Discussion Looks at the UN at 75 and the Future of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda

On June 24, Women in International Security (WIIS) and the Embassy of Liechtenstein organized a discussion on the United Nation's 75th anniversary, looking at what the international body has accomplished, its future and how it has addressed the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.

"Perspectives on the UN at 75" featured a keynote address by Foreign Minister Katrin Eggenberger of Liechtenstein. Panelists included Asha Castleberry-Hernandez, New York Congressional Candidate and Adjunct Fellow, American Security Project; Lise Howard, Professor of Government, Georgetown University and Chair-Elect, Academic Council on the United Nations Systems; Stefania Piffanelli, Deputy Director, United Nations Information Center; and Richard Ponzio, Director of Just Security 2020 Program and Senior Fellow, Stimson Center. The talk was moderated by Chantal de Jonge Oudraat, President, WIIS.

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In her opening remarks, Foreign Minister Eggenberger stated, as it relates to the future of the UN and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, that "Women and children are among the ones who pay the highest price during conflict. It is therefore key that our common responses are gender-sensitive and take into account the special needs of women and girls. Equally important is to recognize that women are not only victims, but also agents of change. In order to build back better, women must play an active role and be enabled to do so in leadership positions… Building back better also means building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels, providing equal access to justice for all, and promoting the rule of law at the national and international level… The UN – at the center of the international rules-based order - will continue to play a key role in this regard. The UN Charter provides us with guidance to strengthen international cooperation and solidarity, we should never forget its value and defend it whenever necessary."

Piffanelli spoke on the UN draft declaration commemorating the UN's 75th anniversary, which was finalized in July. She mentioned its components to recommit the UN to multilateralism and cooperation, as well as commitments to protecting the planet, and maintaining peace and security internationally, with an emphasis on gender inclusion. The declaration is important as we are in a time where there are great tensions between great powers and people are starting to only look within their own countries.

Ponzio talked about the need for more emphasis on humanitarian efforts, which is a strength of the UN through bodies such as the World Food Program and UNICEF (vaccinations in particular). There is a fear of backsliding on the gains that have been made on human rights support.

Howard sees peacekeeping as on of the UN's greatest strengths. There are numerous studies that show peacekeepers decrease the amount of civilian deaths in wars. They prevent conflict from spreading within and outside, reduce the duration and recurrences of civil wars, and help to rebuild state institutions and a more robust civil society.

Castleberry-Hernandez said that though the UN has has shaped positive behaviors among sovereign states, it still has weaknesses. For example, the Women, Peace and Security Agenda still needs a push. The UN also lacks proper resources and funding.

Foreign Minister Eggenberger said a great strength of the UN is its universality in which all states have a vote and sovereign equality. However, the Security Council presents weaknesses. Due to its structure it has led to political gridlock that prevents the UN from acting in a time of need. This has weakened confidence in diplomacy and multilateralism and a resurgence of nationalism in some countries leading to unilateralism.

On the UN's work on the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, the group discussed how peacekeeping reduces gender-based and sexual violence. However, more political leadership and funding is needed in the implementation and development of the WPS Agenda. Gender parity has been somewhat achieved in the top of the UN hierarchy, but not at the field level. There needs to be a focus on having women in more military roles, not just pushing them to civilian roles.

On the UN going forward, panelists discussed how it will be important in the next one to three years to stabilize socioeconomic levels around the world. The UN should also connect with other international institutions to see how they can collaborate so that more people can become involved. For example, climate change is the largest threat that faces the globe. There is no way to counter this threat without cooperation.