Statement by Ambassador Yukio Takasu
Chairperson of the Peacebuilding Commission
at the Open Debate of the Security Council
on Women, Peace & Security
Sexual Violence in Situations of Armed Conflict
19 June 2008
I would like to commend the leadership of the United States for organizing this open debate and thank you for inviting me to participate in my capacity as the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission.
The landmark SC resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security calls upon all parties involved to ensure the protection of and respect for human rights of women and girls, and provides a solid framework for women's equal and full participation in every stage of peace and security. The challenge we face is to generate stronger political will and spur greater concrete actions.
Since the adoption of resolution 1325, steady progress was made in helping more women to participate in post-conflict decision-making. Significant percentages in the national parliaments in many post-conflict countries are represented by women. More women are taking leadership positions in the executive branch. Several female Special Representatives of the Secretary-General were appointed. The international community has been gaining more understanding of the unique impact of armed conflict on women and girls, and a growing recognition that women's participation is essential to ensuring conflict resolution, inclusive reconciliation, peace-building and sustainable peace.
However, we have been less successful in protecting women and girls from gender-based violence in situations of armed conflict. Many women still suffer from the sense of insecurity. They remain particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation both in the midst of conflict and in its immediate aftermath. We need only to look at the situation of sexual violence and abuse in the Democratic Republic of Congo or Darfur to understand the horrific magnitude of the problem and how urgently we need to address it. We have to admit that our collective response to gender-based violence has been inadequate and this failure to respond is magnified over time, because the effects of sexual violence linger long after, undermining and threatening the potential for peace and stability. Every effort must be made to promote the human security of women and girls in a fragile situation by protecting physically and empowering them.
(Actions by the Security Council)
In order to take effective measures to meet these challenges, there are several actions that the Security Council may wish to consider. Collecting actual data on the impact of sexual violence on women and girls and on perpetrators is an important first step to establish strategy on their needs on the ground. Ending impunity and prosecuting those responsible for such sexual crimes cannot be overemphasized and will facilitate communal reconciliation in the post-conflict situation. Gender sensitive training program for peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel needs to be strengthened both at the national and international level. The mandate of peacekeeping operations could reflect more concrete actions in implementing resolution 1325 to mainstream a gender perspective and protecting from gender-based violence.
(The Peace-building Commission)
The Peace-building Commission has been ensuring through its advocacy and resource mobilization efforts that a gender perspective becomes an integral part of any peacebuilding process. Significant efforts have been made to engage women and gender equality groups at various levels of Commission's work, fully reflecting the priorities and issues of relevance to women's groups. Gender perspective has been included as a critical priority issue in the integrated peacebuilding strategies for Burundi and Sierra Leone. Commitments to be undertaken by the Governments and the international community are clearly articulated to combat gender-based violence, ensure greater participation of women at all levels of decision-making and build the capacity of women's groups and national gender equality institutions.
The Working Group on Lessons Learned considered the issue of gender and peacebuilding earlier this year and concluded that the gender issue should be viewed not just as a "women's issue" but as an imperative in any peace-building effort including security sector reform. We cannot effectively deal with this complex problem if the burden of responsibility for doing so rests only with women. The existence of legal frameworks and policies would not end violence by themselves-their compliance, implementation and enforcement are critical. The issue should be tackled in a holistic manner, including not only security and justice sector reform, but also basic social services such as education and health, employment, and income generation to empower women and girls.
(Integrated efforts on the ground)
In countries emerging from conflict the national governments and other local stakeholders are ready to address root causes of conflict, including marginalization of women. But they often do not have the sufficient resources and capacities to do so effectively. On the ground, it requires a range of integrated efforts of multiple stakeholders such as the government institutions, the UN and civil society organizations. We need stronger support to improve the operational capacity of those stakeholders in order to fully meet gender equality commitments. We must also work with local women's groups to fight prejudice and stigma and advance efforts to end impunity for such crimes. The roles of the Parliament, NGOs, and the media are important to enhance the accountability of the authority in power for their action or inaction.
With the recognition above, I assure you, Madam President, that the PBC will continue to make every effort to raise the international profile of needs of women and girls in peace-building efforts and to mobilize the necessary support and resources in a coordinated and integrated manner.
It is my sincere hope that today's open debate will help to generate more political will and greater action. We must all do our part to match the fine words of SC resolution with concrete actions that make a real difference for the women and girls whom the Security Council has pledged to protect and empower.
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