I would like to thank the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, not only for her intervention, but above all for her precious daily work in the field. I would also like to thank the Executive Director of UN Women, the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the African Union Commission and the Director of the association "Jeunesse en Marche pour le Développement en Centrafrique" for their presentations. I would like to welcome the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Central African Republic (CAR), as well as the representatives of the States in the region.
There is no doubt that women are key players in the quest for lasting peace, in the Central African Republic and elsewhere. However, as a representative of Central African civil society told the Sanctions Committee earlier this month during its visit, "Central African women are the pillars of peace, but they are too often sidelined". We therefore welcome your call, Madam President, to pay particular attention to the "Women, Peace and Security" agenda in our deliberations today. It is essential that the members of the Council include and support women's commitment to peace.
Allow me to take a "Women, Peace and Security" approach for the three points I would like to raise.
Firstly, if peace is to take root and endure, women must be at the forefront in all political processes. We note the Central African government's announcement to organise a constitutional referendum. This is a tool of direct democracy which is dear to Switzerland. We call on the Central African authorities to guarantee an open, transparent, free and fair process. A process that ensures the full, equal and meaningful participation of women. The same applies to the forthcoming local elections, where women candidates must be able to present themselves free of all threats and reprisals. In this respect, we encourage the government to redouble its efforts to implement the law on parity, which requires at least 35% of political posts to be held by women.
Secondly, despite an improvement of the security situation in certain regions, armed groups continue to operate, as we have also heard from the Special Representative. On the borders with Sudan and Chad, illicit arms trafficking, unlawful taxation and attacks on the civilian population are on the increase. This further hampers humanitarian access. Once again, women are most affected. Traditionally engaged in field work, they are more exposed not only to the presence of armed actors, but also to improvised explosive devices that are scattered throughout certain rural areas. We call on the Central African authorities to ensure the protection of the civilian population and their rights. In this respect, we welcome the government's actions to help the more than 13,000 refugees and returnees from Sudan.
Thirdly, the fight against impunity must be strengthened. Women who are victims of sexual violence continue to be stigmatised, and such violations are often settled outside of the formal justice system. For this to end, the criminal justice system must be strengthened, and public confidence in this system must be increased. As the Minister of State for Justice stressed last week, and I quote: "justice is a prerequisite for building and strengthening the rule of law". Nevertheless, the Special Criminal Court still lacks resources and the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission is facing major delays. We therefore encourage the government and the international community to support these institutions, which can lay the foundations for reconciliation and lasting peace in the country.
Finally, Switzerland remains concerned by the serious allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse committed by certain peacekeepers of MINUSCA. We welcome the important commitment of the Secretary-General, and especially of his Special Representative, to ensure zero tolerance for such incidents.
We cannot consolidate peace as long as daily violence continues to affect half the population. The response to insecurity in the country lies in inclusive political processes, based on international law, guaranteeing women's rights and creating a safe and respectful environment for their participation. In this context, we also support the four principles proposed by the Executive Director of UN Women. In the future, let us work together to ensure that women are no longer invisible victims, but recognised players in peace and security in the CAR.