UNITED NATIONS -- Men must stop excluding women from peace talks around the world, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres said Wednesday (June 15).
The lack of female representation in such negotiations from Ukraine to Afghanistan, Myanmar and Mali shows "how enduring power imbalances and patriarchy are continuing to fail us", he said.
It results in "men in power and women excluded, their rights and freedoms deliberately targeted", he told a special meeting of the UN Security Council in New York.
Women's "right to equal participation at all levels, is essential for building and maintaining peace", said Guterres.
He noted that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has forced millions of women and children to flee the country, "putting them at high risk of trafficking and exploitation of all kinds".
Women 'essential for resolving conflicts'
"Women who chose not to evacuate are at the forefront of healthcare and social support," said Guterres.
Their perspectives are therefore "critical to understanding conflict dynamics", and make their participation "essential for resolving conflicts".
In many areas, men in power have actively worked to exclude women, said Guterres, citing for example Afghanistan, where "nearly 20 million Afghan women and girls are being silenced and erased from sight".
In Myanmar, "women cannot express themselves openly and have no route to political participation," he said.
Successive military coups have also resulted in women "becoming poorer and more marginalised" in Mali, where "extremists pose an even greater threat", he said.
Guterres was unequivocal about the impact of what he termed "the recent shift away from inclusive politics", saying it "shows once again that misogyny and authoritarianism are mutually reinforcing".
In separate remarks Wednesday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who visited Afghanistan in March, described meeting Afghan women continuing to demand their rights despite "unimaginable challenges".
"Their situation is critical," she said.
This is of serious concern in a country facing dire intersecting humanitarian and economic crises, with 93% of households facing high levels of food insecurity.
Afghanistan cannot meet the long line of towering challenges it faces without giving women a voice, Bachelet said.
"The path out of crisis for the people of Afghanistan cannot be paved with the efforts of a few," she insisted.
"To move Afghan society towards peace, the representation of all Afghans in policy and decision-making processes will be crucial," she said.
"This includes listening to the voices of women and girls."