NICOLA Sturgeon has announced a new Scottish Government funding initiative to help train more than 200 women from countries affected by war as peacekeepers.

The four-year, £1.2 million funding commitment will bring together a team of female activists for training in mediation and negotiation skills, in an effort to “build sustainable peace” in war-torn countries.

The First Minister announced the package during a speech to the United Nations in New York last night.

Sturgeon spoke of the importance of human rights and mediation as a way of preventing conflict, and lent her support to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s call for more female representation in the United Nations.

Speaking ahead of the event, she said: “Gender equality and a commit- ment to peace are fundamentally shared values across the countries that make up the United Nations, and I am committed to making sure Scotland does all it can to participate in this.

“Our recent funding for the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board has helped support a crucial strand of the ongoing Syrian peace process by ensuring that the voices of women are heard and I am grateful for the continued support the UN Special Envoy to Syria has given to this work.

“That is why we widened this programme to include women from other conflict zones in the region in the last year. Given the success of the programme I am delighted to announce additional funding to extend it further for women in various conflict zones around the world.

“Ultimately, I hope it can play some part in delivering a fair and lasting peace settlement for both Syria and other areas of conflict around the world – a settlement which is shaped by women as well as men.”

The UN Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, added: “Women’s leadership and participation in conflict resolution are critical for sustainable solutions. The engagement of women in shaping the future of Syria is more important now than ever before.

“I am highly appreciative of the support that the First Minister and Scottish Government have given to work of the Women’s Advisory Board in particular, and welcome her ongoing efforts to help to promote Security Council Resolution 1325 and the role of women in peace- making more generally.”

Though her visit was clearly overshadowed by the emergency meeting of the UN security council to discuss the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the First Minister used her trip to meet Matthew Rycroft, head of UK mission to the UN, and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the body’s Under-Secretary-General and executive director of UN Women.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government also revealed details of a £1m emergency fund to help people in developing countries facing human- itarian crisis. An expert panel made up of between eight and 10 leading humanitarian aid organisations in Scotland will be created to decide on which emergencies to respond to and how much to be allocated.

International Development Minister Alasdair Allan, said: “The Scottish Government will do all we can to respond to humanitarian challenges and help the world’s most vulnerable people in their hour of need.”

Saleh Saeed from the DEC said: “With 16 million people on the brink of starvation, the current crisis in East Africa highlights just how vital it is to allocate funds quickly when disaster strikes.”