A U.N. report concludes that women suffer disproportionately from war, but are largely excluded from efforts to resolve conflicts. Senior officials say the exclusion of women extends to the highest levels of U.N. decision-making.

U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour says women are invariably left out of formal decision-making processes and peace talks. Ms. Arbour called for the Security Council to take the lead in ensuring that women have equal access to justice.

"I urge the Council to ensure that all future mechanisms for transitional justice created by the Council build on existing norms and standards and include judges and advisers with legal expertise on women's rights; ensure that prosecutors respect the interests and personal circumstances of women and girl victims and witnesses; and take into account the special nature of gender-based crimes," she said.

The U.N. report details progress made since 2000, when the Security Council adopted a resolution calling for women's equal participation in peace and security matters. The document details recent incidents of gender-based violence in several countries, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast and in the Darfur region of Sudan.

But the director of U.N. peacekeeping operations, Jean Marie Guehenno, told the Council gender bias reaches all the way to the world body's top jobs.

"At the highest level of decision-making in peace support operations, there are only two female Special Representatives of the Secretary-General, out of a total of 27," she said.

He said the report recommends a substantial increase in the number of women in senior U.N. positions.

Mr. Guehenno also noted allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by U.N. humanitarian and peacekeeping personnel. The report submitted to the Security Council refers to 70 allegations of sexual exploitation by U.N. peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

At the same time, the report called peacekeeping the area where the most significant progress has been made in gender equality. He noted a five-fold increase in the number of gender advisers in peacekeeping missions in the past four years.