The General Debate of the 66th session of the General Assembly was held on 21–27 September 2011, under the theme of “Strengthening the role of mediation in the peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution”.
As part of WILPF’s engagement with the General Assembly, PeaceWomen and our sister program Reaching Critical Will worked together to monitor the debate for gender and disarmament issues.
Out of 196 speeches, a total of 89 speakers included references to gender or women in their statements. 107 speakers made no reference to gender, 16 speakers made general references to women and 73 made specific references to women, peace and security. The Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon as well as the President of the General Assembly of the 66th session, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser of Qatar, both made references to gender. The specific references included topics of the importance of political and economic participation, the role of women in peace negotiations and processes as well as the prevention of and protection from sexual and gender-based violence, among other relevant themes.
Noteworthy mentions included Brazil and Nigeria, which expressed their commitment to women’s empowerment and participation in politics, the need to include women in transitional stages through conflict. Liechtenstein stated: "Most importantly though, we must once and for all eradicate all instances of sexual abuse committed by peacekeepers themselves. It is not enough to simply repatriate blue helmet soldiers that have committed such crimes. "Zero tolerance" for sexual abuse must finally become a reality.” Ghana made the connection between gender stereotypes and gender inequality, as well as the need to address gender imbalances and improve the conditions of women and girls in order to address the other Millennium Development Goals. Papua New Guinea has taken concrete steps to increase women’s political participation and representation by reserving 22 parliamentary seats for women.