SPEECH: Catherine Ashton on Women, Peace and Security

Europa Press Releases
Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - 20:00
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
General Women, Peace and Security
Initiative Type: 

Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission

Palais d'Egmont, Brussels, 9 Septembrer 2010

Your Royal Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen,

10 years ago, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. The Resolution underlined the importance of women's equal participation and full involvement in all efforts to maintain and promote peace and security. Since then, the Security Council has reaffirmed this commitment with other resolutions.

However, despite best intentions and efforts, including from so many of you here today, this commitment has yet not been fulfilled.

For example, the international community has not been able to end the plague of violence against women in conflict-affected countries. The mass rape of women and children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in August is just one shocking reminder of that.

Beyond the terrible issue of sexual violence, the number of women in formal peace negotiations remains unacceptably low. According to the UN, women accounted for less than 6 % of formal peace negotiators between 2000 and 2008. And yet we know that their participation remains critical to ensure that women's needs and interests are reflected in post-conflict planning. It is harder to achieve lasting peace and security in any country or any region, when only half of the population is represented at a negotiating table or in talks on post-conflict reconstruction.

We also know that there are many, remarkable examples of peace processes in which women have made a difference. Within the EU's own borders, for instance in Northern Ireland as well as further afield in Somalia, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Timor Leste and in Israel, and in many other countries women have mobilised, formed peace movements, practised quiet diplomacy and written proposals for post-conflict reconstruction programmes.

Since I started this job, I have personally seen the role of women in peace and security in places like Kosovo, Gaza, Ramallah and Kabul. I have been privileged to listen to their inspiring stories and better understand the challenges that they face. Afghanistan is a case in point: I had the opportunity to meet the Commissioner for women's rights from Afghanistan's Independent Commission for Human Rights, Dr Soraya Sobrang, earlier this year. And ahead of the Kabul Conference a few weeks ago Hillary Clinton and I met a number of Afghan women leaders and activists at the American Embassy in Kabul.

These meetings have made clear that the progress women have made, through politics and in civil society, is also improving prospects for peace and security in Afghanistan as a whole. I emphasised at the Kabul Conference that Afghanistan cannot afford to marginalise women. In my bilateral meetings with President Karzai I told him he should be extremely proud of the women and their leadership. Indeed, Afghanistan's success will depend on safeguarding women's rights as the political process takes shape and Afghan people expect this process to become more inclusive for all.

Next month we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of Resolution 1325.

This is a good moment to review what we have done and decide, together, how we can step up our respective commitments. I believe the EU should lead by example.

Let me give you some practical ideas of what we are doing and set out what plans we have for the future:

In 2008, we established a dedicated EU policy on women, peace and security. The woman sitting on my right I believe was the inspiration for this. A comprehensive approach covering the whole 1325 agenda from prevention to protection and participation.

Therefore it makes use of EU tools as diverse as development cooperation, Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and political dialogue.

In addition, EU crisis management plays a significant role. We have reviewed our operational approach to the implementation of Resolutions 1325 and 1820 within the Common Security and Defence Policy and installed specialised gender advisors or focal points in each of our crisis management missions all over the world, in places as diverse as Chad, Kosovo, the DRC and Afghanistan.

Later this year, we will put into place specific training modules on gender and crisis management, emphasising women's participation.

In June, the EU Council endorsed our Plan of Action on Gender Equality in Development Co-operation. That will ensure that gender equality is mainstreamed throughout the EU's work with partner countries – at all levels. We will build on best practice and the experience we have from the work that we've done in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

Focusing on both the protection of women who have suffered from sexual violence and the prevention of violence. By strengthening the capacity of the justice and police systems to fight against impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence.

The European Union works closely with the United Nations on these issues, with a joint steering committee overseeing projects across the world, in Nepal, Indonesia and Cameroon to name a few.

And I was extremely pleased when my former European Commission colleague Margot Wallstrom, whom you will hear from us in a short while, was appointed Special Representative to the UN Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict. We will continue to link our EU efforts with new developments such as the setting up of the UN gender entity, ‘UN Women'.

To further boost women's participation in peace and security, we attach great importance to our co-operation with civil society and women's networks.

For 2011, we are planning specific capacity building projects to support, for example, women's networks in crisis affected counties, under the Instrument for Stability (estimated budget: two million euro). In addition, inspired by the UN example, our EU Delegations and CSDP missions will be organising ‘Open Door' days over the coming months to mark the 10th anniversary of Resolution 1325, to promote exchanges of views on the ground between heads of mission and local women's groups and civil society organisations in country.

Finally, we want to be accountable for our policy. This is why, in July, the EU adopted 17 implementation indicators which we will use to measure our performance. We intend to publish the first report on EU implementation of our Comprehensive Approach in October. Several of those indicators directly measure women's participation, be it around egotiation tables or within our Common Security and Defence Policy. I hope that these indicators may be of use to other regional organisations as well as one way of measuring our progress against our commitments.

Efforts to implement Resolution 1325 to date have been important, but they need to be pursued with a sharper focus on getting results. I am personally committed to drive forward the EU's work, in close collaboration with others. When I first started this job, at my first EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting, I was the only woman in the room with 27 male European foreign ministers – even if as I said at the time I was in charge! Now I at least have one female colleague, Lene Espersen from Denmark. Similarly, when I started not one of the EU Special Representatives was a woman.

In August I was delighted to appoint Dame Rosalind Marsden as the first female EU Special Representative, to Sudan. In the EU's new External Action Service I have a commitment to move towards a gender balance. That will be a priority for me as we set up the new service, and I will need Member State support to put forward strong candidates for posts.

Above all, we need a sharper focus on the impact and the results of our actions.

In this respect, the 10th anniversary should bring about concrete outcomes such as the official endorsement of the global indicators on the Resolution 1325 and, I hope, the setting up of a global accountability mechanism involving the Security Council.

Ten years after the adoption of the Resolution it is time that each and every Member State stands up in front of the international community and commits to really make this Resolution a reality on the ground.

Thank you.