Top UN officials on Monday highlighted the invaluable role of women's organisations and civil society groups in preventing violence and resolving conflicts globally.
Speaking at a debate of the Security Council on women,peace and security, they said the contributions of women are vital to building a peaceful world and must be further supported.
The debate was originally scheduled for late October but was postponed due to Hurricane Sandy.
It was to mark the 12th anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325, which called for the engagement of women in conflict resolution and peace building.
The Council issued a presidential statement on the issue, in which it called on the international community to give women civil society organisations a prominent role in the negotiation, planning and implementation of peace processes and post-conflict development programmes.
In his annual report on women, peace and security, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted measures that have improved
coordination and accountability and highlighted a growing number of inspiring examples of women, peace and security in action.
He noted that in countries such as Kyrgyzstan, Timor-Leste, Haiti, South Sudan, Liberia, Nepal and many others, women are
leading innovative approaches to prevent conflict and violence and in peace initiatives in their communities.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson in his remarks on behalf of Ban, added that the role of women's organisations across the world in preventing violence, resolving conflict and building the foundations for peace was well known.
"Our challenge is to become more systematic in supporting and scaling up these initiatives and making the necessary links to
formal peace processes," he said.
Also highlighting the case of Mali, Eliasson noted the fact that the rights of women and girls are being curtailed in the northern
part of the country, noting that this shows how armed conflict affects women and men differently.
"This means that women have to be part of the solution. Engaging women and promoting gender equality as part of our work for peace and security is a daily responsibility and an unfinished mission for all of us.
"It is time for us to finally recognise the role and power of women to help us build a peaceful world," he added.
"We need to ensure that women have opportunities to play their full role in peace and security," the Executive Director of the UN
Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), Michelle Bachelet said at the debate.
She noted that wherever there is conflict, whether in Mali, Syria, the Middle East, or the eastern Democratic Republic of the
Congo (DRC), "women must be part of the solution".
"In spite of their absence from official conflict resolution processes, women leaders in the North are using informal channels to
call on the leaders of armed groups to participate in peace dialogues," Bachelet noted.
"Just two weeks ago nearly 1,000 women leaders and members of civil society groups gathered in Bamako and delivered a
common call for peace, expressing solidarity across ethnic and other divisions and recommended specific measures to
protect women's rights and prevent violence against women and children."
She, however, called on world leaders to provide determined leadership, dedicated resources and direct opportunities to enable women to contribute to the maintenance of peace and security.
The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous, said that UN peacekeeping missions have brought about important progress in some areas, notably women's political participation at local and national levels.
According to him, in other areas, including the protection of women activists, more can be achieved.
He described how, a week ago, some 5,000 women flooded the main commercial avenue in Kinshasa, DRC's capital, to protest the fall of the provincial city of Goma to the 23 March Movement (M23) rebel group.
"However, women have not been given any political leverage in the regional negotiations aimed at bringing peace to the embattled eastern part of the country," he added.
Ladsous emphasised that the key to removing the obstacles that impede women's full participation in conflict prevention and peace building was the active, and systematic consultation with local actors and leaders, including women's civil society organisations.
"This is the only way to develop effective, context-specific and gender-aware solutions." NAN