Women at the United Nations
On 10 December 1948, at the initiative of Eleanor Roosevelt, the United Nations Charter was supplemented by the
“Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.
This was tantamount to a spiritual revolution. It was a woman who extended the formal-legal alliance between states with a previously unconsidered component: the appreciation of each individual human life.
With this, politicians and citizens were made aware that prosperity, freedom and peace can only be achieved if each individual is regarded as valuable and equal, regardless of nationality, colour, religion or gender.
Originally, the UN had been founded as an anti-war alliance against the Axis of the Second World War. Among the founders were Joseph Stalin and Chiang Kai-Shek who were, in addition to the monstrous atrocities committed by the war powers, responsible for the death of millions of their own people.
Most of the other leaders from Central and South America, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and United States were guilty of unimaginable cruelty towards the indigenous populations and religious minorities in the countries their armies had conquered.
Despite the ratification of the UN Charter, US President Harry Truman had no problem ordering the dropping of atomic bombs on innocent people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
It would be “begging the question” to ask whether the heads of the states of the United Nations at that time were willing and able to make a viable contribution to the welfare of the Jewish and Arab population for the future in Palestine, in the adoption of UN Resolution 181.
Subsequently, the fate of the people of Israel and Palestine was decided by the tactical, strategic interests of the great powers, who bear responsibility for the inevitable consequences of those decisions, to this day.
Eleanor Roosevelt, niece of Theodore and wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt, knew the mechanisms of power only too well. Her conviction has been summed up as that “men go into politics to pursue their own careers, while women enter politics to change society“. She therefore regarded it as an obligation for women to take an active part in all political decisions.
A mother of six children, she had recognized a fundamental contradiction between the needs of human beings and the norm of politics. This contradiction can be seen as the root of conflict.
Children from ‘warm-hearted families’ learn to treat each other with kindness and respect, to listen, obey, to share, to be honest, not to use violence and to seek success through achievement. As soon as they are old enough to go out on their own, they gain a perception that much of reality is determined by aggression, competition, greed, manipulation, self-deception and egomania. They get strongly influenced by the image of military prowess, including the unnatural concept that giving one’s life for a country is a blessed act.
Family values, the ‘feminine qualities’ of love and care, are often discarded or are interpreted as weakness. They may often be replaced by the ‘masculine logic’ that a strong leader is characterized by rationality and assertiveness. Few realize that strong leaders may have a tendency to megalomania.
In several respects the world has not advanced much from its condition in 1945. Today – 70 years after the founding of the United Nations – racism, land appropriation, arbitrariness, exploitation, the elimination of political opponents, warfare and a long list of atrocities committed by human beings are still the daily diet.
Unfortunately, the ‘Declaration of Human Rights’ – Resolution 217A – was adopted as non-binding, since respect for each individual life was diametrically opposed to the policies of the majority of heads of state of the 51 founding members of the United Nations.
Seventy years of unresolved status have also strengthened the militant wings among both Israelis and Palestinians who want to enforce, by all or any means, their own vision of borders.
For the moderate, gentle, peaceful citizens, hope of a respectful and sustainable peace agreement becomes more and more distant. Politicians use distrust and fear as a tool to gain support, and this, combined with the clear absence of international diplomatic presence, forces the polarization of societies, enhances mistrust and fear, and these in turn lead to violent action at both state and civil levels.
The United Nations Organization has, however, changed significantly in these 70 years. While there are still many states represented by leaders not unlike those of 1945, women and men at the UN have worked tirelessly to implement the aims of the Charter. Highly meaningful resolutions that the Security Council has adopted include: UNSCR 1325
This resolution affirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflict, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping and humanitarian response.
In post-conflict reconstruction (PCR), it stresses the importance of equal participation of women, and their full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.
Resolution 1325 urges all players to increase and welcome the participation of women, and incorporate gender perspectives into, all United Nations peace and security efforts.
It provides the women of Israel and Palestine with an instrument for actively shaping their own future. They need no longer wait for an external or foreign government to make a decision. They, who are immediately affected, can influence the political discourse, break open the cycle of fear and violence, and reach to the heart of their populace.
Eleanor Roosevelt broke a taboo when with the “Declaration of Human Rights” she held a mirror to the face of the politicians of their time, in which they could see the dishonesty and ugliness that are inevitable by-products of violence, militarism and nationalism.
The ‘13/25 women’ can now break the taboo by demanding and supporting policies of dialogue, trust-building, acknowledgement and reconciliation. The 1325 women can give a voice to the parents who want a life for their children in which the potential of each one can be realized peacefully, and the pursuit of love, wisdom and knowledge is recognized.
We and the 1325 women will support those politicians whose words are consistent with law and humanity.
We will demand a true, practical, generous and automatically lasting peace treaty and create the presence, the context, the situation to ensure that the necessary, definitive measures are implemented in the future.