Thank you, Madam President,

I would like to begin by thanking the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, the representative of OCHA and Ms Pétronille Vaweka for their briefings and their commitments. I would also like to thank the Peacebuilding Commission for its written opinion, and I wish to warmly welcome the representatives of the States of the region.

There is no doubt that women are key players in achieving lasting peace in the Great Lakes region. Yet they are still too often marginalized. We therefore welcome the Presidency's call to pay particular attention to the ‘Women, Peace and Security’ agenda in our deliberations today and we will try to follow this instruction.

With this in mind, I would like to address three points:

Firstly, for peace to take root and be lasting in the region, women must be at the forefront of all political processes. While they play a central role in peace movements in the Great Lakes region – as we have heard – much remains to be done to ensure their full participation, particularly in the Nairobi and Luanda processes. Switzerland therefore supports the call by the Special Envoy of the African Union Commission for Women, Peace and Security to support mechanisms that ensure the meaningful participation of women in conflict prevention, mediation and resolution processes. For this reason, we support the work of Ms Vaweka and other women involved in processes of peace dialogue in eastern DRC. And I wish to thank you for your work.

We also reiterate that greater cooperation between the players in the region is essential to defuse tensions and consolidate peace. To reduce the risk of a regional military confrontation, it is crucial that the countries concerned pursue diplomatic measures and respect their commitments. We therefore welcome the efforts made within the framework of the regional peace processes.

Secondly, the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation has a devastating impact on women in the region. We are particularly concerned about sexual violence in and around IDP sites. It is unacceptable that women and girls in severely precarious situations are exploited and attacked. Prevention and accountability must be a priority. In this regard, Switzerland is working with communities and authorities in North and South Kivu to facilitate a holistic response to sexual and gender-based violence.

We also note with concern that the humanitarian environment in the region, particularly in the east of the DRC, is becoming increasingly dangerous and complex. In this context, we welcome the commitment of humanitarian and UN personnel, including national and locally recruited staff, and recall that they are protected by international humanitarian law. We urge all parties to allow and facilitate rapid and unhindered humanitarian access and to respect the civilian character of IDP camps and the protection afforded to them.

Thirdly, women's leadership is key to preventing climate change-related conflicts in the Great Lakes. It is clear that climate change is having a negative impact on the security situation in the Great Lakes region. In addition to existing political, security and socio-economic challenges, natural disasters exacerbated by climate change are fuelling instability. While women in the region are particularly affected by natural disasters, they are also actors with a sound understanding of climate change mitigation strategies. Switzerland therefore supports the Women's Fund for Peace and Humanitarian Action, which includes aspects of climate security in its programmes.

Madam President,

At a time when relations between certain States in the region are at their lowest, de-escalation must be our priority. To this end, the States of the region and the members of this Council have a responsibility to commit themselves fully to a political resolution of these conflicts. It is in this spirit that Switzerland has been organising Great Lakes retreats with the Office of the Special Envoy for several years now, the most recent of which took place last month in Bujumbura. In this way, we hope to contribute to dialogue and to the full, equal and meaningful participation of women, in order to promote lasting peace.

Thank you.