Arria Formula meeting March 12, 2024

Speech by Viola Amherd, President of the Swiss Confederation


Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to welcome you to this Arria Formula meeting.

Women's rights are at the heart of the Security Council's discussions this week: yesterday with the presentation of the report by Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, on sexual violence in the context of the Middle East conflict. Today, with this Arria formula meeting. And tomorrow, with the open debate on peace-building and conflict prevention through the empowerment of women and young people.

For Switzerland, there is no doubt: peace is closely linked to gender equality and women's rights. Strengthening the role of women in international peace and security efforts is one of our objectives on the Security Council. To achieve this, we must use all the tools at our disposal.

The Women, Peace and Security agenda is one of them. In the hands of the Security Council, it is a vital instrument for ensuring that the rights of women and girls are protected and promoted in both peacetime and times of conflict. Combating and preventing all forms of conflict-related sexual violence is an integral part of this.

Switzerland is committed to ensuring that the Security Council implements this tool in all the contexts and topics on its agenda. We place particular emphasis on strengthening the participation of women and promoting their networks and organizations.

The session of the Commission on the Status of Women is an opportune moment to highlight how other mechanisms can support this effort. That's why Switzerland has organized this meeting.

Yesterday, the Commission on the Status of Women began its 68th session. Over the past 70 years, progress has been made towards equality, but much remains to be done. In 2023, the proportion of women in parliaments worldwide stood at just 26.5%. Only 27 countries now have a woman at the head of their government. This must change.

Because, as Pakistani human rights activist Malala Yousafzai said, "We can't all succeed when half of us are held back."

Unfortunately, this is no easy task in the current global context. The world is facing numerous conflicts. Multilateral institutions are in the grip of a major crisis of confidence. The fundamental rights and freedoms of women and girls are the subject of relativistic narratives, in meeting rooms here and around the world.

We need to make our voices heard loud and clear for the realization of women's rights. As did Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, a Nigerian politician and women's rights activist, who declared that "Women don't ask for charity, they ask for justice. They don't beg for their rights, they fight for them."

To enforce these rights, standards and laws are needed, not fine words. This battle has borne fruit, thanks to the work of this Commission and women activists the world over: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is today the main normative framework for women's and girls' rights at global level. It must be respected and implemented, including in the context of our discussions at the Security Council.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have put our commitment to "women, peace and security" at the forefront of our Security Council membership. Convinced of the need to implement Resolution 1325 and its nine consecutive resolutions, Switzerland assumed the role of co-chair of the informal group on women, peace and security. In 2000, Switzerland was among the first countries to adopt a national action plan on women, peace and security.

We must continue to highlight the disproportionate impact of war on women. Their participation in peace processes, conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction is crucial. At peace talks, less than fifteen percent of participants are women. This is clearly insufficient. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As history reminds us, women's rights can never be taken for granted. If we don't move forward, we move backward.

This is why it is essential to strengthen the synergies between Agenda 1325 and the CEDAW Convention. The vast expertise of the mechanisms on human rights, and on women's rights in particular, must guide our discussions and actions on peace and security at global level.

For all the rights of women and girls must be guaranteed at all times, in times of peace as well as in times of conflict.

Your Excellencies,

All too often, women's rights are still not respected. All too often, these rights are given by the same hand that can take them away at any time, at a whim.

So the goal is far from being achieved. I hope that today's discussions will enable us to move in the right direction. Together, we can make these rights a reality.

Today, we will have the opportunity to listen to three distinguished speakers: UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous, CEDAW Committee Chair Ana Pelaez Nervaez, and Moon Nay Lin, Secretary General of the Women's League of Burma. Due to a last-minute change of plans, I'll have to leave quickly for the airport. I wish you all a rich discussion. Thank you very much.

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