Conference on Women and War: Power and Protection Session

Melanne Verveer
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues 
U. S. Institute of Peace
Washington, DC
November 4, 2010

Thank you, Tara, Kathleen and your hardworking USIP colleagues, the partners, and sponsors.

It is an honor to be here today with so many who recognize the intrinsic link between women and global peace and security, and who are working to implement Security Council Resolution 1325 — so many leaders from around the world and officials from the U.S. Government — Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth, Admiral Mike Mullen, Special Representative of the Secretary General Margot Wallström, Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury — the godfather of 1325, and so many more distinguished leaders who are here today.

This is an important and historic conference, coming as it does a decade after the adoption of 1325. It is a conference that will bind us to unstinting action on behalf of women’s participation, representation, and involvement in all aspects of peacebuilding; a conference we all hope will help us turn the page from words to deeds in preventing gender-based violence against women in armed conflicts; and a conference that will offer us all the vision and strategies we need to make 1325 a powerful tool for peace and security around the globe.

The facts are sobering. Of the 39 conflicts that have erupted in the past 10 years, only eight are entirely new. Thirty-one are recurrences of conflicts that were never fully resolved. And it is no coincidence that most of these conflicts have occurred in societies where women had little power and were excluded from the process of negotiating and implementing the peace.

As Secretary Clinton said in the Security Council last week: “The only way to achieve our goals — to reduce the number of conflicts around the world, to eliminate rape as a weapon of war, to combat the culture of impunity for sexual violence, to build sustainable peace — is to draw on the full contributions of both women and men in every aspect of peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding.”

In response to the title of this morning’s session – “Power and Protection” — it seems clear that only those who have power can really protect themselves – those who have political power and economic power, the power of full participation in decision-making at the highest levels, and the power to ensure that those decisions are enforced.

President Obama’s National Security Strategy reflects this by recognizing that “countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunity. When those rights and opportunities are denied, countries lag behind.”

As we mark the ten year anniversary of 1325, we also observe a decade since the Millennium Development Goals were adopted by the UN General Assembly. MDG 3 — “to promote gender equality and empower women” — is critical to the realization of all the other MDGs. It’s useful to note that among the indicators for MDG 3 are women’s political and economic participation. Both of these are linked to 1325 as well. Indeed, we’ve seen significant increases in women in politics, thanks in part to quotas and other arrangements chiseled into Constitutions adopted in post-conflict societies.

Last week, the Security Council held a special high level session on 1325. Secretary Clinton spoke on behalf of the United States. She said we all need to “look honestly at what remains to be done to fulfill the promise made to women to be treated as agents of peace and reconciliation, not just victims of war and conflict.”

One week later, we are gathered here not just to renew our commitment to the role of women in global security, but to accelerate implementation of 1325 — to learn from each other, to identify obstacles — what’s worked, what hasn’t. What new ideas can be developed? How can we coordinate better with our partners?

We know that, despite the positive steps taken, progress has been too slow and uneven. Real progress has to be felt on the ground where it matters most — in people’s lives.

Things are slowly beginning to change in a way that will bring progress. For example, women are more directly involved in defense and security:

  • India, Bangladesh, Namibia, and Nigeria have deployed all-female police contingents as part of peacekeeping operations. The women have not only contributed to stability, peace, and security, they have served as models for women in policing and have inspired women in the host countries to become police officers themselves.
  • The United States has embraced this as well. All-female engagement teams of U.S. Marines are working with women on the ground in Afghanistan, and making a difference.
  • At a conference on the Role of Women in Security, held a few days ago in Denmark, and co-sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NATO Secretary General Rasmussen reported that NATO is incorporating the 1325 principles of participation, prevention, and protection into its directives, and is ensuring that soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan and elsewhere seek to take into account the views and needs of women.

Moreover, with the creation of UN Women under the leadership of former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet, the international community will have a strong and essential partner on 1325. And, the Secretary General’s Special Representative Margot Wallström, who is here today, is working hard and needs the support of all to implement Resolution 1888 — to combat sexual violence in armed conflicts.

I’m proud of the many concrete steps the United States has taken. For example, in Namibia, the U.S. military helped train nearly 600 peacekeepers on women’s issues, who were then deployed to Chad.

As Secretary Clinton noted in the Security Council: “From Nepal to Uganda, USAID is promoting women’s roles in politics, supporting their participation in local peace committees, and helping develop plans to implement 1325. In fact, in the future, every USAID project to protect or manage conflict will study its effect on women and will include them in the planning and implementation.”

For example, the U.S. Agency for International Development has included gender analysis into its $26 million annual Reconciliation Program worldwide, which supports small, innovative and state-of-the art programming in priority conflict-affected countries.

Additionally, the United States has written protection and respect for women’s human rights into all its peacekeeping training. Each of the hundreds of courses we provide to foreign militaries includes emphasis on human rights, protection of civilians, prevention of gender-based violence, prevention of sexual exploitation, prevention of trafficking in persons, and elimination of child soldiers.

Working closely with the UN and donors, the United States also will continue to bolster international police peacekeeping capacity in ways that are consistent with and reinforce Resolution 1325.

Next year, we will partner with several police contributing countries to provide pre-deployment training and other support to police units, effectively preparing them to fully meet UN standards. This will build on other continued efforts, such as the Center for Excellence in Stability Police Units, a joint U.S.-Italian initiative, which trains police officers from around the world for participation in peacekeeping missions.

We also are committed to training national police to strengthen their ability to combat sexual and gender-based violence. For example, the U.S. and Botswana jointly manage the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA), a training center for police and security officials from 29 African countries. This past summer ILEA hosted its first 5-day course on policing sexual and gender based violence for law enforcement officials from eight countries.

And, in Afghanistan, our diplomatic efforts have been rooted in the notion that respect for the rights of women, as protected in the Afghan constitution, is an essential element of democracy and stability. Secretary Clinton underscored this point, “The United States has backed women’s inclusion at all levels, including in the recently formed High Peace Council, because we believe the potential for sustainable peace will be subverted if women are silenced or marginalized.”

Our policy on Afghan reintegration and reconciliation is that it must be done in accordance with the Afghan Constitution and that the process must not jeopardize the rights of women. In actual implementation, this means upholding women’s equality — the right of women and girls to go to school, to participate in the economic and political life of their country, and to be free from violence in their homes, workplaces, and communities.

Secretary Clinton has stated our position on this issue clearly and forcefully on numerous occasions: “The women in Afghanistan are rightly worried that in the very legitimate search for peace their rights will be sacrificed. We cannot permit that to happen. No peace that sacrifices women’s rights is a peace we can afford to support.”

But, despite these steps and so many more, we need to accelerate progress.

As the Secretary said last week, “There is no starker reminder of the work still ahead of us than the horrific mass rapes in Democratic Republic of Congo last summer. Those rapes and our failure as an international community to bring that conflict to an end and to protect women and children in the process stands as a tragic rebuke to our efforts thus far.”

So we are committed to promoting accountability for perpetrators of serious crimes against women by supporting international efforts to end impunity as well as by strengthening domestic judicial systems to help ensure that those responsible for those crimes, including sexual violence, are brought to justice.

In this vein, we also recognize the essential need to strengthen the UN’s capacity to combat sexual violence in conflict situations. We are working closely with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations to support more effective mission-wide strategies for protection of civilians.

Over the past year, the United States has explored ways to accelerate implementation of 1325 through a full range of diplomatic, defense, and development tools. We have met with members of civil society and mapped U.S. programs and initiatives that support the 1325 principles as contained in the four pillars of participation, protection, prevention, and relief and recovery.

Secretary Clinton requested that our Embassies around the world provide a summary of actions they are taking.

Many have been drawing attention to the importance of women in peace-building, promoting women’s economic empowerment, protecting women refugees, and promoting women’s participation in military and peacekeeping forces.

But it is also clear that we need to do more to advocate for the inclusion of women in peace processes and post conflict reconstruction; to promote the connection between economic empowerment and security; and to raise community awareness of how to respond to SGBV.

The Department of Defense completed a similar mapping of the combatant commands engagement in promotion of 1325.

This is a reflection of the intense process that led to our government’s decision to develop a National Action Plan, which Secretary Clinton announced last week in the Security Council. We will work to make sure that our National Action Plan is broad, deep, and ambitious.

As a first step, Secretary Clinton has announced that the United States will commit over $40 million to a set of new initiatives designed to empower women. The largest portion, about $17 million, will support civil society groups that focus on women in Afghanistan. $14 million will go to nongovernmental organizations working to make clean water more available in conflict zones, because in these areas, when women and girls go looking for water they are at higher risk of being attacked. Another $11 million will help expand literacy, job training, and maternal health services for refugee women and girls.

We also know how indebted we are to those of you here today who represent the NGO community. Thank you to those of you who participated in sour National Action Plan consultations. Thank you for your generosity in sharing your hard-earned wisdom and experience. And thank you for your continuing commitment.

Secretary Clinton also announced that, in order to measure progress on our plan, the United States “will adopt the indicators laid out in the Secretary General’s report. We will measure whether women are effectively represented in the full range of peace-building and reconstruction efforts; whether they are protected against sexual violence; and whether they are the focus of conflict prevention, relief and reconciliation efforts. Measuring our progress will help ourselves be held accountable and identify those areas where we need to do more.”

Too often, women’s roles are marginalized because they are not seen in terms of their leadership. We must see women as leaders, not victims. We must also view their participation not as a favor to women, but as essential to peace and security.

Make no mistake, the structural marginalization of women we witness around the globe does not amount to a “soft” issue that we can afford to put off until after we solve the “hard” ones. The hard issue we assemble to address today is precisely this: International peace and security depend on women as much as on men. International economic growth and prosperity depend as much on women as on men.

What we actually do — today, tomorrow, and next week — to change women’s role in the world will change the world itself, and I have no doubt it will be to the good. Thank you very much.