Statement by United Nations Deputy Special Representative Alice Walpole, Baghdad Regional Forum for Development of Institutional Mechanisms for the Advancement of Women

25 August 2019

Your Excellences,
Distinguished participants,
Esteemed colleagues,

I am honoured to be speaking at the opening of this Forum for the Advancement of Women. And I am delighted to see Iraqi women and Iraqi institutions and organisations at the centre of this exciting initiative, striving not just for women’s equality and advancement in their own country, but reaching out to their counterparts, colleagues and friends across the region to share experiences, build solidarity and work together towards important goals of inclusivity and equality.


The establishment of national machineries for the advancement of women as policy-coordinating mechanisms within governments is one of the 12 critical areas of concern outlined in the Beijing Platform for Action agreed upon by governments, the international community and civil society at the World Conference on Women held in September 1995 in Beijing. I welcome this conference today as a valuable step towards strengthening commitment to these national mechanisms.

We are seeing women mobilise across the Middle East to strive for access to civil and political rights, and though the circumstances, challenges and opportunities are different in each country, there are many inspiring ways in which we can learn from one another and enhance our individual efforts. Let us use this opportunity to listen to one another, sharing our experience and advice for promoting and defining women’s rights in spite of the many problems facing us, from armed conflict to political instability to prejudicial and obstructive social structures.

As we all know, a key instrument in securing the role of women in decision-making processes on peace and security is United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325. Let me assure you that for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq – which happens to be the UN’s first (and so far only) mission with a wholly female leadership - the full implementation of this resolution remains one of our highest priorities. To its credit, the Government of Iraq was the first country in the Middle East and North African region to launch a National Plan of Action on Resolution 1325, in April 2014. I welcome this demonstration of commitment by the Government of Iraq and its national team to the role of women in peace and security. But this commitment needs to translate into concrete action. I look forward to the publication later this year of the second National Action Plan, building on lessons learnt from earlier efforts. UNAMI stands ready to support the national team and its partners in rolling out the new Plan.

Much remains to be done in Iraq to promote a meaningful, fair and robust representation of women in political and decision-making processes at all levels, and particularly to ensure that talented, experienced, qualified women gain access to leadership positions, whether in parliament, local government, the judiciary, the civil service, diplomacy, academia, business or civil society. Iraq, at this critical moment of its post-conflict development, simply cannot afford to ignore the energy and expertise of half its population. Women play an important role as agents of change: Iraq must maximize their potential as key partners in the reconciliation and restoration of Iraq’s social fabric.

This is a message that UNAMI is highlighting in the context of the forthcoming Iraqi provincial council elections. We are encouraging women fully to participate in the democratic process, both by stepping forward as candidates and by exercising their right as voters. It is vital that future provincial councils include qualified female members who can contribute to the political agenda during this period of transition.

It is with this aim of supporting the contribution of women to Iraqi public life that UNAMI launched a Women’s Advisory Group on Reconciliation and Politics in January this year. This group comprises 20 prominent Iraqi human rights defenders, former politicians, media experts and civil society activists from various backgrounds and regions, selected according to their individual skills and experience. Their objective is to advance women’s participation in political and social structures, by advising UNAMI on implementing aspects of our mandate related to women, peace and security and by establishing a dialogue with senior Iraqi decision-makers on women’s contribution to Iraq’s development.

In June, the Women’s Advisory Group held discussions with UNAMI and other UN entities to update us on its work towards these goals. They reminded us of the shocking failure to include even one single female minister in the current Iraqi government. They underlined the many problems faced by marginalised groups of women in this country, such as the internally displaced. These discussions vividly showed there remains a long way to go to implement Resolution 1325 here in Iraq. The Group has since expanded its advocacy work to include legislative reforms and (fitting with the focus of this conference) establishment of a national machinery on the advancement of women. I encourage the Iraqi leadership and other partners to collaborate with the Group’s members to advance the women, peace and security agenda.

More broadly, looking across the wider Middle East region, I believe it is vital that we build and expand institutional mechanisms, national and regional, to tackle all these challenges, so that women move forward in an effective and coordinated way. Let us learn the lessons of the past, let us use our mutual institutional and professional knowledge and expertise to work together and make some real progress. I wish you a stimulating and productive Forum.

Thank you.

Additional Info

  • Agency: UNAMI
Last modified on Monday, 26 August 2019 10:06

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