Ministry Statements & Speeches:
I too thank our briefers and the Secretary-General for your personal commitment to advancing the Women, Peace and Security agenda.
I have four key points to make today. But, frankly, it’s disappointing that I have to make any of these in 2016. It is my personal hope that by the time New Zealand is next on the Security Council there will no longer be a need for a separate Women, Peace and Security agenda. It is also my hope that by then my colleagues won’t feel the need to point out how special it is to thank a “Madam President” because women presiding over this Council will no longer be considered a novelty.
Anyway, back to the points I am to make in my national capacity.
And the first of these is that meaningful participation of women at all stages of the conflict spectrum is essential for achieving sustainable peace.
We know that gender equality is critical to maintaining international peace and security. We know that women and girls have a significant role to play as leaders and decision-makers in the prevention and durable resolution of conflict.
As the Secretary-General mentioned, we have the data. Women’s participation increases the probability of a peace agreement lasting at least two years by 20 percent. That probability rises to 35 percent after 15 years.
But all too often this is not reflected in our peacebuilding activities.
On a positive note, the peace process in Colombia has provided a best practice example of women’s participation. As we have heard, Colombian women have successfully advocated for the inclusion of women, and ensured the peace process adequately addresses crucial issues, including violence against women and community displacement. This must be maintained in the ongoing dialogue towards a final peace agreement. We encourage contributors to the UN mission to respond to the call to deploy women.
We also commend the initiative of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria to establish a women’s advisory board to ensure the voices of Syrian women are reflected in the peace process.
Unfortunately, however, such positives remain rare and we have yet to achieve the meaningful participation of women as a natural and necessary element for all peace processes.
My second point is that the Security Council should match rhetoric with action. This includes doing better in the mandates we set for peace operations, ensuring that UN missions have the right specialised personnel and skills-sets, and being more open-minded about who briefs this Council.
Third, the UN System must ensure that gender perspectives are integrated across activities. Appointments across the UN, including at senior levels, must reflect the world around us. If not the UN, who will take responsibility for improved representation of women at all levels?
This is especially important for those operating in conflict, fragile, and post-conflict environments. We should monitor and review these issues in the Fifth Committee when we approve and fund posts.
This also means deploying more women in UN missions. And it means ensuring that those deployed, male and female, have the knowledge and training required to respond to challenges related to a lack of gender equality or women’s empowerment. This requires making greater effort within our national military and police forces.
New Zealand is actively increasing the recruitment, promotion and retention of senior women within the Police and the Defence Force. We are determined to deploy women at all levels of decision-making in conflict resolution processes.
My fourth and final point is the need to combat conflict-related sexual violence. Like others, New Zealand condemns the use of sexual violence, including as a method of warfare, and supports measures to tackle this challenge. Ongoing UN leadership to prevent and address conflict-related sexual violence will be essential.
New Zealand has also consistently supported the Secretary-General’s zero tolerance policy against sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers. It is time for an honest conversation between the Secretariat, contributing countries and member states about why this continues to be a problem, how to stop it, and, when it occurs, how to respond.
New Zealand has full confidence that the Secretary-General-designate will take forward this important agenda.
We appreciate the strong signals he has sent about his commitment to gender equality within the UN Secretariat, and his acknowledgement that full participation of women is essential to peace and prosperity.
We all benefit when the Women, Peace and Security agenda is fully realised.
The operational effectiveness of our peacekeeping missions improves, our peacekeeping efforts are more likely to take hold, and we improve the chances of sustainable peace being achieved.
These are goals to which we should all aspire to.