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#UNGA71 Wrap-Up: One Year After The Adoption Of The SDGS

12 October 2016

Just a couple of weeks ago, WILPF monitored the UN General Assembly’s 71st Session General Debate, this year under the theme ‘The Sustainable Development Goals: A Universal Push to Transform Our World.’

One of the best statements to come out of the event was by the outgoing UN Secretary General: “I am proud to call myself a feminist. Women hold up half the sky and are essential to meeting all our goals,” said Ban Ki-Moon at the very beginning of the debate.

WILPF welcomes this affirmation of the need for feminist action and calls for action to move forward a feminist peace agenda.

Our quick take-away is that there is certainly much work that needs to be done to build adequate political will and commitment to gender equality and holistic understanding and implementation of the commitments on peace, disarmament, and gender equality.

General overview

The General Assembly General Debate provided an opportunity to evaluate progress one year on from adoption of the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals within the context of other milestones including the three 2015 peace and security reviews. Spotlighting examples of persistent inequality around the globe and highlighting failures to move the Sustainable Development Agenda forward, world leaders participating in the general debate nevertheless expressed optimism that efforts to promote equitable growth, peace and prosperity would prevail. The speakers focused on the promotion and protection of human rights and the urgent need for concerted efforts to resolve conflicts and eradicate terrorism.

Other important topics included climate change, situations in the Middle East and Africa and in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and the conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, and Gaza. A considerable number of leaders also acknowledged the close link between peace and sustainable development and invited all stakeholders to create a variety of partnership to move the post-2015 agenda forward.

Where did we find gender?

Out of a total of one hundred and seven (197) statements, one hundred and nine (109) statements (56 per cent) contained references to women and gender. Many of these were focused on gender equality and women’s rights since these issues are at the centre of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted just last year.

Specific gendered references were included only in thirty-seven (37) statements (18.88 percent). In this regard, the representative of Mali noted that “the employment of youth and women’s empowerment” is one of the best ways “to ensure the implementation of the seventeen (17) Sustainable Development Goals.”

Only a few speakers highlighted the need to ensure greater gender balance in all disarmament discussions. The representative of Guinea, for example, said that “substantial investments in empowerment for women and youth are all the more necessary in the face of the scourges of terrorism, extremism and intolerance, and the illicit traffic of arms and drugs.”

Where did we miss gender?

WILPF did not locate an in-depth discussion specifically aimed at the women, peace and security agenda. Even though some countries, including Sweden and Croatia, have highlighted the necessity of including women in peace processes, their voices were in the minority. The need to increase women’s participation for a stronger implementation of the SDGs also remained under-prioritised, especially in the context of stand-alone goals on gender equality (Goal 5) and peace (Goal 16).


Download the full WILPF UNGA71 Monitoring Report written by WILPF’s Women, Peace and Security programme, also known as PeaceWomen.

Get more WILPF analysis and highlights from the UNGA71 at PeaceWomen’s UNGA71 page.

Also you can read Reaching Critical Will’s Editorial: #UNGA71 First Committee on Disarmament.


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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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