Speech by UN Women Chief of Peace and Security Unit, Paivi Kannisto at High-Level International Conference on "Countering Terrorism and Preventing Violent Extremism"

Remarks delivered by UN Women Chief of Peace and Security Unit, Paivi Kannisto at High-Level International Conference on "Countering Terrorism and Preventing Violent Extremism", seeking to raise awareness on the added value of applying a gender responsive approach to the prevention of violent extremism. The high-level international conference took place on 5 May in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Date: Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Thank you to the Government of Tajikistan and Minister Aslov for the invitation. Thank you to OSCE, EU and our UN colleagues for including UN Women in this meeting.

It is a specific honour to be in Tajikistan to be talking about the topic of gender and preventing violent extremism. Tajikistan is the first country where a gender specialist, a UN Women expert, participated in the CTED mission. Tajikistan also has a national action plan on prevention of violent extremism with good focus on women and PVE and gender equality. This is actually still quite exceptional.

In 2015 the UN Security Council in resolution 2015 requested that Member States and the UN integrate the women, peace and security and counter terrorism agendas. Thus, linking these two issues is still a reasonably new issue.

I wanted to highlight some challenges and then also describe what kind of gender approaches can be taken.

One challenge is the availability of data, research and understanding on gender and violent extremism or terrorism.

UN Women has approached this issue by a partnership with the Justice Rapid Response where we have provided every single UN Human Rights Commission of Inquiry with a gender investigator. The investigators are vetted and specially trained to look at gender related crimes. There was also an investigation related to Daesh occupied areas. Investigators met with victims, first respondents, people coming out of the occupied areas, people who visited these areas. They found out that women and girls, especially Yazidis, were used as wives and ‘prizes’ for fighters. They were sold in slave markets. This kind of information would not be available without specifically investing it. Further analysis of this information was shared in SG’s report on sexual violence in conflict, indicating that women and girls were not only used to lure and recruit fighters but the slave trade was also direct funding to Daesh activities – it was used to finance terrorism.

UN Women has also done a research on Central Asia. There are specific reports on the roles of women as victims, perpetrators, preventors of violent extremism especially in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The reports are available on UN Women’s website. UN Women has also on-going projects in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan that involve gender and PVE.

Our offices in the MENA region have also collected information that indicates that during the last year of the Daesh occupation, over 30 percent of those foreign fighters who joined Daesh were women. Why did they join? Daesh promised them a possibility to own land and property, to work and get salary for it. Something that the societies where these women came from could not guarantee to them. We have learned about similar approaches implemented by many violent extremist organisations, including Boko Haram and Al Shabaab.

Violent extremist groups are very skillfully utilizing and benefitting from existing gender inequalities in societies. The big problem is that us who are preventing, countering and responding to violent extremism are not as aware of gender equalities and inequalities.

Another challenge is that there are no platforms were women can share and get information and awareness on violent extremists.

UN women works a lot with women’s groups and organisations, with women’s civil society. Our colleagues from different countries share information that women are asking for opportunities to share information that worries them and they would like to tell about it to someone. Women have tried to approach the government or security sector to share information that their sons are stashing weapons under their beds, and that women are worried about this and don’t know where these weapons are coming from. But they did not get an audience from anyone in the government services.

We heard for example from CTED’s Michele Coninsx how ISIS is becoming less centrally coordinated and more geared towards attacks planned and implemented by individuals. This kind of threat will need a response that is more relying on individual and local solutions. It would very much benefit from women’s participation and contributions.

Women should be part of planning, leading and implementing national and regional strategies and action plans on preventing violent extremism. And they should be planned in such a way that they are inclusive, and allow inclusivity when in operation. Furthermore, women’s rights and their safety need to protected in all this collaboration.

Another challenge is that there are very few women in the security sector. For example among border guards there are not many women. Boko Haram has noticed this – they have started to use women and girls as suicide bombers – one of the reasons being because they can pass security checks without specific inspections – as there are no women available to do those checks. There are very few women in the military, and not enough in the police. UN peacekeeping only has 4% of women in the military side. UN Women works with its partners, specially the UN including DPKO to address this issue. But it needs more attention.

We have also heard a lot about youth and prevention of violent extremism, and this is a very good and welcome approach. We would like to highlight that the young include both young women and young men and they both need to be taken into account and involved in planning and implementation and need focused partnerships.

I would like to summarize at the recommendations for women and preventing violent extremism:

  1. Invest in availability of data, information, research and analysis on women and violent extremism.
  1. Ensure women’s participation in developing, planning, implementing and deciding on national and regional and international strategies and plans on preventing violent extremism. This includes planning of economic and other empowerment programmes to build resilience against violent extremism as President Rahmon also in his opening statement so well elaborated.
  1. Ensure women have information and are aware of threats by violent extremism.
  1. Protect and respect women’s human rights when preventing and countering violent extremism and terrorism.

I would like to end by reiterating how pleased we are that Tajikistan has been a pioneer in including gender targets in their planning and we have very high expectations how all this gender responsive and responsible approach will be implemented and realized in Tajikistan as the world needs role models in this. We are looking forward to future collaboration with everyone.

Thank you.