Special Representative of UN Secretary General in Cyprus Elizabeth Spehar has expressed the hope that the leaders’ determination to achieve their shared goal of a comprehensive settlement, will lead to a successful outcome in Geneva.
Speaking during a Global Open Day Event on Women, Peace and Security in Cyprus at the Ledra Palace, Spehar said: “Today’s event is happening just weeks away from a critically important phase of the Cyprus talks that takes place in Geneva”.
She said if the talks continue to progress positively, an important and unprecedented opportunity for a gender-sensitive outcome, and to promote gender equality, will be presented: draft constitutions will need to be written, new institutions will be created and other elements will need to be prepared for a united Cyprus.
According to Spehar, the voices and needs of women should be reflected there.
“I am certain that many of you in this room would have much to contribute in this regard”, she said.
President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci decided to meet in Geneva on January 9. On January 11, they will present their respective maps. On the 12th a conference on Cyprus will be convened with the added participation of the guarantor powers, while other relevant parties will be invited as needed.
Spehar, who is also the Head of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (Unficyp), said that the tradition of Open Days dates back to 2010, in the lead up to the 10th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000).
“Open Days are intended to provide a platform for women to speak directly with senior UN officials at the country level, to share their experiences, concerns and priorities. The aim is for this dialogue to transform into concrete action, informing country-specific policies and programmes related to the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325,” Spehar said.
She also underlined that in 2015, the two leaders took the important step of establishing the bi-communal Technical Committee on Gender Equality, to ensure that gender was taken into account in the framework of the talks.
Spehar said that for decades, through organisations like Hands Across the Divide and many others, women have worked hand-in-hand to find space at the negotiating table, to build bridges and to cultivate a culture of peace on the island.
“Much work still needs to be done to mainstream gender within the Cyprus peace process. This is not a mere detail – it is about how a settlement deal will impact the lives of both women and men”, she said.
Spehar also referred to the work of UNFICYP in Cyprus, pointing out that the force had a woman as Force Commander, Major General Kristin Lund and that she also succeeded another woman in this position, her predecessor Lisa Buttenheim.
Spehar also said that the UN in Cyprus has a good number of women in their senior management, women contributing expertise to the work of the Special Adviser in the Good Offices, as well as within our police and military.
“Moreover, we continue to urge our troop and police contributing countries to include more women in their contingents, and are working to bring in a gender adviser who can further help us to mainstream gender issues within our work and hopefully also provide you with more support”, she added.
She said it was not just about the numbers of women in the UN`s ranks or their positions but also about how they take both women’s and men’s needs and concerns fully into account in any peace operation.
Keynote speaker at the event was Clare Hutchinson, Gender Adviser for the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
Hutchnson also participated in Unficyp’s Open Day in 2012.
In her address she said that the voice of the women was very important and needs to be heard and taken into consideration, adding that in Cyprus, their voice must be reflected on the solution as well.
“Women`s voices are critical to every process, we need a platform for women, in order to present their perspectives and share practical recommendations”, she added.
Sophia Papastavrou from World Vision International, presented the conclusions of a seminar organised last November on Sustainable Peace Building. She said that women should be present in Cyprus peace process, adding that when women are involved it is more likely that peace will be implemented and sustained.
She referred to the role of education saying that we need to create ambassadors at schools and implement a pilot program to this end. Most important thing, she added, is to raise awareness, bring together society, local authorities, grassroots groups etc.
Magda Zenon from Women`s Lobby said that it is high time we make the voices of women heard adding that our motto should not be “Where are the Women” but “Here are the Women”. She said that women should be involved in the peace process and the implementation of the solution because they are an active part of our society.