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From conflict and crisis to renewal: generations of change

New UNFPA Report Links Peace, Security and Development to Women’s Rights and Empowerment

Yangon, Myanmar - The Launching Ceremony of The State of World Population 2010 Report was organized by UNFPA today at the Sedona Hotel, Yangon. The ceremony was attended by more than 60 participants consisting of representatives from embassies, donor agencies, UN agencies, government departments, NGOs/INGOs, and civil societies.

When women have access to the same rights and opportunities as men, they are more resilient to conflict and disaster and can lead reconstruction and renewal efforts in their societies, according to The State of World Population 2010, published by UNFPA.

The report’s release coincides with the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council’s landmark resolution 1325, which aimed to put a stop to sexual violence against women and girls in armed conflict and to encourage greater participation by women in peace building initiatives.

“When women and girls suffer deep discrimination, they are more vulnerable to the worst effects of disaster or war, including rape, and less likely to contribute to peace building, which threatens long-term recovery,” said UNFPA’s Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid at the launch of the report.

Through the stories of individuals affected by conflict or catastrophe in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Liberia, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Timor-Leste and Uganda, the report shows how communities and civil society are healing old wounds and moving forward. However, more still needs to be done to ensure that women have access to services and have a voice in peace deals or reconstruction plans.

Security Council resolutions guide the international community’s response to conflict and establish the framework for actions to protect women and assure their participation in peace building and reconciliation, “but they are not a substitute for grass-roots efforts to empower women and to build long-term resilience to crises of any sort,” Ms. Obaid wrote in the foreword to the report.

“Governments need to seize opportunities arising out of post-conflict recovery or emerging from natural disasters to increase the chances that countries are not just rebuilt, but built back better and renewed, with women and men on equal footing, with rights and opportunities for all and a foundation for development and security in the long run,” the report argues.

While conflict and disaster can worsen inequalities between men and women, Ms. Obaid said, “Recovery from conflict and disaster also presents a unique opportunity—an opportunity to rectify inequalities, ensure equal protection under the law, and create space for positive change.”

At the launching ceremony, Mr. Mohamed Abdel-Ahad, UNFPA Representative for Myanmar highlighted the key points of the report, and Daw Pansy Tun Thein, Assistant Representative, UNFPA, U Aung Tun Khaing, Deputy Director General, Department of Social Welfare and Daw Kathy Shein, Country Director, FXB shared the reflections of Myanmar experience. The panel discussion after the presentations was facilitated by Prof. Aung Tun Thet, Senior Advisor to UNRC/HC.


Mr. Abdel-Ahad, stated how conflicts/crises and natural disasters could make women and girls, men and boys more vulnerable and how survivors of conflict face challenges in coping with new realities in terms of changes in gender roles, new power relations within families, changes in village economies and traditional culture.

He highlighted the main messages of the report stating that while women rarely wage a war, they bear the brunt of its consequences and women’s participation in peace-keeping is a pre-requisite to its success. The other key messages shed light on women’s resilience to conflict and disaster situations in the presence of equal rights and opportunities, the need for rebuilding societies through empowerment of women, the young and the elderly, and the importance of redefining roles between women and men, boys and girls in ending discrimination as well as in the process of reconstruction, peace building and recovery.

He went on to describe the impact of conflict /crisis on generations and gender roles, and the response made by UN organizations, governments, civil society and grass root organizations to alleviate the suffering and facilitate transition to long-term development. Lessons learned indicate that GBV does not occur in a vacuum, but it is a symptom of a larger problem and that war and disaster do not cause GBV but exacerbate it and allow it to strike with greater frequency. In conclusion, noting that women and girls still suffer GVB including systematic sexual attacks in and around armed conflicts while perpetrators of war crimes still go unpunished, Mr. Abdel-Ahad emphasized the need to implement Resolution 1325 in order to end brutal attacks against women and girls during and after conflict, to put the right laws in place to bring offenders to justice, and to engage more women in peace processes.


Daw Pansy Tun Thein, shared the findings of two assessments undertaken on the impact of Cyclone Nargis on women, including women protection issues. The findings highlighted the plight of women and female-headed households in the aftermath of Nargis and emphasized the need for awareness-raising on protection issues. Based on these findings, recommendations were made to integrate women’s protection concerns and a gender perspective into emergency preparedness and response planning, and expand and integrate gender-specific information in order to address women’s protection needs. She finally explained briefly about some of the interventions made after the cyclone.


Response to Cyclone Nargis by civil societies, grass-root organizations and communities was shared by Daw Kathy Shein while U Aung Tun Khaing explained about the National Plan of Action for Advancement of Women and the National Plan of Action for Protection of Women.


During the plenary discussion, participants actively discussed the past experiences of Nargis as well as the current status of Rapid Response Team activities after Cyclone Giri, the issues of women empowerment, the need for evidence-based research and information on gender issues, the importance of sex disaggregated and gender sensitive data, and ensuring consistency of data. Participants also highlighted the need for sustainability of interventions to promote women’s livelihood and stressed the need to focus on the result or change rather than on activities to bring about the change. Emphasis was also placed on the Millennium Declaration in achieving the MDGs. Participants were called upon to rally around the Plans of Action and contribute towards implementing them. While there has been some achievement, it was acknowledged that a lot more needs to be done in terms of enacting laws on sexual harassment, domestic violence and enforcing law on sexual violence, and breaking the poverty cycle which exacerbate gender based violence and other gender inequalities.

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Mohamed Abdel-Ahad, UNFPA Representative at

Daw Pansy Tun Thein, Assistant Representative, UNFPA at