The General Debate of the 67th session of the General Assembly was held on 25 September – 1 October 2012. During the week-long General Debate, the General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon, the President of the General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic, and representatives from 193 member states put forth their concerns, positions and priorities to the Assembly under the theme of “Adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations by peaceful means”.
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 a total of 194 analyzed statements, 58 contained general comments on women and gender issues. A majority of them, such as India, Belgium and Papua New Guinea, mentioned their commitment to advance gender equality and promoting women’s political and economical participation, both nationally and within the UN agencies. A general tendency in the statements was that women were referred to in a context where the needs and rights of vulnerable groups in the society were addressed, such as people with disabilities, elderly, youth, children, refugees and minorities. Repeating patterns of previous years, statements tended to depict women as mere victims in need of greater protection and failed to address their important role as agents for peace and security.
Only 26 speakers, among them Croatia, Uganda and Tunisia, made specific and substantial references to women, peace and security. That includes the need to protect women from gender-based and sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict countries, as well as supporting women’s full participation in peace-processes and peacekeeping missions, among other relevant themes. Estonia, Austria and Montenegro explicitly mentioned the Security Council Resolution 1325 and expressed commitment to its full implementation. Trinidad and Tobago was the only member-state that spoke of women in the context of arms trade, disarmament and non-proliferation. This by referring to a high-level panel they hosted on the topic a week before. The speaker stated that: “The highlight of the discussion was the signing of a joint statement by the Government Representatives to promote the equitable representation of women in all decision making on these matters”, and urged other member-states to support it. Four statements referred to sexualized violence in conflicts, such as The Netherlands and the Republic of Korea.
It should also be pointed out that the number of female speakers during the general debate was diminishingly low. Out of 199 statements, 15 were delivered by female representatives (Barbados, Grenada, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Jamaica, Bangladesh, Thailand, Liberia, Gambia, Australia, Malawi, Brazil, Lithuania, Switzerland, Argentina). Ten of them referred to women or gender issues in general terms, and three specifically spoke about women in the context of peace and security.