The UAE thanks Norway for organising this open debate on such a critical subject, and thank you Minister Anniken Huitfeldt for chairing this meeting and High Commissioner Bachelet for your insightful briefing. We listened carefully to you Zarqa and Kaavya, and benefited from your insights, so thank you. As the Foreign Minister of Albania said, to maximise our impact as a new Council member, we have joined forces with Niger, Norway, and Albania in our Shared Presidency Commitments on WPS. We look forward to partnering with you – and the entire membership – to advance WPS issues during our Council term.
As we deliver our first statement on a WPS issue as an elected member of the Security Council, let me share how we plan to champion this agenda. We will focus on a results-oriented approach, with the objective of moving WPS out of its siloes and into all discussions relevant to peace and security. In the last two decades, we have established a solid framework to achieve gender equality, however gaps in its implementation continue to exist. We will prioritise action on existing frameworks to effectively contribute to advancing this agenda.
We want to promote a comprehensive approach that recognises the integrated nature of the agenda. In addition to participation and protection, which we will focus on today, we will also emphasise prevention, and economic relief and recovery. That is why we are planning to hold a discussion on partnerships with the private sector – and how they can support women’s participation and inclusion in peace and security – during our presidency in March, which is an area of the agenda that remains underdeveloped.
Let me now turn to the key issue at hand. Women peacebuilders, women human rights defenders and civil society representatives all play crucial roles in conflict and post-conflict settings. They bring gender perspectives to the forefront and contribute to building sustainable peace. We have seen, for instance, how their tireless efforts during Colombia’s peace process resulted in one of the most inclusive peace agreements to date.
Yet time and again, these women face discrimination, intimidation, marginalisation, and violence. In particular, women advocating for their rights and inclusion in conflict situations face sexual and gender-based violence, including harassment and rape. These reprehensible acts not only destroy the lives of individuals and communities, but also create an environment that corrodes the social fabric of communities and undermines the prospects of peace and recovery.
The UAE would like to highlight three recommendations for Member States and the UN that could prevent, and respond effectively, to reprisals in conflict and post-conflict settings:
First, Member States must take serious steps to tackle structural gender inequality as a main root cause of violence against women. Investing in education and reforming harmful antiquated policies can address and eliminate the reasons that drive stigmatization and targeted attacks. As Zarqa outlined so eloquently, this is a very pressing need in places like Afghanistan today, as we witness an escalation in efforts to distort religion and culture to attack the fundamental right of women and girls to education. In the long-term, investing in the equal access to education can ensure sustained protection for women, prevention of violence against them, and commitment to their critical role in rebuilding more resilient and equitable communities.
Second, the UN needs to develop effective tools to address violence against women, including reprisals, in contexts of armed conflict. This can include a more systematic deployment of gender and women’s protection advisers to UN peace operations, as well as increased data-gathering and analysis for effective support of the strategies that work. For instance, at the end of a peace operation, we should work with host countries to ensure the continuity of key protection capabilities in UN country teams, so that women and their advocates are not abandoned at a critical time.
Third, we urge the Security Council to remain open to the input of civil society briefers, particularly women. They provide unique and valuable insights to the Council on emerging issues and developments in situations on the agenda. Threats and reprisals intended to deter civil society participation in Council meetings therefore constitute an attempt to obstruct the work of this body. Accordingly, the UAE, alongside Norway, Niger, and Albania, committed to remain vigilant with Council briefers regarding reprisals, as well as to a zero-tolerance approach towards reprisals, as reflected in our Shared WPS Presidency Commitments.
In addition to acknowledging women’s roles as active agents for peace and security, we must also recognise and act upon the many risks they face. This is necessary for ensuring women’s full, equal and meaningful participation across all sectors, which we know is central to international peace and security.
The UAE looks forward to cooperating with all members, the UN, and civil society to explore avenues that best ensure women’s safe participation in the Council and their significant contributions in the field.
A women’s place is, indeed, exactly where she decides it should be.
Thank you, Madam President.