"Women have as much of a role to play keeping the peace as they do negotiating it"

Statement by Amb Matthew Rycroft, UK Permanent Representative to the UN, at the Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security

UK in the UNSC

Thank you Mr President.

As the penholder on Women, Peace and Security, I want to first of all welcome all of our numerous guests today and thank the Secretary-General and you Phumzile for your briefings, and for all the work that you do on this agenda.

I also want to pay tribute to you, Rita Lopidia, for your briefing. You have given us a valuable insight into what ‘Women, Peace and Security’ really means on the ground in South Sudan. I commend the work that you, and other like you, are doing to turn those words – peace and security – into a reality.

I also want to welcome the fact that Russia, in organising this debate, has accepted the importance both of the Women, Peace and Security agenda and the importance of the role of civil society on this and I hope on other issues. Talking of civil society, I want to pick up one of Rita’s points and assure you that the United Kingdom will invite civil society to brief in country-specific meetings under our presidency in March and I call on other presidencies to do the same.

More broadly, it isn’t enough to support the Women, Peace and Security agenda today, one day a year. Words in this Council aren’t enough. Commitment means action every day throughout the year… in mandate renewals, in other negotiations, here and in capitals.

And sadly the reality at the moment is that women and girls continue to be affected inordinately by conflict and insecurity in Syria, in South Sudan, in so many places. And to compound the injustice, while women’s lives are on the line, their voices are seldom heard in the pursuit of peace. Just look at the gender balance of this Council.

And yet in this very room a year ago, we all committed to do something about it. To take the words of resolution 2242, which I was proud to draft with Román, and turn them into something meaningful, something real.

We’ve had a year. A year to increase the effective participation of women in peace processes. A year to increase women’s roles in the military and peacekeeping. A year to increase the finance to support all this work and more.

So how have we got on? Well, let me take those three points in turn, participation, peacekeeping and money.

On the first, over the past year the UK has been pushing to get women a seat at the negotiating table. Not just because it’s the right thing to do. We’re doing so because it works. As the Secretary-General and Samantha reminded us, when women are at the table, the chances of peace increase by 20 to 35 percent. And yet less than one in ten negotiators is a woman.

In Yemen, UK support has enabled the UN Special Envoy to employ an expert on women’s political participation. It’s enabled a UN Women project to boost the influence of Yemeni women in the peace process. And in Syria, we have worked hard to ensure women’s views are heard, including through support for the Women’s Advisory Board and the Women’s Consultative Committee that Carolyn rightly mentioned.

Some would say that this counts for very little when the bombs still fall. That these are just token gestures. But, as many of my colleagues have done, let’s look at Colombia. The guns have fallen silent. The negotiations included a gender sub-commission. Three delegations of women’s organisations held talks with the negotiating team in Havana. These are not token gestures. These are meaningful steps to bring a sustainable end to over fifty years of war. I’m proud of the UK’s diplomatic and financial support that helped make that happen.

But second, we need to match these steps at the negotiating table in UN peacekeeping missions and in our own militaries. Women have as much of a role to play keeping the peace as they do negotiating it. And that’s why the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial in London last month included such a strong focus on Women, Peace and Security, as Siti reminded us. Over 60 countries signed our ambitious communiqué. We now need to deliver it, doubling the number of women in UN peacekeeping operations by 2020, increasing the number of women in missions as a whole, and tackling every single allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse until this horrific abuse ends.

Our efforts should not stop at peacekeeping. The UK is updating the training our armed forces receive so that everyone understands the Women, Peace and Security agenda and knows how to prevent sexual violence in conflict. And we’ll be doing the same for the troops we train from other countries too.

Finally, Mr President, an increase in our ambition on Women, Peace and Security must be matched by an increase in the financing that underpins it. That includes more support for the Global Acceleration Instrument, for UN Women, and for civil society. It means making our development spending gender sensitive – something the UK continually strives for. And in the most basic terms, it means increasing our spending on Women, Peace and Security projects. The UK has increased our spending by over 50% to $10 million this financial year, including a million for the GAI and I hope others will do the same.

But, in closing, we also need something more than money. We need leaders. Leaders like Rita Lopidia. We didn’t choose a woman to be the next Secretary-General, but in António Guterres we have chosen a true champion of gender parity. And in appointing a gender balanced transition team, he is already off to a good start. And we look to him to continue that work when he begins in earnest - and we look to him to help make the second anniversary of resolution 2242 an even greater success.

Thank you.

Published 25 October 2016