Open Debate: Women, Peace and Security

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

Statement delivered by Gerard van Bohemen, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, 13 October 2015.

Thank you Mr President. Thanks to the Secretary General, the Executive Director of UN Women, and the distinguished briefers. I particularly want to thank the briefers for the directness of their messages.

We thank and congratulate Spain and the United Kingdom for their initiative in convening this debate. We need to take a fresh look at the situation of women and girls in the context of global peace and security, 15 years on from the adoption of Resolution 1325.

We can take some satisfaction that over the past 15 years we have made progress in ensuring that the women, peace and security agenda is taken into account in international conflict prevention and resolution efforts. That in itself is no small achievement.

But words in resolutions and other documents, even in mandate formulations, only take us so far. As we have heard today, we need to focus on practical steps to improve the situation for women and girls on the ground, rather than just the rhetoric.

The issue is not new, but the landscape continues to change and, sadly, to get much worse. Rising violent extremism, increased numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons, and combatants who take no account of the civilians in their midst, all affect women and girls disproportionately. The targeted use of sexual and gender-based violence by terrorist groups such as ISIL and Boko Haram as part of a deliberate strategy is a horrendous new development.

This only makes more urgent the need to deal with the threats posed by such groups and the underlying causes that give rise to terrorism. In that broader sense, the fight against terrorism and violent extremism is gender and age neutral. But we must also face up to the reality that women and children suffer inordinately. That is a reality that must be confronted by this Council, by the General Assembly and by Member States. None of us can say it is someone else’s business. It is a problem we must all own.

At one level, we need to bring home to people – whatever their country, religious belief or ethnicity – that the mistreatment of women and children, whether as a deliberate strategy or an incidental consequence of conflict, is utterly unacceptable. It will never be tolerated or accepted. Bullying, domination, coercion – whatever terms are used – are despicable. Those that engage in such behaviours should be exposed for the cowards that they are. And they must be held accountable.

At another level, we need to move beyond a security driven approach to conflict resolution. Recognition of women’s rights and perspectives must be a part of any programmes and policies for conflict resolution and post conflict development. Women must be able to play a meaningful and integral part in conflict resolution processes and outcomes. What does that mean in practice? It means that women must be advisers, negotiators, decision-makers and implementers – as well as receivers - of a peace process for it to have a meaningful chance of success.

In our own small way, New Zealand has sought to play our part. We have had women in front line peacekeeping roles since 2000. We are also working to ensure that women are included at more senior levels in future peacekeeping operations. New Zealand’s National Action Plan focuses on improving international deployment rates of senior staff within the New Zealand Defence Force and New Zealand Police to increase the numbers of women at decision making levels in peacekeeping and assistance missions.

We also recognise the importance of empowering local women and ensuring equality of access to justice. For example, during our seven year engagement in Afghanistan, New Zealand helped establish the first Afghan National Police Women’s Committee at the Bamyan Provincial Police Headquarters. Key purposes of the Committee are to advocate for and support female police, and the development and implementation of a non-discrimination and harassment policy for all police employees so as to encourage the recruitment and retention of women police.

Another vital aspect of the women, peace and security agenda for this Organisation is to deal effectively with allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by our own people. It is a stain on the work of the United Nations and of this Council that allegations of such behaviour by UN Peacekeepers continue to be made – with a frequency and particularity that brook no easy dismissal.

We have taken some satisfaction from the Secretary General’s strong statements that such behaviours will not be tolerated and that perpetrators will be held criminally to account. We agree that there must be a means for ensuring that troop and police contributing countries exercise criminal jurisdiction over their nationals participating in UN operations when such allegations are made. We agree with the High Level Panel that States that do not live up to this should not be allowed to participate in future UN operations.

Most of all, we insist that effective action be taken. This too is a problem that we must all own if it is to be dealt with effectively.

In conclusion, I want to affirm that New Zealand – as the first country to recognise women’s suffrage – remains committed to achieving the reality that women must play a similarly equal role in efforts towards any lasting peace.


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