Congratulations! Twenty years ago the Security Council made history by acknowledging that an increased representation of women at all decision-making levels is essential to prevent, manage and solve conflicts. By adopting resolution 1325, the Council listened to the voices of women’s rights advocates, who continue to be crucial actors for any progress in this area.
In these twenty years, we have advanced significantly both in the empowerment of women and in the protection of women’s rights. Switzerland welcomes these important developments. Across the world, we have witnessed encouraging steps: In Colombia, former women combatants engaged successfully with authorities to include gender and reintegration commitments in development plans. In Mali, women leaders across political lines are playing key roles in the search for inclusive solutions, despite being heavily underrepresented in the transitional government. Finally, in Sudan, women have taken on a central role and consistently worked for peace in the ongoing political transition.
However, further progress is still needed. Covid-19 has laid bare the fragility of the initial gains made in these past years. As the Secretary General noted in the report serving as the basis for today's discussion (S/2020/946), “gender equality is at a risk of reversal”. To uphold the WPS agenda across the different items on its agenda, the Security Council can and must do more. The WPS agenda is a key driver for mobilizing change on the ground and the Council is its most potent enabler. We need resolute action to increase meaningful participation and leadership by women in decision-making, to combat sexual and gender-based violence and to promote women peacebuilders and human rights defenders.
Among the priorities of our collective action for the coming years, Switzerland underlines the following points:
First, the Council should systematically address women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in peace and security not only in its thematic work, but also in all country items on its agenda. The Security Council must take a strong stance for women to be acknowledged, supported and protected in their work to prevent conflict, sustain peace and promote the respect of human rights. Inclusion of civil society is key, at the Council as well as when looking into implementation on the ground. In 2007, Switzerland was one of the first countries to adopt a National Action Plan (NAP) to implement the WPS agenda. What we have learned over time is that an inclusive and participative process is crucial to strengthen this agenda. Women’s groups and civil society have played an important role to improve our NAP. We even have a group of Swiss Parliamentarians who act as 1325 Ambassadors. They are all close partners in the implementation of the NAP.
Second, the Council should make use of its toolbox to enhance measures to combat sexual violence. To overcome impunity, it should promote a culture of deterrence. Sexual violence is too often used as a weapon of war. The Council’s decision to establish stand-alone designation criteria focused on sexual violence in the sanctions regimes for the Central African Republic and South Sudan reflected a paradigm shift. The Council should use all targeted measures at its disposal against persistent perpetrators and ensure the protection of all survivors.
Third, we need more women in peacekeeping. As an example, Switzerland promotes the participation of female police officers in UN missions, supporting them during their recruitment, training, deployment and return. We know that diversity makes peacekeeping through both civilian and military measures more effective, enabling better access to communities. We welcome the unanimous adoption of Resolution 2538 (2020) on the role of Women Peacekeepers by the Council in August. We also welcome the UN’s efforts to increase the number of women peacekeepers, especially in leadership positions.
Next year, Switzerland will enhance our engagement as a co-chair of the WPS Focal Points Network. Switzerland will remain strongly committed to the women, peace and security agenda. We have a collective responsibility to remind ourselves of the vision we share, to step up our efforts, and to commit to concrete action to implement this ambitious but indispensable program of action.
I thank you.