The correlation between women’s empowerment, gender equality, economic stability, peace and security has been well proven by research and data.

        For instance, evidence shows a direct link between women’s participation in the labor market and the economic growth of a country. Also, peace talks are more likely to address root causes and yield more sustainable results, with a probability of a peace agreement lasting at least 15 years increasing by 35% when women are meaningfully involved. The commitments outlined in the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action and the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) clearly recognize this crucial role of women in conflict prevention, resolution, peace negotiations, peace-building, peace-keeping, humanitarian responses, and post-conflict reconstruction.

        If the meaningful inclusion and participation of women is central to address contemporary global peace and security challenges, it is necessary to narrow the gender gap. Indeed, according to the most positive predictions, it will take 130 years to close that gap worldwide.  To this end, collecting data and evidence – to better understand those correlations and the impact of crisis on women and girls – is crucial. Data makes it possible to develop targeted measures, by also addressing the intersectionality and the diversity of women. At the same time, the whole power structure should be reconsidered. If women are to take a seat at the table, they must contribute to designing that table. In other words, women should be involved from the very beginning in policy-making. Increasing the participation of women in all fields – from the job market to political leadership to peace processes and to efforts to mitigate the effects of the many crises ongoing – is essential. It could be achieved through mandatory measures and/or by working more effectively within different organizations and structures to foster a gender-responsive approach. Positive change, through dedicated policies and incentives, is called for, alongside increased support for civil society’s women-led organizations and networks. Financial empowerment is also decisive in terms of access: education and financial mechanisms, fostering public-private partnerships, are important accelerators.

        To take a step forward, the G7 has an important role to play. The Italian presidency of the G7 comes at very challenging times, with multiple and intersecting crises: a collective response, engaging the so-called Global South, is needed. And such a response should include a meaningful participation by women. This can be achieved by leveraging the Women, Peace and Security agenda and other similar normative frameworks, but also by strengthening instruments created to advance that agenda’s implementation, such as the networks of women mediators. Accelerating the process to close the gender gap and thereby benefitting from the key role played by women in addressing global challenges should be included among the top cross-cutting priorities of the G7.