Peace is a prerequisite for health, equality and human security. Our ability to live dignified, fulfilling lives depends on acting without fear, in mutual respect and co-existence. Today, as we mark International Day of Peace, some 2 billion people are living in areas affected by armed conflict. They struggle to survive through forced displacement, and collapsed economies and infrastructure. Profound, systemic inequality breeds tensions that can ignite different forms of conflict. In many regions of the world, the impacts of climate change are exacerbating conditions that threaten peace and security. And the devastating social and economic consequences of COVID-19 have coupled with discriminatory gender norms and unequal power dynamics to feed insecurity and fragility.
Today, UN Women calls on all warring parties to put down their guns and heed the UN Secretary-General's call for a global ceasefire. We can stop this deadly virus from adding yet another layer of tragedy and we can cease the myriad aggressions that keep all people from living in peace.
Women's peace power is vital for our world's security
Actions for peace and security must extend to many fronts. On a daily basis, we see attacks on women human rights defenders, stigmatization, xenophobia and a rise in all forms of violence against women and girls. The historic advances and disruption of patriarchal power achieved by women's movements in the 25 years since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action have met sustained backlash.
The current pandemic reminds us how connected we are, and highlights the need to recognize and respect one another's humanity. Women have been at the core of the COVID response, both within their homes as caretakers and in all facets of health services. This is no different in conflict zones where health provision tends to be politicized and women's groups - often key actors working to prevent conflict - are trusted sources of information and care. It is women, embedded within communities, who are also preventing the spread of the virus.
Women have historically played an important role in the quest for peace. The women, peace and security agenda, which marks its 20th anniversary in this year of crisis, provides a framework for sustainable peace. The evidence is clear: having women at the peace table generates greater buy-in and strengthens accountability for implementation. Women's participation also makes peace more durable because, with their input, agreements go beyond the realm of power to the realities of people.
UN Women stands with all the women, including young women, around the world upholding peace: from the mothers holding vigil for the disappeared, to the women marching against police brutality; from the women in refugee camps navigating a complex gender landscape, to those negotiating ceasefires all over the world. We salute the women of Afghanistan, who struggle to preserve their hard-gained rights and seek a seat at the peace table to determine their country's future. We stand with the more than 100 women's organizations throughout Iraq, Libya, Palestine, Syria and Yemen urgently calling for a COVID-19 truce, and contributing to long-term peace.
The future of our countries and communities belongs to all people. By crafting a COVID-19 response that is truly inclusive and rooted in the power of women-led peace, we have a transformative opportunity to build back better, into a more peaceful, sustainable and equitable world.