Opening Remarks by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus and UNFICYP Head of Mission Ms. Elizabeth Spehar Global Open Day on Women, Peace and Security in Cyprus 16 December 2016

19 Dec 2016

Opening Remarks by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus and UNFICYP Head of Mission Ms. Elizabeth Spehar Global Open Day on Women, Peace and Security in Cyprus 16 December 2016

Excellencies, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to UNFICYP’s Global Open Day on Women, Peace and Security in Cyprus. We are encouraged that you continue to actively participate in and contribute to UNFICYP events, including those concerning the fundamental issue of gender. We value this partnership as we continue to strive to promote peace-building efforts on the island.

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.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It has taken years of hard work and advocacy, but the critical role of women in the peace and security agenda is now recognised widely. In October of last year, on the fifteenth anniversary of 1325, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2242 (2015), which once again underlined the substantial link between women’s meaningful involvement in efforts to prevent, resolve and rebuild from conflict and those efforts’ effectiveness and long-term sustainability.

This agenda is extremely relevant to the Cyprus context today. In 2015, the Greek Cypriot leader, Mr. Nicos Anastasiades, and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr. Mustafa Akinci, took the important step of establishing the bi-communal Technical Committee on Gender Equality, members of whom are in the audience today, to ensure that gender was taken into account in the framework of the talks.  

Here with us today is also a diverse group of civil society representatives, who have done tremendous work toward raising the profile of gender equality issues as well as promoting peace in Cyprus. In fact, for decades, through organisations like Hands Across the Divide and many others, they 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.

Yet, despite all of these efforts, considerations related to Resolution 1325 - - to women, peace and security - - have largely remained at the margins. 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.

Today’s event is happening just weeks away from a critically important phase of the Cyprus talks that takes place in Geneva. I am hopeful that the leaders’ determination to achieve their shared goal of a comprehensive settlement will lead to a successful outcome. 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. 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.


Ladies and gentlemen,

Today’s Open Day in Cyprus is my first as Head of UNFICYP, where we have also come a long way toward gender equality and empowerment. This is a long-standing Mission, and I was recently reminded of a time dating back to the 1960s, when the role of women was somewhat different: the Mission used to hold a ‘Miss UNFICYP’ pageant and our in-house magazine, the Blue Beret, featured a section called “Les Girls of UNFICYP”. This stands in stark contrast to our two most recent issues of the Blue Beret, which have featured our recently departed Force Commander, Major General Kristin Lund, the first female Force Commander of a UN peacekeeping mission, and myself, who succeeded another woman in this position, my predecessor, Ms. Lisa Buttenheim. The UN in Cyprus also has a good number of women in our 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. The support of a gender adviser is important because of course, it is not just about the numbers of women in our ranks or their positions; it is about how we take both women’s and men’s needs and concerns fully into account in any peace operation.

I would conclude by noting that last month, I attended the Pathways towards Sustainable Peace Building Conference organised by various groups within civil society. Our panellists, who all played some role in that conference, have kindly agreed to present a few recommendations from the ‘White Book of Best Practice’, which was produced as a key outcome of this conference and which I am particularly keen to hear. I look forward to continue engaging with you all on the important work you are doing to boost women’s participation in peace and security matters and ensure that peace processes respond to all.

It is now my pleasure to invite our keynote speaker, Ms. Clare Hutchinson, Gender Adviser for the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations, to deliver her address. Clare brings with her a wealth of experience in promoting women’s participation in peace processes, both at the country level, having worked previously in Kosovo and Lebanon, as well as at the global level, based as she is at UNHQ. Clare also participated in UNFICYP’s Open Day in 2012, and is therefore no stranger to the Cypriot context. Welcome back to Cyprus, Clare – I have no doubt you will enjoy your engagement with our dynamic colleagues.

Thank you.