Transcript of the Speech Given at the Security Council
May I begin by first thanking you Madam President, and thanking Mozambique for taking the lead in our important and vital discussions today and setting our sights on the 25th anniversary of Resolution 1325.
And in doing so, I join others in recognising the insightful, valuable and expert contributions of Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UN Women; Mirjana Egger of the ICRC; my dear friend who I see on screen, Madame Diop, it’s always great to see you and hear from you as well; and of course, the inspirational Leymah Gbowee for their contributions.
Madam President, colleagues, your Excellencies. Peace and security mechanisms must be built upon the needs of everyone, of all people, everywhere. And they must be shaped by the voices of all people. Indeed, those were the founding principles of the very organisation in which we sit today, the United Nations.
This Council, this Security Council, knows that mediation, conflict prevention and resolution have proven more successful time and time again when they are inclusive. They work better. They last longer when women are central to peace and building progressive societies.
The evidence is there staring us in the face. Yet it is an undeniable fact, here we sit in 2023 and we are seeing tragically, a stagnation of the women, peace and security agenda and a regression in women’s rights around the world.
As we were most notably reminded, it’s not just through the barrel of a gun, but as Ms. Lema Govey reminded us, it is a shared denial of women’s rights, be they economic, social or educational.
We are seeing concerted efforts to weaponize gender and attempts to weaken the international system and destabilise the principles and fundamentals of democracies around the world. For our part, the United Kingdom resolves to not just protect, but to strengthen gender equality.
And this should remain an absolute commitment for us all. I therefore call upon colleagues and nations here to stand together against the rollback of fundamental human rights, when the rights of women and girls are pivotal and central to a society’s and country’s progress and prosper.
The United Kingdom is therefore committed and we are passionate to see and ensure progress on women, peace and security in all its aspects. I was delighted that only last month we launched our fifth National Action Plan, which sets out how we will ensure that we put women at the centre of conflict resolution peacebuilding programmes over the next five years.
It is a new plan, a reinvigorated plan for a new global context. Colleagues have listed the tragedies of conflicts around the world – from the suppression of the rights of women in Iran and the tragedy of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, where we’ve seen the Taliban’s suppression of the rights of women and girls using the false narrative and the erroneous narrative of trying to justify their abhorrent actions through religion and culture.
Let us be absolutely clear in what we say.
There is no religion, no culture which calls for the suppression of women’s rights.
The Taliban should realise this – face up to the reality – that it is only their country’s progress will be guaranteed when the rights of women and girls are secured in all their elements.
We also see suppression through conflict of rights and through the tragedy of war, the rights of women. The weaponising of rape as a weapon of war in conflict such as Ukraine.
The rights of women continue to be suppressed in other areas, such as Tigray and Yemen, where conflicts continue. We also see the regression of women’s rights and we also recognise, as we are doing at this CSW, that these threats are not just limited to one country.
There are transnational threats such as climate and cyber as well. But it is not only our commitment overseas, we are embedding the same principles of ensuring women are central and pivotal to all the solutions in every facet of society: in our democratic domestic systems, military cooperation and international diplomacy.
Frankly, every country that talks this narrative needs to walk the walk if we want to make genuine progress by 2025. One of the key objectives of our new plan is to prevent gender based violence, including conflict related sexual violence, and importantly, to support incredible, courageous survivors to recover and seek justice to rebuild their lives.
As the UK Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, I was honoured and humbled to host our recent conference back in November, which demonstrated a sustained international resolve to end these heinous crimes.
We saw 53 countries come together and the Special Representative of the Secretary General, Pramila Patten, signed the political declaration. 40 countries made tangible national commitments on steps they intended to take.
The truth is, it’s a fundamental fact, a tragic fact, that in 2023, sexual violence in conflict is real. It is happening. Therefore, I was delighted my dear friend and colleague, the UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly announced a new three year PSVI (Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict) Strategy backed by over £12 million of new funding to build accountability and justice around the world.
And looking ahead, it is important that we hold ourselves to account through the new International Alliance on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, which will bring together leading Member States.
And I’m delighted that we are also joined at the Security Council by my dear friend, the Deputy Minister from Colombia, who again, as we were reminded by the Minister from Ecuador, had made great strides on this important agenda.
And therefore, I call upon all nations here, present and colleagues, join us, join us together in strengthening this alliance to ensure that those incredible courageous survivors of sexual violence are not just given a voice, but are pivotal and central in building our international strategy to ensure that we prevent sexual violence in conflict.
We will ensure that accountability is inherent and that we will fully engage with survivor voices.
I ask governments to embed survivor voices in their own peacebuilding systems. We’ll be glad to share our experiences. And for me personally, through working with these incredible survivors, it has demonstrated that through their direct input, their direct action, our policies and programmes are directly impacted in a most positive way, enriched by their experience and their valuable advice and courage in speaking out.
Colleagues, Madam President.
23 years on from Resolution 1325, we must not resolve just to stabilise and strengthen rights, we should work to ensure that we put women at the heart of every conflict resolution. We put women at the heart of building stability and security around the world.
Let us not look back in another 23 years to say that we squandered this opportunity. Indeed, I know we will not. We owe it to those who have suffered in the past, to those women and girls who are suffering today.
We must not let this incredible opportunity pass us by.
And to all the incredible women and girls around the world who suffer at the hands of repressive, regressive regimes, we must act. We must act now.
Simply put, it is our duty. It is our obligation. Thank you, Madam President.
Sources: THX News, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office & (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State.