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European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response
Women, Peace and Security
Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED
European Parliament, Seminar on the EU and the UNSC Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security
Brussels, 14 April 2010
Dear Members of National and European Parliaments,
Dear UN Deputy High-Commissioner for Human Rights,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Why does the link between women, peace and security matter?
Today let me address the issue at the centre of our deliberations: women, peace and security and the UN Security Council Resolution 1325. This resolution is ten years old, but has been complemented by three resolutions since then, which focus mainly on the use of sexual violence in conflict situations. This is not only about what happened in Rwanda in 1994 (where half a million women were raped) or in the Balkans (60,000 rapes in the war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina). This is about the fact that 70 % of the casualties in recent conflicts have been non-combatants - most of them women and children. Women’s bodies have become part of the battleground for those who use terror as a tactic of war.
Women are increasingly victims of conflicts, but they are most often excluded from peace negotiations: a marginal role in Sudan North-South negotiations, not part of Darfur negotiations, just observers in Liberia. Yet, women can play a very positive role, as shown in Rwanda. After the genocide, women accounted for 70% of the population. Now 15 years later, when the ratio is 52% women to 48% men, women hold 56% of the lower House's seats, 30% of the Upper House's seats, and more than a third of the Ministries.
Because women are not given the space to be a creative force in peace solutions, Peace Nobel prizes have only been given to 12 women since 1901. In comparison, 85 men and 20 organisations have been awarded this prestigious prize.
Participation and empowerment
Yet, UNSCR 1325 is not only about the Protection of women in conflicts; it is also about inclusion and empowerment. In other words, UNSCR 1325's value is not to define women only through the protection lens, but it is about women empowerment through higher participation in the decision-making process.
The empowerment of women may seem an obvious vehicle of progress in our societies, but it is not yet a priority in many parts of the world.
First, for many established powers, participation of women would change the dynamic of a society. The leaders of these countries just see the negative side of a more vigorous internal debate, not realising that this is precisely one of the best tools to reduce conflicts with other nations.
Second, increasing the participation of women is about reinforcing accountability. When a society agrees to reinforce accountability mechanisms, including through higher female participation, it weakens impunity. Once impunity is weakened, conflicts can be dealt with in a different manner, and, more importantly, peace processes stand a better chance of being implemented.
Third, as more accountability brings more stability, a society is then better equipped for economic and political development. To sum it up, the link between women, peace and security goes far beyond the realisation of women’s human rights.
It is not a coincidence if Rwanda, which I just mentioned, has also one of the highest ratio, of women entrepreneurs in Africa (44%). This shows how empowerment of women is at the heart of the success of development.
Prevention and comprehensive approach
This takes me to my second point: we can only succeed through a comprehensive approach combining humanitarian, development, security and political actions. This is why the EU has developed a comprehensive strategy on women, peace and security, which complements national action plans and strategies of individual EU Member States.
This policy document, adopted in December 2008, recalls the role and obligations of a regional actor such as the EU in protecting women in conflict situations and in facilitating their pro-active role as peace-builders. It covers a range of EU actions from crisis management to long-term reconstruction. In short, we want to build more coherence between all policies related to women, peace and security. This is the way to address the root causes of this problem, so that women can be part of the solution.
Specific measures carried out by the EU involve
A) political support for UNSCRs 1325 and 1820 through political and human rights dialogues;
B) training and awareness-raising in the context of ESDP missions. This was not only the case in EUFOR Congo, but other missions in Chad and Kosovo also include gender officer and specialized program on human rights. This was reiterated in numerous policy documents (the latest being a Council report of November 2009);
C) exchange of information and best practices between the different actors involved.
D) Concrete support to other organizations such as the African Union, where exchange of gender experts, appointments of respective focal points and instructions manuals have shown that the EU and the AU can share their experiences in this field. This will be a point I will discuss during the EU-AU meeting next June in Addis Ababa.
We have an inter-institutional task force gathering officials from various services of the Commission, the Council Secretariat and the EU Member States to make this Comprehensive Approach work through regular coordination between EU actors, both at the Headquarters level as well as at the field level.
We have also been the most active supporter of the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which was the first treaty to expressly recognize this broad spectrum of sexual and gender-based violence as among the gravest breaches of international law. Today, almost half of all persons indicted by the ICC and other international tribunals are charged with rape or sexual assault, either as perpetrators or their superiors.
This, and other activities, are implemented in close coordination with the United Nations, and in particular with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). Still, we would like to see the rapid establishment of the "UN gender entity", which we hope will bring further support for the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security.
Let me now turn to the activities of my services, DG ECHO, in this field. We have systematically taken into account women's specific needs in humanitarian assistance through special attention in setting-up facilities and organising relief, and by making sure that personnel is properly trained in this regard. This is not only put in plain and clear words in the European consensus on humanitarian aid, but also translated into concrete projects in ongoing crisis (for instance Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo), protracted crisis (Occupied Palestinian Territory) or forgotten ones (Nepal, Colombia).
Along the road, DG ECHO has acquired some expertise. In order to consolidate this knowledge and to fill in gaps, my predecessor launched in 2008 a review on gender-based violence in humanitarian interventions and I intend to develop a policy document that should explain our approach and be available before the end of this year.
Conclusion: the way ahead
In addition to the UN gender entity, there are a number of initiatives that we would like to see. The task force that I mentioned is working on clear sets of indicators that can guide our efforts in the future. This will be useful to benchmark progress made so far, including with partners such as the African Union. In this regard, we have to increase our outreach and concrete cooperation through focal points, financing of experts, drafting of manuals and further training.
At a more political level, two years after the approval of the “EU Comprehensive Approach”, we should be able to deliver a report on challenges and shortcomings by October 2010, in time for a UN high-level event that will keep the momentum on UNSCR 1325, ten years after its adoption.
I must say that the fact that several EU institutions have encouraged the UN to set up such an event has been useful: the consistent support of the European Parliament has certainly been instrumental in making sure that the resolution 1325 does not fall by the wayside.
The period leading up to this UN event offers us six months to work towards improved implementation of the resolution, notably through the elaboration of national action plans and policies. This is what we keep on telling our partner countries, from Brazil to the United States.
But let's all make sure that we can convince nations about the link between women's empowerment and security through sound practices, best examples and efficient incentives, rather than preaching from the high morale ground.
In this, I would like to echo MEP Howitt’s considerations about "bloc mentality" and the need to play a more substantive role. We are doing a lot, but we have to do more advocacy. Events like this one are useful: they allow us to provide common and consistent messages, which is the best way to share our positive experience regarding women and security.