Mr Chairman, Excellences, Distinguished Participants, ladies and gentlemen,
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the Republic of North 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.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the ground-breaking UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action. Both of these speak to the importance of women’s leadership and participation in peace and security processes and of the necessity to take the gendered impacts of armed conflict and violence fully into account. They also underline the need to understand gender inequality, the exclusion of women and human rights violations as root causes and drivers of conflict and fragility. With the UN75 Declaration adopted in September 2020, all UN member states pledged to accelerate action to achieve gender equality, women's participation, and the empowerment of women and girls in all domains.
In the 21st century, disasters and man-made crises and conflicts are increasingly linked to global challenges, such as climate change, environmental degradation, displacement and pandemics. The consequences of COVID-19 have shown that the WPS agenda is central to addressing the need for women’s inclusion and leadership and the increasing threat of violence against women and girls. This underlines the need for holistic, whole-of-government and cross-pillar approaches to security by all actors, including the Security Council, in order to implement the WPS agenda.
Moreover, as the pandemic has exacerbated both inequalities and wider security challenges, these strains further increase the conditions for violence, particularly sexual and gender-based violence, including domestic violence, and limited access to assistance and essential services, including sexual and reproductive and other health care services, social protection, education, nutrition, full access to clean water, including safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene. The EU remains particularly concerned by the UN Secretary-General Report’s clear demonstration of a global rise in sexual and gender-based violence and increased risk of sexual exploitation and abuse as a direct consequence of the COVID-19 crisis. The fact that 146 Member States and observers in April answered the United Nations Secretary General’s call to make prevention and response to gender-based violence a key part of their national responses to COVID-19 nevertheless gives us grounds for optimism.
While there have been notable achievements in the field of WPS since the year 2000, much remains to be done. Women are still appallingly underrepresented when it comes to decisions and processes related to peace and security. In this regard, we welcome that the recent UN Security Council resolution 2538 on women in peacekeeping was guided by the principles of resolution 1325.
We are deeply concerned by the increasing level of violence and threats against women human rights defenders, aid workers, peacebuilders and political leaders as well as the shrinking space for civil society. COVID-19 has in some cases exacerbated human rights violations and contributed to further shrinking spaces. We must enhance our collective efforts to protect women’s rights. The EU remains committed to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and to the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the outcomes of their review conferences and remains committed to sexual and reproductive health and rights, in this context.
Building on the success of our joint EU-UN Spotlight Initiative in tackling all forms of violence against women and girls, we intend to move forward hand in hand with our partners. We will reach out to international financial institutions and the private sector to ensure that sustainable funding for gender equality is included in multilateral investment and financing, to build upon and provide further support to global initiatives in the framework of the Generation Equality Forum. The EU also plays an active role as one of the co-leaders of the Action Coalition on Gender-Based Violence. The EU will continue to call on all parties to conflict to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law and to stop all forms of sexual violence in conflict, to end impunity or perpetrators of such crimes and to provide to the survivors access to justice and comprehensive health services.
For the European Union and its Member States, supporting and advancing gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls are at the core of our policies, whether at home or abroad. The EU has been in the forefront of promoting the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women in peace processes. Important strategies have been adopted in this regard. We are working on a new Gender Action Plan III to guide the EU’s external action for 2021–2025. The 2019 EU Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security is an integral part of this approach.
The Women, Peace and Security agenda is driven by the critical contribution of civil society, which also plays an essential role in its implementation. In this milestone year for women’s rights and gender equality, we take this opportunity to express our gratitude to civil society actors around the world, as well as to the dedicated gender advisors and focal points, without whom we would never have got so far. The future of the Women, Peace and Security agenda depends on how well we all work together to take this endeavour to the next level, as underlined by the Human Rights Council in its resolution on promoting and protecting the human rights of women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of UNSCR 1325.
We, the International Community, have not yet delivered sufficiently on the unanimous commitment we made in 2000, to implement the WPS agenda in full. To achieve this, we do not necessarily need new resolutions, but to act upon our promises. The European Union is determined to lead by example. We are determined to bring to bear all our political, diplomatic, technical and financial instruments to ensure that this is implemented now so when we mark the 20th anniversary of UNSCR 1325, we can present results. The United Nations and women peacebuilders, activists, human rights defenders and leaders can count on our full support and engagement, and we invite all our partners and allies to spare no efforts in striving towards this goal for the sake of the generations to come.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.