Remarks by Dr GNM Pandor, Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, at The Gertrude Shope Annual Dialogue Forum: “The Current State of Global Peace and Security Architecture – Utilisation of Existing Capacity by Peace Institutions” Panel: Global Solidarity and Accountability, 8 March 2023

Remarks by Dr GNM Pandor, Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, at The Gertrude Shope Annual Dialogue Forum: “The Current State of Global Peace and Security Architecture – Utilisation of Existing Capacity by Peace Institutions” Panel: Global Solidarity and Accountability, 8 March 2023


Programme Director: Ambassador Maude Dlomo,

Ms Aleta Miller, UN Women Representative

Madame Bineta Diop, African Union Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security

Anniken Huitfeldt, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway

Catherine Mwangi, High Commissioner of Kenya

Gjermund Saether, Ambassador of Norway

Mme Gertrude Shope,

All panellists joining,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen


I would like to warmly welcome you all to the Gertrude Shope Annual Dialogue Forum, and most importantly to wish you a Happy International Women’s Day. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) decided to host this important Forum today to coincide with Women’s Day as we have much to reflect on. I wish to start by thanking our partners, particularly the Government of the Kingdom of Norway as well as the people of Norway for their ongoing support to South Africa and the AU Office of the Special Envoy on Women Peace and Security, Madame Diop.


More should be done to critically examine the underlying causes of conflict and violence as well as the role of great powers in entrenching conflict and division in many societies. We need more global honesty.


We are honoured to have such an illustrious list of women leaders who are going to be part of the Forum.  Many of you are individuals who I have had the honour to work with closely, women leaders whom I admire, and who are committed to intellectual scrutiny, endeavour and the advancement and achievement of the agenda of gender equality.


The patron of our Forum, Mme Shope has spent her life confronting and responding to the women question.  During her time in the liberation struggle, along with many phenomenal women, she continued with the work begun by pioneers such as Mme Charlotte Maxeke, she fought against the triple oppression of women – oppression based on race, gender, and class. The name, Gertrude Shope, belongs to a rare breed of women whose impact on the political progress of our country is yet to be fully appreciated.


In contributing to implementing the Women Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda, DIRCO initiated the Gertrude Shope Annual Dialogue Forum in August 2015. Since its inception, the Forum has addressed the numerous disadvantages women experience and how to implement policies to resolve these challenges such as representation and equality. The Forum has remained at the forefront of finding solutions to ensure the advancement of the WPS Agenda in a meaningful manner. The implementation of WPS commitments remains slow, however, which is something we need to address.


Our dialogue Forum this year is themed: “The Current State of Global Peace and Security Architecture – Utilisation of Existing Capacity by Peace Institutions”. We want to ensure that existing Peace and Security Structures globally renew their commitments within institutions to fully utilise capacity that exists and ensure that women become significant stakeholders in peace processes which impact them directly or indirectly.


We are at a moment in which global security—and the role played by women in promoting and maintaining it—is deteriorating. Military spending has reached an all-time high of USD 2.1 trillion; at the same time, funding for women’s organizations in conflict-affected countries is shrinking. So is the percentage of women in peace negotiations—now at a measly 19 percent in UN-led processes, down from 23 percent in 2020.  There is broad evidence that peace agreements are more sustainable when women are at the table, yet the percentage of women in peace negotiations is going down. We need to have serious discussions on how to reverse this trend.


As the intersecting crises of rising conflict, global health challenges and climate change threaten global well-being, recent progress on gender equality has already been a casualty. This global regression on women’s rights has been coupled with heightened violence against women human rights defenders—including those involved in UN peace and security processes. Since 2018, more than a third of briefers at the UN Security Council assisted by the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security have been subjected to reprisals and intimidation.


In his 2022 report on Women, Peace and Security, the UN Secretary General reflected on the urgency of women’s full and equal participation in peace and security processes around the world.  Women’s participation in peace processes is about more than gender equality.  It is about revolutionizing peacebuilding: creating solutions that reflect the needs of all people in conflict-affected settings and address the underlying conditions that drive conflict in the first place. It is about dismantling systems that permit and promote violence so that we can move towards a new era of lasting global peace and security.  In conflicted-affected areas around the world, women peacebuilders are already working toward these goals. Often without institutional support and always at great personal risk, they continue to advocate, mediate, and negotiate for a better future.


Against a backdrop of increasing violent conflicts and reversal of generational gains in women’s rights, the UN Secretary General’s report shows that the women, peace, and security agenda is farther from achieving its goals than ever before. The report points out that the sharp deterioration in peace and security globally is causing immense suffering and has a significant and specific impact on women and girls in conflict-affected countries.


The Secretary General’s report came out on the side lines of the annual UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security entitled: “Strengthening women’s resilience and leadership as a path to peace in regions plagued by armed groups”.


During the briefing, UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous said: “At a time of unprecedented and intersecting crises, the last thing the world should do is walk back from its commitments on women, peace and security.  Women are entitled to our best efforts for their protection in crisis.  More importantly, we are all entitled to the dividends of women’s full involvement in achieving peace. The Secretary General’s report makes clear what needs to be done: protect and empower women human rights defenders, ensure women’s seat in peace talks, and fund women’s involvement in peace and security. There is no better test of our commitment to peace than the extent to which we ensure that women are at the heart of its pursuit.”


In many countries, violent extremist groups and military actors have taken power by force and have revoked commitments on gender equality and are persecuting women for speaking up or simply being female. One of the most extreme expressions of the regression of women’s and girl’s rights is in Afghanistan. Since 15 August 2021, women and girls in Afghanistan have been suffering systematic violations of their rights, directly resulting from the wilful adoption of measures and policies by the Taliban, aiming at erasing them completely from all spheres of public life. The Taliban have closed girls’ secondary schools, banned women from showing their faces in public and restricted their right to leave their own homes.


Women on the ground have expressed deep concern for the end of schooling for girls, which has major negative effects on the economy and social development, among other spheres. The short and long-term costs of these reversals of women’s rights are tremendous. The suicide rates among women have reportedly increased, mortality rates, including maternal mortality, are expected to rise, and overall economic losses as a result of the erosion of women’s employment are estimated to be up to USD 1 billion.


The theme for this panel is Global Solidarity and Accountability. Well now more than ever, we need to show our solidarity with the women of Afghanistan in a tangible way, and we must insist on accountability for what is happening from the Taliban government. We need to develop clear recommendations on how the WPS agenda can support these women who find themselves in such vulnerable situations.


I would like to point out that the Gertrude Shope Women Mediators Network has made an immense contribution to drawing women in communities together. We are especially pleased with this initiative because it has shown how empowered women can act in supporting the restoration of peace and stability and in supporting women living in vulnerable conditions. One of the valuable lessons drawn from the experience of the Network is that you do not only build peace because there is war, you build peace by investing in a peace infrastructure that can sustain you during times of crises. We need to explore as a collective whether the Mediators Network can be capacitated to work on the ground in support of women further afield, and whether funds for such work can be leveraged.


Let me conclude by thanking all our partners for their support and immense contribution to this critical programme. This Forum is doing incredible work, and I think we need to work towards building it from strength to strength.


Thank you




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