Leadership Accountability for the implementation of the Women Peace and Security Agenda during COVID 19 Pandemic and beyond.



27th – 28th AUGUST 2020


Your Excellency Dr. Naledi Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Republic of South Africa

Your Excellency, Marianne HAGEN, State Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, s, Kingdom of Norway

Your Excellency Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women

Excellencies Members of the Diplomatic Corps here present

Distinguished Women of South Africa

Ladies and Gentlemen,

From the outset, kindly allow me, through you Honorable Minister Dr Pandor, to congratulate and salute South Africa leadership as Chair of the African Union and non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Through this dual hat, South Africa has a mandate to advance the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. Indeed, President Ramaphosa made clear in his acceptance speech when elected Chair of the AU, that this is indeed a priority for South Africa’s regional and global leadership.

I would also like to thank you for inviting me to be part of this 6th Gertrude Shope Annual Dialogue Forum. I am privileged to be part of this discussion again this year albeit within a different format from the physical event we are generally used to. The new normal has become virtual and we have had to adjust to the changing context.

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen

Our conversation today gives us an opportunity to reflect on key elements within the Peace and Security Agenda as well as explore opportunities for the necessary re-setting required by the pandemic and as we transition towards a post-COVID world.

This conversation is timely as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 and the Year to Silence the Guns in Africa. As part of the celebration, it will be important to review progress and refocus our efforts taking the long-lasting effect of the pandemic into account.  We must ensure that COVID-19 does not erode gains made over the past two decades since the adoption of 1325. It is in this perspective that my office issued a statement in April 2020 to call on heightened vigilance of the women, Peace and Security family in the face of the pandemic.

Indeed, as measures were put in place by Governments around the world to curtail the spread of the virus, there was a sharp increase in cases of Gender Based Violence and femicide including in domestic situations. Were and girls found themselves forced to stay home with their abusers. Pre-existing gender inequalities and power hierarchies are often exacerbated by variables such as the attendant economic stressors leading to increased tension in the home front. Quarantine measures, thus exposed women to increased coercion, sexual abuse, and exploitation. Our actions must be directed towards bring this scourge to an end.

Excellencies, ladies and Gentlemen,

One of the key drivers of progress with implementing the Women Peace and Security Agenda is the inclusion and meaningful participation of women in formal peace processes. Women leadership must be enhanced as a central component of responses to the pandemic.

In this perspective, African Women Ministers of Foreign Affairs, International relations and cooperation met on 7 May 2020, under the leadership of yourself Honorable Minister and Honorable Ambassador Raychelle Omamo, Cabinet Secretary of Kenya for Foreign Affairs. Your meeting issued a comprehensive and action-oriented communique.  We look forward to your stewardship to bring forward the outcomes to the highest levels of continental decision-making and make them part and parcel of the AU strategy in fighting the pandemic and laying out the post COVID integrated response.

In the same vein to ensure that women play their due role and leadership in building peace on the continent, African women leaders have come together to support women of Mali in their initiatives to contribute to peaceful and long-lasting solutions to the ongoing crisis.  We held a virtual solidarity gathering yesterday with the participation of prominent African Women leaders, including HE Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Former President of Liberia and AWLN Patron and Mme Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary General to listen to their road map and define together avenues to support their actions. This is a testimony that COVID-19 does and should not stop the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.

Indeed, we must continue our combined efforts to enhance delivery through instruments and machineries at national and continental levels. I am happy to report that African countries continue to develop National Action Plans for the implementation of the WPS Agenda and we have now 30 countries, making Africa the largest block with frameworks in place to enhance accountability on the continent. 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

A critical concern we have in many countries is in the increasing scarcity of resources to invest in the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. Many nations have struggled to keep up with the growing challenges of the pandemic as critical resources have been channeled into fighting the pandemic with declining income in these countries. For example, we have seen reduced healthcare investment for women who do not have the virus but must suffer because they cannot access the basic health care services they need. The pandemic has made it harder for victims of sexual and gender-based violence to be screened by healthcare workers and has disrupted referral pathways to accessing heath care. Much more than ever, I believe a fundamental responsibility with driving accountability is ensuring that we are clear about the linkages to social outcome. From a human security standpoint, we must therefore champion the message that security is all encompassing and mobilize action to respond to this.

In addition, I believe first responders as well as Civil Society Organizations who are often very well connected to communities where support is most needed, are now required to work within a different context, with much more limited resources and attention. We may therefore explore opportunities to provide further capacity and support to these CSOs. States and Non State Actors such as the African Women Leaders Network (AWLN) now has a responsibility to consider further supporting women CSOs working to drive peace processes. 

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize the need to ‘build back better’ from COVID-19. While recognizing the effect of the pandemic, it is also important to recognize that the pandemic as well as the opportunity presented for reflection by the 20th Anniversary of Resolution 1325 gives us an opportunity to improve our systems and structures. Our transition towards the future should therefore be better – that is, be more responsive, more inclusive, and more contextual – than prior to the pandemic. This is our charge at the African Union Commission, and this is my plea to all of us present here today.

I will once again like to thank the Honorable Minister for the invitation to engage with all of us here today. I also will like to thank the team that has worked tirelessly to put this forum together this year.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.