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Excellencies, Distinguished Participants, ladies and gentlemen,
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
The European Union welcomes your initiative to focus this discussion on the political and economic aspects of the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. As we know all too well, there is still the need for further serious improvement in involving women in all decision-making processes aiming at preventing conflict and building and sustaining peace.
The EU fully supports the UN Secretary-General's commitment to place women at the centre of the UN's conflict prevention platform and its reinforced diplomatic efforts and shares the UN SG's assessment in his latest annual report that more effort is needed worldwide in order to improve delivery on key commitments under the Women, Peace and Security agenda.
We fully subscribe to the UNSG's observations about the need to provide sufficient financial and political support to promote women's meaningful role in peace and security. EU policy is well aligned with this. Thus, the EU joins the UNSG in calling on Member States, in addition to the need to show leadership in the promotion of the WPS agenda in all fora, to build the necessary gender advisory capacity in order to systematically integrate a gender perspective in all analysis, planning, conduct and evaluation of UN activities including in peacekeeping missions.
The EU, in its capacity as a global leader and UN partner in the full implementation of the Women Peace and Security agenda, consistently promotes gender equality, women's empowerment and women's rights in our external action, as they are at the core of our European values. Investing in women's economic empowerment is not only a question of fairness. Economic and business gains from empowering women are substantial. Gender equality is a pre-requisite for peace, security, sustainable development and justice, all of which positively influence our global, regional and national economies.
The EU will, therefore, continue to actively promote gender mainstreaming as a key strategy together with gender balance and specific actions to achieve gender equality and women's empowerment by ensuring the integration of a gender perspective throughout all policy frameworks including foreign and security, development, trade, migration, justice, education, preventing and countering violent extremism, counterterrorism, finance, and humanitarian assistance.
The EU focusses on four main priorities on the Women, Peace and Security agenda:
First, we have put emphasis on our efforts on women's political participation and leadership. It is important to ensure that women and girls in conflict-affected, post-conflict and fragile situations can equally and equitably participate in all the political, economic, security and social facets of their societies, as a prerequisite for the creation of inclusive and peaceful societies, sustainable development and peace.
To mention just a few examples: in Afghanistan, the EU has promoted the efforts of the Afghan Government by providing training and coaching to female members of the High Peace Council, thus enabling them to play an active and critical role in the peace agreement between the Government of Afghanistan and Hizb-e-Islami. In Syria, the EU and its Member States have been closely working together and supporting the Syrian Women's Advisory Board of UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura. In Mali the ‘Follow Up and Evaluation Committee’, which oversees the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement, including the Gender Equality and Women, Peace and Security commitments, has also been supported by the EU.
Furthermore, in March 2018 the EU launched the Gaziantep Women Platform, a network of women involved in the peace process taking place in Geneva, with activists and NGOs active in Syria on issues related to women's empowerment, women's rights and sexual and gender based violence together with women in local administrative structures. The main objective of the initiative is to enhance the role of women in mediation and peace processes, promote and support women's empowerment and women's meaningful participation at all levels including the local and promote the inclusion of women in the peace process.
Second, we have prioritised action against sexual and gender-based violence in conflict. We continue to support UN actions against conflict-related sexual violence. We recognise that UN peacekeeping operations play a vital role in the protection of women, girls, men and boys as part of their mandated task of protecting civilians. We also stress the importance of training peacekeeping personnel on preventing sexual exploitation and abuse.
In this context, the EU has taken a concrete action when it committed together with the United Nations to work to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls through the SPOTLIGHT INITIATIVE worldwide. We make a plea to other stakeholders to join us in helping promote the Women, Peace and Security agenda by aligning our efforts to ensure the security and safety of all women and girls in order to allow them to deploy their full potential. During the UNGA week we launched the first part of this Initiative in Latin America to combat femicides.
Since June 2017 we have been chairing the initiative "Call to Action on Protection from Gender Based Violence in Emergencies". We encourage all stakeholders to join this collective effort to foster change, commitments and accountability. We have also systematically followed up on our commitments to the Office of the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten. We fully support her efforts to promote long overdue judicial accountability and to bring to justice the perpetrators of such heinous crimes.
Third, we have prioritised our work to promote pro-active policies for women's economic empowerment, which will also create sizable returns for our economies and societies.
In January 2018, the EU launched an action "WE EMP♀WER" together with UN Women and the ILO in close cooperation with relevant local, regional and international stakeholders. This programme aims to make progress towards the economic empowerment of women by creating an enabling environment where active engagement by the corporate sector flows together with public policy efforts.
Fourth, we have placed priority on strengthening our national implementation frameworks on the WPS Agenda in EU Member States, such as the National Action Plans (NAPs) and equivalent strategic documents.
While the EU can point to success stories through the implementation of UNSCR 1325 and its subsequent Resolutions, and while 20 out of 28 EU MS have their own UNSCR 1325 National Action Plans, there is still much work to be done by all of us on gender budgeting to quantify how our policies affect women and men differently, and to establish as a generalised standard practice to look at every priority issue through a gender lens, and with proper parliamentary oversight.
The EU is working continuously to improve its procedures and practices in its civilian and military missions and operations. Emphasising the EU's commitment to a 'zero tolerance policy' regarding misconduct and abuse, revised Generic Standards of Behaviour, applicable to both our civilian missions and military operations, were approved in 2018. Best practices were exchanged with the UN DPKO, the UN Department of Field Support and the UN Special Coordinator on improving United Nations Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse during the drafting process.
We have enhanced the role of our EU Gender Focal Points Network in order to intensify intra-EU coordination, information sharing and exchange of best practice in real time. We have also been investing much effort to further reinforce our partnerships with civil society as well as with regional and international organisations.
We recognize the crucial role of UN WOMEN, together with other relevant stakeholders, in helping our common efforts to promote gender equality and women's empowerment. Together with other regional organisations, such as the OSCE, NATO and the African Union, we will continue our joint engagement to integrate a stronger gender dimension into all peace and security efforts. We welcome and engage in all initiatives that help strengthen these efforts, such as the Global Network of Gender Focal Points, the Mediterranean Women Mediators Network and the Women Mediators' Networks.
Finally, in view of the upcoming 20th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 in 2020 the EU reiterates its commitment to help all UN efforts for an even faster and more ambitious implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda. To do this, we need better gender-analysis, more sex-disaggregated data, gender-expertise, leadership accountability and resources. The United Nations can rely on our unwavering support not just in New York, but across the globe.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.