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Human Rights Council President Urges Governments to Protect Fundamental Freedoms in Word, Deed, as Third Committee Considers Report of Geneva-Based Body

The President of Human Rights Council urged Governments to ensure that efforts to protect fundamental freedoms existed “not just in words, but in practice”, as he presented his annual report to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) today.

Joaquín Alexander Maza Martelli, who had addressed the General Assembly plenary earlier in the day, said the Council adopted 114 resolutions, presidential statements and decisions, 80 of them without a vote.

The situation in Myanmar deserved special attention, he said.  The Council had created an independent fact‑finding mission to examine alleged human rights violations by military and security forces, particularly in Rakhine State, extending its mandate to September 2018 when its final report would be considered.

Turning to Syria, he said the Council had held interactive dialogues with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, and extended that body’s mandate for another year.

More broadly, he said the Council had established a new special procedures mandate ‑  the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members — and created a joint task force to bridge the gap between the Council’s workload and resources.  He also informed delegates he had received reports of threats against those who had cooperated with the Council.  Any such intimidation was unacceptable.

In the ensuing debate, described potential areas for the Council’s reform, with Eritrea’s delegate, on behalf of the African Group, stressing that the body should never be used as a tool for political purposes.  He also rejected the Council’s practice of “naming and shaming” and imposing mandates that did not enjoy the support of the concerned country.

The representative of the European Union said there was potential to strengthen dialogue between the Human Rights Council and the Security Council.  The Human Rights Council’s mandate must be carried out so that early warning could become early action, he said, calling the independent Special Procedures mandate‑holders the world’s “eyes and ears,” attentive to emerging crises.

Earlier in the day, the Third Committee concluded its debate on refugees, with speakers from host countries highlighting the challenges of sheltering large numbers of displaced people.  The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said his country had welcomed more than 318,397 refugees from Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He called for international support for local integration of the refugees.  Sudan’s delegate said the inflow of refugees into her country was mixed with illegal migrants who had been trafficked, while Uganda’s delegate called for international support, as assisting refugees had over‑stretched its meagre resources.

Ukraine’s delegate, meanwhile, said 1.6 million people had been internally displaced from Russian‑occupied areas of Ukraine.  Similarly, Georgia’s delegate said the ethnic Georgian population in occupied regions faced an imminent threat of expulsion.  The representative of Russian Federation, exercising the right of reply, objected to baseless accusations against her country.  South Ossetia and Abkhazia were independent States and the Russian Federation had never controlled those territories.  Further, citizens were fleeing Ukraine due to crimes by ultranationalists and Ukrainian authorities.  The Russian Federation had offered voluntary donations to the High Commissioner for Refugees to manage the situation in eastern Ukraine, she added.

Also speaking in the discussion on refugees were representatives of Pakistan, China, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Argentina, Serbia, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Thailand, Botswana, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Ethiopia, Zambia, Nigeria, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Mali and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Also speaking in the debate on the Human Rights Council report were representatives of Paraguay, Egypt, Colombia, Eritrea, Japan, Iraq, Syria, Botswana, United States, Cuba, Iran, Algeria, Nigeria, El Salvador, Latvia, India, China and Morocco.

The representatives of Algeria, Ukraine, Georgia, Morocco and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Monday, 6 November to continue its work.

Background

The Third Committee met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights.  (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4216).

NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan) commended the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants but stressed that more must be done to find solutions to the refugee crisis.  Pakistan had sheltered millions of Afghan refugees in the past four decades, providing them with education, health care and jobs.  While the Prime Minister had said that they would not be repatriated forcibly, host countries had largely been taken for granted and their national resources stretched to cater to refugee needs.  He called for equal burden sharing and establishing long‑term solutions to address the root causes of displacement.

ELENE AGLADZE (Georgia) said the ethnic Georgian population living in occupied regions faced an imminent threat of expulsion.  Harsh restrictions had been imposed on education in the native Georgian language and Georgian classes had been prohibited in the Gali district and Tskhinvali region.  Further, the closure of entry and exit points across the occupation line by Russian occupation forces had also severely restricted the freedom of movement of local residents.  Those occupation forces had demolished the homes of internally displaced people from Georgia in the occupied Tskhinvali region.  She said talks on humanitarian issues in occupied regions, and on displaced people from Georgia, had been politicized by the Russian Federation.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) said it was crucial to focus on both the symptoms and root causes of the refugee problem.  Root causes, such as social instability and imbalance in development, should be addressed by stepping up assistance for development.  There was also a need to resolve disputes through dialogue.  The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should summarize its experience and practices of pilot projects for implementing the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework and use the information for the formulation of the Global Compact for Refugees.  Negotiations of the Global Compact must be driven by Member States and should be advanced gradually.  She called on UNHCR to maintain its objectivity and neutrality and avoid interfering in internal affairs of countries and politicizing refugee protection mechanisms.

Ms. ALFASSAM (Kuwait) said the displacement crisis had worsened in recent years, threatening international stability.  Noting the High Commissioner’s focus on addressing its causes, she called on all States to cooperate in relevant efforts.  Pointing to the New York Declaration as a cornerstone to improve the living conditions of refugees and migrants, she said Kuwait was providing assistance through pledging conferences, contributing more than $2 million to assist refugees in the Middle East and elsewhere.  The situation of refugees without official documents was a priority, she said, and relevant documentation was being issued to those in Kuwait.

Ms. SUKKAR (Jordan) said those fleeing conflict and entering Jordan had reached 2.8 million, with a majority being Syrian nationals.  Those circumstances had severely stressed public services, impacting Jordan’s development trajectory.  The Government was pursuing long‑term plans to address the refugee crisis and had established a single national framework to address the matter.  Syrian refugees without required documentation had been allowed to enrol in school, and some 200 schools now operated double shifts to allow for the attendance of refugee children.  Health services were also being provided, including gender‑sensitive attention to women and girls.  The protracted nature of the regional crisis had pushed Jordan’s assistance capacity to its limits, she said, stressing the importance of burden sharing.

MARWAN FRANCIS (Lebanon) expressed deep concern over the protracted situation of forced migration and stressed that the crisis should not become “the new normal”.  The international community must work together, he said, noting that burden and responsibility sharing were fundamental to addressing forced migration.  The causes of the crisis must also be tackled, and assistance must account for the specific context of each situation.  The return of refugees to their homes also must be a priority, he affirmed, adding that Lebanon hosted 1.2 million Syrian refugees and 400,000 Palestinian refugees.  The mass influx was straining limited assistance capabilities, he said, commending the High Commissioner’s efforts to engage with development partners.

Ms. MARTINIC (Argentina) called the adoption of the New York Declaration a step in the right direction, noting that while her country was committed to sheltering Syrian refugees, there was a need to establish sustainable regional and international solutions.  In November, Argentina would host two subregional meetings on implementation of the Brazil Declaration and Plan of Action to address displacement trends.  While no country was free from the impact of refugee movements, developing countries had been most affected and there was a need to identify institutional frameworks that would help them both better address refugee needs, and particularly, the rights of women, children, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and disabled refugees.

MARINA IVANOVIC (Serbia) said increasing numbers of refugees in his country had strained its accommodation capacities.  The large influx had also led to growing xenophobia and intolerance.  Serbia had offered refugees and migrants accommodation, food and health protection.  Its experience dated to the 1990s when thousands of people from the former Yugoslavia had fled to Serbia.  The country had also sheltered 200,000 internally displaced people from Kosovo and Metohija since 1999.  The regional housing programme for refugees, implemented by four countries in cooperation with the European Commission, UNHCR, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB), was an example of partnership between host countries, countries of origin and international partners.

Ms. HWANG (Republic of Korea) said the global refugee crisis had overwhelmed humanitarian responses.  However, the New York Declaration was reason to be optimistic and the recent pledging conference for Myanmar was a timely event.  Calling for durable solutions to the crisis, she urged humanitarian actors to address the causes of displacement and redouble efforts to strengthen partnerships with the private sector and development agencies.  Underlining the principle of non‑refoulement, she said no country could cope with the refugee crisis alone.  Republic of Korea was the first country in Asia to adopt an independent refugee law and was implementing a pilot resettlement programme for refugees.

HARRISON W. MSEKE (United Republic of Tanzania), associating himself with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), drew attention to the challenges facing host nations as they tried to implement the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework.  A poor country, United Republic of Tanzania had nevertheless met its obligations, welcoming more than 318,397 refugees from Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo.  As part of the pilot roll‑out of the Framework, it would focus on admission and rights, emergency response, inclusion and self‑reliance, local integration of new citizens, third‑country options and voluntary repatriation and reintegration.  To the latter point, the Government would establish group processing for Congolese refugees, while ensuring that returns to Burundi were conducted in line with the principles of voluntary repatriation.  He requested international support for the local integration of 1,972 Burundian refugees who had been granted citizenship, referring to a concept note outlining proposed projects for the Kigoma region, which hosted the most refugees.

The representative of Ukraine said his country had faced numerous humanitarian challenges due to the Russian aggression.  Some 1.6 million people had been internally displaced from Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, while many others lacked basic water and sanitation services. The humanitarian response plan was underfunded and while Ukraine was grateful for support from the High Commissioner’s Office, humanitarian aid into the country had been blocked by local authorities backed by the Russian Government.  Such human rights violations against ethnic Ukrainians had forced many to flee their homes.

The representative of South Africa, associating him with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that his country continued to “open our ports of entry to refugees and asylum seekers,” giving them the right of access to education, healthcare, jobs, legal aid and access to courts.  Voicing concern about the consequences of refugee outflows which continued to fall disproportionately on developing countries, he said that international cooperation in sharing the burden of hosting refugees had become critical in addressing such challenges.  In that regard, his the momentum gained towards the elaboration of the Global Compact for Refugees through discussions on the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework was encouraging.  One of its key outcomes had been to ease the pressure through burden sharing; thus, the Framework should ensure adequate, predictable and equitable sharing of such burdens aimed at drastically easing the pressure on hosts.  Underlining that the establishment of development funding mechanisms should be mindful of those principles, he voiced his strong support for close cooperation and joint planning between humanitarian and development actors.

SUPATTRA AUEAREE (Thailand) said the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact on Migration were complementary, expressing support for the Framework.  In turn, that Framework would generate inputs for the international community to draft the Global Compact on Refugees, on track for adoption in September 2018.  Reviewing Thailand’s efforts, she cited efforts by her Government and Myanmar to facilitate the voluntary return of 71 displaced persons from Myanmar.  Thailand supported UNHCR’s “#Ibelong” campaign to end statelessness by 2024, and had implemented measures which would enable around 80,000 children born in Thailand to apply for Thai nationality.  The Cabinet also had finalized and implemented a screening system for undocumented immigrants and refugees, to address the problem of mixed migration.

PHOLOGO GAUMAKWE (Botswana), associating himself with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Group, said Africa continued to account for a large number of refugees, internally displaced persons and asylum seekers.  Displacement had resulted from protracted conflict, he said, adding that the global refugee crisis was a stark reminder of the need to assume collective responsibility for the provision of humanitarian response.  Noting that Botswana was host to 3,500 refugees, he said the repatriation process must be re‑engineered to reduce turnaround times for those wishing to return home.  Stressing the need for long‑term solutions, he said financial assistance was central to addressing the crisis.

Ms. MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan) said addressing the needs of displaced persons required the resolution of armed conflict, adding that attention to the issue of internally‑displaced persons was far from sufficient.  Armenian aggression had resulted in large‑scale displacement in her country.  Azerbaijan was making progress in providing assistance to displaced persons, she said, adding that several United Nations agencies had reported positively on the matter.  She underlined that approaches to alleviate the plight of internally‑displaced persons would be incomplete if they did not place repatriation as their priority.

The representative of Morocco said the global humanitarian crisis was spreading, with Africa particularly affected by displacement.  He commended the efforts of sub‑Saharan States that had welcomed refugees and urged that assistance be given to them.  Several States were profiting from the refugee populations they hosted, which was the case in Algeria.  Refugees in Algeria had been stripped of their humanitarian rights, with camps in Tindouf falling victim to fraud.  Humanitarian aid was being diverted from refugee camps, he said, asking for a re‑evaluation of assistance being provided to refugees in the region.  Algeria could not continue to use refugees as a means to enrich itself, he affirmed.

HAILESELASSIE SUBBA GEBRU (Ethiopia) voiced concern that the High Commissioner’s budget was underfunded, citing a 75 per cent funding gap in the refugee response plan for Ethiopia.  Also concerning were the protection challenges related to human trafficking and smuggling, sexual and gender‑based violence and forced recruitment.  Assistance must go beyond repatriation, efforts which would require better collaboration between humanitarian and development actors in countries of origin.  He encouraged the expansion of resettlement opportunities as a means of international protection, stressing that partnership should remain the cornerstone of UNHCR’s approach.  International refugee protection should be guided by principle of burden and responsibility sharing, and support provided for least developed countries, which were hosts to the largest numbers of refugees

HELLEN CHIFWAILA, (Zambia), said her country hosted 57,000 refugees.  Since August, it had received some 3,360 Congolese refugees fleeing clashes between the forces of their Government and militia groups.  Noting that Zambia was ready to work with partners to provide assistance, she said the Government had introduced a law outlining provisions for the establishment of a refugee fund and refugee settlements.  Zambia was also considering the possibility of relaxing the encampment policy, in turn allowing refugees to engage in employment and achieve self‑reliance.  Around 20,406 refugees lived outside the settlements, she said, noting that the Government was providing education to refugee children in settlements.

ALEX AJAYI (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group, said all States must promote the rights of refugees, migrants and displaced persons, and expressed concern over the welfare of refugees around the world.  The advent of Boko Haram’s insurgency had led to the establishment of camps for internally-displaced persons across Nigeria, which were ensuring access to life‑saving social services.  Displaced children were being granted access to education, with safe school initiatives in place.  Nigeria was carrying out a policy of civilian protection to better protect the population from armed conflict, he said.

DIZERY SALIM, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), recalled that the Uganda Red Cross had participated in drafting the terms of reference for the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework Secretariat.  While local actors had a strong understanding of circumstances, politics and culture relevant to the provision of refugee protection and assistance, global actors could do more to provide a quality, sustainable and principled response.  “There are times when we treat them as contractors instead of partners,” she said, and it was essential to boost their institutional capacity and provide core funding.  A good legal framework could strengthen the role of local actors and Governments alike.  IFRC had worked for more than a decade in more than 100 countries to strengthen domestic legal frameworks to facilitate responses to large‑scale emergencies.  On refugee resilience, she said participatory assessments should include host communities, which were often vulnerable themselves and whose generosity should not be taken for granted.

MOUSSA DOLLO (Mali) said his country was emerging from a socio‑political crisis which had forced thousands of citizens to flee their homes.  Mali attached great importance to refugee crises, and had introduced both a national policy and action plan to address the needs of internally displaced persons.  It also had worked with neighbouring countries, including Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania, to facilitate the return of Malian refugees.  With the Government working to establish peace and reconciliation in Mali, a tripartite agreement had resulted in 70,000 Malian citizens returning from Burkina Faso.  He thanked neighbouring countries for their help in sheltering Malian refugees.

Ms. SALIM (International Committee of the Red Cross) said that despite meaningful progress, millions of people continued to be displaced by armed conflict and other violence, many within their own countries.  More must be done to prevent such circumstances and support both displaced people and their hosts.  He highlighted the need to better respond to displacement in cities, welcoming that Special Rapporteur Jimenez‑Damary had focused on enhancing the participation of displaced people in decisions affecting them.  States should mark the twentieth anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement by drawing on good practices in addressing the needs of internally displaced people.

Ms. MUKHTAR (Sudan) said the geographic location and cultural heritage of her country had attracted refugees for years.  Sudan was committed to addressing the needs of refugees but faced challenges, as their inflow was mixed with illegal migrants who had been trafficked.  As such, the Government had enacted a law against human trafficking.  But Sudan had received little international assistance to deal with the refugee crisis.  The Government had provided the best treatment possible and would continue to provide refugees with health care, security and education, while working to facilitate their return.

KINTU NYAGO (Uganda) said the large influx of refugees from South Sudan and other countries into Uganda led to the hosting of a solidarity summit on the matter earlier this year.  Assisting refugees was over‑stretching the Government’s meagre resources, he said, adding that a grassroots‑based assistance programme was being implemented with help from the World Bank and United Nations.  Termed the “Uganda Model”, that programme faced land‑management and service‑access challenges, he said, urging the international community to provide support to ensure the approach accomplished long‑term solutions.

Right of reply

The representative of Russian Federation, exercising the right of reply in response to her counterparts from Georgia and Ukraine, objected to baseless accusations against her country.  South Ossetia and Abkhazia were independent States and the Russian Federation had never controlled those territories, she said, adding that Georgia had ignored the needs of those forcibly displaced.  Further, the reason citizens were fleeing Ukraine was due to crimes committed by ultranationalists and Ukrainian authorities who had started a conflict in the country’s eastern regions.  The Russian Federation did not control republics and there were no Russian forces there.  It had offered voluntary donations to UNHCR to manage the situation in eastern Ukraine, she said, adding that the republic of Crimea was a subject of the Russian Federation in accordance with international law.

The representative of Algeria said to Morocco’s delegate on the question of refugees that Algeria was a host country for refugees.  There was no issue around Algeria’s calling into question any resolution adopted by the United Nations, he said.  It was Morocco that was “slithering away,” creating delays each time.  Algeria had been constant in its defence of self‑determination.  Morocco claimed innocence in the context of human rights, but in Western Sahara, its record was clear and confirmed, he said.  Morocco was an occupying power, not an administering power.  From the standpoint of international law, the territory was described in various United Nations resolutions.

The representative of Ukraine reminded the representative of the Russian Federation that in 2014, the latter had deployed so‑called “green men” to the territory of Crimea, and that an unlawful referendum had been held on the territory.  In 2014 the Russian Federation had fuelled war in Ukraine and now was proud of helping refugees from Ukraine.  Citing a Russian proverb, he said “no matter how many times you are going to say halva, it is not going to be any sweeter.”

The representative of Georgia said in response that the Russian Federation had misled the international community and undermined the rights of persons internally displaced from the occupied territories of Georgia.  Further, the Russian Federation had not complied with the United Nations Charter or resolutions on Georgia, and its violations had been noted by an international fact‑finding mission.  The Russian Federation bore responsibility for resolving the issue of internally displaced persons and improving the human rights situation in Ukraine.

The representative of Morocco, in response to Algeria’s delegate, said the latter country had demonstrated complete disregard for and ignorance of international law.  Algeria’s claim that Morocco had occupied the Sahara was false because the territory had always belonged to Morocco.

The representative of Algeria, responding to Morocco’s delegate, said the latter country had illegally occupied Western Sahara and Algeria was not alone in voicing that opinion.  The right to self‑determination should be exercised in accordance with international law and Algeria stood by that position.

The representative of Morocco, responding to Algeria’s delegate, said the people of the Sahara had pledged allegiance to Morocco.  Algeria sought to create a territorial problem because of its “hegemonic designs”.  Yet it had only highlighted the importance of self‑determination in the context of the Sahara, not in the context of other countries.

Human Rights Council Report

JOAQUÍN ALEXANDER MAZA MARTELLI, President of the Human Rights Council, presented the body’s annual report (document A/72/53), outlining its activities, resolutions, decisions and presidential statements adopted at its regular session, as well as its special session in December 2016.  Over the year, the Council had adopted 114 resolutions, presidential statements and decisions, 80 of them without a vote.  By the end of 2017, it would have reviewed 28 States’ human rights obligations under its universal periodic review.  Once again, the Council had seen greater participation by small island developing States and least developed countries, thanks to the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund that had supported 27 delegates and fellows from 26 countries.

He said the situation in Myanmar deserved special attention and the Council had created an independent fact‑finding mission to examine alleged human rights violations by military and security forces, particularly in Rakhine State, extending its mandate to September 2018 when its final report would be considered.  On the situation in Syria, he said interactive dialogues with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry had been held and the Commission’s mandate had been extended for another year.  He went on to describe other efforts related to South Sudan, Burundi, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Libya, Georgia and Yemen.

In 2017, the Council had established a new mandate, namely the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, and decided against extending the mandates of the Independent Experts on Côte d’Ivoire and Haiti.  He said 118 Member States and one Observer State had extended a standing invitation to thematic special procedures, but he expressed concern that a few States had decided not to cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms.  Calling on all States to provide full cooperation, he stressed it was also essential that civil society actors and national human rights bodies be provided with a safe space for their voices to be heard.

The Council had adopted several resolutions, with recommendations made to the General Assembly, he said, notably regarding Syria and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It had requested the Assembly to submit the reports and oral updates of the respective commissions of inquiry on the situations in Eritrea and Burundi.  To bridge the gap between the Council’s workload and resources allocated to it, a joint task force had been established, which had suggested measures to help save time.  He also said he had received reports of threats against those who had cooperated with the Council, emphasizing that any such intimidation was unacceptable.  He urged the international community to ensure that efforts to protect human rights existed “not just in words, but in practice”.

When the floor opened, the representative of Colombia asked how United Nations reform proposed by the Secretary‑General accounted for human rights issues.

The representative of Spain said the Human Rights Council was the primary specialized body for human rights in the United Nations system, adding more work was needed to improve coordination between the relevant agencies in New York and Geneva.  She said resources had fallen short of meeting the Council’s needs for 2018 and suggested streamlining upcoming meetings.

The representative of Japan said the Council must be subject to constant review to better meet the needs of people worldwide.  The General Assembly should pay attention to reviews of the Council and asked what priority areas had been identified in that regard.

The representative of Eritrea asked what the Human Rights Council was doing to ensure attention was being given to all rights issues, especially with regards to financing.

The representative of Hungary, associating himself with the European Union, said the Council constituted the best universal framework to protect basic rights.  Noting the needs of vulnerable groups, he called for the de‑politicization of its work.

The representative of Latvia stressed the importance of strengthening ties between the Council and the General Assembly.  Referencing reprisals against people cooperating with United Nations human rights agencies, she asked what could be done to ensure Organization‑wide action to mitigate reprisals.

The representative of Switzerland said civil society played a pivotal role in strengthening rights and asked what obstacles had been encountered in protecting persons cooperating with the Council.  She also asked how the protection of those persons could be strengthened and what working relations should be established among relevant agencies.

The representative of Germany said the United Nations could benefit from closer interaction among its institutions.  Civil society representatives had a clear place in the Council’s work and he asked how those wishing to cooperate with it could effectively be protected from reprisals.

The representative of Austria noted the importance of responding early to emerging crises and said the Council had a broad role to play in the Secretary‑General’s prevention agenda.  He asked how the Council could contribute to those efforts.

The representative of Australia said human rights and prosperity went hand‑in‑hand and committed his Government to enhancing the Council’s effectiveness.  Turning to management reform, he asked how the Council’s work could be streamlined.

The representative of Lichtenstein asked how the Council could strengthen engagement with other relevant agencies.

The representative from the European Union said he valued the independence of the Council’s work and its engagement with civil society.  He asked how the universal periodic review process could be improved, and how Member States could address difficulties in sourcing Council meetings.

The representative of the Republic of Korea expressed concern over reports of intimidation and reprisals against individuals cooperating with United Nations human rights institutions and asked how the Council’s working methods could be improved.

The representative of Norway welcomed the Council’s autonomy and said that combating discrimination promoted stability.  Expressing concern over the Council’s increasing workload, he asked how work could be made more efficient.

The representative of Ireland, associating himself with the European Union, said the Council was performing well, but questions remained regarding the promotion of universal participation in its work.  He asked how Member States and observers could foster a more inclusive Council.

The representative of South Africa said the Council’s status as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly had been maintained in relevant resolutions and attempts to review the Council should only be done through the relevant framework.

The representative of the United Kingdom said the international community must take on abuses wherever they occurred, and called on all countries, particularly new and existing Council members, to cooperate with the Special Procedures.  He asked how the States could best protect civil society space at the Council and, in turn, how the Council could support the mainstreaming of human rights across the United Nations system.

The representative of Bahamas asked for an evaluation of the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund to Support the Participation of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, and for reflections on what impact small developing countries such as the Bahamas could have on the Council’s work.

The representative of Iraq said human rights reports should be presented in a periodic manner, and asked if the legal framework must be strengthened in the context of pursuing terrorist groups committing war crimes and genocide.  He also wondered how States could be encouraged to improve their interaction with the Council.

The representative of Indonesia asked about strategies for ensuring that genuine dialogue with the Council was sustained.  Human rights were universal, indivisible, interdependent and mutually reinforcing.  They must be treated in a fair and equal manner, and those principles should guide the Council’s work.

The representative of Guatemala acknowledged the importance of strengthening the Human Rights Council, and his country would continue to support its work in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).  He asked how Member States in New York could ensure better coordination between the Third Committee and the Council.

The representative of Argentina said there should be smooth cooperation between New York and Geneva, expressing concern about reported attacks on mandate‑holders and a lack of cooperation with them by Member States.  All States must respect for the Council’s independence.  Argentina urged all to bolster cooperation with Special Procedures, and States to uphold their reporting commitments.

Mr. MARTELLI responded to questions about reform by stressing the importance of information flow.  The international community must consult at the grass‑roots level on how suggested reforms could take place.  Underscoring the importance of implementing resolutions, he said they must reach communities and local governments.  On the issue of resources, he said the Human Rights Council had started to limit speaking time, among other measures.  The universal periodic review was a valuable resource that States could not lose or waste, he said, noting that many countries voluntarily presented midterm reports in advance of deadlines.  Parliaments must be included in human rights work, as they ensured that new international legislation could be transposed into domestic law.

The United Nations human rights system was an admirable one, he said, noting that in the previous cycle of meetings, 900 interventions had been made by civil society.  Emphasizing the importance of accurate information, he said States must not politicize the Human Rights Council, though the world was politicized; they must work according to universality and respect for the legal framework.  On the links between New York and Geneva, he noted that there were procedures in place that allowed discussion to take place before decisions were taken by the 47 countries voting in the Human Rights Council.  Prioritization remained crucial, but ultimately, complementarity between New York and Geneva existed and must be bolstered.  The goal was to improve decision‑making in a more holistic fashion in a future‑oriented perspective.  Human rights work would never fade from the agenda; it was a process.

Ms. HAILE (Eritrea), speaking on behalf of the African Group, stressed that the Council’s mandate must be driven by the principles of cooperation and genuine dialogue free from politicization, selectivity and double standards.  The universal periodic review was the pillar of the Council’s work, she said, calling for the adequate funding of mechanisms that would allow States to implement Council recommendations.  Reaffirming the Group’s commitment to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, she commended the Council’s work in the area of practical enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.  Fulfilling those rights was key to eradicating extreme poverty, she assured.

The African Group prioritized dialogue and international cooperation aimed at assisting States to fulfil human rights obligations, she said.  Meeting those obligations required recognizing that extreme poverty and social exclusion constituted violations of human dignity, she said, voicing concern over the apparent “hierarchy of rights”.  She also expressed concern over attempts to undermine the Third Committee’s mandate by having the Council’s report submitted to the General Assembly without the Committee’s endorsement.  To that end, the Africa Group would continue to present its annual resolution on the Council’s report, she assured.

CHARLES WHITELEY, European Union delegation, said there was potential to strengthen dialogue between the Human Rights Council and the Security Council.  The Human Rights Council’s mandate to help prevent rights violations must be carried out so that early warning could become early action, he said, calling the independent Special Procedures mandate‑holders the world’s “eyes and ears,” attentive to emerging crises.  Underscoring the importance of the Council’s independence, he strongly opposed any attempts to undermine its institutional position within the United Nations.  In Syria, the Council’s efforts to foster accountability and fight impunity were crucial, he said, also describing its work related to Yemen, Sri Lanka and its assistance to other countries including Haiti, Libya and Mali.

The European Union condemned violence, harassment, intimidation, reprisals or threats thereof to civil society and human rights defenders, he said.  Noting that Council members should uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, he urged the Democratic Republic of the Congo to cooperate with the international expert group, and Burundi to do likewise with the Commission of Inquiry.  The European Union welcomed the Council’s establishment of an Independent International Fact‑Finding Mission to Myanmar, as well as the extensions of the Special Rapporteur mandates addressing human rights in Myanmar, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea and Belarus, as well as the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.

JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay) said that during its membership on the Council, his country had worked to promote productive dialogue and championed several initiatives to benefit all people.  Paraguay had pursued initiatives to strengthen monitoring of implementation to accomplish the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  He underscored the importance of appropriate national rights protection mechanisms and assistance from the United Nations to promote and protect human rights of all people.  Rights must be enjoyed in a just and equitable fashion, he said, underscoring the need to strengthen the Council through the provision of necessary resources.

MOHAMED MOUSSA (Egypt), associating himself with the African Group, said the Council could only work effectively if its efforts were applied in the context of genuine inter‑Governmental dialogue.  The Council’s mandate was outlined by the General Assembly and he expressed concern over efforts to alter its mission.  There was a need to streamline the Council’s work and he affirmed the interdependence of all rights, including the right to development, which must be pursued on equal footing.  He welcomed the appointment of the Special Rapporteur on the right to development.

MEJIA VELEZ (Colombia) insisted that efforts were needed to streamline the number of resolutions considered by the Council.  The body helped to advance respect for all rights, notably by strengthening the structures that protected those rights.  Still, colossal challenges remained, she said, welcoming the start of the third universal periodic review cycle.  The review process could foster global cooperation on human rights issues, she noted, commending implementation of recommendations made during the review cycles.  Pointing to Colombia’s recent peace agreement, she expressed the need to promote human rights in rural areas and support gender‑specific approaches.

Ms. HAILE (Eritrea), associating herself with the African Group, underscored the importance of ensuring the Human Rights Council was not used as a tool for political purposes, noting that it had been established to address the manipulation and double standards characterizing the Commission on Human Rights.  Eritrea rejected the practice of “naming and shaming” and of imposing mandates that did not enjoy the support of the concerned country.  It was unfortunate that the Council continued to be embroiled in a regional conflict, she said, singling out the universal periodic review as the appropriate forum for discussions.  Human rights were interrelated and indivisible, but some countries continued to ignore economic, social and cultural rights in favour of civil and political rights.

JUN SAITO (Japan) said his country had been promoting and protecting human rights in the Asia‑Pacific region, sponsoring country‑specific resolutions in the Human Rights Council.  The international community should render the Council more effective and efficient, and it was worth considering a review of the schedules, frequencies and procedures of the human rights mechanisms as a whole, he said.  As Special Procedures were essential functions, a review of them by a third party could be helpful to improving their quality and efficiency.  Indeed, the Council was becoming ever more important and should keep updating itself.

ALI MAAN (Iraq) said his country’s Constitution ensured all people were equal under the law.  As the international war on terror persisted, Iraq understood the consequences of terror and vowed to remain at the forefront of the fight.  Social problems like poverty and injustice were at the root of negative phenomena across the world, he said, urging efforts to “dry up” sources of terror.  He called for implementation of programmes that countered exclusion and enhanced human rights in all countries as a means to spread a culture of acceptance.

AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria) expressed opposition to the Council President’s report and in particular to sections referring to Syria.  The report threatened the credibility of the Council and universal periodic review, he said, condemning efforts to politicize human rights issues.  Noting that the President had gone beyond his mandate, he said the Council had failed to identify Syria’s efforts to combat terror, as well as the negative effects resulting from unilateral measures imposed against it by certain Member States.  The President also had failed to condemn violence in Yemen caused by Saudi Arabia, he said, objecting to selectivity in addressing human rights.

Mr. GAUMAKWE (Botswana), associating himself with the African Group, said the Council’s work load continued to grow, threating efforts to mitigate rights violations.  The increased scope of the agenda called for reflection on how to effectively use resources.  Botswana had held multi‑stakeholder consultations in drafting human rights legislation and was drafting a bill to transform the Ombudsman’s office into a hybrid national human rights institution.  The universal periodic review and national efforts had strengthened the bridge between the State and civil society, he assured, stressing that holistic approaches were vital to preventing rights violations.

Ms. BROOKS (United States) said the Council’s credibility had been damaged by the presence of members with poor human rights records and hostility to its primary mission, as evidenced by the election of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Reform of its agenda was needed.  All States must work to strengthen the Council through positive action in New York and Geneva, she said, underscoring that civil society must be able to engage with the United Nations without fear of retaliation.  The United States was appalled by direct threats of retaliation, including by Human Rights Council members; Special Procedures had also reported on reprisals.  The international community must do more to put end to such threats.  The Council must be a voice for people fighting for human rights, and as such, must have members committed to human rights.

CASTILLO SANTANA (Cuba) said the Human Rights Council had been established out of a need to tackle double standards and political manipulation, all traits characterizing the defunct Commission.  Yet, the trend to impose selectivity and double standards was concerning; cooperation and respectful dialogue should steer the Council’s work.  Special Procedures mandate‑holders should also observe the Code of Conduct.  As long as an unjust and exclusive international economic order persisted, along with unilateral coercive measures and blockades, the Council must demand the end to those practices.

Ms. KHALVANDI (Iran) affirmed her country’s commitment to constructive dialogue on human rights issues in the Human Rights Council.  Yet, the Council was being exploited for political purposes, and politicization was eroding the benefits of the universal periodic review.  Stressing that the Council had been developed to ensure impartiality, she said country‑specific resolutions only fomented confrontation.  They diverted resources that could be used to promote human rights and she disassociated herself with sections of the Council report referring to Iran.  She underscored the role of the Council in confronting discrimination and terrorism, and urged it to raise awareness of the destructive power of terrorists and their supporters.

ZOUBIR BENARBIA (Algeria), associating himself with the African Group, expressed support for the Council’s mandate.  Emphasizing that it should be carried out in line with the principles of cooperation and dialogue free from politicization and double standards, he said Algeria had presented its third universal periodic review in 2017, and voiced support for that mechanism’s neutral and cooperative approach to reviewing countries’ human rights situations.  Because economic rights were as important as political and civil rights, he stressed that the Council should consider questions regarding the right to food, the effects of foreign debt and the impact of unilateral coercive measures.

ALEX AJAYI (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group, underlined his country’s role — as the largest democracy in Africa — in formulating key international human rights policies and agendas.  Noting that Nigeria was a State party to such instruments, and that it had recently been re-elected to the Council for the 2018‑2020 term, he cited the 1996 creation of a National Human Rights Commission to monitor compliance with Government obligations.  In addition, Nigeria had put in place a national action plan on human rights and a national consultative forum to articulate the means of fulfilling recommendations adopted by the Government during various review cycles of the Council’s machinery.

Mr. HASBUN (El Salvador) said human rights were a state policy for his country and a pillar of its foreign policy.  El Salvador had ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Optional Protocol on Civil and Political Rights and the Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child pertaining to Communications Procedures.  It also had reformed the family code to prohibit child marriage.  As a Human Rights Council member, El Salvador had championed the rights of migrant children and adolescents, presenting a resolution adopted by consensus on that subject.  While a subsidiary organ of the Assembly, the Council had its own remit, reflected in the fact that civil society was involved in its work.

Ms. GINTERE (Latvia), associating herself with the European Union, said the international community must ensure the Council was able to respond to challenges in an effective and timely manner, noting that her country had served as a member for the past three years, advocating for gender equality and freedom of expression both online and offline.  It was heartening that the number of standing invitations to Special Procedures had increased, and she pressed all States to ensure genuine cooperation with them.  The Council faced a growing workload, challenging its ability to respond to crises.  Latvia supported initiatives aiming to strengthen its effectiveness, emphasizing that Member States must not only criticize the Council but renew their political will.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) said difficulties stemming from diverging priorities had emerged regarding the Council’s agenda.  Pointing to calls for reform, he said contradictory approaches to promoting human rights were being used.  The Council’s expanding work and proliferation of special procedures created unclear priorities.  Country‑specific procedures were largely counterproductive, he said, pointing to the universal review as a success, one he attributed to the cooperative spirit of the process.  Naming and shaming would not improve human rights, he assured, calling for a more representative Council.

IHOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine) said a main responsibility of the Council was the timely response to gross rights violations.  Greater attention must be paid to the development of conceptual approaches to abuses such as crimes against humanity and genocide.  He commended the Council’s special procedures and universal periodic review, saying they promoted protection of rights across the world.  The cooperation of all relevant human rights actors was needed to ensure that review processes were transparent and that States were accountable for their actions.  Expressing appreciation for the Council’s contributions in addressing the situation in the occupied Crimean peninsula, he said Russian‑backed terrorists were conducting a war against the people of Ukraine and called for an impartial assessment of all rights violations.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) said difficulties stemming from diverging priorities had emerged regarding the Council’s agenda.  Pointing to calls for reform, he said contradictory approaches to promoting human rights were being used.  The Council’s expanding work and proliferation of special procedures created unclear priorities.  Country‑specific procedures were largely counterproductive, he said, pointing to the universal review as a success, one he attributed to the cooperative spirit of the process.  Naming and shaming would not improve human rights, he assured, calling for a more representative Council.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) said the Human Rights Council had the primary responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights, and as such, should serve as an effective platform for constructive dialogue.  The Council faced multiple challenges, including confrontation and politicization of its work, he said, adding that different types of human rights were not being promoted in a balanced manner.  Noting that some special procedures were going beyond their terms of reference, he underscored the need to enhance the Council’s credibility and urged it carry out its work according to its mandate.

Ms. MOUFLIH (Morocco), associating herself with the African Group, said the Council had become the principal United Nations body in charge of human rights, and had made technical assistance one of the foundations of its work.  Special procedures played an important role, providing the Council with expertise on thematic issues.  The international community had an obligation to protect the Council from being used for other reasons.  The increasing importance of human rights required an active Human Rights Council with increased visibility, she said, yet there had been few references to its work in the media.  The Council should adopt a media strategy to increase the visibility of its work.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected the allegation of the European Union’s delegate, stressing that non‑interference in the internal affairs of other countries should be strictly observed.  He also rejected the Council’s resolutions because the body was completely politicized and had no relevance to the promotion and protection of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The most serious rights violations were being committed in European countries.  The European Union should focus on its own deplorable human rights situations, rather than on non‑existent issues in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

News

Human Rights Council President Urges Governments to Protect Fundamental Freedoms in Word, Deed, as Third Committee Considers Report of Geneva-Based Body

The President of Human Rights Council urged Governments to ensure that efforts to protect fundamental freedoms existed “not just in words, but in practice”, as he presented his annual report to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) today.

Joaquín Alexander Maza Martelli (El Salvador), who had addressed the General Assembly plenary earlier in the day, said the Council had adopted 114 resolutions, presidential statements and decisions, 80 of them without a vote.

The situation in Myanmar deserved special attention, he said.  The Council had created an independent fact‑finding mission to examine alleged human rights violations by military and security forces, particularly in Rakhine State, extending its mandate to September 2018 when its final report would be considered.

Turning to Syria, he said the Council had held interactive dialogues with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, and extended that body’s mandate for another year.

More broadly, he said the Council had established a new special procedures mandate ‑ the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members — and created a joint task force to bridge the gap between the Council’s workload and resources.  He also informed delegates he had received reports of threats against those who had cooperated with the Council.  Any such intimidation was unacceptable.

In the ensuing debate, speakers described potential areas for the Council’s reform, with Eritrea’s delegate, on behalf of the African Group, stressing that the body should never be used as a tool for political purposes.  He also rejected the Council’s practice of “naming and shaming” and imposing mandates that did not enjoy the support of the concerned country.

The representative of the European Union said there was potential to strengthen dialogue between the Human Rights Council and the Security Council.  The Human Rights Council’s mandate must be carried out so that early warning could become early action, he said, calling the independent special procedures mandate‑holders the world’s “eyes and ears”, attentive to emerging crises.

Earlier in the day, the Third Committee concluded its debate on refugees, with speakers from host countries highlighting the challenges of sheltering large numbers of displaced people.  The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said his country had welcomed more than 318,000 refugees from Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He called for international support for local integration of the refugees.  Sudan’s delegate said the inflow of refugees into her country was mixed with illegal migrants who had been trafficked, while Uganda’s delegate called for international support, as assisting refugees had over‑stretched its meagre resources.

Ukraine’s delegate, meanwhile, said 1.6 million people had been internally displaced from Russian‑occupied areas of Ukraine.  Similarly, Georgia’s delegate said the ethnic Georgian population in occupied regions faced an imminent threat of expulsion.  The representative of Russian Federation, exercising the right of reply, objected to baseless accusations against her country.  South Ossetia and Abkhazia were independent States and the Russian Federation had never controlled those territories.  Further, citizens were fleeing Ukraine due to crimes by ultranationalists and Ukrainian authorities.  The Russian Federation had offered voluntary donations to the High Commissioner for Refugees to manage the situation in eastern Ukraine, she added.

Also speaking in the discussion on refugees were representatives of Pakistan, China, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Argentina, Serbia, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Thailand, Botswana, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Ethiopia, Zambia, Nigeria and Mali, as well as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Also speaking in the debate on the Human Rights Council report were representatives of Paraguay, Egypt, Colombia, Eritrea, Japan, Iraq, Syria, Botswana, United States, Cuba, Iran, Algeria, Nigeria, El Salvador, Latvia, India, China and Morocco.

The representatives of Algeria, Ukraine, Georgia, Morocco and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Monday, 6 November, to continue its work.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The Third Committee met today to continue its debate on questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons.  (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4216).

NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan) commended the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants but stressed that more must be done to find solutions to the refugee crisis.  Pakistan had sheltered millions of Afghan refugees in the past four decades, providing them with education, health care and jobs.  While the Prime Minister had said that they would not be repatriated forcibly, host countries had largely been taken for granted and their national resources stretched to cater to refugee needs.  He called for equal burden sharing and establishing long‑term solutions to address the root causes of displacement.

ELENE AGLADZE (Georgia) said the ethnic Georgian population living in occupied regions faced an imminent threat of expulsion.  Harsh restrictions had been imposed on education in the native Georgian language and Georgian classes had been prohibited in the Gali district and Tskhinvali region.  Further, the closure of entry and exit points across the occupation line by Russian occupation forces had also severely restricted the freedom of movement of local residents.  Those occupation forces had demolished the homes of internally displaced people from Georgia in the occupied Tskhinvali region.  She said talks on humanitarian issues in occupied regions, and on displaced people from Georgia, had been politicized by the Russian Federation.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) said it was crucial to focus on both the symptoms and root causes of the refugee problem.  Root causes, such as social instability and imbalance in development, should be addressed by stepping up assistance for development.  There was also a need to resolve disputes through dialogue.  The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should summarize its experience and practices of pilot projects for implementing the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework and use the information for the formulation of the Global Compact for Refugees.  Negotiations of the Global Compact must be driven by Member States and should be advanced gradually.  She called on UNHCR to maintain its objectivity and neutrality and avoid interfering in internal affairs of countries and politicizing refugee protection mechanisms.

Ms. ALFASSAM (Kuwait) said the displacement crisis had worsened in recent years, threatening international stability.  Noting the High Commissioner’s focus on addressing its causes, she called on all States to cooperate in relevant efforts.  Pointing to the New York Declaration as a cornerstone to improve the living conditions of refugees and migrants, she said Kuwait was providing assistance through pledging conferences, contributing more than $2 million to assist refugees in the Middle East and elsewhere.  The situation of refugees without official documents was a priority, she said, and relevant documentation was being issued to those in Kuwait.

SAMAR SUKKAR (Jordan) said those fleeing conflict and entering Jordan had reached 2.8 million, with a majority being Syrian nationals.  Those circumstances had severely stressed public services, impacting Jordan’s development trajectory.  The Government was pursuing long‑term plans to address the refugee crisis and had established a single national framework to address the matter.  Syrian refugees without required documentation had been allowed to enrol in school, and some 200 schools now operated double shifts to allow for the attendance of refugee children.  Health services were also being provided, including gender‑sensitive attention to women and girls.  The protracted nature of the regional crisis had pushed Jordan’s assistance capacity to its limits, she said, stressing the importance of burden sharing.

MARWAN FRANCIS (Lebanon) expressed deep concern over the protracted situation of forced migration and stressed that the crisis should not become “the new normal”.  The international community must work together, he said, noting that burden and responsibility sharing were fundamental to addressing forced migration.  The causes of the crisis must also be tackled, and assistance must account for the specific context of each situation.  The return of refugees to their homes also must be a priority, he affirmed, adding that Lebanon hosted 1.2 million Syrian refugees and 400,000 Palestinian refugees.  The mass influx was straining limited assistance capabilities, he said, commending the High Commissioner’s efforts to engage with development partners.

GABRIELA MARTINIC (Argentina) called the adoption of the New York Declaration a step in the right direction, noting that while her country was committed to sheltering Syrian refugees, there was a need to establish sustainable regional and international solutions.  In November, Argentina would host two subregional meetings on implementation of the Brazil Declaration and Plan of Action to address displacement trends.  While no country was free from the impact of refugee movements, developing countries had been most affected and there was a need to identify institutional frameworks that would help them both better address refugee needs, and particularly, the rights of women, children, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and disabled refugees.

MARINA IVANOVI Ć (Serbia) said increasing numbers of refugees in his country had strained its accommodation capacities.  The large influx had also led to growing xenophobia and intolerance.  Serbia had offered refugees and migrants accommodation, food and health protection.  Its experience dated to the 1990s when thousands of people from the former Yugoslavia had fled to Serbia.  The country had also sheltered 200,000 internally displaced people from Kosovo and Metohija since 1999.  The regional housing programme for refugees, implemented by four countries in cooperation with the European Commission, UNHCR, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB), was an example of partnership between host countries, countries of origin and international partners.

Ms. HWANG (Republic of Korea) said the global refugee crisis had overwhelmed humanitarian responses.  However, the New York Declaration was reason to be optimistic and the recent pledging conference for Myanmar was a timely event.  Calling for durable solutions to the crisis, she urged humanitarian actors to address the causes of displacement and redouble efforts to strengthen partnerships with the private sector and development agencies.  Underlining the principle of non‑refoulement, she said no country could cope with the refugee crisis alone.  Republic of Korea was the first country in Asia to adopt an independent refugee law and was implementing a pilot resettlement programme for refugees.

HARRISON W. MSEKE (United Republic of Tanzania), associating himself with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), drew attention to the challenges facing host nations as they tried to implement the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework.  A poor country, United Republic of Tanzania had nevertheless met its obligations, welcoming more than 318,000 refugees from Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo.  As part of the pilot roll‑out of the Framework, it would focus on admission and rights, emergency response, inclusion and self‑reliance, local integration of new citizens, third‑country options and voluntary repatriation and reintegration.  To the latter point, the Government would establish group processing for Congolese refugees, while ensuring that returns to Burundi were conducted in line with the principles of voluntary repatriation.  He requested international support for the local integration of 1,972 Burundian refugees who had been granted citizenship, referring to a concept note outlining proposed projects for the Kigoma region, which hosted the most refugees.

IHOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine) said his country had faced numerous humanitarian challenges due to the Russian aggression.  Some 1.6 million people had been internally displaced from Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, while many others lacked basic water and sanitation services. The humanitarian response plan was underfunded and while Ukraine was grateful for support from the High Commissioner’s Office, humanitarian aid into the country had been blocked by local authorities backed by the Russian Government.  Such human rights violations against ethnic Ukrainians had forced many to flee their homes.

LESETLA ANDREAS TEFFO (South Africa), associating himself with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that his country continued to “open our ports of entry to refugees and asylum seekers,” giving them the right of access to education, healthcare, jobs, legal aid and access to courts.  Voicing concern about the consequences of refugee outflows which continued to fall disproportionately on developing countries, he said that international cooperation in sharing the burden of hosting refugees had become critical in addressing such challenges.  In that regard, the momentum gained towards the elaboration of the Global Compact for Refugees through discussions on the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework was encouraging.  One of its key outcomes had been to ease the pressure through burden sharing; thus, the Framework should ensure adequate, predictable and equitable sharing of such burdens aimed at drastically easing the pressure on hosts.  Underlining that the establishment of development funding mechanisms should be mindful of those principles, he voiced his strong support for close cooperation and joint planning between humanitarian and development actors.

SUPATTRA AUEAREE (Thailand) said the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact on Migration were complementary, expressing support for the Framework.  In turn, that Framework would generate inputs for the international community to draft the Global Compact on Refugees, on track for adoption in September 2018.  Reviewing Thailand’s efforts, she cited efforts by her Government and Myanmar to facilitate the voluntary return of 71 displaced persons from Myanmar.  Thailand supported UNHCR’s “#Ibelong” campaign to end statelessness by 2024, and had implemented measures which would enable around 80,000 children born in Thailand to apply for Thai nationality.  The Cabinet also had finalized and implemented a screening system for undocumented immigrants and refugees, to address the problem of mixed migration.

PHOLOGO GAUMAKWE (Botswana), associating himself with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Group, said Africa continued to account for a large number of refugees, internally displaced persons and asylum seekers.  Displacement had resulted from protracted conflict, he said, adding that the global refugee crisis was a stark reminder of the need to assume collective responsibility for the provision of humanitarian response.  Noting that Botswana was host to 3,500 refugees, he said the repatriation process must be re‑engineered to reduce turnaround times for those wishing to return home.  Stressing the need for long‑term solutions, he said financial assistance was central to addressing the crisis.

LALA MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan) said that addressing the needs of displaced persons required the resolution of armed conflict, adding that attention to the issue of internally displaced persons was far from sufficient.  Armenian aggression had resulted in large‑scale displacement in her country.  Azerbaijan was making progress in providing assistance to displaced persons, she said, adding that several United Nations agencies had reported positively on the matter.  She underlined that approaches to alleviate the plight of internally displaced persons would be incomplete if they did not place repatriation as their priority.

OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) said the global humanitarian crisis was spreading, with Africa particularly affected by displacement.  He commended the efforts of sub‑Saharan States that had welcomed refugees and urged that assistance be given to them.  Several States were profiting from the refugee populations they hosted, which was the case in Algeria.  Refugees in Algeria had been stripped of their humanitarian rights, with camps in Tindouf falling victim to fraud.  Humanitarian aid was being diverted from refugee camps, he said, asking for a re‑evaluation of assistance being provided to refugees in the region.  Algeria could not continue to use refugees as a means to enrich itself, he affirmed.

HAILESELASSIE SUBBA GEBRU (Ethiopia) voiced concern that the High Commissioner’s budget was underfunded, citing a 75 per cent funding gap in the refugee response plan for Ethiopia.  Also concerning were the protection challenges related to human trafficking and smuggling, sexual and gender‑based violence and forced recruitment.  Assistance must go beyond repatriation, efforts which would require better collaboration between humanitarian and development actors in countries of origin.  He encouraged the expansion of resettlement opportunities as a means of international protection, stressing that partnership should remain the cornerstone of UNHCR’s approach.  International refugee protection should be guided by principle of burden and responsibility sharing, and support provided for least developed countries, which were hosts to the largest numbers of refugees.

HELLEN CHIFWAILA (Zambia) said her country hosted 57,000 refugees.  Since August, it had received some 3,360 Congolese refugees fleeing clashes between the forces of their Government and militia groups.  Noting that Zambia was ready to work with partners to provide assistance, she said the Government had introduced a law outlining provisions for the establishment of a refugee fund and refugee settlements.  Zambia was also considering the possibility of relaxing the encampment policy, in turn allowing refugees to engage in employment and achieve self‑reliance.  Around 20,406 refugees lived outside the settlements, she said, noting that the Government was providing education to refugee children in settlements.

ALEX AJAYI (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group, said all States must promote the rights of refugees, migrants and displaced persons, and expressed concern over the welfare of refugees around the world.  The advent of Boko Haram’s insurgency had led to the establishment of camps for internally displaced persons across Nigeria, which were ensuring access to life‑saving social services.  Displaced children were being granted access to education, with safe school initiatives in place.  Nigeria was carrying out a policy of civilian protection to better protect the population from armed conflict, he said.

DIZERY SALIM, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), recalled that the Uganda Red Cross had participated in drafting the terms of reference for the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework Secretariat.  While local actors had a strong understanding of circumstances, politics and culture relevant to the provision of refugee protection and assistance, global actors could do more to provide a quality, sustainable and principled response.  “There are times when we treat them as contractors instead of partners,” she said, and it was essential to boost their institutional capacity and provide core funding.  A good legal framework could strengthen the role of local actors and Governments alike.  IFRC had worked for more than a decade in more than 100 countries to strengthen domestic legal frameworks to facilitate responses to large‑scale emergencies.  On refugee resilience, she said participatory assessments should include host communities, which were often vulnerable themselves and whose generosity should not be taken for granted.

MOUSSA DOLLO (Mali) said his country was emerging from a socio‑political crisis which had forced thousands of citizens to flee their homes.  Mali attached great importance to refugee crises, and had introduced both a national policy and action plan to address the needs of internally displaced persons.  It also had worked with neighbouring countries, including Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania, to facilitate the return of Malian refugees.  With the Government working to establish peace and reconciliation in Mali, a tripartite agreement had resulted in 70,000 Malian citizens returning from Burkina Faso.  He thanked neighbouring countries for their help in sheltering Malian refugees.

KATHLEEN HAGAN, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that, despite meaningful progress, millions of people continued to be displaced by armed conflict and other violence, many within their own countries.  More must be done to prevent such circumstances and support both displaced people and their hosts.  He highlighted the need to better respond to displacement in cities, welcoming that Special Rapporteur Jimenez‑Damary had focused on enhancing the participation of displaced people in decisions affecting them.  States should mark the twentieth anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement by drawing on good practices in addressing the needs of internally displaced people.

Ms. MUKHTAR (Sudan) said the geographic location and cultural heritage of her country had attracted refugees for years.  Sudan was committed to addressing the needs of refugees but faced challenges, as their inflow was mixed with illegal migrants who had been trafficked.  As such, the Government had enacted a law against human trafficking.  But Sudan had received little international assistance to deal with the refugee crisis.  The Government had provided the best treatment possible and would continue to provide refugees with health care, security and education, while working to facilitate their return.

KINTU NYAGO (Uganda) said the large influx of refugees from South Sudan and other countries into Uganda led to the hosting of a solidarity summit on the matter earlier this year.  Assisting refugees was over‑stretching the Government’s meagre resources, he said, adding that a grassroots‑based assistance programme was being implemented with help from the World Bank and United Nations.  Termed the “Uganda Model”, that programme faced land‑management and service‑access challenges, he said, urging the international community to provide support to ensure the approach accomplished long‑term solutions.

Right of Reply

The representative of Russian Federation, exercising the right of reply in response to her counterparts from Georgia and Ukraine, objected to baseless accusations against her country.  South Ossetia and Abkhazia were independent States and the Russian Federation had never controlled those territories, she said, adding that Georgia had ignored the needs of those forcibly displaced.  Further, the reason citizens were fleeing Ukraine was due to crimes committed by ultranationalists and Ukrainian authorities who had started a conflict in the country’s eastern regions.  The Russian Federation did not control republics and there were no Russian forces there.  It had offered voluntary donations to UNHCR to manage the situation in eastern Ukraine, she said, adding that the republic of Crimea was a subject of the Russian Federation in accordance with international law.

The representative of Algeria said to Morocco’s delegate on the question of refugees that Algeria was a host country for refugees.  There was no issue around Algeria’s calling into question any resolution adopted by the United Nations, he said.  It was Morocco that was “slithering away,” creating delays each time.  Algeria had been constant in its defence of self‑determination.  Morocco claimed innocence in the context of human rights, but in Western Sahara, its record was clear and confirmed, he said.  Morocco was an occupying power, not an administering power.  From the standpoint of international law, the territory was described in various United Nations resolutions.

The representative of Ukraine reminded the representative of the Russian Federation that in 2014, the latter had deployed so‑called “green men” to the territory of Crimea, and that an unlawful referendum had been held on the territory.  In 2014 the Russian Federation had fuelled war in Ukraine and now was proud of helping refugees from Ukraine.  Citing a Russian proverb, he said “no matter how many times you are going to say halva, it is not going to be any sweeter.”

The representative of Georgia said in response that the Russian Federation had misled the international community and undermined the rights of persons internally displaced from the occupied territories of Georgia.  Further, the Russian Federation had not complied with the United Nations Charter or resolutions on Georgia, and its violations had been noted by an international fact‑finding mission.  The Russian Federation bore responsibility for resolving the issue of internally displaced persons and improving the human rights situation in Ukraine.

The representative of Morocco, in response to Algeria’s delegate, said the latter country had demonstrated complete disregard for and ignorance of international law.  Algeria’s claim that Morocco had occupied the Sahara was false because the territory had always belonged to Morocco.

The representative of Algeria, responding to Morocco’s delegate, said the latter country had illegally occupied Western Sahara and Algeria was not alone in voicing that opinion.  The right to self‑determination should be exercised in accordance with international law and Algeria stood by that position.

The representative of Morocco, responding to Algeria’s delegate, said the people of the Sahara had pledged allegiance to Morocco.  Algeria sought to create a territorial problem because of its “hegemonic designs”.  Yet it had only highlighted the importance of self‑determination in the context of the Sahara, not in the context of other countries.

Human Rights Council Report

JOAQUÍN ALEXANDER MAZA MARTELLI (El Salvador), President of the Human Rights Council, presented the body’s annual report (document A/72/53), outlining its activities, resolutions, decisions and presidential statements adopted at its regular session, as well as its special session in December 2016.  Over the year, the Council had adopted 114 resolutions, presidential statements and decisions, 80 of them without a vote.  By the end of 2017, it would have reviewed 28 States’ human rights obligations under its universal periodic review.  Once again, the Council had seen greater participation by small island developing States and least developed countries, thanks to the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund that had supported 27 delegates and fellows from 26 countries.

He said the situation in Myanmar deserved special attention and the Council had created an independent fact‑finding mission to examine alleged human rights violations by military and security forces, particularly in Rakhine State, extending its mandate to September 2018 when its final report would be considered.  On the situation in Syria, he said interactive dialogues with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry had been held and the Commission’s mandate had been extended for another year.  He went on to describe other efforts related to South Sudan, Burundi, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Libya, Georgia and Yemen.

In 2017, the Council had established a new mandate, namely the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, and decided against extending the mandates of the Independent Experts on Côte d’Ivoire and Haiti.  He said 118 Member States and 1 Observer State had extended a standing invitation to thematic special procedures, but he expressed concern that a few States had decided not to cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms.  Calling on all States to provide full cooperation, he stressed it was also essential that civil society actors and national human rights bodies be provided with a safe space for their voices to be heard.

The Council had adopted several resolutions, with recommendations made to the General Assembly, he said, notably regarding Syria and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It had requested the Assembly to submit the reports and oral updates of the respective commissions of inquiry on the situations in Eritrea and Burundi.  To bridge the gap between the Council’s workload and resources allocated to it, a joint task force had been established, which had suggested measures to help save time.  He also said he had received reports of threats against those who had cooperated with the Council, emphasizing that any such intimidation was unacceptable.  He urged the international community to ensure that efforts to protect human rights existed “not just in words, but in practice”.

When the floor opened, the representative of Colombia asked how United Nations reform proposed by the Secretary‑General accounted for human rights issues.

The representative of Spain said the Human Rights Council was the primary specialized body for human rights in the United Nations system, adding more work was needed to improve coordination between the relevant agencies in New York and Geneva.  She said resources had fallen short of meeting the Council’s needs for 2018 and suggested streamlining upcoming meetings.

The representative of Japan said the Council must be subject to constant review to better meet the needs of people worldwide.  The General Assembly should pay attention to reviews of the Council and asked what priority areas had been identified in that regard.

The representative of Eritrea asked what the Human Rights Council was doing to ensure attention was being given to all rights issues, especially with regards to financing.

The representative of Hungary, associating himself with the European Union, said the Council constituted the best universal framework to protect basic rights.  Noting the needs of vulnerable groups, he called for the de‑politicization of its work.

The representative of Latvia stressed the importance of strengthening ties between the Council and the General Assembly.  Referencing reprisals against people cooperating with United Nations human rights agencies, she asked what could be done to ensure Organization‑wide action to mitigate reprisals.

The representative of Switzerland said civil society played a pivotal role in strengthening rights and asked what obstacles had been encountered in protecting persons cooperating with the Council.  She also asked how the protection of those persons could be strengthened and what working relations should be established among relevant agencies.

The representative of Germany said the United Nations could benefit from closer interaction among its institutions.  Civil society representatives had a clear place in the Council’s work and he asked how those wishing to cooperate with it could effectively be protected from reprisals.

The representative of Austria noted the importance of responding early to emerging crises and said the Council had a broad role to play in the Secretary‑General’s prevention agenda.  He asked how the Council could contribute to those efforts.

The representative of Australia said human rights and prosperity went hand‑in‑hand and committed his Government to enhancing the Council’s effectiveness.  Turning to management reform, he asked how the Council’s work could be streamlined.

The representative of Liechtenstein asked how the Council could strengthen engagement with other relevant agencies.

The representative from the European Union said he valued the independence of the Council’s work and its engagement with civil society.  He asked how the universal periodic review process could be improved, and how Member States could address difficulties in sourcing Council meetings.

The representative of the Republic of Korea expressed concern over reports of intimidation and reprisals against individuals cooperating with United Nations human rights institutions and asked how the Council’s working methods could be improved.

The representative of Norway welcomed the Council’s autonomy and said that combating discrimination promoted stability.  Expressing concern over the Council’s increasing workload, he asked how work could be made more efficient.

The representative of Ireland, associating himself with the European Union, said the Council was performing well, but questions remained regarding the promotion of universal participation in its work.  He asked how Member States and observers could foster a more inclusive Council.

The representative of South Africa said the Council’s status as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly had been maintained in relevant resolutions and attempts to review the Council should only be done through the relevant framework.

The representative of the United Kingdom said the international community must take on abuses wherever they occurred, and called on all countries, particularly new and existing Council members, to cooperate with the Special Procedures.  He asked how the States could best protect civil society space at the Council and, in turn, how the Council could support the mainstreaming of human rights across the United Nations system.

The representative of Bahamas asked for an evaluation of the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund to Support the Participation of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, and for reflections on what impact small developing countries such as the Bahamas could have on the Council’s work.

The representative of Iraq said human rights reports should be presented in a periodic manner, and asked if the legal framework must be strengthened in the context of pursuing terrorist groups committing war crimes and genocide.  He also wondered how States could be encouraged to improve their interaction with the Council.

The representative of Indonesia asked about strategies for ensuring that genuine dialogue with the Council was sustained.  Human rights were universal, indivisible, interdependent and mutually reinforcing.  They must be treated in a fair and equal manner, and those principles should guide the Council’s work.

The representative of Guatemala acknowledged the importance of strengthening the Human Rights Council, and his country would continue to support its work in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).  He asked how Member States in New York could ensure better coordination between the Third Committee and the Council.

The representative of Argentina said there should be smooth cooperation between New York and Geneva, expressing concern about reported attacks on mandate‑holders and a lack of cooperation with them by Member States.  All States must respect for the Council’s independence.  Argentina urged all to bolster cooperation with Special Procedures, and States to uphold their reporting commitments.

Mr. MARTELLI responded to questions about reform by stressing the importance of information flow.  The international community must consult at the grass‑roots level on how suggested reforms could take place.  Underscoring the importance of implementing resolutions, he said they must reach communities and local governments.  On the issue of resources, he said the Human Rights Council had started to limit speaking time, among other measures.  The universal periodic review was a valuable resource that States could not lose or waste, he said, noting that many countries voluntarily presented midterm reports in advance of deadlines.  Parliaments must be included in human rights work, as they ensured that new international legislation could be transposed into domestic law.

The United Nations human rights system was an admirable one, he said, noting that, in the previous cycle of meetings, 900 interventions had been made by civil society.  Emphasizing the importance of accurate information, he said States must not politicize the Human Rights Council, though the world was politicized; they must work according to universality and respect for the legal framework.  On the links between New York and Geneva, he noted that there were procedures in place that allowed discussion to take place before decisions were taken by the 47 countries voting in the Human Rights Council.  Prioritization remained crucial, but ultimately, complementarity between New York and Geneva existed and must be bolstered.  The goal was to improve decision‑making in a more holistic fashion in a future‑oriented perspective.  Human rights work would never fade from the agenda; it was a process.

AMANUEL GIORGIO (Eritrea), speaking on behalf of the African Group, stressed that the Council’s mandate must be driven by the principles of cooperation and genuine dialogue free from politicization, selectivity and double standards.  The universal periodic review was the pillar of the Council’s work, he said, calling for the adequate funding of mechanisms that would allow States to implement Council recommendations.  Reaffirming the Group’s commitment to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, he commended the Council’s work in the area of practical enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.  Fulfilling those rights was key to eradicating extreme poverty, he assured.

The African Group prioritized dialogue and international cooperation aimed at assisting States to fulfil human rights obligations, he said.  Meeting those obligations required recognizing that extreme poverty and social exclusion constituted violations of human dignity, he said, voicing concern over the apparent “hierarchy of rights”.  He also expressed concern over attempts to undermine the Third Committee’s mandate by having the Council’s report submitted to the General Assembly without the Committee’s endorsement.  To that end, the African Group would continue to present its annual resolution on the Council’s report, he assured.

CHARLES WHITELEY, European Union delegation, said there was potential to strengthen dialogue between the Human Rights Council and the Security Council.  The Human Rights Council’s mandate to help prevent rights violations must be carried out so that early warning could become early action, he said, calling the independent Special Procedures mandate‑holders the world’s “eyes and ears,” attentive to emerging crises.  Underscoring the importance of the Council’s independence, he strongly opposed any attempts to undermine its institutional position within the United Nations.  In Syria, the Council’s efforts to foster accountability and fight impunity were crucial, he said, also describing its work related to Yemen, Sri Lanka and its assistance to other countries including Haiti, Libya and Mali.

The European Union condemned violence, harassment, intimidation, reprisals or threats thereof to civil society and human rights defenders, he said.  Noting that Council members should uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, he urged the Democratic Republic of the Congo to cooperate with the international expert group, and Burundi to do likewise with the Commission of Inquiry.  The European Union welcomed the Council’s establishment of an Independent International Fact‑Finding Mission to Myanmar, as well as the extensions of the Special Rapporteur mandates addressing human rights in Myanmar, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea and Belarus, as well as the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.

JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay) said that during its membership on the Council, his country had worked to promote productive dialogue and championed several initiatives to benefit all people.  Paraguay had pursued initiatives to strengthen monitoring of implementation to accomplish the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  He underscored the importance of appropriate national rights protection mechanisms and assistance from the United Nations to promote and protect human rights of all people.  Rights must be enjoyed in a just and equitable fashion, he said, underscoring the need to strengthen the Council through the provision of necessary resources.

MOHAMED MOUSSA (Egypt), associating himself with the African Group, said the Council could only work effectively if its efforts were applied in the context of genuine inter‑Governmental dialogue.  The Council’s mandate was outlined by the General Assembly and he expressed concern over efforts to alter its mission.  There was a need to streamline the Council’s work and he affirmed the interdependence of all rights, including the right to development, which must be pursued on equal footing.  He welcomed the appointment of the Special Rapporteur on the right to development.

MEJIA VELEZ (Colombia) insisted that efforts were needed to streamline the number of resolutions considered by the Council.  The body helped to advance respect for all rights, notably by strengthening the structures that protected those rights.  Still, colossal challenges remained, she said, welcoming the start of the third universal periodic review cycle.  The review process could foster global cooperation on human rights issues, she noted, commending implementation of recommendations made during the review cycles.  Pointing to Colombia’s recent peace agreement, she expressed the need to promote human rights in rural areas and support gender‑specific approaches.

Ms. HAILE (Eritrea), associating herself with the African Group, underscored the importance of ensuring the Human Rights Council was not used as a tool for political purposes, noting that it had been established to address the manipulation and double standards characterizing the Commission on Human Rights.  Eritrea rejected the practice of “naming and shaming” and of imposing mandates that did not enjoy the support of the concerned country.  It was unfortunate that the Council continued to be embroiled in a regional conflict, she said, singling out the universal periodic review as the appropriate forum for discussions.  Human rights were interrelated and indivisible, but some countries continued to ignore economic, social and cultural rights in favour of civil and political rights.

JUN SAITO (Japan) said his country had been promoting and protecting human rights in the Asia‑Pacific region, sponsoring country‑specific resolutions in the Human Rights Council.  The international community should render the Council more effective and efficient, and it was worth considering a review of the schedules, frequencies and procedures of the human rights mechanisms as a whole, he said.  As Special Procedures were essential functions, a review of them by a third party could be helpful to improving their quality and efficiency.  Indeed, the Council was becoming ever more important and should keep updating itself.

ALI MAAN (Iraq) said his country’s Constitution ensured all people were equal under the law.  As the international war on terror persisted, Iraq understood the consequences of terror and vowed to remain at the forefront of the fight.  Social problems like poverty and injustice were at the root of negative phenomena across the world, he said, urging efforts to “dry up” sources of terror.  He called for implementation of programmes that countered exclusion and enhanced human rights in all countries as a means to spread a culture of acceptance.

AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria) expressed opposition to the Council President’s report and in particular to sections referring to Syria.  The report threatened the credibility of the Council and universal periodic review, he said, condemning efforts to politicize human rights issues.  Noting that the President had gone beyond his mandate, he said the Council had failed to identify Syria’s efforts to combat terror, as well as the negative effects resulting from unilateral measures imposed against it by certain Member States.  The President also had failed to condemn violence in Yemen caused by Saudi Arabia, he said, objecting to selectivity in addressing human rights.

Mr. GAUMAKWE (Botswana), associating himself with the African Group, said the Council’s work load continued to grow, threating efforts to mitigate rights violations.  The increased scope of the agenda called for reflection on how to effectively use resources.  Botswana had held multi‑stakeholder consultations in drafting human rights legislation and was drafting a bill to transform the Ombudsman’s office into a hybrid national human rights institution.  The universal periodic review and national efforts had strengthened the bridge between the State and civil society, he assured, stressing that holistic approaches were vital to preventing rights violations.

Ms. BROOKS (United States) said the Council’s credibility had been damaged by the presence of members with poor human rights records and hostility to its primary mission, as evidenced by the election of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Reform of its agenda was needed.  All States must work to strengthen the Council through positive action in New York and Geneva, she said, underscoring that civil society must be able to engage with the United Nations without fear of retaliation.  The United States was appalled by direct threats of retaliation, including by Human Rights Council members; Special Procedures had also reported on reprisals.  The international community must do more to put end to such threats.  The Council must be a voice for people fighting for human rights, and as such, must have members committed to human rights.

CASTILLO SANTANA (Cuba) said the Human Rights Council had been established out of a need to tackle double standards and political manipulation, all traits characterizing the defunct Commission.  Yet, the trend to impose selectivity and double standards was concerning; cooperation and respectful dialogue should steer the Council’s work.  Special Procedures mandate‑holders should also observe the Code of Conduct.  As long as an unjust and exclusive international economic order persisted, along with unilateral coercive measures and blockades, the Council must demand the end to those practices.

Ms. KHALVANDI (Iran) affirmed her country’s commitment to constructive dialogue on human rights issues in the Human Rights Council.  Yet, the Council was being exploited for political purposes, and politicization was eroding the benefits of the universal periodic review.  Stressing that the Council had been developed to ensure impartiality, she said country‑specific resolutions only fomented confrontation.  They diverted resources that could be used to promote human rights and she disassociated herself with sections of the Council report referring to Iran.  She underscored the role of the Council in confronting discrimination and terrorism, and urged it to raise awareness of the destructive power of terrorists and their supporters.

ZOUBIR BENARBIA (Algeria), associating himself with the African Group, expressed support for the Council’s mandate.  Emphasizing that it should be carried out in line with the principles of cooperation and dialogue free from politicization and double standards, he said Algeria had presented its third universal periodic review in 2017, and voiced support for that mechanism’s neutral and cooperative approach to reviewing countries’ human rights situations.  Because economic rights were as important as political and civil rights, he stressed that the Council should consider questions regarding the right to food, the effects of foreign debt and the impact of unilateral coercive measures.

ALEX AJAYI (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group, underlined his country’s role — as the largest democracy in Africa — in formulating key international human rights policies and agendas.  Noting that Nigeria was a State party to such instruments, and that it had recently been re-elected to the Council for the 2018‑2020 term, he cited the 1996 creation of a National Human Rights Commission to monitor compliance with Government obligations.  In addition, Nigeria had put in place a national action plan on human rights and a national consultative forum to articulate the means of fulfilling recommendations adopted by the Government during various review cycles of the Council’s machinery.

Mr. HASBUN (El Salvador) said human rights were a state policy for his country and a pillar of its foreign policy.  El Salvador had ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Optional Protocol on Civil and Political Rights and the Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child pertaining to Communications Procedures.  It also had reformed the family code to prohibit child marriage.  As a Human Rights Council member, El Salvador had championed the rights of migrant children and adolescents, presenting a resolution adopted by consensus on that subject.  While a subsidiary organ of the Assembly, the Council had its own remit, reflected in the fact that civil society was involved in its work.

Ms. GINTERE (Latvia), associating herself with the European Union, said the international community must ensure the Council was able to respond to challenges in an effective and timely manner, noting that her country had served as a member for the past three years, advocating for gender equality and freedom of expression both online and offline.  It was heartening that the number of standing invitations to Special Procedures had increased, and she pressed all States to ensure genuine cooperation with them.  The Council faced a growing workload, challenging its ability to respond to crises.  Latvia supported initiatives aiming to strengthen its effectiveness, emphasizing that Member States must not only criticize the Council but renew their political will.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) said difficulties stemming from diverging priorities had emerged regarding the Council’s agenda.  Pointing to calls for reform, he said contradictory approaches to promoting human rights were being used.  The Council’s expanding work and proliferation of special procedures created unclear priorities.  Country‑specific procedures were largely counterproductive, he said, pointing to the universal review as a success, one he attributed to the cooperative spirit of the process.  Naming and shaming would not improve human rights, he assured, calling for a more representative Council.

IHOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine) said a main responsibility of the Council was the timely response to gross rights violations.  Greater attention must be paid to the development of conceptual approaches to abuses such as crimes against humanity and genocide.  He commended the Council’s special procedures and universal periodic review, saying they promoted protection of rights across the world.  The cooperation of all relevant human rights actors was needed to ensure that review processes were transparent and that States were accountable for their actions.  Expressing appreciation for the Council’s contributions in addressing the situation in the occupied Crimean peninsula, he said Russian‑backed terrorists were conducting a war against the people of Ukraine and called for an impartial assessment of all rights violations.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) said difficulties stemming from diverging priorities had emerged regarding the Council’s agenda.  Pointing to calls for reform, he said contradictory approaches to promoting human rights were being used.  The Council’s expanding work and proliferation of special procedures created unclear priorities.  Country‑specific procedures were largely counterproductive, he said, pointing to the universal review as a success, one he attributed to the cooperative spirit of the process.  Naming and shaming would not improve human rights, he assured, calling for a more representative Council.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) said the Human Rights Council had the primary responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights, and as such, should serve as an effective platform for constructive dialogue.  The Council faced multiple challenges, including confrontation and politicization of its work, he said, adding that different types of human rights were not being promoted in a balanced manner.  Noting that some special procedures were going beyond their terms of reference, he underscored the need to enhance the Council’s credibility and urged it carry out its work according to its mandate.

MAJDOLINE MOUFLIH (Morocco), associating herself with the African Group, said the Council had become the principal United Nations body in charge of human rights, and had made technical assistance one of the foundations of its work.  Special procedures played an important role, providing the Council with expertise on thematic issues.  The international community had an obligation to protect the Council from being used for other reasons.  The increasing importance of human rights required an active Human Rights Council with increased visibility, she said, yet there had been few references to its work in the media.  The Council should adopt a media strategy to increase the visibility of its work.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected the allegation of the European Union’s delegate, stressing that non‑interference in the internal affairs of other countries should be strictly observed.  He also rejected the Council’s resolutions because the body was completely politicized and had no relevance to the promotion and protection of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The most serious rights violations were being committed in European countries.  The European Union should focus on its own deplorable human rights situations, rather than on non‑existent issues in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

News

Despite Growing Awareness of Urgent Need to End Sexual Violence, Empower Women in Conflict Zones, Real Progress Seriously Lagging, Security Council Told

Speakers Urge More Funding for Gender Expertise in Peacebuilding, Prosecution

Normative frameworks had been established and global awareness of the urgency of ending sexual atrocities and empowering women in conflict situations was growing, but progress on the ground must be accelerated, speakers told the Security Council in an all-day debate today.

“The chorus of voices that are appalled by the persistent political marginalization of women in decision-making is speaking louder; the number of people who are determined to find new solutions to the human suffering caused by conflict is growing,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said in a briefing, ahead of over 85 speakers in the Council’s annual examination of progress and gaps in implementing resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.  “But, that is just the beginning,” she declared, calling for redoubled efforts to empower and protect women throughout the United Nations system.

Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary-General; Michaëlle Jean, Secretary-General of the International Organisation of la Francophonie; and Charo Mina Rojas, a civil society representative from Colombia also briefed the Council.

Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said that the women, peace and security agenda was now an essential pillar of global affairs.  However, all indicators showed a decline in women’s participation in peace processes around the world and in leadership positions in conflict zones, with some heartening exceptions, such as in the Colombia peace process.  Similarly, awareness and documentation of sexual violence in conflict zones had soared, while actual prevention of such violence and prosecution of perpetrators sorely lagged.  She urged greater funding for gender expertise and projects in conflict zones.

Ms. Viotti, introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report on the subject (document S/2017/861), affirmed that women’s underrepresentation in the security sector increased their exposure to harm and undermined their potential in conflict prevention.  When the Council had visited the Lake Chad Basin, local leaders had emphasized the weak position of women as a root cause for the current crisis. 

She described plans of the Secretary-General to achieve gender parity in the United Nations, noting that only 3 per cent of peacekeepers were women.  Reform of the peace and security architecture would emphasize gender expertise, along with monitoring mechanisms targeting women marginalization.  Council and other Member States would also be encouraged to share best practices.

Ms. Rojas described provisions of the Colombian peace agreement that she said had become a new source of hope for women’s empowerment, inclusiveness and conflict settlement.  Ms. Jean, affirming a woefully low level of women’s participation in peacekeeping, described initiatives undertaken by la Francophonie to redress that situation and to ensure that women sat at negotiating tables in several African settings.  She called for increased support to women’s grass-roots organizations and other instruments that could increase women’s participation.

Following those briefings, Member States’ representatives at the ministerial and diplomatic levels agreed that while normative frameworks to empower and protect women in conflict situations had made steady progress since the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), real progress in women’s meaningful engagement in all phases of peacebuilding and their protection from abuse and exploitation were seriously lagging.  Many speakers called for better ways to keep track of gender data to better monitor such progress.

Many countries described their national efforts to close the gap in their domestic policies, their international cooperation and their contributions to United Nations peacekeeping.  The representative of the United Kingdom stressed the importance of sharing specific actions and best practices undertaken by countries, after 17 years of slow progress.  In that vein, Senegal’s representative described regional efforts in West Africa, while Uruguay’s representative attested to the increased effectiveness of peacekeeping contingents deploying women.

The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, noting that women in her country had been seriously affected by years of conflict, said that efforts to increase women’s participation in local levels of Government was paying out in the form of more effective peaceful conflict resolution in some provinces.  Kazakhstan’s representative said that women, along with youth, must be seen as a critical link in the security/development nexus.

Ending violence against women, ensuring accountability for perpetrators and ensuring zero tolerance for sexual exploitation by peacekeepers were seen as urgent priorities by all speakers.  In many situations, speakers said it was time to move past words and to action on the issue.  In that vein, the representative of Bangladesh said rape and sexual abuse of Rohingya women was being used as a tactic of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, and called for stronger action from the Council and the international community.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden recounted her recent trip to Afghanistan, as well as her experience as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.  She said it was a mistake to view such violence as inevitable or impossible to prosecute and ensure that impunity was ended.  And to implement the full 1325 agenda, Member States must utilize the policy frameworks that have been put in place to actually empower women.  “The frameworks and tools are in place,” she said.  “It is up to us to make it happen.”

Also speaking today were the representatives of Ukraine, Bolivia, Italy, United States, Egypt, Ethiopia, Russian Federation, China, Japan, Kazakhstan, Uruguay, France, Colombia, Germany, Guatemala, Panama (on behalf of the Human Security Network), Liechtenstein, Tunisia, Turkey (also on behalf of Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Australia), Nepal, Slovenia, Canada (on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security), Iran, Czech Republic, Norway, Jordan, Brazil, Mexico, Namibia, Belgium, Indonesia, Spain, Slovakia, Peru, Argentina, Morocco, Switzerland, Qatar, Lithuania, Israel, South Africa, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Albania, Hungary, Pakistan, Maldives, Netherlands, El Salvador, Chile, Jamaica, Iraq, Austria, Georgia, Botswana, India, Costa Rica, Romania, Philippines, Viet Nam, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Armenia, Trinidad and Tobago, Rwanda, Portugal, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Ecuador, Nigeria, Djibouti and Azerbaijan, as well as the Holy See, State of Palestine, European Union and the African Union.

Also speaking were representatives of the Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The meeting began at 10:19 a.m. and ended at 8:19 p.m.

Briefings

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI, Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary‑General, said there was a pressing need for more action to implement the women, peace and security agenda, with prevention as a core pillar.  Women were affected in negative ways by armed conflict and violence and comprised most of the victims of rape and human trafficking.  In urban warfare, they were at risk in houses and checkpoints.

She said women’s underrepresentation in the security sector increased their exposure to harm and undermined their potential in conflict prevention.  When the Council had visited the Lake Chad Basin, local leaders had emphasized the situation of women as a root cause for the current crisis.  Mentioning other examples, she said the Secretary‑General was committed to promoting gender equality and to fully integrating the voice of women in conflict prevention.  He had put forward a plan to achieve gender parity in the United Nations.

Noting that only 3 per cent of peacekeepers were women, the Secretary-General was working with troop- and police‑contributing countries to increase the number of female uniformed personnel.  The new Office of Counter‑Terrorism was integrating a gender perspective.  Reform of the peace and security architecture would emphasize gender expertise.  Monitoring mechanisms should include a focus on women marginalization.

Tackling the root causes of crises included tackling gender inequality, she said.  Gender indicators should therefore be strengthened.  Seventeen years after its adoption, implementation of Council resolution 1325 (2000) was too often ad hoc.  She invited Council members and other Member States to share evidence and examples in order to examine gaps and successes.  She looked forward to working with Member States to ensure that women’s participation would strengthen the Organization’s peace efforts.

PHUMZILE MLAMBO-NGCUKA, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women), welcoming the Secretary‑General’s latest report on women, peace and security, said that that report celebrated progress and development of good practices, but also brought into the spotlight several alarming trends and setbacks.  “The chorus of voices that are appalled by the persistent political marginalization of women in decision-making is speaking louder; the number of people who are determined to find new solutions to the human suffering caused by conflict is growing,” she stated.

Regarding progress, she noted the presence in the chamber of a Colombian activist who helped ensure that the peace agreement in that country mainstreamed gender equality, with more than 100 provisions for women’s participation.  Unfortunately, the Colombian situation was an exception, she said.  Indicators tracked by UN‑Women showed an overall decline in women’s participation in United Nations-led peace processes, inclusion of gender-sensitive provisions in peace agreements and consultation with women’s civil society organizations, in comparison with one year ago.  Recent peace talks on the Central African Republic did not include a single woman, she lamented.

Political marginalization, she added, was not limited to peace talks.  Only 17 countries had an elected woman head of State or Government, and the proportion of women parliamentarians in conflict and post‑conflict countries had stagnated at 16 per cent.  The use of quotas and temporary special measures would help, she stressed, pointing to Somalia and Mali, where representation of women surged when such measures were instituted.

Turning to sexual violence, she said that atrocities against women and girls in armed conflict were now the focus of attention and documentation, with extensive evidence of such crimes in Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.  What was missing was consequences for perpetrators and justice, dignity and support for the survivors.  “This impunity cannot be allowed to continue,” she stated.

Noting the work of her organization and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) among many others, she said the international community was assisting hundreds of thousands of survivors of sexual crimes, but many more could not be reached due to lack of resources, access and security.  Conflict had also exacerbated extreme poverty, women’s responsibility for households, illiteracy, maternal mortality and child marriage in many areas.

Recalling testimony to the Council by one of the escaped Chibok schoolgirls in Nigeria, she said there was still much to learn about the rehabilitation and reintegration of returnees and their children.  Regarding the work of the Council itself, she regretted that the participation of women in peacekeeping was still low and sexual exploitation by peacekeepers had not yet been stamped out.  It was encouraging to see, however, the reduction in allegations of such abuse in the Central African Republic, improvements in victims support and assistance and a culture of accountability taking hold. 

At the same time, she said it was dispiriting to see gender advisory expertise being lost due to budget cuts, while it was heartening to see that the Peacebuilding Fund exceeded its goals in funding targeted to women’s empowerment.  She called on donors to continue supporting that vital instrument, with its 15 per cent standard for gender funding adopted by all post-conflict actors.  With more resources, the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund, in addition, would be able to support women’s organizations in many more places.

She noted, in that regard, that women’s rights defenders were under attack and there was still not enough being done to protect them.  She applauded the Council for regularly inviting women from civil society organizations to brief on specific countries and called on all Member States to support that new practice.  She also welcomed the adoption of resolutions devoted solely to sexual exploitation, human trafficking and their intersection with violent extremism, as well as the work of the Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security.  “But this Council could do so much more to put its full political weight behind implementation of this agenda,” she stressed.

In order to build on progress, she urged the continued forming of alliances and coalitions, noting that regional rosters of women mediators had been established.  The African Women Leaders Network was an example of growing cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union on the issue. National focus points and action plans on women, peace and security had proliferated and projects aimed at preventing violent extremism had been spread over several regions.  There were also encouraging signs for gender justice in the international courts.

The women, peace and security agenda was now an essential pillar of global affairs, she said, adding “This is only the beginning.  The chorus of voices that are appalled by the persistent political marginalization of women in decision‑making is speaking louder,” along with those who are calling for an end to conflict‑related suffering, she stated.  “This agenda unites us because people from all over the world, every day, look up to the United Nations for peace, equality and inclusion”, she concluded.

CHARO MINA‑ROJAS, NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, said that Colombia had become a new source of hope thanks to the comprehensive peace agreement that had been reached.  Two provisions of that agreement were particularly progressive and could bring radical changes to future peace processes around the world.  The first was the explicit inclusion of a gender perspective as an international principle, while the second was the inclusion of the “Ethnic Chapter”, which provided important safeguards to ensure the protection and promotion of Indigenous and Afro‑descendant People’s rights from a gender, family and generational perspective.  The inclusion of those two specific principles was a historic advancement on peace and security that the United Nations and other countries experiencing violence and armed conflicts could learn from.  The peace accord was also important for civil society, and in that regard, the engagement and active participation of women, ethnic groups and their communities was anticipated.

She emphasized that Colombia risked wasting an opportunity for peace if it did not completely disarm itself and if the communities most impacted during the internal armed conflict, including women human rights leaders and activists, continued to be ignored in the implementation of the peace accord.  “I am here today to make visible their urgent calls and want to stress that for my people, it is actually a matter of life or death,” she warned.  Ensuring the ongoing participation of women, especially from diverse communities, in all areas related to the implementation of the peace accord, was of critical importance.  There was an urgent need for local women’s organizations and community leaders to be consulted and participate in the design of local protection strategies to keep communities safe.

There was also a need to guarantee women’s integral and collective security, she said, noting that the proliferation of weapons was fuelling increased fear and forced displacement among largely Indigenous and Afro‑descendent communities.  It was also negatively impacting women’s participation and mobility, and resulting in increased sexual and gender‑based violence.  Sexual and gender‑based violence and the stigmatization it caused, especially for Indigenous and Afro‑descendent women and their children, was a matter of integral and collective security.  “The silence around these crimes is as appalling as the crimes themselves,” she stressed.  It was also crucial that the framework put in place for the implementation of the peace accord include specific goals and indicators designed to measure the progress and outcomes of policies, programmes and reforms in a matter that corresponded to the needs, values and rights of Indigenous and Afro‑descendant Peoples.

MICHAELLE JEAN, Secretary‑General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, said 17 years ago it was agreed to underline the importance of women’s participation, on equal footing with men, in crisis prevention, mediation, peacebuilding, and maintenance and consolidation of peace and security.  Women had not waited for the adoption of the resolution, however.  In Liberia, for instance, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had stood up to the war lords and had mediated between the fighting parties.  In Bosnia and Herzegovina, women had always been among the first to seek reconciliation.  Turning to women’s activities in Rwanda and Mali, she said the Ouagadougou Agreement of April 2012 had been drafted by four women who initially had not been allowed to speak, but were finally allowed to sit at the negotiating table.  Women contributed to peace and security and it was a mistake to underestimate their ability.

“How many more resolutions, studies, high‑level meetings of independent groups and expert advisory groups are necessary to end this unacceptable figure of only 9 per cent women’s participation in some 30 major peace negotiations over the last 25 years?” she asked.  Participation of women had led to a 20 per cent greater chance of achieving a peace lasting two years and 35 per cent chance of a peace lasting 15 years.  More than lip service should be paid to ensuring that women were invited to participate in national dialogues.  Why wait to address the fact that only 3 per cent of women were in peacekeeping missions, she asked.  It was proven that the presence of women there would contribute to a better understanding of security forces and improve their credibility among the populations they served, she said, stressing that “Women inspire confidence”.  

She said the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie had invested in women as peacekeepers and had been active in encouraging participation of women in missions and training them.  The organisation underscored the importance of women’s participation to its member States.  The climate of impunity and the trampling of human rights also affected women.  Peace, stability and security furthermore depended on economic development.  More must be done to increase financing for women’s participation in peace and security.  Funding of grassroots women organisations should also be addressed.

More must be done to end impunity, she said.  Years and resolutions had gone by but had not been put into action in that regard.  Women were the first targets when the decision was made to annihilate a population.  The rape of women and girls had become a weapon of mass destruction.  Describing the horrors women had to undergo in several area, she underlined it was not only an African problem.  The horrors took place everywhere in the world.

Statements

IVANNA KLYANPUSH‑TSINTSADZE (Ukraine) said the meaningful inclusion of women was perhaps the greatest, but most under‑utilized tool for building peace.  Women played a prominent role in peacebuilding in Ukraine, with the President having appointed a woman to a position in charge of the peace process in the Donbas region and two women participating in Minsk working groups dealing with humanitarian and political issues.  However, so long as foreign aggression continued, peace and security for most women in occupied parts of Ukraine would remain almost unattainable.  They would continue to lack protection and live in fear, with almost no recourse to justice, remaining economically disadvantaged and living with limited freedoms.  The Security Council must give priority to the protection and participation pillars of women, peace and security agenda, she said, expressing regret that impunity for human rights violations and abuses committed in the context of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, not least regarding sexual violence, still prevailed.

MARGOT WALLSTRÖM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, noted that she had travelled to today’s open debate directly from Afghanistan, where she met women and girls living amid conflict, struggling to make ends meet and keep their families safe whilst facing a constant risk of sexual violence.  “Oppression of women is a global disease,” she said, with the use of sexual violence as a weapon being the ultimate manifestation of that oppression.  Recalling her experience as the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, she said it was a mistake to view such violence as inevitable, unspeakable and a lesser crime.  A gender perspective must be incorporated in all aspects of peacebuilding, she said, underscoring the value of data and support for women’s organizations, but expressing concern that budget cuts and mainstreamed mandates could result in reduced gender expertise in United Nations missions.  Member States must seize the current momentum for women’s participation in peace processes and put women’s full enjoyment of their rights at the core of international peace and security.  “The frameworks and tools are in place,” she said. “It is up to us to make it happen.”

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said that despite active annual discussions since 2000, year after year the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda fell short.  He encouraged all speakers to be specific, therefore, about what their countries were doing to advance it.  His country had worked in Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan to increase women’s participation in all sectors.  It had also directly addressed sexual violence and the resulting stigmas through a number of projects and was providing training on such issues for peacekeepers.  He urged a reversal in the decrease in gender expertise in the United Nations.  Women leadership had greatly expanded in the United Kingdom, but as more could be done an action plan had been launched, as well as a “gender compact” for missions.  He urged all to institute such a compact and mainstream the issues involved into all conflict‑related initiatives.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) also noted the challenges in implementing the agenda, which he said required international and regional cooperation, even though, he stressed, each country had unique challenges.  Those particularities should be studied closely so the right capacities could be built for all United Nations initiatives.  Empowerment of women must be built in both conflict countries and all societies.  His country had put in place legislation in favour of women’s empowerment, most notably requiring equal representation in elected assemblies.  The right to property and other economic empowerment of women had also been strengthened.  As severe inequality was a driver of conflict, his State was playing a strong role in distributing wealth.  He praised several countries that had also taken steps to strengthen women’s empowerment, along with reforms instituted by the Secretary-General.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal) welcomed the international solidarity being exhibited on the issue.  He affirmed the necessity of empowering women in ensuring peaceful societies.  Unfortunately, inequality in all areas remained on the rise and women continued to suffer from it.  He expressed hope, however, that progress could be made both in policy and consciousness in advancing women’s empowerment.  Expertise and financing for that purpose was critical.  New international mechanisms were developing and that showed signs for hope.  In his region, there were more women officials in the African Union and the creation of a network of African women leaders.  He described several regional initiatives to empower women, including a framework within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  Adding that all international instruments had been integrated into his country’s policy frameworks, he stated that more than 100 Senegalese women were now deployed in peacekeeping operations.  Many challenges remained, however, and new kinds of gender‑based violence were emerging, particularly in the Sahel region.  Cooperation must therefore be strengthened to face them.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy), noting that centrality of the women, peace and security agenda was increasingly recognized, said that nevertheless the voices of women at the grassroots level were still rarely heard and they continued to be exploited and abused in many situations.  He urged the United Nations to lead as an example and encourage Member States to share best practices.  He announced that a women’s mediation network, just founded on 26 October in Rome with Government backing, as a way for women to build regional capacity to address a host of issues that were causes of violence and inequality.  Describing other Italian projects, he encouraged further cooperation between the United Nations with regional organizations.  Women’s meaningful participation must be promoted, he stressed:  women’s participation was not just a matter of numbers.

MICHELE J. SISON (United States) said that as the role of women in maintaining peace and security was critical, one should move from rhetoric to action.  More women were needed in government and at the negotiating table.  Her country was fully committed to advance full implementation of Council resolution 1325 (2000) she said, describing legal processes in that regard.  Noting that when women participated in peace processes, success was more sustainable, she said their full participation in the economy also bolstered prosperity for all, which was why her country supported women entrepreneurs.  She was disheartened to learn that the number of women participating in United Nations peace process had gone down.  Women were an under‑used resource in combating extremist violence, as they were a first line of defence against radicalization.  Women could play more vital roles in preventing terrorist ideologies taking root.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said the experience of the Council did prove that participation of women in peace processes made a difference in achieving peace.  He stressed the importance of women’s effective participation and providing funding for them in peace and security.  He stressed, however, that the scope of the agenda should be limited to countries in conflict and post conflict situations.  Concrete actions should be developed to increase the number of female “Blue Helmets”.  The suffering of women was exacerbated in conflict zones and areas under occupation.  He said his country had introduced an intensive training module on sexual and gender-based violence for the training of its peacekeepers.  The manual on the prevention of sexual abuse and exploitation, translated in English and French, was available to all troop‑contributing countries, he said.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) welcomed positive developments in advancing the women, peace and security agenda, particularly the focus on their participation in peace processes.  She was concerned, however, at the challenges posed by sexual and gender-based violence.  More needed to be done about sexual exploitation and abuse.  She said Africa had registered considerable progress in advancing the women, peace and security agenda, with national action plans adopted in many countries.  Gender policies adopted by the African Union and subregional organizations could provide a basis for facilitating the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda in Africa.  It was important to strengthen support for initiatives aimed at ensuring the participation of women in peace processes, mediation and election monitoring, she said, and encouraged a regional approach in advancing the agenda.

EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) said that while progress had been achieved in advancing the role of women, their protection was lagging.  Women continued to be victim to violence, especially by terrorist groups.  It was important to focus on issues related to establishing national peace and security.  There were specialized agencies and organizations to address issues such as gender equality.  The way the topic was discussed in the Chamber strayed from the established criteria, he said, noting that it was inappropriate to use the Council to promote controversial approaches that did not have broad global support.  The primary role in defending women rested with Governments, while measures of the United Nations system and civil society should be aimed at supporting the efforts of States.  Turning to Ukraine’s statement, he noted, among other things, that responsibility of the suffering of women as described by that country’s representative lay with the authorities.  Terrible crimes against women had been committed by Ukrainian forces, he said.

SHEN BO (China) said that since adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), the international community had built a sound framework for fostering a greater role for women in peace and security, but protection of their rights in times of conflict should be strengthened.  It was therefore important to prevent conflict, he said, and the Council should encourage States to settle their disputes peacefully.  The international community should embrace the notion of peace for development and heed the voices and participation of women in all stages of peace processes.  Special intention should be paid to women as a vulnerable group and protect them from terrorists.  Protection of women in post conflict situations should be intensified by support for gender equality measures as well as by development support.  As the Council had adopted consensus resolutions, United Nations agencies and bodies should strengthen their coordination and cooperation within their competencies with other bodies and regional and subregional organizations.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that, 17 years after the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), the normative framework had still not been fully put into practice.  Some 100 countries had announced their commitment to promote the women, peace and security agenda in 2015, at which time Japan had pledged to steadily implement and monitor its related national action plan, increase its financial support to UN‑Women, as well as the Office of the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, and invest in human resource development and the education of women in displacement.  Noting that his country had faithfully fulfilled those promises, he pointed out that it had recently become UN‑Women’s second‑largest contributor and was one of the top donors to the Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict.  As 90 per cent of conflicts from 2000 to 2009 were relapses, women’s meaningful participation and leadership were critical, including in peace negotiations and peacekeeping missions.  Outlining Japan’s technical training efforts in those areas, he added that the United Nations system‑wide strategy on gender parity was also critical and its implementation must be ensured.

KANAT TUMYSH (Kazakhstan) said that the 1325 agenda should be seen as a valuable tool for making the entire peacekeeping architecture of the United Nations more effective.  The gap between the framework and women’s progress must be closed, with stronger collaboration between Department of Peacekeeping Operations and UN‑Women to increase women’s parity in peacekeeping and to build gender expertise for all operations.  Gender expertise in preventing violent extremism must also be utilized.  Each Member State and region must play its role, in addition.  His country had promoted strong pro‑women policies in its legislative framework and all areas of security and peacebuilding.  Prevention of gender-based violence was central.  Women, along with youth, must be seen as a critical link in the security/development nexus.  His country was working to meet the 15 per cent target in its funding for gender mainstreaming and was working internationally to promote the agenda.  He underlined, in addition, the importance of women’s civil society groups and the collection of clear data on the issue.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said that the women, peace and security agenda should be a priority of the Council on a permanent basis.  He welcomed a range of initiatives to advance that agenda, which was critical for the success of peacekeeping.  The issue was women’s ability to enjoy all their inalienable rights and hold their own futures in their own hands.  It was the responsibility of all nations to uphold those rights and the responsibility of civil society to hold States to account in that regard.  His country had been increasing women’s participation in its peacekeeping contingents, and it had accordingly seen the effectiveness of its contributions increase.  He called for strengthened efforts to end impunity for sexual violence, calling on the Council to refer cases to the courts and for augmented efforts to enforce zero tolerance for abuse by peacekeepers.  His country would work with all others to continue to advance the entire agenda.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), Council President for October, speaking in his national capacity, said conflicts could not be resolved by leaving half of humanity on the margins.  Women must not only be protected, but also fully involved in conflict prevention and resolution.  Their participation in political processes and conflict resolution and prevention remained insufficient, he said, noting that between 1992 and 2011, 4 per cent of peace agreement signatories and less than 10 per cent of peace negotiators were women.  Member States must take responsibility, elaborate national and regional plans and put them in place.  Gender‑based conflict analysis should be strengthened, including through an exchange of best practices.  He went on to review his country’s own efforts, noting that its 2015‑2018 national action plan for women, peace and security was built on five pillars:  participation, protection, fighting impunity, prevention and promotion of the women, peace and security agenda.  He also noted that women now accounted for 15 per cent of all French troops, a twofold increase since 1998.

Taking the floor for the second time, YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine) said it seemed like his Minister’s statement had been taken out of context.  Women made up almost one million internally displaced persons in his country, a direct consequence of Russian aggression.  If the Russian Federation wanted to help women in Ukraine, it should stop sending troops, weapons and ammunitions to Eastern Ukraine.  “Until that happens, Russia is in no position to lecture others,” he emphasized.  There were hundreds of Ukrainian prisoners in Russian captivity as well, and once out of captivity some of them carried on with life, sometimes even holding seats in Ukraine’s Parliament.

MARIA ANGELA HOLGUIN (Colombia) said her country remained committed to ensuring the full participation of women, despite facing major challenges to do so.  It had taken the necessary steps to implement resolution 1325 (2000), including by establishing a body that dealt with victims of armed conflict.  That group focused on offering women, especially those in rural communities, economic autonomy and decent working conditions.  The group was also working to break the violent cycle many women faced.  Women’s participation in peacebuilding was as critical as in achieving peace, she continued, noting women’s participation in her country’s judicial sector and other areas of Government.  She stressed the need to ensure accountability for sexual violence.  Lessons learned must be used to achieve advantage in other sectors as well.  Peace was not only about putting an end to war and violence.  Peace also required the unwavering support of States and the United Nations in working together to ensure the real participation of women.

CHANTAL SAFOU (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said that her country had been afflicted with years of conflict that produced nefarious consequences, particularly for women and children.  She outlined efforts by her Government, which had adopted an action plan to collect statistic data from provinces on the living conditions of women.  The plan sought to achieve the participation of women at local levels of government.  Women were already contributing to the peaceful resolution of conflict in provinces. In addition to the action plan, her Government also signed a Joint Communiqué with the United Nations to fight sexual violence in conflict.  It had also adopted initiatives to prosecute perpetrators.  She also commended her Government’s decision to appoint women to high‑level positions in the army.

BÄRBEL KOFLER, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid of Germany, associating herself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said rhetoric about women’s participation in peace processes must be turned into action through practical initiatives.  In that regard, Germany was supporting the African Union in developing a network that would enable women leaders to exchange experiences, she said, adding that her country hoped to see more women‑led African Union‑United Nations solidarity missions.  International discussion on implementing the women, peace and security agenda must continue between the Council’s annual open debates, she added, noting the work of the Council’s informal expert group on the issue.  Better efforts could be made as well to connect implementation of the women, peace and security agenda with other initiatives, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

SANDRA ERICA JOVEL POLANCO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, said a significant participation of women in peace processes strengthened protection efforts, accelerated economic recovery and led to sustainable peace.  Lasting peace could not be achieved without security for women and girls, she said, expressing particular concern over the use of sexual violence as an instrument of war.  National action plans to implement resolution 1325 (2000) were powerful tools for progress, she said, noting that her country adopted such a plan in July this year.  She went on underscore the important role of women in peacekeeping operations, adding that joint efforts must continue between Member States and the United Nations to support measures that increased women’s participation in peace processes.  “Inclusive processes should be the rule, not the exception,” she said.

LAURA ELENA FLORES HERRERA (Panama), speaking on behalf of the Human Security Network, comprising of Austria, Chile, Costa Rica, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Mali, Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland, Thailand, South Africa, and her own country, called on Member States, the United Nations, regional and subregional organizations to support efforts to implement resolution 1325 (2000).  There was a need for greater recognition and support of women’s full and effective participation in all stages of conflict resolution and post‑conflict reconciliation processes, so that peace agreements could be more effective.  Women must play a key role in conflict prevention and resolution as well as in the construction and decision-making of sustainable peace processes.  She noted several developments since the 2016 debate on the same topic, including the Secretary‑General’s commitment to gender parity and the high‑level political forum’s review of the goal on gender equality.

She expressed concern about the impact of forced displacement on women and girls, emphasizing that addressing the matter called for the involvement of women in the design and implementation of humanitarian action and early recovery.  Greater efforts were needed to promote and respect the human rights of women and girls, as well as to strengthen all efforts to address gender‑based violence.  For too long sexual violence had been committed on a systematic and widespread scale as crimes against humanity.  “At an alarming rate women and girls are today targets of sexual and gender‑based violence,” she said, stressing the need to fight impunity and ensure accountability under national and international jurisdictions.  “We need to ensure that women’s and girl’s interests are fully respected and systematically integrated into peace processes,” she added.

Ms. OEHRI (Liechtenstein) said that despite some progress, “we are still very far from achieving the goals we have set ourselves”.  The data in the latest report of the Secretary‑General pointed to significant barriers in women’s meaningful participation in mediation processes.  “Root causes of conflicts cannot be fully addressed and societal traumas cannot be overcome when half of the population is excluded from peace processes,” she stressed.  Women often shouldered a large share of responsibility in communities during conflict and recovery, which made their participation even more important.  Their inclusion in mediation processes also contributed to their empowerment in line with the 2030 Agenda.  Noting that structural inequalities, poverty and discrimination often hindered women’s access to justice, she said that gender‑responsive legal systems were fundamental to building resilient societies.  While women and girls were particularly vulnerable to conflict‑related sexual violence, men and boys were also targeted.  A prevailing culture of silence often prevented male victims from speaking out.  “The most efficient protection against conflict‑related sexual violence is ensuring that it does not happen in the first place,” she stressed.

MOHAMED KHALED KHIARI (Tunisia) said the devastating impact of conflict on the most vulnerable citizens, including women and children was evident.  Despite the progress that had been achieved, women remained virtually absent in peace negotiations and institutions for peacebuilding, which hindered the process of conflict resolution.  He welcomed the Secretary‑General’s initiative to assess the quality of the participation of women in peace processes as part of the overall reform process.  He also underscored that a gender perspective was important for the implementation of measures aimed at combatting extremism and for the rehabilitation of women returning from conflict zones.  He welcomed the Secretary‑General’s efforts to achieve gender parity within the United Nations and recalled that Tunisia had adopted legislation in 1966 that served as a mechanism for the emancipation of women and the promotion of a society rooted in citizenship.  He pointed to Tunisia’s new Constitution and its provisions that guaranteed and preserved the rights of women, and acknowledged their key role in democracy‑building in the country.

FERIDUN H. SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey), also speaking on behalf of Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Australia, said that despite progress since the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), daunting challenges remained, with women and girls still disproportionately affected by the impact of conflict.  Gender responsive humanitarian policies must be developed to ensure access to health, education and other basic services for women and girls.  Redoubled efforts must also be made to prevent women and girls from becoming victims of human trafficking in conflict and post‑conflict situations.  Meaningful progress on that front could only come through coordinated and consolidated measures, he said, emphasizing the importance of regional and international coordination and cooperation in a time when the causes and effects of conflicts easily spilled across borders.

SHANKER DAS BAIRAGI (Nepal) said that his country had made explicit efforts to localize its national action plan, including through the mandatory provision of 33 per cent women’s representation in “Local Peace Committees”.  Gender parity also helped ensure that peacekeeping missions were more compassionate and better at protecting the civilian population from sexual abuse.  In that context, Nepal was committed to attaining the goal of 15 per cent females in peacekeeping operations.  It had employed policies to encourage more females to join the national security forces.  In Nepal’s cases, women’s increased representation in legislative and Government bodies and State institutions since 2007 had directly contributed to fostering good governance and inclusive societies.  Nepal’s National Women’s Commission was now an independent and powerful constitutional body with a mandate to monitor and safeguard the rights and interests of women.  In recent local elections, women had secured nearly half of the leadership positions, he said.  Moreover, Nepal’s Constitution required that the President and Vice‑President must represent different sexes or communities.

DARJA BAVDAŽ KURET (Slovenia), associating herself with the European Union and the Human Security Network, said that her country’s first national action plan had demonstrated its implementation of the Council’s resolutions on women, peace and security, including through more than 20 projects carried out in collaboration with civil society.  She drew attention to several specific projects aimed at empowering women in Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.  Further, Slovenia supported additional projects, including through the provision of funding.  On the national level, her country had pursued initiatives geared towards the systematic education and training of women serving in the Slovene armed forces.  She was pleased to note that Slovenia also contributed the first female Force Commander to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).  The political participation of women in Slovenia was excellent, she highlighted, noting that half of the Government leadership was female, including the Minister of Defence and the Minister of the Interior.

MICHAEL GRANT (Canada), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said that women’s participation had a positive impact on the credibility and durability of peace agreements.  It was essential to include gender considerations and the meaningful participation of women in early warning, mediation, and conflict-resolution effort, and a greater role for women in post‑conflict peacebuilding and economic recovery. He called for further implementation of the women, peace, and security agenda in United Nations peacekeeping, both in terms of women’s participation and gender expertise and mainstreaming into doctrine and all planning documents.  Women played an indispensable role in peacekeeping and their participation at all levels was key to the effectiveness of missions.

He expressed concern that cutting, downgrading, and under‑resourcing gender advisors and women protection advisors positions could cripple the ability of peace operations to fulfil critical tasks.  United Nations peacekeepers must not be part of the problem, he added, condemning cases of sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping operations.  Despite progress much more needed to be done to tackle the scourge and ensure accountability.  To end impunity, perpetrators of sexual violence must be brought to justice, and victims and survivors must be assisted in a comprehensive manner to fully recover from those violations.  A gendered approach was essential to facing new and emerging challenges such as violent extremism.

Speaking in his national capacity, Mr. Grant said that Canada remained committed to finding opportunities to create and support gender transformative solutions to conflict.  “We will challenge narratives undermining women’s ability to contribute, lead and shape solutions,” he stressed.  Canada was taking concrete actions to advance the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda.  It dedicated funds to local organizations that advanced women’s rights in both developing and fragile States.  Working to increase the proportion of Canadian women police officers deployed to peace operations, Canada had also been at the forefront of United Nations training initiatives aimed at increasing the number of female police officers deployed to peace operations.  Canada was also a strong advocate for the full implementation of the United Nations zero‑tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran) said that because of foreign intervention and occupation, as well the surge of violent extremism and terrorism, women and girls in many parts of the Middle East had witnessed the collapse of their hopes for a better future.  In many conflicts, women were the primary victims of large‑scale, often systematic sexual violence.  There were thousands of confirmed instances of sexual violence having been used as a tactic of terror in countries around the world, as terrorists sought to advance their military and ideological ends.  It would be foolish to assume that by physically removing Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Da’esh (ISIL), their atrocities against civilians, including women and children, would cease.  The international community must redouble its fight against such a vicious ideology, and those who harboured it.  The world also could not fail to acknowledge that interventionist policies, occupation and regime‑change attempts served as a breeding ground for terrorist groups to grow and flourish.

JANA PŘIKRYLOVÁ (Czech Republic), associating herself with the European Union, expressed concern that national action plans to implement the women, peace and security agenda had only been adopted 68 Member States, and that most projects were small, short‑term and financed through limited resources.  Lack of financing was a key obstacle to implementation.  She expressed concern about the slow pace of integrating the agenda into relevant resolutions on peacekeeping activities.  Her country had adopted in January 2017 a national action plan which included concrete and measurable tasks.  In 2015, the Ministry of Defence adopted an action plan to implement Council resolution 1325 (2000) and the Czech Republic became the “lead nation” of a programme focused on training Jordanian female soldiers in explosive ordnance disposal.  Gender mainstreaming remained one of the main principles of the national transition promotion programme which supported democratic principles in transition countries.  Regarding development cooperation and aid, the Czech Republic implemented projects worth CZK 130 million in 2016 with a strong focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Despite that progress, women were underrepresented in decision-making positions and diplomatic posts.  In response, his Government adopted the Action Plan for Balanced Representation of Women and Men in Decision-making Positions for 2016 to 2018.  His country also supported several global gender activities through regular voluntary financial contributions.

TORE HATTREM (Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, expressed concern about the decrease in women’s participation in mediation, requests for and inclusion of gender expertise and gender‑sensitivity in peace agreements.  He noted Thursday’s launch of the Global Women, Peace and Security Index, while calling for greater strategic and consistent implementation of targets.  He said women had become more influential in peace processes, including in Colombia, Syria, Yemen and the Philippines.  In that regard, he commended the efforts of UN‑Women, the Department for Political Affairs and special envoys.  He also noted the work of the Different Group of Friends, the Women Mediators Networks, the National Focal Points Initiative, national action plans of Nordic countries, as well as the NGO Working Group and the Global Solutions Exchange platform.  The international community’s approach to women, peace and security was often too generic, and lacked contextual analyses and points of action, however, the Security Council’s Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security was a step in the right direction.  On stereotyping, he stressed that men could be victims of sexual violence and that women could play a destructive role in conflict.  In terms of leadership, women were often ignored in mediation processes at the national and international level.  He welcomed the new handbook on the prevention and handling of sexual violence in conflict that was being developed for use in peace operations and the new gender parity strategy.  Noting the many best practices and positive developments currently under way in the United Nations system, he stated “our job is to ensure that best practices become mainstream practice”.

SIMA SAMI BAHOUS (Jordan), noting that her country would soon ratify its draft national plan on women, peace and security, emphasized its contribution of women police personnel to the former United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) and its intention to also do so for the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).  She emphasized Jordan’s provision of basic services to Syrian refugees on its territory, 50 per cent of whom were female, as well as the need for the international community to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian women and girls living under the yoke of Israeli occupation, especially those in prison.

ALEX GIACOMELLI DA SILVA (Brazil) said complex humanitarian crises shed light on the distress suffered by women and girls.  Attention must be paid to those belonging to the most vulnerable groups, he said, underscoring also the importance of raising the presence of women in peacekeeping operations.  It was unthinkable to deploy a peacekeeping mission without gender advisers or training Blue Helmets on prevention sexual exploitation and abuse.  Welcoming the Secretary‑General’s victim‑centred approach on sexual exploitation and abuse, he said Brazil hoped its national action plan would generate encouraging results and that the women, peace and security agenda would continue to prosper within the United Nations system.

Ms. JAQUEZ (Mexico), associating herself with the statement made by Turkey, said that when it came to sustainable peace, women were key to creating inclusive societies with a healthy social fabric.  Mexico supported the Secretary‑General’s findings in his report and applauded his commitment to integrating gender equality into conflict prevention, as well as his initiative to reform the United Nations.  Mexico fully supported the participation of women in all areas of public life given that gender equality and the empowerment of women were necessary for the achievement of peaceful, fair and equitable societies.  Her Government promoted the equitable representation of women in all sectors, and at all levels.  The Council’s resolution on women, peace and security had strengthened norms in that area although the resolution’s effective implementation remained a challenge.  The Secretary‑General must continue efforts to make the agenda a truly cross‑cutting one, particularly in relation to its other thematic work, she said, adding:  “Sustainable peace has a woman’s face”.

MARA MARINAKI, European Union, said promoting the women, peace and security agenda was essential in realizing the bloc’s shared ambitions of conflict prevention as well as sustainable peace and development.  The European Union had remained committed to substantially increasing women’s participation in all aspects of peace and security, including political participation and leadership.  It had progressed towards better gender balance in diplomatic services and field missions.  In external action, the European Union had continued to work for women’s full participation in conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding.  In Afghanistan, it had helped female members of the High Peace Council play an active, critical role in the peace agreement between the Government and Hizb‑e‑Islami.  The European Union had been supporting the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board of Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.  In Uganda, it had closely engaged with the Women Situation Room, a mechanism fully operated by and for women to contain elections‑related violence and enable women’s political participation.  More recently, the European Union had supported the training of Libyan women peace activists in negotiation and mediation skills.

NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), noting that the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) in his country fell under the national gender policy framework, said that it included the emerging issue of national disaster management — which resolution 1325 (2000) had overlooked.  Along with other measures, the national gender policy had ensured that Namibia deployed women to all peacekeeping missions.  It had, to date, one of the largest female police contingents in UNAMID, as well as another such contingent in Liberia.  The significant presence of women peacekeepers in conflict and post‑conflict areas had the added advantage of creating safer spaces for girls and women who had suffered sexual violence, he said, highlighting the ability of women peacekeepers to gain the trust of local populations.  Many challenges nevertheless remained in implementing resolution 1325 (2000), including lack of awareness, lack of political will, entrenched biases and cultural and traditional norms.  “We must encourage a culture in which both men and women believe it is vital to support the rise to positions of leadership by women,” he stressed.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) said that concrete initiatives, including the promotion of the role of women within the Peacebuilding Commission and the incorporation of the gender perspective in new peacebuilding strategies was of critical importance.  The Secretary‑General’s report rightly mentioned the importance of technical capacity-building in gender equality.  That technical skill was also of great importance in peacebuilding operations, and in that context, when mandates were reviewed, contingent levels were adjusted or when a mission’s financial resources were reduced, it was essential that gender adviser posts were not affected.  The role of women in security sector reform was often underestimated, he said, emphasizing:  “Women are a force for peace”.

INA H. KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), associating herself with the statement made by Turkey, said that notwithstanding resolution 1325 (2000) it would be unfortunate if the bravery and vision of women went unrealized.  The crucial role of women and family in preventing conflicts that might lead to radicalism and extremism must be acknowledged and fostered, she said, adding the enabling women’s participation in the economy supported peacebuilding.  It was important as well for the United Nations peacebuilding and peacekeeping mechanisms to be strengthened continuously.  Going forward, Indonesia aimed to increase the number of women it deployed on peacekeeping missions.  It was also sharing its best practices and experiences in empowering women in leadership through South-South and triangular cooperation.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) emphasized the need for leadership, a stronger institutional architecture and moving from the general to the specific in addressing women, peace and security.  Members of civil society should be invited to speak to the Council more often to describe the situation on the ground, and those responsible for sexual violence in conflict should be the potential subjects of Council sanctions.  He added that he would like to see a Latin American or Asian country host the 2020 meeting of capital‑level focal points on women, peace and security.  He went on to express his fear that, in the context of United Nations reform, the women, peace and security agenda would not be given the level of importance it deserved.

MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia), associating himself with the European Union, expressed support for the Secretary‑General’s vision of peacekeeping, as well as practical steps such as the convening of the Informal Experts Group and new initiatives on gender parity and conflict prevention.  Despite such efforts, critical challenges remained, from increasing the number of women at the highest levels of decision-making to ending impunity for gender-based violence.  Gender‑responsive and protective environments for women were still lacking and related efforts remained undervalued and underfunded.  The women, peace and security agenda needed accelerated attention, as did the critical areas of disarmament, creating greater space for women’s civil society organizations and stronger information and analysis on women, peace and security.  Describing a range of relevant national actions, he recalled that Slovakia was a Co‑Chair of the Group of Friends on Security Sector Reform — essential to post‑conflict peacebuilding and reconstruction — and underscored the importance of women’s equal and effective participation in all stages of those processes.

GUSTAVO MEZA‑CUADRA (Peru) said that despite some progress, there were still barriers to the effective implementation of the women, peace and security agenda.  Improving the access of women to significant leadership roles in peace efforts required the active participation of civil society organizations, particularly those led by women.  Peru had increased the number of women it contributed to the six peacekeeping missions it participated in and believed that the women, peace and security agenda must play a central role in the reform efforts currently underway, particularly with regard to gender equality in peacekeeping operations.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said that his country shared the vision for the reform of the United Nations, with particular emphasis on prevention.  Achieving sustainable peace would be facilitated by increasing the presence of women in all stages of peace and reconciliation, not only as a question of equality, but as a question of effectiveness.  He underscored that resolution 1325 (2000) recognized the important role that women played in peace processes and that it was crucial to include gender provisions in peace and ceasefire agreements.  More equitable societies that respected women’s rights were more peaceful societies, he said.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco), emphasizing that women’s participation in peace processes improved prospects for conflict resolution and sustainability, recalled that Morocco had hosted an international conference on women, peace and security in 2016 that focused on the role of women vis‑à‑vis mediation, de‑radicalization and best practices in addressing sexual violence in conflict.  Morocco was also home to a think tank dedicated to women, peace and security.  Women and girls had specific needs in post‑conflict stages in such areas as health care, land rights and employment, but they were frequently under‑represented in decision‑making, if not sidelined altogether.  Incorporating a gender approach was therefore imperative to ensure fair and sustainable development with both men and women sharing resources, opportunities and power, he said.

ALEXANDRA BAUMANN (Switzerland) said human security, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls were cornerstones of his country’s foreign policy.  The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs recently launched its first comprehensive strategy on gender equality and women’s rights.  Gender equality was key to the prevention of conflict and violence, including violent extremism.  Respecting women’s equal rights and inclusion in peace processes was “simply a must”.  In that regard, he called for States to fully promote the equality and effective participation of women in peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution, including through the engagement of civil society.  The women, peace and security agenda contributed to better results for sustainable peace.  To that end, he highlighted existing frameworks including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Universal Periodic Review and special mandates.  Switzerland supported an initiative to focus on implementing the Women’s Convention.  In closing, he stated that the engagement of men and boys in all transformative action was crucial and that women’s economic empowerment must receive greater attention in post-conflict recovery and State‑building.

ANNA FATA, Holy See, said that women were proven agents of change, although sadly, most of today’s conflicts resulted in them too often becoming targets and victims, rather than peacemakers and peacebuilders.  Women and girls disproportionately suffered the impact of violent conflicts, including being specifically targeted as objects of violence and abuse as a strategy of war.  Violent extremism and terrorism continued to use sexual violence as a terror tactic, although acts of violence against women and girls were not only perpetrated in conflict situations.  Member States had a fundamental responsibility to prosecute the perpetrators of human rights abuses, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including those related to sexual violence against women and girls.

AMARSANAA DARISUREN, Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE), said it was essential to include a gender perspective in all phases of conflict prevention, resolution and post‑conflict rehabilitation.  Unfortunately, formal political processes provided little access and space for women.  There was a clear need to increase the meaningful inclusion of women in all phases of the conflict cycle, particularly at the grass‑roots level.  She reviewed some examples of progress reached in the last year by OSCE, including the adoption of national action plans by 31 countries in its region and efforts to reinforce women’s leadership at national and local levels through mentoring, support networks and capacity development.  The OSCE was also working on gender‑inclusive mediation processes, while its politico-military bodies were incorporating a gender perspective in their respective agendas.  Its new “Leaders against Intolerance and Violent Extremism” project specifically included women’s community leaders and young women and men.  Emphasizing that “strong leadership is essential to achieve progress”, she said OSCE recognized that it had more to do to implement a sustained, systematic approach to improve women’s participation in peace processes.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000) had recognized the significant role women in conflict prevention and post conflict mediation.  It was unfortunate that women and girls paid the highest price in conflicts because States and parties to conflict did not respect their obligations under international law.  As women needed to be empowered, there was also a need to facilitate their access to transitional justice mechanisms.  Underlining the importance of the role of females in combating against violent extremism, she said her country had taken several initiatives on the national and international level to strengthen the role of women.  The participation of women in decision making within the United Nations would allow for the further implementation of resolution 1325 2000), she said. 

AUDRA PLEPYTĖ (Lithuania), speaking also on behalf of Estonia and Latvia and aligning herself with the European Union, said empowerment of women and gender equality were fundamental to sustaining peace.  As the critical role of women in negotiations was often overlooked, she emphasized the importance of their participation in all negotiations and in peacebuilding, and urged for the gender perspective to be incorporated in all aspects of peace processes.  Implementation of the women, peace and security agenda required comprehensive measures, including recognizing the role of civil society.  Justice still faced inequalities, she said, emphasizing that the perpetrators of crimes against women and girls needed to be prosecuted and that victims received compensation.

NELLY SHILOH (Israel) said that women’s participation in peace processes was not just good for women, it was critical for the success and sustainability of resulting agreements.  She cited the experience of Colombia and Liberia in that regard.  A conducive environment to increase the number of women peacekeepers must be established, she added, pointing to the necessity for zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and harassment in peacekeeping missions.  Israel had introduced the first resolution on prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace, in the Commission on the Status of Women, and was one of the first to include resolution 1325 in its national legislation.  Much still remained to be done, both nationally and internationally, and all efforts for further progress should be modelled on best practices that have already been proven successful.

JERRY MATJILA (South Africa) said the contribution of women and girls to peacebuilding processes remained undervalued and under‑resourced, leaving a vital tool for sustainable peace and transformative change underutilized.  Women in South Africa had been at the forefront of driving reform, as well as in developing and advancing legislation and policies which advanced the role of women in society.  He said his country provided training for African women mediators, while the South African Defence Force — 30 per cent of whose members were women — provided training to female peacekeepers.  He paid tribute to women’s organizations campaigning to abolish nuclear weapons, adding that South Africa continued to engage with civil society and academia to find ways to further empower women and remove obstacles to their participation in peacekeeping missions and mediation efforts.

GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) said that her country had increased the number of women officers serving as staff officers and military observers in United Nations missions to 25 per cent.  She also commended the United Nations Department of Political Affairs for overseeing the substantial increase in gender expertise with the deployment of 25 gender advisers across 11 field missions.  Such efforts demonstrated that with dedicated funding and specific targets, it was possible to improve women’s participation.  All key actors must play a role in the implementation of the women in peace and security agenda.  That included civil society groups, which remained the greatest source of expertise on the ground.  She noted that Australia had founded the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund which supported women’s civil society organizations to contribute to conflict prevention, crisis response and peacebuilding.

CHO TAE‑YUL (Republic of Korea), associating himself with the statement made by Turkey, and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said that despite progress achieved, there remained a wide gap between goals and the reality on the ground.  Civilians, particularly women and girls, continued to be caught up in armed conflicts in many parts of the world.  He stressed the need to continue in a more coordinated manner to prevent women from falling victim to violence.  “We should not tolerate any sexual exploitation or abuse committed by United Nations peacekeepers,” he stressed.  The goal of increasing women’s participation in peace efforts must be translated into concrete action.  It was important to ensure that the ongoing efforts to reform the United Nations peace and security architecture contributed to the women, peace and security agenda.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), convinced of the importance of participation of women in peace processes, said there was a need for broad‑based coherence on the international, regional and national level to implement the women, peace and security agenda.  There was also an absolute need for full partnership with civil society.  Ireland would embed the women, peace and security agenda in everything it did, in cooperation with UN‑Women.  The participation of women in peace processes had proved to be the smart way.  Her country funded non‑governmental organization who could make a difference, such as the Women at the Table in Nigeria.  Describing other support efforts, she said her country was drafting a second national action plan on the women, peace and security agenda.  She underlined the importance of synergies between the youth, peace and security agenda and the women, peace and security agenda.

AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka) said his country’s long, drawn‑out conflict had resulted in many victims — orphans, war widows, single mothers and women‑headed households.  Addressing their immediate concerns and making them participants in all areas of peacebuilding had remained a priority in post‑conflict efforts.  Successful peacebuilding required gender equality and women’s empowerment, including economic empowerment, human security, human rights and development to mesh together.  It was also vital to engage domestic actors from the grass roots to the highest echelons of Government to ensure ownership of peacebuilding processes and guarantee long-term sustainability.  As Sri Lanka moved down the path of reconciliation and transformative justice, the Government had appointed an 11‑member task force of eminent persons to hold nationwide consultation on reconciliation measures.  The members of the task force were drawn entirely from civil society, including six women.

MACHARIA KAMAU (Kenya) associating himself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said last year his country launched its national action plan for the implementation of  Council resolution 1325 (2000).  Kenya was the top contributor of female officers to United Nations peacekeeping operations, providing 19 per cent of the total.  The national gender policy guided the integration of gender into all military operations, including for early warning and response systems to conflict.  His Government had established an international peace support training centre, launched a national campaign to address gender based violence, reviewed its national information and communications technology policy to include a gender dimension and established a toll‑free gender “helpline”.  Such efforts were complimented by various non‑state actors, including through training workshops to build gender and conflict sensitive reporting in the media.  Regarding relief and recovery, his Government had set guidelines in medical facilities, developed guidelines and standard operating procedures for psychological and forensic management, and built recovery centres.  In September 2016, Kenya also launched a national strategy to counter violent extremism which incorporated women into security and intelligence committees.  He noted several priority areas for national action, including gender issues relating to climate change, disarmament, radicalization and cybercrime, among others.

TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), aligning with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security , said that it was important to speak in the context of the women, peace and security agenda of what has been called ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Myanmar because rape and sexual violence had been used as a main tactic.  He cited the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to convey the horror that women were going through there.  All the right statements had already been made on the issue and it was time to move past words into action, he stressed.  The Security Council had condemned the violence, but must show its resolve through a strong and detailed resolution on what must be done next, and support for proposals submitted by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in the General Assembly.  His country would continue to pursue bilateral efforts with Myanmar, but the international community must accompany it in the process.

BESIANA KADARE (Albania), associating herself with the European Union, said that despite the international community’s commitments, the meaningful inclusion of women in conflict prevention and peace processes remained negligible.  Women continued to be sidelined during peace negotiations, and even when they were present, it was always the men who led and decided when and how to make peace.  Member States should strengthen their resolve in fully implementing the women, peace and security agenda.  While Albania had yet to adopt a national action plan on women, peace and security, it had mainstreamed gender across its security sector, with women making up 17 per cent of all military personnel and the State Police launching a women‑only recruitment campaign.  It also supported an Italian initiative to create a Mediterranean women mediators’ network, aimed at preventing and mitigating conflicts through the increased participation of women in peace processes, she said.

KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary), associating herself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, said that in conflict‑affected areas, women played a key role in ensuring family livelihoods and were active at the grass-roots level in peace movements.  They were also essential for countering extremist violence.  For effective implementation of the women, peace and security agenda, comprehensive cooperation was needed between Governments and civil society organizations.  Her country was deeply concerned about the use of violence against women human rights defenders.  Youth engagement was important as well.  Women’s increased participation in peacekeeping missions was highly important for the protection of civilians.  Her country was increasing the number of female experts and police officers in United Nations peacekeeping missions.

NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan) said conflicts and violence affecting women and girls disproportionally.  Exploitation of women and girls was an instrument employed to terrorize civilians. It was a tactic of war with mass rapes committed by parties to armed conflict.  Council resolution 1325 (2000) had institutionalized a new focus on women in conflict, moving them to the center of the political debate.  The Council should focus on root causes of conflict and the United Nations should play its role in enhancing cooperation to help secure women’s place at the negotiating table.  The international community should support countries to defend women’s rights and gender perspectives should be fully integrated into the peacebuilding paradigm.

ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) said that women could change the world for the better, although for that to happen, Governments and international organizations such as the United Nations must provide the space for women to shape key decisions concerning national security.  The Maldives recognized women’s role in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding as part of the larger, holistic agenda for gender equality and women’s empowerment.  In that connection, he highlighted that the principles of equality and non-discrimination were at the heart of the Maldives’ Constitution and noted that his country had achieved gender parity in education and that women comprised over 60 per cent of the civil staff and 40 per cent of the judiciary.

LISE GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) noted that, eight resolutions down the road, women were still not actively engaged in many peace processes and unrecognized as the powerful agents of peace they were.  If the United Nations truly wanted to practise what it preached, it must pressure parties to a peace process to include women and not allow it to become an afterthought.  It must integrate a women’s perspective and let the voice of women’s organizations on the ground be heard at mediation tables through their substantive participation.  If the Organization did that, there was a 35 per cent increase in probability of a peace agreement lasting more than 15 years.  To be implemented, resolution 1325 (2000) needed to be operationalized and funded.  The Netherlands was sadly one of just a handful that had financed its national action plan for implementing the resolution.  More funds should be available if the global community was serious in making gender equality a practical reality.

HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador) said that his country believed that women’s empowerment was important for both peace and development and had taken important steps forward in that regard.  It recently launched a national action plan on women, peace and security, accompanied by a national implementation committee.  He reiterated absolute commitment to ending violence against women and ending sexual exploitation and abuse in the context of peacekeeping.  He also highlighted the need to care for the victims of sexual violence.  Noting that El Salvador’s peacekeeping contingents included increasingly more women, he pledged his country’s continued efforts to empower and protect women, and to share lessons it had learned on the topic.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security and the Human Security Network, said his country’s current national action plan on women, peace and security put a strong emphasis on education and training of personnel.  Equal opportunities and women’s autonomy were key pillars of the President’s gender agenda, he said, adding that, at the international level, women were part of Chile’s contribution to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the United Nations Mission in Colombia.  He went on to emphasize that the presence of women in peace operations helped prevent sexual exploitation and abuse.

E. COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, expressed concern that the implementation of the agenda continued to fall short and therefore called for preventative measures to address the structural and root causes of gender inequality.  For its part, Jamaica had developed a national policy on gender quality, which was aligned with its development policy.  To that end, his country launched the HeForShe campaign created by UN‑Women and a national strategic action plan in 2017 to eliminate gender‑based violence by 2026.  He urged for effective mechanisms to ensure meaningful measurement of results, and said such devices should account for the cooperation and support needed to attain requisite results, including through predictable and sustainable financing.  Noting the role of young women in peacebuilding, he expressed support to the work being done pursuant to resolution 2250 (2015) on youth, peace and security.  He also endorsed efforts to ensure women’s economic empowerment, their promotion in governance structures and access to justice and security.  Similarly, he expressed interest in addressing gender-specific effects of armed violence and gender responsive disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.

MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq) said his country sought to increase the participation of women in public life.  The new Constitution upheld the rights of women, guaranteeing their right to health insurance and living in freedom.  All were equal before the law regardless of gender or religion.  Noting that the number of women in leadership positions had increased, he described measures his Government had taken to support that, including a quota that women hold 25 per cent of all seats in the Chamber of Representatives.  Iraq’s capital had a female mayor.  His Government worked with the gender unit of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) to enhance the role of women in national reconciliation.  He said Iraq had suffered from attacks of the terrorist group ISIL, noting the crimes against Yazidi women and other women who had been sold as slaves.  The international community must double efforts to assist Iraq in freeing and rehabilitating those women.  Members of ISIL must be held accountable for their crimes in Iraq including crimes against humanity. 

PHILIPP CHARWATH (Austria) associated himself with the European Union, the Human Security Network and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security.  Regarding the implementation of the agenda, regional organizations had a crucial role to play in translating political commitments into concrete action on the ground, he said.  Based on findings of one such regional body, OSCE, it was clear that sustainable solutions to conflict were not possible without the participation of women.  Also, gender‑responsive journalism and the protection of female journalists could transform gender stereotypes, promote women’s empowerment and raise positive awareness.

ELENE AGLADZE (Georgia), associating herself with the European Union, welcomed the Secretary‑General’s recent report that underlined the crucial role of women in peace and decision-making processes and said it was evident that the sustainability of peace depended directly on women’s engagement in peace processes, politics, governance, institution-building, the rule of law, the security sector and economic recovery.  As an illustration of its commitment to gender equality, Georgia had ratified the Istanbul Convention and created an Inter‑Agency Commission for Gender Equality and Ending Violence against Women and Girls.  Strengthening protection measures on violence against women and women’s empowerment was particularly concerning to her country as such measures related to the occupied regions of Georgia, where women continued to suffer from grave violations of their fundamental rights and freedoms.

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, highlighted its efforts with regard to women, peace and security, including the adoption of a 2017‑2019 national action plan that aimed to ensure protection for women and girls, both domestically and in the face of the Israeli occupation; ensuring accountability through national and international mechanisms, with a particular focus on crimes and violations committed by the occupation, and further women’s political participation.  However, much work remained to be done, he said, noting that women’s organizations had been unfairly absent from national reconciliation talks despite being among the strongest advocates of reconciliation.  Palestine was ready to do its part to advance women’s rights and their role in peace and security, he said, but enjoyment of those rights necessitated ending the Israeli occupation.

CHARLES THEMBANI NTWAAGAE (Botswana) noted that the United Nations had made great strides in the promotion of the women, peace and security agenda through the establishment of UN-Women, which amplified women’s voices and created momentum for their leadership on peace and security.  Through such initiatives, thousands of women and girls had been helped in various countries around the world, although, regrettably, they continued to bear the brunt of armed conflicts, domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape and humanitarian crises.  The international community must address the social norms that perpetuated sexual violence and abuse against women, and promote respect for international human rights and humanitarian law.  He called for States to take practical steps to address obstacles in women’s access to justice, including by creating an enabling environment where women could easily report incidents of violence without fear or intimidation.

TANMAYA LAL (India) said that the world had seen extreme brutality being inflicted upon women, with sexual violence increasingly used a tool of war.  The heinous crimes against humanity perpetrated by terror networks, especially against women and girls, were a stark reminder of the serious challenges that needed to be overcome.  The increased institutionalized involvement of women in peacekeeping and conflict resolution was important to address that challenge.  He highlighted the work done by the Commission on the Status on Women in pushing ahead the gender empowerment agenda.  India, as a lead troop contributor over the past seven decades, was committed to fulfilling the pledge to have women comprise 15 per cent of military observers by the end of the year.  India was also committed to providing another all‑female formed police unit.  Prosecution was essential for prevention, he said, adding that the international community had a key role in helping build adequate resources and capacities.

VERONICA GARCIA GUTIERREZ (Costa Rica), welcoming the importance that had been acquired by the women, peace and security agenda, said that it was also essential, however, to work for parity in gender representation among the leadership of peacekeeping missions.  It was vital to broaden the gender perspective in many areas of peacebuilding.  Condemning all sexual violence, she supported initiatives to ensure zero tolerance of sexual exploitation in peacekeeping and assistance for victims.  Addressing development issues and empowering women economically were also critical, as was ensuring that women were adequately represented in forums such as those for disarmament.

ION JINGA (Romania), aligning himself with the statement made by the European Union, said that it was clear that women were key in promoting peace and he welcomed United Nations initiatives in that regard.  However, there was much more to be done.  There was a need, notably, to increase the number of women in command posts.  Enumerating the Romanian women who had attained important positions in United Nations missions, he stated that scores more had participated in several peacekeeping contingents.  He also described events promoting women’s greater participation in peace processes that were sponsored and attended by his country.  Women’s enormous potential must be utilized.  His country would continue to work for their meaningful participation in all phases of peacemaking.

LOUISE SHARENE BAILEY, African Union, said the African Union Peace and Security Council had endorsed the creation of a Network of African women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation (FemWise‑Africa) on 13 March.  FemWise‑Africa would be a potent tool to strengthen the role of women in conflict prevention and mediation efforts, and would provide a platform for advocacy, capacity-building and networking to further enhance the implementation of women’s inclusion in peacemaking in Africa.  The initiative would catalyse and mainstream the engagement of women in mediation in line with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals.  The African Union Commission and UN‑Women, with the support of Germany, had launched the African Women Leaders Network.  The recently signed “Joint United Nations-African Union Framework on enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security” provided a new window of opportunity to strengthen the women, peace and security agenda.  She welcomed the establishment of the Secretary‑General’s High‑Level Advisory Board on Mediation and the appointment of three prominent African women leaders to it.  The African Union also cooperated with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict with an emphasis on ensuring women participation and of accountability for crimes of sexual violence.  She announced that on 31 October, the African Union Peace and Security Council would hold an open session on “The role of women in preventing and countering violent extremism in Africa”.

KRISZTIAN MESZAROS, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), said empowering women led to more peaceful, just and inclusive societies, was essential for conflict prevention and made peace more sustainable.  His organizations supported empowering women within the United Nations, armed forces, civilian structures and societies of allies and partners.  Within NATO, however, there had only been a small increase in female representation in armed forces of Member States — an average of 20 per cent in 2016, compared to 10.8 per cent in 2015.  Stressing that those figures needed improvement, he urged Member States to do their part.  On the leadership side, women held only 21 per cent of NATO civilian staff leadership positions, and 2 of its 3 female four‑star officers had left over the past year.  Adding that Member States should redress that imbalance, he said gender was a tool that contributed and added value to all of NATO’s objectives and core tasks.

DIOSITA T. ANDOT (Philippines) said that after the liberation of Marawi City from terrorist forces, her Government had been observing conflict‑sensitivity and peace promoting approaches with a particular focus on mainstreaming gender and observing cultural sensitivities.  In pursuit of the peace process with rebel groups, actions were taken to ensure the meaningful participation of women, especially the Moro and indigenous women.  The Philippine armed forces and police had formed an all‑female Civil Relations Company in Marawi to assist in rehabilitation of internally displaced persons.  Filipino women were included in peace panels that were negotiating and implementing peace agreements.  Women would play a pro‑active role in the rebuilding of relationships in their respective communities and eventually of Marawi as a whole.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam) said that, despite efforts and progress in implementing the women, peace and security agenda, women’s under-representation, gender inequality and discrimination persisted.  She called for the gender perspective to be mainstreamed in a consistent and comprehensive manner in all areas of peacebuilding and conflict prevention, adding that impunity must be ended to effectively combat and eliminate human rights violations, including conflict‑related sexual violence and abuse.  Together with women’s economic empowerment, education was crucial toward equipping women and girls with knowledge to better protect them from conflict‑related risks as well as to build their resilience against economic shocks, climate change and natural disasters.  Women were an essential driving force of her country’s economic and social development, making significant contributions to promoting and maintaining the environment of peace, security and stability.  As such, Viet Nam’s twelfth National Women’s Congress had set out objectives for the term 2017‑2022, including promoting women’s potential and creativity, improving their material and spiritual life and status, striving for equality and advancement and contributing to national construction and defence.

BADER ABDULLAH N. M. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) said that fulfilling the 1325 agenda helped attain several goals of the 2030 Agenda.  Women’s empowerment was crucial for sustaining peace and promoting development.  His country was committed to encouraging women’s participation in all national endeavours and held posts at all levels.  Calling for further efforts for women’s empowerment and inclusion in society around the world, he said that his country had enacted legislation to ensure an end to all forms of discrimination.  Women had been protected against violence both in domestic and public settings.  In order for the agenda to be comprehensively implemented, however, he pledged his country’s persistent efforts.  “Women’s participation must be at the top of our priorities,” he said.

SAOD RASHID AL MAZROUI (United Arab Emirates) said his country’s foreign assistance strategy included women’s protection and empowerment as one of its three key pillars.  In terms of global response, he said the United Arab Emirates recently announced a contribution of $15 million to support UN-Women’s critical work over the next three years, and in 2016, the Government had set up a Liaison Office in Abu Dhabi to advance gender quality and the empowerment of women and girls regionally.  His Government contributed to the Global Programme on Women, Peace and Security which furthered gender-sensitive research and data collection in relation to extremism.  Additionally, his country supported the Team of Experts in the development and implementation of an action plan on conflict-related sexual violence in Somalia, as well as the establishment of prevention and response mechanisms.

ZOHRAB MNATSAKANYAN (Armenia) said his country was committed to the reformative women, peace and security agenda.  National laws provided for equal rights for women.  The quota for women’s representation in Parliament had been raised to 25 per cent.  The number of female judges had reached 25 per cent.  Domestic procedures had been launched to combat violence against women and domestic violence.  Armenia’s national action plan for implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) would be launched in 2018.  The empowerment of women, and the women, peace and security agenda should not been seen as a separate agenda, but as a part of addressing root causes of conflict and violence.  Emphasis on protection of human rights remained a significant objective at the national and international levels.  Dialogue and confidence-building in conflict areas was an important aspect for his country, but endeavours in that regard were undermined by hate crimes and xenophobia against Armenians, instigated by a neighbouring State.

PENNELOPE BECKLES (Trinidad and Tobago), emphasizing that the rule of law was a fundamental safeguard in the advancement and protection of women’s rights, said the vulnerability of women and girls in situations of armed conflict — and in the case of her country, armed violence — continued to engage attention.  In that regard, the Arms Trade Treaty could contribute to reducing if not ending untold suffering, particularly among women and girls.  She recalled Trinidad and Tobago’s introduction in 2010 of the first-ever General Assembly resolution on women, disarmament, non‑proliferation and arms control, which complemented Council resolution 1325 (2000).  She added that, as a current member of the Executive Board of UN-Women, her country would continue to work with Member States towards the universal achievement of gender equality.

URUJENI BAKURAMUTSA (Rwanda) said unity and reconciliation, peacebuilding and sustainable outcomes were realized when women participated in peace and security.  Their contribution brought added value to the most critical issues, including protecting children’s rights, combating gender-based violence and promoting human rights.  When women’s rights and empowerment were impeded, collective society suffered, she said, recalling that during the genocide against the Tutsi in her country, rape and other forms of violence had been directed against women to degrade them and strip humanity from the larger community.  With armed conflicts and violent extremism continuing to prevail in many parts of the world — and with women and children bearing the brunt — the international community must empower women and promote their participation in the entire spectrum of peace processes, promotion of the rule of law, good governance and mediation, she said.

CRISTINA MARIA CERQUEIRA PUCARINHO (Portugal), associating herself with the European Union, noted that more women were participating in peace talks nowadays, more peace agreements included provisions on their human rights, and more security sector personnel were being trained to prevent and properly respond to sexual and gender-based violence.  However, given the evolution of peace and security, and the nature of conflict since the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), it was essential to build on progress already made and to demonstrate greater commitment to the women, peace and security agenda, she emphasized.  It contributed not only to peace, but also to the strengthening of protection efforts by United Nations peacekeepers, she said.  Portugal had adopted a national action plan, pledged to continue training programmes on gender equality and violence against women and girls for peacekeeping personnel, and supported the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.

VIRACHI PLASAI (Thailand) said that, despite the importance of the women, peace and security agenda, the participation of women in all capacities remained quite low.  Noting the positive measures being taken to address that discrepancy, he said Thailand had adopted the National Measures and Guidelines on Women, Peace and Security in 2016.  It re-emphasized the significant role of women in addressing political and social conflicts, he said, adding that they could also play an important role in peacekeeping operations.  The Government was making efforts to increase their participation, he said, encouraging other Member States also to do more in that area.  The women, peace and security agenda must be mainstreamed across the spectrum of United Nations activities, he said, stressing that women should be regarded as agents of change.  The rhetoric used around their role in conflict situations must be more nuanced, he said, adding that women should also have an increased role in national and local politics.

MANAL HASSAN RADWAN (Saudi Arabia) affirmed that the 1325 agenda had become a major pillar of peacekeeping and development.  There was still much to be done to fully implement it, however.  Challenges to progress included occupation, particularly the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, and the growing violence against civilians in conflict zones by non-State groups, as well as other actors in Syria.  Discrimination against women also played an adverse role.  In order to address such challenges, comprehensive efforts must be made to end occupation, sectarian discrimination and extreme discourse against Islam.  Her country was committed to the education and advancement of women.  Women had participated in politics and several leadership positions, and were key to development efforts.  Their achievements had been many.  That was based on women’s important role in Islam over history and addressing the root causes of women’s marginalization was a religious duty.  Based on current action plans, women would be able to participate in all walks of life in conformity with moderate Islam.

MAHMOUD SAIKAL (Afghanistan) thanked all speakers who had noted his country’s progress in improving the lives of women.  There was still a lot of work to be done, however.  The full participation of women was not only desirable, but important for settling and preventing conflict in the country.  Terrorism and violent extremism had left the social fabric in shambles and women had borne the brunt of the damage and had been deprived of many rights.  At present, however, the Government was consolidating the gains of the past several years.  There was a firm resolve to fulfil international obligations, including those of treaties that Afghanistan was party to.  The country’s action plan on women, peace and security put women front and centre of national peacebuilding efforts across the country.   The plan committed women’s participation in civil service by significant numbers; thousands of women were serving in national security services right now.  Women were being supported to make progress in agriculture, health services and many other areas.  Describing institutional structures to ensure women’s rights, he said that the country had reached a new stage in empowering women.  The assistance of the international community was still crucial, however, and he looked forward to further collaboration in lifting Afghanistan’s women to new heights.

HELENA YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador) said women were at the same time victims of violence and builders of peace.  Reality underscored the need to work for gender equality, protection of the rights of women, and combatting all forms of sexual violence. Lasting peace could only be achieved if those issues were taken into account, she said.  Gender-based violence in conflict continued to be an unacceptable reality, which underscored the importance of ending impunity.  All efforts should be made to end sexual exploitation and abuse in United Nations peacekeeping missions, as it undermined trust in the missions.  For changes to be become permanent, the process of inclusion must be continuous, which was a slow road.  In that regard, she underlined the importance of desegregation of statistical data to measure progress.  In conclusion, she noted that three Ecuadorian women were observers in peacekeeping operations.

EMMANUEL ADEMOLA OGUNNAIKE (Nigeria) said that filling the gaps in implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) required a multi-stakeholder approach involving actors at the global, regional, sub-regional and national levels.  Communities, civil society and individuals also had a crucial role to play, along with the United Nations.  Since national Governments had a primary responsibility to protect women’s safety and rights, the international community should support countries by providing constructive assistance, consistent with national priorities and focused on capacity-building.  Regional organizations played an important role, as well.  Consistent with subregional efforts, Nigeria launched a national action plan to fully implement resolution 1325 (2000), along with plans to combat violent extremism and improve the security sector.  It also was collaborating with countries in the region to fight the terrorist group known as Boko Haram, and had taken steps to address the humanitarian needs of the 2 million displaced persons in the north-east of the country, 80 per cent of whom were women.  The Government was working around the clock to ensure release of the remaining Chibok girls and other persons in Boko Haram captivity.

SIAD DOUALEH (Djibouti) welcomed the important place that the empowerment of women occupied in the agenda of the Security Council and other bodies of the United Nations, helping to strengthen the link between peace and security, development and human rights.  Describing the harsh toll that conflict took on the lives of women, she said that much remained to be done to redress the situation, despite the progress that had been made.  Women’s participation in all areas of peacemaking was crucial in order to increase the effectiveness of all international and national efforts.  She commended the African Union for its efforts to integrate gender issues in its architecture and increase women’s participation in many areas.  Her country had carried out several national policies to empower women; the Constitution enshrined equal rights for women and women participated in many spheres.  The establishment of a gender observatory was currently under way to analyse women’s situation and to provide advice on policies for improving it.

LALA MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan) said that, while gender gains had been made in the international framework, more must be done to address violations and crimes against women, among other things, in mass forced displacements.  Combating impunity was of critical importance in that regard.  She said it was curious that Armenia, which was responsible for the war against Azerbaijan and had carried out ethnic cleansing, had taken the floor to attack other States.  She said Armenian forces had attacked a town in Nagorno-Karabakh, killing many, including women and children, among other aggressions.  Atrocities committed by the Armenians included bayonetting pregnant women, scalping and beheadings.  The impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of those crimes aggravated the situation on the ground.  She assured the Council that her country would continue to achieve a settlement to the conflict based on international law.

News

Despite Growing Awareness of Urgent Need to End Sexual Violence, Empower Women in Conflict Zones, Real Progress Seriously Lagging, Security Council Told

Speakers Urge More Funding for Gender Expertise in Peacebuilding, Prosecution

Normative frameworks had been established and global awareness of the urgency of ending sexual atrocities and empowering women in conflict situations was growing, but progress on the ground must be accelerated, speakers told the Security Council in an all-day debate today.

“The chorus of voices that are appalled by the persistent political marginalization of women in decision-making is speaking louder; the number of people who are determined to find new solutions to the human suffering caused by conflict is growing,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said in a briefing, ahead of over 85 speakers in the Council’s annual examination of progress and gaps in implementing resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.  “But, that is just the beginning,” she declared, calling for redoubled efforts to empower and protect women throughout the United Nations system.

Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary-General; Michaëlle Jean, Secretary-General of the International Organisation of la Francophonie; and Charo Mina Rojas, a civil society representative from Colombia also briefed the Council.

Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said that the women, peace and security agenda was now an essential pillar of global affairs.  However, all indicators showed a decline in women’s participation in peace processes around the world and in leadership positions in conflict zones, with some heartening exceptions, such as in the Colombia peace process.  Similarly, awareness and documentation of sexual violence in conflict zones had soared, while actual prevention of such violence and prosecution of perpetrators sorely lagged.  She urged greater funding for gender expertise and projects in conflict zones.

Ms. Viotti, introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report on the subject (document S/2017/861), affirmed that women’s underrepresentation in the security sector increased their exposure to harm and undermined their potential in conflict prevention.  When the Council had visited the Lake Chad Basin, local leaders had emphasized the weak position of women as a root cause for the current crisis. 

She described plans of the Secretary-General to achieve gender parity in the United Nations, noting that only 3 per cent of peacekeepers were women.  Reform of the peace and security architecture would emphasize gender expertise, along with monitoring mechanisms targeting women marginalization.  Council and other Member States would also be encouraged to share best practices.

Ms. Rojas described provisions of the Colombian peace agreement that she said had become a new source of hope for women’s empowerment, inclusiveness and conflict settlement.  Ms. Jean, affirming a woefully low level of women’s participation in peacekeeping, described initiatives undertaken by la Francophonie to redress that situation and to ensure that women sat at negotiating tables in several African settings.  She called for increased support to women’s grass-roots organizations and other instruments that could increase women’s participation.

Following those briefings, Member States’ representatives at the ministerial and diplomatic levels agreed that while normative frameworks to empower and protect women in conflict situations had made steady progress since the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), real progress in women’s meaningful engagement in all phases of peacebuilding and their protection from abuse and exploitation were seriously lagging.  Many speakers called for better ways to keep track of gender data to better monitor such progress.

Many countries described their national efforts to close the gap in their domestic policies, their international cooperation and their contributions to United Nations peacekeeping.  The representative of the United Kingdom stressed the importance of sharing specific actions and best practices undertaken by countries, after 17 years of slow progress.  In that vein, Senegal’s representative described regional efforts in West Africa, while Uruguay’s representative attested to the increased effectiveness of peacekeeping contingents deploying women.

The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, noting that women in her country had been seriously affected by years of conflict, said that efforts to increase women’s participation in local levels of Government was paying out in the form of more effective peaceful conflict resolution in some provinces.  Kazakhstan’s representative said that women, along with youth, must be seen as a critical link in the security/development nexus.

Ending violence against women, ensuring accountability for perpetrators and ensuring zero tolerance for sexual exploitation by peacekeepers were seen as urgent priorities by all speakers.  In many situations, speakers said it was time to move past words and to action on the issue.  In that vein, the representative of Bangladesh said rape and sexual abuse of Rohingya women was being used as a tactic of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, and called for stronger action from the Council and the international community.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden recounted her recent trip to Afghanistan, as well as her experience as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.  She said it was a mistake to view such violence as inevitable or impossible to prosecute and ensure that impunity was ended.  And to implement the full 1325 agenda, Member States must utilize the policy frameworks that have been put in place to actually empower women.  “The frameworks and tools are in place,” she said.  “It is up to us to make it happen.”

Also speaking today were the representatives of Ukraine, Bolivia, Italy, United States, Egypt, Ethiopia, Russian Federation, China, Japan, Kazakhstan, Uruguay, France, Colombia, Germany, Guatemala, Panama (on behalf of the Human Security Network), Liechtenstein, Tunisia, Turkey (also on behalf of Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Australia), Nepal, Slovenia, Canada (on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security), Iran, Czech Republic, Norway, Jordan, Brazil, Mexico, Namibia, Belgium, Indonesia, Spain, Slovakia, Peru, Argentina, Morocco, Switzerland, Qatar, Lithuania, Israel, South Africa, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Albania, Hungary, Pakistan, Maldives, Netherlands, El Salvador, Chile, Jamaica, Iraq, Austria, Georgia, Botswana, India, Costa Rica, Romania, Philippines, Viet Nam, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Armenia, Trinidad and Tobago, Rwanda, Portugal, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Ecuador, Nigeria, Djibouti and Azerbaijan, as well as the Holy See, State of Palestine, European Union and the African Union.

Also speaking were representatives of the Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The meeting began at 10:19 a.m. and ended at 8:19 p.m.

Briefings

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI, Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary‑General, said there was a pressing need for more action to implement the women, peace and security agenda, with prevention as a core pillar.  Women were affected in negative ways by armed conflict and violence and comprised most of the victims of rape and human trafficking.  In urban warfare, they were at risk in houses and checkpoints.

She said women’s underrepresentation in the security sector increased their exposure to harm and undermined their potential in conflict prevention.  When the Council had visited the Lake Chad Basin, local leaders had emphasized the situation of women as a root cause for the current crisis.  Mentioning other examples, she said the Secretary‑General was committed to promoting gender equality and to fully integrating the voice of women in conflict prevention.  He had put forward a plan to achieve gender parity in the United Nations.

Noting that only 3 per cent of peacekeepers were women, the Secretary-General was working with troop- and police‑contributing countries to increase the number of female uniformed personnel.  The new Office of Counter‑Terrorism was integrating a gender perspective.  Reform of the peace and security architecture would emphasize gender expertise.  Monitoring mechanisms should include a focus on women marginalization.

Tackling the root causes of crises included tackling gender inequality, she said.  Gender indicators should therefore be strengthened.  Seventeen years after its adoption, implementation of Council resolution 1325 (2000) was too often ad hoc.  She invited Council members and other Member States to share evidence and examples in order to examine gaps and successes.  She looked forward to working with Member States to ensure that women’s participation would strengthen the Organization’s peace efforts.

PHUMZILE MLAMBO-NGCUKA, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women), welcoming the Secretary‑General’s latest report on women, peace and security, said that that report celebrated progress and development of good practices, but also brought into the spotlight several alarming trends and setbacks.  “The chorus of voices that are appalled by the persistent political marginalization of women in decision-making is speaking louder; the number of people who are determined to find new solutions to the human suffering caused by conflict is growing,” she stated.

Regarding progress, she noted the presence in the chamber of a Colombian activist who helped ensure that the peace agreement in that country mainstreamed gender equality, with more than 100 provisions for women’s participation.  Unfortunately, the Colombian situation was an exception, she said.  Indicators tracked by UN‑Women showed an overall decline in women’s participation in United Nations-led peace processes, inclusion of gender-sensitive provisions in peace agreements and consultation with women’s civil society organizations, in comparison with one year ago.  Recent peace talks on the Central African Republic did not include a single woman, she lamented.

Political marginalization, she added, was not limited to peace talks.  Only 17 countries had an elected woman head of State or Government, and the proportion of women parliamentarians in conflict and post‑conflict countries had stagnated at 16 per cent.  The use of quotas and temporary special measures would help, she stressed, pointing to Somalia and Mali, where representation of women surged when such measures were instituted.

Turning to sexual violence, she said that atrocities against women and girls in armed conflict were now the focus of attention and documentation, with extensive evidence of such crimes in Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.  What was missing was consequences for perpetrators and justice, dignity and support for the survivors.  “This impunity cannot be allowed to continue,” she stated.

Noting the work of her organization and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) among many others, she said the international community was assisting hundreds of thousands of survivors of sexual crimes, but many more could not be reached due to lack of resources, access and security.  Conflict had also exacerbated extreme poverty, women’s responsibility for households, illiteracy, maternal mortality and child marriage in many areas.

Recalling testimony to the Council by one of the escaped Chibok schoolgirls in Nigeria, she said there was still much to learn about the rehabilitation and reintegration of returnees and their children.  Regarding the work of the Council itself, she regretted that the participation of women in peacekeeping was still low and sexual exploitation by peacekeepers had not yet been stamped out.  It was encouraging to see, however, the reduction in allegations of such abuse in the Central African Republic, improvements in victims support and assistance and a culture of accountability taking hold. 

At the same time, she said it was dispiriting to see gender advisory expertise being lost due to budget cuts, while it was heartening to see that the Peacebuilding Fund exceeded its goals in funding targeted to women’s empowerment.  She called on donors to continue supporting that vital instrument, with its 15 per cent standard for gender funding adopted by all post-conflict actors.  With more resources, the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund, in addition, would be able to support women’s organizations in many more places.

She noted, in that regard, that women’s rights defenders were under attack and there was still not enough being done to protect them.  She applauded the Council for regularly inviting women from civil society organizations to brief on specific countries and called on all Member States to support that new practice.  She also welcomed the adoption of resolutions devoted solely to sexual exploitation, human trafficking and their intersection with violent extremism, as well as the work of the Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security.  “But this Council could do so much more to put its full political weight behind implementation of this agenda,” she stressed.

In order to build on progress, she urged the continued forming of alliances and coalitions, noting that regional rosters of women mediators had been established.  The African Women Leaders Network was an example of growing cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union on the issue. National focus points and action plans on women, peace and security had proliferated and projects aimed at preventing violent extremism had been spread over several regions.  There were also encouraging signs for gender justice in the international courts.

The women, peace and security agenda was now an essential pillar of global affairs, she said, adding “This is only the beginning.  The chorus of voices that are appalled by the persistent political marginalization of women in decision‑making is speaking louder,” along with those who are calling for an end to conflict‑related suffering, she stated.  “This agenda unites us because people from all over the world, every day, look up to the United Nations for peace, equality and inclusion”, she concluded.

CHARO MINA‑ROJAS, NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, said that Colombia had become a new source of hope thanks to the comprehensive peace agreement that had been reached.  Two provisions of that agreement were particularly progressive and could bring radical changes to future peace processes around the world.  The first was the explicit inclusion of a gender perspective as an international principle, while the second was the inclusion of the “Ethnic Chapter”, which provided important safeguards to ensure the protection and promotion of Indigenous and Afro‑descendant People’s rights from a gender, family and generational perspective.  The inclusion of those two specific principles was a historic advancement on peace and security that the United Nations and other countries experiencing violence and armed conflicts could learn from.  The peace accord was also important for civil society, and in that regard, the engagement and active participation of women, ethnic groups and their communities was anticipated.

She emphasized that Colombia risked wasting an opportunity for peace if it did not completely disarm itself and if the communities most impacted during the internal armed conflict, including women human rights leaders and activists, continued to be ignored in the implementation of the peace accord.  “I am here today to make visible their urgent calls and want to stress that for my people, it is actually a matter of life or death,” she warned.  Ensuring the ongoing participation of women, especially from diverse communities, in all areas related to the implementation of the peace accord, was of critical importance.  There was an urgent need for local women’s organizations and community leaders to be consulted and participate in the design of local protection strategies to keep communities safe.

There was also a need to guarantee women’s integral and collective security, she said, noting that the proliferation of weapons was fuelling increased fear and forced displacement among largely Indigenous and Afro‑descendent communities.  It was also negatively impacting women’s participation and mobility, and resulting in increased sexual and gender‑based violence.  Sexual and gender‑based violence and the stigmatization it caused, especially for Indigenous and Afro‑descendent women and their children, was a matter of integral and collective security.  “The silence around these crimes is as appalling as the crimes themselves,” she stressed.  It was also crucial that the framework put in place for the implementation of the peace accord include specific goals and indicators designed to measure the progress and outcomes of policies, programmes and reforms in a matter that corresponded to the needs, values and rights of Indigenous and Afro‑descendant Peoples.

MICHAELLE JEAN, Secretary‑General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, said 17 years ago it was agreed to underline the importance of women’s participation, on equal footing with men, in crisis prevention, mediation, peacebuilding, and maintenance and consolidation of peace and security.  Women had not waited for the adoption of the resolution, however.  In Liberia, for instance, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had stood up to the war lords and had mediated between the fighting parties.  In Bosnia and Herzegovina, women had always been among the first to seek reconciliation.  Turning to women’s activities in Rwanda and Mali, she said the Ouagadougou Agreement of April 2012 had been drafted by four women who initially had not been allowed to speak, but were finally allowed to sit at the negotiating table.  Women contributed to peace and security and it was a mistake to underestimate their ability.

“How many more resolutions, studies, high‑level meetings of independent groups and expert advisory groups are necessary to end this unacceptable figure of only 9 per cent women’s participation in some 30 major peace negotiations over the last 25 years?” she asked.  Participation of women had led to a 20 per cent greater chance of achieving a peace lasting two years and 35 per cent chance of a peace lasting 15 years.  More than lip service should be paid to ensuring that women were invited to participate in national dialogues.  Why wait to address the fact that only 3 per cent of women were in peacekeeping missions, she asked.  It was proven that the presence of women there would contribute to a better understanding of security forces and improve their credibility among the populations they served, she said, stressing that “Women inspire confidence”.  

She said the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie had invested in women as peacekeepers and had been active in encouraging participation of women in missions and training them.  The organisation underscored the importance of women’s participation to its member States.  The climate of impunity and the trampling of human rights also affected women.  Peace, stability and security furthermore depended on economic development.  More must be done to increase financing for women’s participation in peace and security.  Funding of grassroots women organisations should also be addressed.

More must be done to end impunity, she said.  Years and resolutions had gone by but had not been put into action in that regard.  Women were the first targets when the decision was made to annihilate a population.  The rape of women and girls had become a weapon of mass destruction.  Describing the horrors women had to undergo in several area, she underlined it was not only an African problem.  The horrors took place everywhere in the world.

Statements

IVANNA KLYANPUSH‑TSINTSADZE (Ukraine) said the meaningful inclusion of women was perhaps the greatest, but most under‑utilized tool for building peace.  Women played a prominent role in peacebuilding in Ukraine, with the President having appointed a woman to a position in charge of the peace process in the Donbas region and two women participating in Minsk working groups dealing with humanitarian and political issues.  However, so long as foreign aggression continued, peace and security for most women in occupied parts of Ukraine would remain almost unattainable.  They would continue to lack protection and live in fear, with almost no recourse to justice, remaining economically disadvantaged and living with limited freedoms.  The Security Council must give priority to the protection and participation pillars of women, peace and security agenda, she said, expressing regret that impunity for human rights violations and abuses committed in the context of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, not least regarding sexual violence, still prevailed.

MARGOT WALLSTRÖM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, noted that she had travelled to today’s open debate directly from Afghanistan, where she met women and girls living amid conflict, struggling to make ends meet and keep their families safe whilst facing a constant risk of sexual violence.  “Oppression of women is a global disease,” she said, with the use of sexual violence as a weapon being the ultimate manifestation of that oppression.  Recalling her experience as the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, she said it was a mistake to view such violence as inevitable, unspeakable and a lesser crime.  A gender perspective must be incorporated in all aspects of peacebuilding, she said, underscoring the value of data and support for women’s organizations, but expressing concern that budget cuts and mainstreamed mandates could result in reduced gender expertise in United Nations missions.  Member States must seize the current momentum for women’s participation in peace processes and put women’s full enjoyment of their rights at the core of international peace and security.  “The frameworks and tools are in place,” she said. “It is up to us to make it happen.”

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said that despite active annual discussions since 2000, year after year the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda fell short.  He encouraged all speakers to be specific, therefore, about what their countries were doing to advance it.  His country had worked in Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan to increase women’s participation in all sectors.  It had also directly addressed sexual violence and the resulting stigmas through a number of projects and was providing training on such issues for peacekeepers.  He urged a reversal in the decrease in gender expertise in the United Nations.  Women leadership had greatly expanded in the United Kingdom, but as more could be done an action plan had been launched, as well as a “gender compact” for missions.  He urged all to institute such a compact and mainstream the issues involved into all conflict‑related initiatives.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) also noted the challenges in implementing the agenda, which he said required international and regional cooperation, even though, he stressed, each country had unique challenges.  Those particularities should be studied closely so the right capacities could be built for all United Nations initiatives.  Empowerment of women must be built in both conflict countries and all societies.  His country had put in place legislation in favour of women’s empowerment, most notably requiring equal representation in elected assemblies.  The right to property and other economic empowerment of women had also been strengthened.  As severe inequality was a driver of conflict, his State was playing a strong role in distributing wealth.  He praised several countries that had also taken steps to strengthen women’s empowerment, along with reforms instituted by the Secretary-General.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal) welcomed the international solidarity being exhibited on the issue.  He affirmed the necessity of empowering women in ensuring peaceful societies.  Unfortunately, inequality in all areas remained on the rise and women continued to suffer from it.  He expressed hope, however, that progress could be made both in policy and consciousness in advancing women’s empowerment.  Expertise and financing for that purpose was critical.  New international mechanisms were developing and that showed signs for hope.  In his region, there were more women officials in the African Union and the creation of a network of African women leaders.  He described several regional initiatives to empower women, including a framework within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  Adding that all international instruments had been integrated into his country’s policy frameworks, he stated that more than 100 Senegalese women were now deployed in peacekeeping operations.  Many challenges remained, however, and new kinds of gender‑based violence were emerging, particularly in the Sahel region.  Cooperation must therefore be strengthened to face them.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy), noting that centrality of the women, peace and security agenda was increasingly recognized, said that nevertheless the voices of women at the grassroots level were still rarely heard and they continued to be exploited and abused in many situations.  He urged the United Nations to lead as an example and encourage Member States to share best practices.  He announced that a women’s mediation network, just founded on 26 October in Rome with Government backing, as a way for women to build regional capacity to address a host of issues that were causes of violence and inequality.  Describing other Italian projects, he encouraged further cooperation between the United Nations with regional organizations.  Women’s meaningful participation must be promoted, he stressed:  women’s participation was not just a matter of numbers.

MICHELE J. SISON (United States) said that as the role of women in maintaining peace and security was critical, one should move from rhetoric to action.  More women were needed in government and at the negotiating table.  Her country was fully committed to advance full implementation of Council resolution 1325 (2000) she said, describing legal processes in that regard.  Noting that when women participated in peace processes, success was more sustainable, she said their full participation in the economy also bolstered prosperity for all, which was why her country supported women entrepreneurs.  She was disheartened to learn that the number of women participating in United Nations peace process had gone down.  Women were an under‑used resource in combating extremist violence, as they were a first line of defence against radicalization.  Women could play more vital roles in preventing terrorist ideologies taking root.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said the experience of the Council did prove that participation of women in peace processes made a difference in achieving peace.  He stressed the importance of women’s effective participation and providing funding for them in peace and security.  He stressed, however, that the scope of the agenda should be limited to countries in conflict and post conflict situations.  Concrete actions should be developed to increase the number of female “Blue Helmets”.  The suffering of women was exacerbated in conflict zones and areas under occupation.  He said his country had introduced an intensive training module on sexual and gender-based violence for the training of its peacekeepers.  The manual on the prevention of sexual abuse and exploitation, translated in English and French, was available to all troop‑contributing countries, he said.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) welcomed positive developments in advancing the women, peace and security agenda, particularly the focus on their participation in peace processes.  She was concerned, however, at the challenges posed by sexual and gender-based violence.  More needed to be done about sexual exploitation and abuse.  She said Africa had registered considerable progress in advancing the women, peace and security agenda, with national action plans adopted in many countries.  Gender policies adopted by the African Union and subregional organizations could provide a basis for facilitating the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda in Africa.  It was important to strengthen support for initiatives aimed at ensuring the participation of women in peace processes, mediation and election monitoring, she said, and encouraged a regional approach in advancing the agenda.

EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) said that while progress had been achieved in advancing the role of women, their protection was lagging.  Women continued to be victim to violence, especially by terrorist groups.  It was important to focus on issues related to establishing national peace and security.  There were specialized agencies and organizations to address issues such as gender equality.  The way the topic was discussed in the Chamber strayed from the established criteria, he said, noting that it was inappropriate to use the Council to promote controversial approaches that did not have broad global support.  The primary role in defending women rested with Governments, while measures of the United Nations system and civil society should be aimed at supporting the efforts of States.  Turning to Ukraine’s statement, he noted, among other things, that responsibility of the suffering of women as described by that country’s representative lay with the authorities.  Terrible crimes against women had been committed by Ukrainian forces, he said.

SHEN BO (China) said that since adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), the international community had built a sound framework for fostering a greater role for women in peace and security, but protection of their rights in times of conflict should be strengthened.  It was therefore important to prevent conflict, he said, and the Council should encourage States to settle their disputes peacefully.  The international community should embrace the notion of peace for development and heed the voices and participation of women in all stages of peace processes.  Special intention should be paid to women as a vulnerable group and protect them from terrorists.  Protection of women in post conflict situations should be intensified by support for gender equality measures as well as by development support.  As the Council had adopted consensus resolutions, United Nations agencies and bodies should strengthen their coordination and cooperation within their competencies with other bodies and regional and subregional organizations.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that, 17 years after the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), the normative framework had still not been fully put into practice.  Some 100 countries had announced their commitment to promote the women, peace and security agenda in 2015, at which time Japan had pledged to steadily implement and monitor its related national action plan, increase its financial support to UN‑Women, as well as the Office of the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, and invest in human resource development and the education of women in displacement.  Noting that his country had faithfully fulfilled those promises, he pointed out that it had recently become UN‑Women’s second‑largest contributor and was one of the top donors to the Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict.  As 90 per cent of conflicts from 2000 to 2009 were relapses, women’s meaningful participation and leadership were critical, including in peace negotiations and peacekeeping missions.  Outlining Japan’s technical training efforts in those areas, he added that the United Nations system‑wide strategy on gender parity was also critical and its implementation must be ensured.

KANAT TUMYSH (Kazakhstan) said that the 1325 agenda should be seen as a valuable tool for making the entire peacekeeping architecture of the United Nations more effective.  The gap between the framework and women’s progress must be closed, with stronger collaboration between Department of Peacekeeping Operations and UN‑Women to increase women’s parity in peacekeeping and to build gender expertise for all operations.  Gender expertise in preventing violent extremism must also be utilized.  Each Member State and region must play its role, in addition.  His country had promoted strong pro‑women policies in its legislative framework and all areas of security and peacebuilding.  Prevention of gender-based violence was central.  Women, along with youth, must be seen as a critical link in the security/development nexus.  His country was working to meet the 15 per cent target in its funding for gender mainstreaming and was working internationally to promote the agenda.  He underlined, in addition, the importance of women’s civil society groups and the collection of clear data on the issue.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said that the women, peace and security agenda should be a priority of the Council on a permanent basis.  He welcomed a range of initiatives to advance that agenda, which was critical for the success of peacekeeping.  The issue was women’s ability to enjoy all their inalienable rights and hold their own futures in their own hands.  It was the responsibility of all nations to uphold those rights and the responsibility of civil society to hold States to account in that regard.  His country had been increasing women’s participation in its peacekeeping contingents, and it had accordingly seen the effectiveness of its contributions increase.  He called for strengthened efforts to end impunity for sexual violence, calling on the Council to refer cases to the courts and for augmented efforts to enforce zero tolerance for abuse by peacekeepers.  His country would work with all others to continue to advance the entire agenda.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), Council President for October, speaking in his national capacity, said conflicts could not be resolved by leaving half of humanity on the margins.  Women must not only be protected, but also fully involved in conflict prevention and resolution.  Their participation in political processes and conflict resolution and prevention remained insufficient, he said, noting that between 1992 and 2011, 4 per cent of peace agreement signatories and less than 10 per cent of peace negotiators were women.  Member States must take responsibility, elaborate national and regional plans and put them in place.  Gender‑based conflict analysis should be strengthened, including through an exchange of best practices.  He went on to review his country’s own efforts, noting that its 2015‑2018 national action plan for women, peace and security was built on five pillars:  participation, protection, fighting impunity, prevention and promotion of the women, peace and security agenda.  He also noted that women now accounted for 15 per cent of all French troops, a twofold increase since 1998.

Taking the floor for the second time, YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine) said it seemed like his Minister’s statement had been taken out of context.  Women made up almost one million internally displaced persons in his country, a direct consequence of Russian aggression.  If the Russian Federation wanted to help women in Ukraine, it should stop sending troops, weapons and ammunitions to Eastern Ukraine.  “Until that happens, Russia is in no position to lecture others,” he emphasized.  There were hundreds of Ukrainian prisoners in Russian captivity as well, and once out of captivity some of them carried on with life, sometimes even holding seats in Ukraine’s Parliament.

MARIA ANGELA HOLGUIN (Colombia) said her country remained committed to ensuring the full participation of women, despite facing major challenges to do so.  It had taken the necessary steps to implement resolution 1325 (2000), including by establishing a body that dealt with victims of armed conflict.  That group focused on offering women, especially those in rural communities, economic autonomy and decent working conditions.  The group was also working to break the violent cycle many women faced.  Women’s participation in peacebuilding was as critical as in achieving peace, she continued, noting women’s participation in her country’s judicial sector and other areas of Government.  She stressed the need to ensure accountability for sexual violence.  Lessons learned must be used to achieve advantage in other sectors as well.  Peace was not only about putting an end to war and violence.  Peace also required the unwavering support of States and the United Nations in working together to ensure the real participation of women.

CHANTAL SAFOU (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said that her country had been afflicted with years of conflict that produced nefarious consequences, particularly for women and children.  She outlined efforts by her Government, which had adopted an action plan to collect statistic data from provinces on the living conditions of women.  The plan sought to achieve the participation of women at local levels of government.  Women were already contributing to the peaceful resolution of conflict in provinces. In addition to the action plan, her Government also signed a Joint Communiqué with the United Nations to fight sexual violence in conflict.  It had also adopted initiatives to prosecute perpetrators.  She also commended her Government’s decision to appoint women to high‑level positions in the army.

BÄRBEL KOFLER, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid of Germany, associating herself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said rhetoric about women’s participation in peace processes must be turned into action through practical initiatives.  In that regard, Germany was supporting the African Union in developing a network that would enable women leaders to exchange experiences, she said, adding that her country hoped to see more women‑led African Union‑United Nations solidarity missions.  International discussion on implementing the women, peace and security agenda must continue between the Council’s annual open debates, she added, noting the work of the Council’s informal expert group on the issue.  Better efforts could be made as well to connect implementation of the women, peace and security agenda with other initiatives, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

SANDRA ERICA JOVEL POLANCO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, said a significant participation of women in peace processes strengthened protection efforts, accelerated economic recovery and led to sustainable peace.  Lasting peace could not be achieved without security for women and girls, she said, expressing particular concern over the use of sexual violence as an instrument of war.  National action plans to implement resolution 1325 (2000) were powerful tools for progress, she said, noting that her country adopted such a plan in July this year.  She went on underscore the important role of women in peacekeeping operations, adding that joint efforts must continue between Member States and the United Nations to support measures that increased women’s participation in peace processes.  “Inclusive processes should be the rule, not the exception,” she said.

LAURA ELENA FLORES HERRERA (Panama), speaking on behalf of the Human Security Network, comprising of Austria, Chile, Costa Rica, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Mali, Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland, Thailand, South Africa, and her own country, called on Member States, the United Nations, regional and subregional organizations to support efforts to implement resolution 1325 (2000).  There was a need for greater recognition and support of women’s full and effective participation in all stages of conflict resolution and post‑conflict reconciliation processes, so that peace agreements could be more effective.  Women must play a key role in conflict prevention and resolution as well as in the construction and decision-making of sustainable peace processes.  She noted several developments since the 2016 debate on the same topic, including the Secretary‑General’s commitment to gender parity and the high‑level political forum’s review of the goal on gender equality.

She expressed concern about the impact of forced displacement on women and girls, emphasizing that addressing the matter called for the involvement of women in the design and implementation of humanitarian action and early recovery.  Greater efforts were needed to promote and respect the human rights of women and girls, as well as to strengthen all efforts to address gender‑based violence.  For too long sexual violence had been committed on a systematic and widespread scale as crimes against humanity.  “At an alarming rate women and girls are today targets of sexual and gender‑based violence,” she said, stressing the need to fight impunity and ensure accountability under national and international jurisdictions.  “We need to ensure that women’s and girl’s interests are fully respected and systematically integrated into peace processes,” she added.

Ms. OEHRI (Liechtenstein) said that despite some progress, “we are still very far from achieving the goals we have set ourselves”.  The data in the latest report of the Secretary‑General pointed to significant barriers in women’s meaningful participation in mediation processes.  “Root causes of conflicts cannot be fully addressed and societal traumas cannot be overcome when half of the population is excluded from peace processes,” she stressed.  Women often shouldered a large share of responsibility in communities during conflict and recovery, which made their participation even more important.  Their inclusion in mediation processes also contributed to their empowerment in line with the 2030 Agenda.  Noting that structural inequalities, poverty and discrimination often hindered women’s access to justice, she said that gender‑responsive legal systems were fundamental to building resilient societies.  While women and girls were particularly vulnerable to conflict‑related sexual violence, men and boys were also targeted.  A prevailing culture of silence often prevented male victims from speaking out.  “The most efficient protection against conflict‑related sexual violence is ensuring that it does not happen in the first place,” she stressed.

MOHAMED KHALED KHIARI (Tunisia) said the devastating impact of conflict on the most vulnerable citizens, including women and children was evident.  Despite the progress that had been achieved, women remained virtually absent in peace negotiations and institutions for peacebuilding, which hindered the process of conflict resolution.  He welcomed the Secretary‑General’s initiative to assess the quality of the participation of women in peace processes as part of the overall reform process.  He also underscored that a gender perspective was important for the implementation of measures aimed at combatting extremism and for the rehabilitation of women returning from conflict zones.  He welcomed the Secretary‑General’s efforts to achieve gender parity within the United Nations and recalled that Tunisia had adopted legislation in 1966 that served as a mechanism for the emancipation of women and the promotion of a society rooted in citizenship.  He pointed to Tunisia’s new Constitution and its provisions that guaranteed and preserved the rights of women, and acknowledged their key role in democracy‑building in the country.

FERIDUN H. SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey), also speaking on behalf of Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Australia, said that despite progress since the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), daunting challenges remained, with women and girls still disproportionately affected by the impact of conflict.  Gender responsive humanitarian policies must be developed to ensure access to health, education and other basic services for women and girls.  Redoubled efforts must also be made to prevent women and girls from becoming victims of human trafficking in conflict and post‑conflict situations.  Meaningful progress on that front could only come through coordinated and consolidated measures, he said, emphasizing the importance of regional and international coordination and cooperation in a time when the causes and effects of conflicts easily spilled across borders.

SHANKER DAS BAIRAGI (Nepal) said that his country had made explicit efforts to localize its national action plan, including through the mandatory provision of 33 per cent women’s representation in “Local Peace Committees”.  Gender parity also helped ensure that peacekeeping missions were more compassionate and better at protecting the civilian population from sexual abuse.  In that context, Nepal was committed to attaining the goal of 15 per cent females in peacekeeping operations.  It had employed policies to encourage more females to join the national security forces.  In Nepal’s cases, women’s increased representation in legislative and Government bodies and State institutions since 2007 had directly contributed to fostering good governance and inclusive societies.  Nepal’s National Women’s Commission was now an independent and powerful constitutional body with a mandate to monitor and safeguard the rights and interests of women.  In recent local elections, women had secured nearly half of the leadership positions, he said.  Moreover, Nepal’s Constitution required that the President and Vice‑President must represent different sexes or communities.

DARJA BAVDAŽ KURET (Slovenia), associating herself with the European Union and the Human Security Network, said that her country’s first national action plan had demonstrated its implementation of the Council’s resolutions on women, peace and security, including through more than 20 projects carried out in collaboration with civil society.  She drew attention to several specific projects aimed at empowering women in Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.  Further, Slovenia supported additional projects, including through the provision of funding.  On the national level, her country had pursued initiatives geared towards the systematic education and training of women serving in the Slovene armed forces.  She was pleased to note that Slovenia also contributed the first female Force Commander to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).  The political participation of women in Slovenia was excellent, she highlighted, noting that half of the Government leadership was female, including the Minister of Defence and the Minister of the Interior.

MICHAEL GRANT (Canada), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said that women’s participation had a positive impact on the credibility and durability of peace agreements.  It was essential to include gender considerations and the meaningful participation of women in early warning, mediation, and conflict-resolution effort, and a greater role for women in post‑conflict peacebuilding and economic recovery. He called for further implementation of the women, peace, and security agenda in United Nations peacekeeping, both in terms of women’s participation and gender expertise and mainstreaming into doctrine and all planning documents.  Women played an indispensable role in peacekeeping and their participation at all levels was key to the effectiveness of missions.

He expressed concern that cutting, downgrading, and under‑resourcing gender advisors and women protection advisors positions could cripple the ability of peace operations to fulfil critical tasks.  United Nations peacekeepers must not be part of the problem, he added, condemning cases of sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping operations.  Despite progress much more needed to be done to tackle the scourge and ensure accountability.  To end impunity, perpetrators of sexual violence must be brought to justice, and victims and survivors must be assisted in a comprehensive manner to fully recover from those violations.  A gendered approach was essential to facing new and emerging challenges such as violent extremism.

Speaking in his national capacity, Mr. Grant said that Canada remained committed to finding opportunities to create and support gender transformative solutions to conflict.  “We will challenge narratives undermining women’s ability to contribute, lead and shape solutions,” he stressed.  Canada was taking concrete actions to advance the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda.  It dedicated funds to local organizations that advanced women’s rights in both developing and fragile States.  Working to increase the proportion of Canadian women police officers deployed to peace operations, Canada had also been at the forefront of United Nations training initiatives aimed at increasing the number of female police officers deployed to peace operations.  Canada was also a strong advocate for the full implementation of the United Nations zero‑tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran) said that because of foreign intervention and occupation, as well the surge of violent extremism and terrorism, women and girls in many parts of the Middle East had witnessed the collapse of their hopes for a better future.  In many conflicts, women were the primary victims of large‑scale, often systematic sexual violence.  There were thousands of confirmed instances of sexual violence having been used as a tactic of terror in countries around the world, as terrorists sought to advance their military and ideological ends.  It would be foolish to assume that by physically removing Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Da’esh (ISIL), their atrocities against civilians, including women and children, would cease.  The international community must redouble its fight against such a vicious ideology, and those who harboured it.  The world also could not fail to acknowledge that interventionist policies, occupation and regime‑change attempts served as a breeding ground for terrorist groups to grow and flourish.

JANA PŘIKRYLOVÁ (Czech Republic), associating herself with the European Union, expressed concern that national action plans to implement the women, peace and security agenda had only been adopted 68 Member States, and that most projects were small, short‑term and financed through limited resources.  Lack of financing was a key obstacle to implementation.  She expressed concern about the slow pace of integrating the agenda into relevant resolutions on peacekeeping activities.  Her country had adopted in January 2017 a national action plan which included concrete and measurable tasks.  In 2015, the Ministry of Defence adopted an action plan to implement Council resolution 1325 (2000) and the Czech Republic became the “lead nation” of a programme focused on training Jordanian female soldiers in explosive ordnance disposal.  Gender mainstreaming remained one of the main principles of the national transition promotion programme which supported democratic principles in transition countries.  Regarding development cooperation and aid, the Czech Republic implemented projects worth CZK 130 million in 2016 with a strong focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Despite that progress, women were underrepresented in decision-making positions and diplomatic posts.  In response, his Government adopted the Action Plan for Balanced Representation of Women and Men in Decision-making Positions for 2016 to 2018.  His country also supported several global gender activities through regular voluntary financial contributions.

TORE HATTREM (Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, expressed concern about the decrease in women’s participation in mediation, requests for and inclusion of gender expertise and gender‑sensitivity in peace agreements.  He noted Thursday’s launch of the Global Women, Peace and Security Index, while calling for greater strategic and consistent implementation of targets.  He said women had become more influential in peace processes, including in Colombia, Syria, Yemen and the Philippines.  In that regard, he commended the efforts of UN‑Women, the Department for Political Affairs and special envoys.  He also noted the work of the Different Group of Friends, the Women Mediators Networks, the National Focal Points Initiative, national action plans of Nordic countries, as well as the NGO Working Group and the Global Solutions Exchange platform.  The international community’s approach to women, peace and security was often too generic, and lacked contextual analyses and points of action, however, the Security Council’s Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security was a step in the right direction.  On stereotyping, he stressed that men could be victims of sexual violence and that women could play a destructive role in conflict.  In terms of leadership, women were often ignored in mediation processes at the national and international level.  He welcomed the new handbook on the prevention and handling of sexual violence in conflict that was being developed for use in peace operations and the new gender parity strategy.  Noting the many best practices and positive developments currently under way in the United Nations system, he stated “our job is to ensure that best practices become mainstream practice”.

SIMA SAMI BAHOUS (Jordan), noting that her country would soon ratify its draft national plan on women, peace and security, emphasized its contribution of women police personnel to the former United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) and its intention to also do so for the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).  She emphasized Jordan’s provision of basic services to Syrian refugees on its territory, 50 per cent of whom were female, as well as the need for the international community to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian women and girls living under the yoke of Israeli occupation, especially those in prison.

ALEX GIACOMELLI DA SILVA (Brazil) said complex humanitarian crises shed light on the distress suffered by women and girls.  Attention must be paid to those belonging to the most vulnerable groups, he said, underscoring also the importance of raising the presence of women in peacekeeping operations.  It was unthinkable to deploy a peacekeeping mission without gender advisers or training Blue Helmets on prevention sexual exploitation and abuse.  Welcoming the Secretary‑General’s victim‑centred approach on sexual exploitation and abuse, he said Brazil hoped its national action plan would generate encouraging results and that the women, peace and security agenda would continue to prosper within the United Nations system.

Ms. JAQUEZ (Mexico), associating herself with the statement made by Turkey, said that when it came to sustainable peace, women were key to creating inclusive societies with a healthy social fabric.  Mexico supported the Secretary‑General’s findings in his report and applauded his commitment to integrating gender equality into conflict prevention, as well as his initiative to reform the United Nations.  Mexico fully supported the participation of women in all areas of public life given that gender equality and the empowerment of women were necessary for the achievement of peaceful, fair and equitable societies.  Her Government promoted the equitable representation of women in all sectors, and at all levels.  The Council’s resolution on women, peace and security had strengthened norms in that area although the resolution’s effective implementation remained a challenge.  The Secretary‑General must continue efforts to make the agenda a truly cross‑cutting one, particularly in relation to its other thematic work, she said, adding:  “Sustainable peace has a woman’s face”.

MARA MARINAKI, European Union, said promoting the women, peace and security agenda was essential in realizing the bloc’s shared ambitions of conflict prevention as well as sustainable peace and development.  The European Union had remained committed to substantially increasing women’s participation in all aspects of peace and security, including political participation and leadership.  It had progressed towards better gender balance in diplomatic services and field missions.  In external action, the European Union had continued to work for women’s full participation in conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding.  In Afghanistan, it had helped female members of the High Peace Council play an active, critical role in the peace agreement between the Government and Hizb‑e‑Islami.  The European Union had been supporting the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board of Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.  In Uganda, it had closely engaged with the Women Situation Room, a mechanism fully operated by and for women to contain elections‑related violence and enable women’s political participation.  More recently, the European Union had supported the training of Libyan women peace activists in negotiation and mediation skills.

NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), noting that the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) in his country fell under the national gender policy framework, said that it included the emerging issue of national disaster management — which resolution 1325 (2000) had overlooked.  Along with other measures, the national gender policy had ensured that Namibia deployed women to all peacekeeping missions.  It had, to date, one of the largest female police contingents in UNAMID, as well as another such contingent in Liberia.  The significant presence of women peacekeepers in conflict and post‑conflict areas had the added advantage of creating safer spaces for girls and women who had suffered sexual violence, he said, highlighting the ability of women peacekeepers to gain the trust of local populations.  Many challenges nevertheless remained in implementing resolution 1325 (2000), including lack of awareness, lack of political will, entrenched biases and cultural and traditional norms.  “We must encourage a culture in which both men and women believe it is vital to support the rise to positions of leadership by women,” he stressed.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) said that concrete initiatives, including the promotion of the role of women within the Peacebuilding Commission and the incorporation of the gender perspective in new peacebuilding strategies was of critical importance.  The Secretary‑General’s report rightly mentioned the importance of technical capacity-building in gender equality.  That technical skill was also of great importance in peacebuilding operations, and in that context, when mandates were reviewed, contingent levels were adjusted or when a mission’s financial resources were reduced, it was essential that gender adviser posts were not affected.  The role of women in security sector reform was often underestimated, he said, emphasizing:  “Women are a force for peace”.

INA H. KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), associating herself with the statement made by Turkey, said that notwithstanding resolution 1325 (2000) it would be unfortunate if the bravery and vision of women went unrealized.  The crucial role of women and family in preventing conflicts that might lead to radicalism and extremism must be acknowledged and fostered, she said, adding the enabling women’s participation in the economy supported peacebuilding.  It was important as well for the United Nations peacebuilding and peacekeeping mechanisms to be strengthened continuously.  Going forward, Indonesia aimed to increase the number of women it deployed on peacekeeping missions.  It was also sharing its best practices and experiences in empowering women in leadership through South-South and triangular cooperation.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) emphasized the need for leadership, a stronger institutional architecture and moving from the general to the specific in addressing women, peace and security.  Members of civil society should be invited to speak to the Council more often to describe the situation on the ground, and those responsible for sexual violence in conflict should be the potential subjects of Council sanctions.  He added that he would like to see a Latin American or Asian country host the 2020 meeting of capital‑level focal points on women, peace and security.  He went on to express his fear that, in the context of United Nations reform, the women, peace and security agenda would not be given the level of importance it deserved.

MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia), associating himself with the European Union, expressed support for the Secretary‑General’s vision of peacekeeping, as well as practical steps such as the convening of the Informal Experts Group and new initiatives on gender parity and conflict prevention.  Despite such efforts, critical challenges remained, from increasing the number of women at the highest levels of decision-making to ending impunity for gender-based violence.  Gender‑responsive and protective environments for women were still lacking and related efforts remained undervalued and underfunded.  The women, peace and security agenda needed accelerated attention, as did the critical areas of disarmament, creating greater space for women’s civil society organizations and stronger information and analysis on women, peace and security.  Describing a range of relevant national actions, he recalled that Slovakia was a Co‑Chair of the Group of Friends on Security Sector Reform — essential to post‑conflict peacebuilding and reconstruction — and underscored the importance of women’s equal and effective participation in all stages of those processes.

GUSTAVO MEZA‑CUADRA (Peru) said that despite some progress, there were still barriers to the effective implementation of the women, peace and security agenda.  Improving the access of women to significant leadership roles in peace efforts required the active participation of civil society organizations, particularly those led by women.  Peru had increased the number of women it contributed to the six peacekeeping missions it participated in and believed that the women, peace and security agenda must play a central role in the reform efforts currently underway, particularly with regard to gender equality in peacekeeping operations.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said that his country shared the vision for the reform of the United Nations, with particular emphasis on prevention.  Achieving sustainable peace would be facilitated by increasing the presence of women in all stages of peace and reconciliation, not only as a question of equality, but as a question of effectiveness.  He underscored that resolution 1325 (2000) recognized the important role that women played in peace processes and that it was crucial to include gender provisions in peace and ceasefire agreements.  More equitable societies that respected women’s rights were more peaceful societies, he said.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco), emphasizing that women’s participation in peace processes improved prospects for conflict resolution and sustainability, recalled that Morocco had hosted an international conference on women, peace and security in 2016 that focused on the role of women vis‑à‑vis mediation, de‑radicalization and best practices in addressing sexual violence in conflict.  Morocco was also home to a think tank dedicated to women, peace and security.  Women and girls had specific needs in post‑conflict stages in such areas as health care, land rights and employment, but they were frequently under‑represented in decision‑making, if not sidelined altogether.  Incorporating a gender approach was therefore imperative to ensure fair and sustainable development with both men and women sharing resources, opportunities and power, he said.

ALEXANDRA BAUMANN (Switzerland) said human security, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls were cornerstones of his country’s foreign policy.  The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs recently launched its first comprehensive strategy on gender equality and women’s rights.  Gender equality was key to the prevention of conflict and violence, including violent extremism.  Respecting women’s equal rights and inclusion in peace processes was “simply a must”.  In that regard, he called for States to fully promote the equality and effective participation of women in peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution, including through the engagement of civil society.  The women, peace and security agenda contributed to better results for sustainable peace.  To that end, he highlighted existing frameworks including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Universal Periodic Review and special mandates.  Switzerland supported an initiative to focus on implementing the Women’s Convention.  In closing, he stated that the engagement of men and boys in all transformative action was crucial and that women’s economic empowerment must receive greater attention in post-conflict recovery and State‑building.

ANNA FATA, Holy See, said that women were proven agents of change, although sadly, most of today’s conflicts resulted in them too often becoming targets and victims, rather than peacemakers and peacebuilders.  Women and girls disproportionately suffered the impact of violent conflicts, including being specifically targeted as objects of violence and abuse as a strategy of war.  Violent extremism and terrorism continued to use sexual violence as a terror tactic, although acts of violence against women and girls were not only perpetrated in conflict situations.  Member States had a fundamental responsibility to prosecute the perpetrators of human rights abuses, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including those related to sexual violence against women and girls.

AMARSANAA DARISUREN, Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE), said it was essential to include a gender perspective in all phases of conflict prevention, resolution and post‑conflict rehabilitation.  Unfortunately, formal political processes provided little access and space for women.  There was a clear need to increase the meaningful inclusion of women in all phases of the conflict cycle, particularly at the grass‑roots level.  She reviewed some examples of progress reached in the last year by OSCE, including the adoption of national action plans by 31 countries in its region and efforts to reinforce women’s leadership at national and local levels through mentoring, support networks and capacity development.  The OSCE was also working on gender‑inclusive mediation processes, while its politico-military bodies were incorporating a gender perspective in their respective agendas.  Its new “Leaders against Intolerance and Violent Extremism” project specifically included women’s community leaders and young women and men.  Emphasizing that “strong leadership is essential to achieve progress”, she said OSCE recognized that it had more to do to implement a sustained, systematic approach to improve women’s participation in peace processes.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000) had recognized the significant role women in conflict prevention and post conflict mediation.  It was unfortunate that women and girls paid the highest price in conflicts because States and parties to conflict did not respect their obligations under international law.  As women needed to be empowered, there was also a need to facilitate their access to transitional justice mechanisms.  Underlining the importance of the role of females in combating against violent extremism, she said her country had taken several initiatives on the national and international level to strengthen the role of women.  The participation of women in decision making within the United Nations would allow for the further implementation of resolution 1325 2000), she said. 

AUDRA PLEPYTĖ (Lithuania), speaking also on behalf of Estonia and Latvia and aligning herself with the European Union, said empowerment of women and gender equality were fundamental to sustaining peace.  As the critical role of women in negotiations was often overlooked, she emphasized the importance of their participation in all negotiations and in peacebuilding, and urged for the gender perspective to be incorporated in all aspects of peace processes.  Implementation of the women, peace and security agenda required comprehensive measures, including recognizing the role of civil society.  Justice still faced inequalities, she said, emphasizing that the perpetrators of crimes against women and girls needed to be prosecuted and that victims received compensation.

NELLY SHILOH (Israel) said that women’s participation in peace processes was not just good for women, it was critical for the success and sustainability of resulting agreements.  She cited the experience of Colombia and Liberia in that regard.  A conducive environment to increase the number of women peacekeepers must be established, she added, pointing to the necessity for zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and harassment in peacekeeping missions.  Israel had introduced the first resolution on prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace, in the Commission on the Status of Women, and was one of the first to include resolution 1325 in its national legislation.  Much still remained to be done, both nationally and internationally, and all efforts for further progress should be modelled on best practices that have already been proven successful.

JERRY MATJILA (South Africa) said the contribution of women and girls to peacebuilding processes remained undervalued and under‑resourced, leaving a vital tool for sustainable peace and transformative change underutilized.  Women in South Africa had been at the forefront of driving reform, as well as in developing and advancing legislation and policies which advanced the role of women in society.  He said his country provided training for African women mediators, while the South African Defence Force — 30 per cent of whose members were women — provided training to female peacekeepers.  He paid tribute to women’s organizations campaigning to abolish nuclear weapons, adding that South Africa continued to engage with civil society and academia to find ways to further empower women and remove obstacles to their participation in peacekeeping missions and mediation efforts.

GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) said that her country had increased the number of women officers serving as staff officers and military observers in United Nations missions to 25 per cent.  She also commended the United Nations Department of Political Affairs for overseeing the substantial increase in gender expertise with the deployment of 25 gender advisers across 11 field missions.  Such efforts demonstrated that with dedicated funding and specific targets, it was possible to improve women’s participation.  All key actors must play a role in the implementation of the women in peace and security agenda.  That included civil society groups, which remained the greatest source of expertise on the ground.  She noted that Australia had founded the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund which supported women’s civil society organizations to contribute to conflict prevention, crisis response and peacebuilding.

CHO TAE‑YUL (Republic of Korea), associating himself with the statement made by Turkey, and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said that despite progress achieved, there remained a wide gap between goals and the reality on the ground.  Civilians, particularly women and girls, continued to be caught up in armed conflicts in many parts of the world.  He stressed the need to continue in a more coordinated manner to prevent women from falling victim to violence.  “We should not tolerate any sexual exploitation or abuse committed by United Nations peacekeepers,” he stressed.  The goal of increasing women’s participation in peace efforts must be translated into concrete action.  It was important to ensure that the ongoing efforts to reform the United Nations peace and security architecture contributed to the women, peace and security agenda.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), convinced of the importance of participation of women in peace processes, said there was a need for broad‑based coherence on the international, regional and national level to implement the women, peace and security agenda.  There was also an absolute need for full partnership with civil society.  Ireland would embed the women, peace and security agenda in everything it did, in cooperation with UN‑Women.  The participation of women in peace processes had proved to be the smart way.  Her country funded non‑governmental organization who could make a difference, such as the Women at the Table in Nigeria.  Describing other support efforts, she said her country was drafting a second national action plan on the women, peace and security agenda.  She underlined the importance of synergies between the youth, peace and security agenda and the women, peace and security agenda.

AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka) said his country’s long, drawn‑out conflict had resulted in many victims — orphans, war widows, single mothers and women‑headed households.  Addressing their immediate concerns and making them participants in all areas of peacebuilding had remained a priority in post‑conflict efforts.  Successful peacebuilding required gender equality and women’s empowerment, including economic empowerment, human security, human rights and development to mesh together.  It was also vital to engage domestic actors from the grass roots to the highest echelons of Government to ensure ownership of peacebuilding processes and guarantee long-term sustainability.  As Sri Lanka moved down the path of reconciliation and transformative justice, the Government had appointed an 11‑member task force of eminent persons to hold nationwide consultation on reconciliation measures.  The members of the task force were drawn entirely from civil society, including six women.

MACHARIA KAMAU (Kenya) associating himself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said last year his country launched its national action plan for the implementation of  Council resolution 1325 (2000).  Kenya was the top contributor of female officers to United Nations peacekeeping operations, providing 19 per cent of the total.  The national gender policy guided the integration of gender into all military operations, including for early warning and response systems to conflict.  His Government had established an international peace support training centre, launched a national campaign to address gender based violence, reviewed its national information and communications technology policy to include a gender dimension and established a toll‑free gender “helpline”.  Such efforts were complimented by various non‑state actors, including through training workshops to build gender and conflict sensitive reporting in the media.  Regarding relief and recovery, his Government had set guidelines in medical facilities, developed guidelines and standard operating procedures for psychological and forensic management, and built recovery centres.  In September 2016, Kenya also launched a national strategy to counter violent extremism which incorporated women into security and intelligence committees.  He noted several priority areas for national action, including gender issues relating to climate change, disarmament, radicalization and cybercrime, among others.

TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), aligning with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security , said that it was important to speak in the context of the women, peace and security agenda of what has been called ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Myanmar because rape and sexual violence had been used as a main tactic.  He cited the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to convey the horror that women were going through there.  All the right statements had already been made on the issue and it was time to move past words into action, he stressed.  The Security Council had condemned the violence, but must show its resolve through a strong and detailed resolution on what must be done next, and support for proposals submitted by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in the General Assembly.  His country would continue to pursue bilateral efforts with Myanmar, but the international community must accompany it in the process.

BESIANA KADARE (Albania), associating herself with the European Union, said that despite the international community’s commitments, the meaningful inclusion of women in conflict prevention and peace processes remained negligible.  Women continued to be sidelined during peace negotiations, and even when they were present, it was always the men who led and decided when and how to make peace.  Member States should strengthen their resolve in fully implementing the women, peace and security agenda.  While Albania had yet to adopt a national action plan on women, peace and security, it had mainstreamed gender across its security sector, with women making up 17 per cent of all military personnel and the State Police launching a women‑only recruitment campaign.  It also supported an Italian initiative to create a Mediterranean women mediators’ network, aimed at preventing and mitigating conflicts through the increased participation of women in peace processes, she said.

KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary), associating herself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, said that in conflict‑affected areas, women played a key role in ensuring family livelihoods and were active at the grass-roots level in peace movements.  They were also essential for countering extremist violence.  For effective implementation of the women, peace and security agenda, comprehensive cooperation was needed between Governments and civil society organizations.  Her country was deeply concerned about the use of violence against women human rights defenders.  Youth engagement was important as well.  Women’s increased participation in peacekeeping missions was highly important for the protection of civilians.  Her country was increasing the number of female experts and police officers in United Nations peacekeeping missions.

NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan) said conflicts and violence affecting women and girls disproportionally.  Exploitation of women and girls was an instrument employed to terrorize civilians. It was a tactic of war with mass rapes committed by parties to armed conflict.  Council resolution 1325 (2000) had institutionalized a new focus on women in conflict, moving them to the center of the political debate.  The Council should focus on root causes of conflict and the United Nations should play its role in enhancing cooperation to help secure women’s place at the negotiating table.  The international community should support countries to defend women’s rights and gender perspectives should be fully integrated into the peacebuilding paradigm.

ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) said that women could change the world for the better, although for that to happen, Governments and international organizations such as the United Nations must provide the space for women to shape key decisions concerning national security.  The Maldives recognized women’s role in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding as part of the larger, holistic agenda for gender equality and women’s empowerment.  In that connection, he highlighted that the principles of equality and non-discrimination were at the heart of the Maldives’ Constitution and noted that his country had achieved gender parity in education and that women comprised over 60 per cent of the civil staff and 40 per cent of the judiciary.

LISE GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) noted that, eight resolutions down the road, women were still not actively engaged in many peace processes and unrecognized as the powerful agents of peace they were.  If the United Nations truly wanted to practise what it preached, it must pressure parties to a peace process to include women and not allow it to become an afterthought.  It must integrate a women’s perspective and let the voice of women’s organizations on the ground be heard at mediation tables through their substantive participation.  If the Organization did that, there was a 35 per cent increase in probability of a peace agreement lasting more than 15 years.  To be implemented, resolution 1325 (2000) needed to be operationalized and funded.  The Netherlands was sadly one of just a handful that had financed its national action plan for implementing the resolution.  More funds should be available if the global community was serious in making gender equality a practical reality.

HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador) said that his country believed that women’s empowerment was important for both peace and development and had taken important steps forward in that regard.  It recently launched a national action plan on women, peace and security, accompanied by a national implementation committee.  He reiterated absolute commitment to ending violence against women and ending sexual exploitation and abuse in the context of peacekeeping.  He also highlighted the need to care for the victims of sexual violence.  Noting that El Salvador’s peacekeeping contingents included increasingly more women, he pledged his country’s continued efforts to empower and protect women, and to share lessons it had learned on the topic.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security and the Human Security Network, said his country’s current national action plan on women, peace and security put a strong emphasis on education and training of personnel.  Equal opportunities and women’s autonomy were key pillars of the President’s gender agenda, he said, adding that, at the international level, women were part of Chile’s contribution to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the United Nations Mission in Colombia.  He went on to emphasize that the presence of women in peace operations helped prevent sexual exploitation and abuse.

E. COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, expressed concern that the implementation of the agenda continued to fall short and therefore called for preventative measures to address the structural and root causes of gender inequality.  For its part, Jamaica had developed a national policy on gender quality, which was aligned with its development policy.  To that end, his country launched the HeForShe campaign created by UN‑Women and a national strategic action plan in 2017 to eliminate gender‑based violence by 2026.  He urged for effective mechanisms to ensure meaningful measurement of results, and said such devices should account for the cooperation and support needed to attain requisite results, including through predictable and sustainable financing.  Noting the role of young women in peacebuilding, he expressed support to the work being done pursuant to resolution 2250 (2015) on youth, peace and security.  He also endorsed efforts to ensure women’s economic empowerment, their promotion in governance structures and access to justice and security.  Similarly, he expressed interest in addressing gender-specific effects of armed violence and gender responsive disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.

MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq) said his country sought to increase the participation of women in public life.  The new Constitution upheld the rights of women, guaranteeing their right to health insurance and living in freedom.  All were equal before the law regardless of gender or religion.  Noting that the number of women in leadership positions had increased, he described measures his Government had taken to support that, including a quota that women hold 25 per cent of all seats in the Chamber of Representatives.  Iraq’s capital had a female mayor.  His Government worked with the gender unit of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) to enhance the role of women in national reconciliation.  He said Iraq had suffered from attacks of the terrorist group ISIL, noting the crimes against Yazidi women and other women who had been sold as slaves.  The international community must double efforts to assist Iraq in freeing and rehabilitating those women.  Members of ISIL must be held accountable for their crimes in Iraq including crimes against humanity. 

PHILIPP CHARWATH (Austria) associated himself with the European Union, the Human Security Network and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security.  Regarding the implementation of the agenda, regional organizations had a crucial role to play in translating political commitments into concrete action on the ground, he said.  Based on findings of one such regional body, OSCE, it was clear that sustainable solutions to conflict were not possible without the participation of women.  Also, gender‑responsive journalism and the protection of female journalists could transform gender stereotypes, promote women’s empowerment and raise positive awareness.

ELENE AGLADZE (Georgia), associating herself with the European Union, welcomed the Secretary‑General’s recent report that underlined the crucial role of women in peace and decision-making processes and said it was evident that the sustainability of peace depended directly on women’s engagement in peace processes, politics, governance, institution-building, the rule of law, the security sector and economic recovery.  As an illustration of its commitment to gender equality, Georgia had ratified the Istanbul Convention and created an Inter‑Agency Commission for Gender Equality and Ending Violence against Women and Girls.  Strengthening protection measures on violence against women and women’s empowerment was particularly concerning to her country as such measures related to the occupied regions of Georgia, where women continued to suffer from grave violations of their fundamental rights and freedoms.

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, highlighted its efforts with regard to women, peace and security, including the adoption of a 2017‑2019 national action plan that aimed to ensure protection for women and girls, both domestically and in the face of the Israeli occupation; ensuring accountability through national and international mechanisms, with a particular focus on crimes and violations committed by the occupation, and further women’s political participation.  However, much work remained to be done, he said, noting that women’s organizations had been unfairly absent from national reconciliation talks despite being among the strongest advocates of reconciliation.  Palestine was ready to do its part to advance women’s rights and their role in peace and security, he said, but enjoyment of those rights necessitated ending the Israeli occupation.

CHARLES THEMBANI NTWAAGAE (Botswana) noted that the United Nations had made great strides in the promotion of the women, peace and security agenda through the establishment of UN-Women, which amplified women’s voices and created momentum for their leadership on peace and security.  Through such initiatives, thousands of women and girls had been helped in various countries around the world, although, regrettably, they continued to bear the brunt of armed conflicts, domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape and humanitarian crises.  The international community must address the social norms that perpetuated sexual violence and abuse against women, and promote respect for international human rights and humanitarian law.  He called for States to take practical steps to address obstacles in women’s access to justice, including by creating an enabling environment where women could easily report incidents of violence without fear or intimidation.

TANMAYA LAL (India) said that the world had seen extreme brutality being inflicted upon women, with sexual violence increasingly used a tool of war.  The heinous crimes against humanity perpetrated by terror networks, especially against women and girls, were a stark reminder of the serious challenges that needed to be overcome.  The increased institutionalized involvement of women in peacekeeping and conflict resolution was important to address that challenge.  He highlighted the work done by the Commission on the Status on Women in pushing ahead the gender empowerment agenda.  India, as a lead troop contributor over the past seven decades, was committed to fulfilling the pledge to have women comprise 15 per cent of military observers by the end of the year.  India was also committed to providing another all‑female formed police unit.  Prosecution was essential for prevention, he said, adding that the international community had a key role in helping build adequate resources and capacities.

VERONICA GARCIA GUTIERREZ (Costa Rica), welcoming the importance that had been acquired by the women, peace and security agenda, said that it was also essential, however, to work for parity in gender representation among the leadership of peacekeeping missions.  It was vital to broaden the gender perspective in many areas of peacebuilding.  Condemning all sexual violence, she supported initiatives to ensure zero tolerance of sexual exploitation in peacekeeping and assistance for victims.  Addressing development issues and empowering women economically were also critical, as was ensuring that women were adequately represented in forums such as those for disarmament.

ION JINGA (Romania), aligning himself with the statement made by the European Union, said that it was clear that women were key in promoting peace and he welcomed United Nations initiatives in that regard.  However, there was much more to be done.  There was a need, notably, to increase the number of women in command posts.  Enumerating the Romanian women who had attained important positions in United Nations missions, he stated that scores more had participated in several peacekeeping contingents.  He also described events promoting women’s greater participation in peace processes that were sponsored and attended by his country.  Women’s enormous potential must be utilized.  His country would continue to work for their meaningful participation in all phases of peacemaking.

LOUISE SHARENE BAILEY, African Union, said the African Union Peace and Security Council had endorsed the creation of a Network of African women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation (FemWise‑Africa) on 13 March.  FemWise‑Africa would be a potent tool to strengthen the role of women in conflict prevention and mediation efforts, and would provide a platform for advocacy, capacity-building and networking to further enhance the implementation of women’s inclusion in peacemaking in Africa.  The initiative would catalyse and mainstream the engagement of women in mediation in line with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals.  The African Union Commission and UN‑Women, with the support of Germany, had launched the African Women Leaders Network.  The recently signed “Joint United Nations-African Union Framework on enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security” provided a new window of opportunity to strengthen the women, peace and security agenda.  She welcomed the establishment of the Secretary‑General’s High‑Level Advisory Board on Mediation and the appointment of three prominent African women leaders to it.  The African Union also cooperated with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict with an emphasis on ensuring women participation and of accountability for crimes of sexual violence.  She announced that on 31 October, the African Union Peace and Security Council would hold an open session on “The role of women in preventing and countering violent extremism in Africa”.

KRISZTIAN MESZAROS, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), said empowering women led to more peaceful, just and inclusive societies, was essential for conflict prevention and made peace more sustainable.  His organizations supported empowering women within the United Nations, armed forces, civilian structures and societies of allies and partners.  Within NATO, however, there had only been a small increase in female representation in armed forces of Member States — an average of 20 per cent in 2016, compared to 10.8 per cent in 2015.  Stressing that those figures needed improvement, he urged Member States to do their part.  On the leadership side, women held only 21 per cent of NATO civilian staff leadership positions, and 2 of its 3 female four‑star officers had left over the past year.  Adding that Member States should redress that imbalance, he said gender was a tool that contributed and added value to all of NATO’s objectives and core tasks.

DIOSITA T. ANDOT (Philippines) said that after the liberation of Marawi City from terrorist forces, her Government had been observing conflict‑sensitivity and peace promoting approaches with a particular focus on mainstreaming gender and observing cultural sensitivities.  In pursuit of the peace process with rebel groups, actions were taken to ensure the meaningful participation of women, especially the Moro and indigenous women.  The Philippine armed forces and police had formed an all‑female Civil Relations Company in Marawi to assist in rehabilitation of internally displaced persons.  Filipino women were included in peace panels that were negotiating and implementing peace agreements.  Women would play a pro‑active role in the rebuilding of relationships in their respective communities and eventually of Marawi as a whole.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam) said that, despite efforts and progress in implementing the women, peace and security agenda, women’s under-representation, gender inequality and discrimination persisted.  She called for the gender perspective to be mainstreamed in a consistent and comprehensive manner in all areas of peacebuilding and conflict prevention, adding that impunity must be ended to effectively combat and eliminate human rights violations, including conflict‑related sexual violence and abuse.  Together with women’s economic empowerment, education was crucial toward equipping women and girls with knowledge to better protect them from conflict‑related risks as well as to build their resilience against economic shocks, climate change and natural disasters.  Women were an essential driving force of her country’s economic and social development, making significant contributions to promoting and maintaining the environment of peace, security and stability.  As such, Viet Nam’s twelfth National Women’s Congress had set out objectives for the term 2017‑2022, including promoting women’s potential and creativity, improving their material and spiritual life and status, striving for equality and advancement and contributing to national construction and defence.

BADER ABDULLAH N. M. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) said that fulfilling the 1325 agenda helped attain several goals of the 2030 Agenda.  Women’s empowerment was crucial for sustaining peace and promoting development.  His country was committed to encouraging women’s participation in all national endeavours and held posts at all levels.  Calling for further efforts for women’s empowerment and inclusion in society around the world, he said that his country had enacted legislation to ensure an end to all forms of discrimination.  Women had been protected against violence both in domestic and public settings.  In order for the agenda to be comprehensively implemented, however, he pledged his country’s persistent efforts.  “Women’s participation must be at the top of our priorities,” he said.

SAOD RASHID AL MAZROUI (United Arab Emirates) said his country’s foreign assistance strategy included women’s protection and empowerment as one of its three key pillars.  In terms of global response, he said the United Arab Emirates recently announced a contribution of $15 million to support UN-Women’s critical work over the next three years, and in 2016, the Government had set up a Liaison Office in Abu Dhabi to advance gender quality and the empowerment of women and girls regionally.  His Government contributed to the Global Programme on Women, Peace and Security which furthered gender-sensitive research and data collection in relation to extremism.  Additionally, his country supported the Team of Experts in the development and implementation of an action plan on conflict-related sexual violence in Somalia, as well as the establishment of prevention and response mechanisms.

ZOHRAB MNATSAKANYAN (Armenia) said his country was committed to the reformative women, peace and security agenda.  National laws provided for equal rights for women.  The quota for women’s representation in Parliament had been raised to 25 per cent.  The number of female judges had reached 25 per cent.  Domestic procedures had been launched to combat violence against women and domestic violence.  Armenia’s national action plan for implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) would be launched in 2018.  The empowerment of women, and the women, peace and security agenda should not been seen as a separate agenda, but as a part of addressing root causes of conflict and violence.  Emphasis on protection of human rights remained a significant objective at the national and international levels.  Dialogue and confidence-building in conflict areas was an important aspect for his country, but endeavours in that regard were undermined by hate crimes and xenophobia against Armenians, instigated by a neighbouring State.

PENNELOPE BECKLES (Trinidad and Tobago), emphasizing that the rule of law was a fundamental safeguard in the advancement and protection of women’s rights, said the vulnerability of women and girls in situations of armed conflict — and in the case of her country, armed violence — continued to engage attention.  In that regard, the Arms Trade Treaty could contribute to reducing if not ending untold suffering, particularly among women and girls.  She recalled Trinidad and Tobago’s introduction in 2010 of the first-ever General Assembly resolution on women, disarmament, non‑proliferation and arms control, which complemented Council resolution 1325 (2000).  She added that, as a current member of the Executive Board of UN-Women, her country would continue to work with Member States towards the universal achievement of gender equality.

URUJENI BAKURAMUTSA (Rwanda) said unity and reconciliation, peacebuilding and sustainable outcomes were realized when women participated in peace and security.  Their contribution brought added value to the most critical issues, including protecting children’s rights, combating gender-based violence and promoting human rights.  When women’s rights and empowerment were impeded, collective society suffered, she said, recalling that during the genocide against the Tutsi in her country, rape and other forms of violence had been directed against women to degrade them and strip humanity from the larger community.  With armed conflicts and violent extremism continuing to prevail in many parts of the world — and with women and children bearing the brunt — the international community must empower women and promote their participation in the entire spectrum of peace processes, promotion of the rule of law, good governance and mediation, she said.

CRISTINA MARIA CERQUEIRA PUCARINHO (Portugal), associating herself with the European Union, noted that more women were participating in peace talks nowadays, more peace agreements included provisions on their human rights, and more security sector personnel were being trained to prevent and properly respond to sexual and gender-based violence.  However, given the evolution of peace and security, and the nature of conflict since the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), it was essential to build on progress already made and to demonstrate greater commitment to the women, peace and security agenda, she emphasized.  It contributed not only to peace, but also to the strengthening of protection efforts by United Nations peacekeepers, she said.  Portugal had adopted a national action plan, pledged to continue training programmes on gender equality and violence against women and girls for peacekeeping personnel, and supported the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.

VIRACHI PLASAI (Thailand) said that, despite the importance of the women, peace and security agenda, the participation of women in all capacities remained quite low.  Noting the positive measures being taken to address that discrepancy, he said Thailand had adopted the National Measures and Guidelines on Women, Peace and Security in 2016.  It re-emphasized the significant role of women in addressing political and social conflicts, he said, adding that they could also play an important role in peacekeeping operations.  The Government was making efforts to increase their participation, he said, encouraging other Member States also to do more in that area.  The women, peace and security agenda must be mainstreamed across the spectrum of United Nations activities, he said, stressing that women should be regarded as agents of change.  The rhetoric used around their role in conflict situations must be more nuanced, he said, adding that women should also have an increased role in national and local politics.

MANAL HASSAN RADWAN (Saudi Arabia) affirmed that the 1325 agenda had become a major pillar of peacekeeping and development.  There was still much to be done to fully implement it, however.  Challenges to progress included occupation, particularly the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, and the growing violence against civilians in conflict zones by non-State groups, as well as other actors in Syria.  Discrimination against women also played an adverse role.  In order to address such challenges, comprehensive efforts must be made to end occupation, sectarian discrimination and extreme discourse against Islam.  Her country was committed to the education and advancement of women.  Women had participated in politics and several leadership positions, and were key to development efforts.  Their achievements had been many.  That was based on women’s important role in Islam over history and addressing the root causes of women’s marginalization was a religious duty.  Based on current action plans, women would be able to participate in all walks of life in conformity with moderate Islam.

MAHMOUD SAIKAL (Afghanistan) thanked all speakers who had noted his country’s progress in improving the lives of women.  There was still a lot of work to be done, however.  The full participation of women was not only desirable, but important for settling and preventing conflict in the country.  Terrorism and violent extremism had left the social fabric in shambles and women had borne the brunt of the damage and had been deprived of many rights.  At present, however, the Government was consolidating the gains of the past several years.  There was a firm resolve to fulfil international obligations, including those of treaties that Afghanistan was party to.  The country’s action plan on women, peace and security put women front and centre of national peacebuilding efforts across the country.   The plan committed women’s participation in civil service by significant numbers; thousands of women were serving in national security services right now.  Women were being supported to make progress in agriculture, health services and many other areas.  Describing institutional structures to ensure women’s rights, he said that the country had reached a new stage in empowering women.  The assistance of the international community was still crucial, however, and he looked forward to further collaboration in lifting Afghanistan’s women to new heights.

HELENA YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador) said women were at the same time victims of violence and builders of peace.  Reality underscored the need to work for gender equality, protection of the rights of women, and combatting all forms of sexual violence. Lasting peace could only be achieved if those issues were taken into account, she said.  Gender-based violence in conflict continued to be an unacceptable reality, which underscored the importance of ending impunity.  All efforts should be made to end sexual exploitation and abuse in United Nations peacekeeping missions, as it undermined trust in the missions.  For changes to be become permanent, the process of inclusion must be continuous, which was a slow road.  In that regard, she underlined the importance of desegregation of statistical data to measure progress.  In conclusion, she noted that three Ecuadorian women were observers in peacekeeping operations.

EMMANUEL ADEMOLA OGUNNAIKE (Nigeria) said that filling the gaps in implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) required a multi-stakeholder approach involving actors at the global, regional, sub-regional and national levels.  Communities, civil society and individuals also had a crucial role to play, along with the United Nations.  Since national Governments had a primary responsibility to protect women’s safety and rights, the international community should support countries by providing constructive assistance, consistent with national priorities and focused on capacity-building.  Regional organizations played an important role, as well.  Consistent with subregional efforts, Nigeria launched a national action plan to fully implement resolution 1325 (2000), along with plans to combat violent extremism and improve the security sector.  It also was collaborating with countries in the region to fight the terrorist group known as Boko Haram, and had taken steps to address the humanitarian needs of the 2 million displaced persons in the north-east of the country, 80 per cent of whom were women.  The Government was working around the clock to ensure release of the remaining Chibok girls and other persons in Boko Haram captivity.

SIAD DOUALEH (Djibouti) welcomed the important place that the empowerment of women occupied in the agenda of the Security Council and other bodies of the United Nations, helping to strengthen the link between peace and security, development and human rights.  Describing the harsh toll that conflict took on the lives of women, she said that much remained to be done to redress the situation, despite the progress that had been made.  Women’s participation in all areas of peacemaking was crucial in order to increase the effectiveness of all international and national efforts.  She commended the African Union for its efforts to integrate gender issues in its architecture and increase women’s participation in many areas.  Her country had carried out several national policies to empower women; the Constitution enshrined equal rights for women and women participated in many spheres.  The establishment of a gender observatory was currently under way to analyse women’s situation and to provide advice on policies for improving it.

LALA MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan) said that, while gender gains had been made in the international framework, more must be done to address violations and crimes against women, among other things, in mass forced displacements.  Combating impunity was of critical importance in that regard.  She said it was curious that Armenia, which was responsible for the war against Azerbaijan and had carried out ethnic cleansing, had taken the floor to attack other States.  She said Armenian forces had attacked a town in Nagorno-Karabakh, killing many, including women and children, among other aggressions.  Atrocities committed by the Armenians included bayonetting pregnant women, scalping and beheadings.  The impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of those crimes aggravated the situation on the ground.  She assured the Council that her country would continue to achieve a settlement to the conflict based on international law.

News

With ‘Dark Side of Innovation’ on Horizon, First Committee Delegates Call for Joint Action in Combating Cyberattacks

New Text Calls for Creation of United Nations Panel to Investigate Potential Role of Science, Technology in Disarmament

States must join forces to combat the rising threat of non-State actors maliciously using information and communications technology to destabilize socioeconomic development, delegates told the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today as they discussed ways to prevent cyberattacks.

Introducing a new draft resolution on the role of science in that regard, India’s representative emphasized that as “the dark side of innovation is moving from the frontier to the front door”, it was critical to ensure a correct understanding of the latest developments in science and technology to allow work in multilateral forums to adjust accordingly.

Asking the Committee to support the draft text, he said it would have the General Assembly request that the Secretary-General create a panel of experts in diverse fields of science and technology to assess current developments and their potential impact on international security and disarmament efforts.

Echoing a common concern, Brazil’s representative warned against the militarization of information and communications technology and the emergence of new systems of related weapons that might trigger a new arms race.  Pakistan’s representative highlighted the growing threat of lethal autonomous weapon systems, calling for a pre-emptive prohibition on further developing such arms.  He also supported the establishment of a group of governmental experts to discuss those issues in the context of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

Yemen’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, welcomed the United Nations establishment of regulatory principles to address concerns about the possibility of information and communications technology being used to damage the political, economic and scientific efforts of States.

Elaborating on that point, the delegate of the Netherlands highlighted the usefulness of recommendations made in the 2013 and 2015 reports of the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security.  Those “landmark achievements” had acknowledged that international law and particularly the United Nations Charter was applicable and essential in maintaining peace and stability and promoting an open, secure, stable, accessible and peaceful information and communications technology environment, she said.

Delegates, including Indonesia’s representative, called for an international legal framework to address malicious acts.  Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, he underscored the importance of developing such a framework within the United Nations and in full accordance with the principles of sovereignty, non-interference and peaceful coexistence among States as fundamental in preventing and mitigating such threats.

Likewise, Paraguay’s delegate urged delegates to adopt norms which regulated information and communications technology processes in the context of international peace and security.  Such guidance would help to bridge the technological divide between developing and developed countries, he said.

Expressing concerns about access to technology, Algeria’s representative said that even though new information and communications technology products offered many opportunities to boost socioeconomic development, their use by terrorist groups posed a real danger.  As such, dual-use information and communications technology should not thwart the transfer of those technologies to States that needed them, especially developing countries, he emphasized.

Other delegates, including the representative of Switzerland, stressed the importance of an open, free, accessible and secure cyberspace.  The delegate of the United States underlined creating a climate in which all States could enjoy the benefits of cyberspace was a fundamental goal of her country.  She also introduced a draft resolution on compliance with non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and commitments.

Briefing the Committee at the outset of the meeting, Karsten Diethelm Geier, Chair of the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security, highlighted the need to continue discussions on information and communications technology.

He emphasized that because each State had a stake in cybersecurity, a global understanding of threats and the ways to mitigate them was needed and must be pursued through the United Nations.  He also highlighted the importance of involving the private sector, civil society and others in developing capacity and confidence-building measures.

The Committee also held a panel discussion on “Regional disarmament and security”.

During the debate on conventional weapons, the representatives of Botswana, Cambodia, Burkina Faso, Iraq, Argentina, Nigeria, Iran, Niger, Ethiopia, and Mali and Brazil delivered statements.

The debate on other disarmament measures and international security featured the representatives from Singapore (also for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Antigua and Barbuda (for the Caribbean Community), Switzerland, Canada, United Kingdom, Finland, Estonia, Cuba, Greece, China, France, Germany, Zambia, Russian Federation, Austria, Mexico, Australia, Iran and Bangladesh, as well as the European Union.

Delivering statements during the discussion on regional disarmament and security were representatives of Indonesia (for the Non-Aligned Movement), Yemen (for the Arab Group), Belize (for the Caribbean Community), Malaysia (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), United States and Paraguay, as well as the European Union.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Israel, Iran, United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The First Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 24 October, to begin its thematic debate on the disarmament machinery.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met to continue its thematic discussion on conventional weapons and hear a briefing by the Chair of the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security.  It also began its thematic debate on other disarmament measures and international security.  For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3571 of 2 October.

Briefing

KARSTEN DIETHELM GEIER, Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security, highlighted its work, noting its inability to reach consensus during its previous two cycles.  During the 2015‑2016 cycle, it had failed doing so, but not for lack of trying.  Still, efforts had helped to increase transparency around the Group and obtain outside input.  Experts based their deliberations on trying to formulate concrete guidance on how to help States to implement recommendations contained in previous reports.  Under discussion on information and communications technology were its increasingly malicious use by non-State actors and how that could impair global information and communications technology systems, and its use to interfere in the affairs of other States and to conduct criminal activities.

He said that in discussing how to take forward responsible norms of behaviours by States and how to respond to attacks on critical infrastructure, members had made suggestions on how to prevent non-State actors from conducting malicious information and communications technology activities.  They also made concrete suggestions related to confidence building, including guidance on points of contact and procedures to request information from other States.  The importance of involving private sector, civil society and others in capacity building was also raised.

Despite convergence on these points, significant differences remained, he said.  During the 2016‑2017 cycle, members had been unable to agree on a consensus report on its last day of discussions, he said, regretting to note that many good points had not been carried forward by a generally accepted document, which would have been useful to Member States.  Pointing out that information and communications technology had been discussed at the United Nations since 1998 and that tremendous progress had been made, he emphasized that previous reports stood unaffected by the current lack of consensus.  Highlighting remaining differences, he said “we do ourselves no favour to paper over divisions”.

Each State had a stake in cybersecurity, he said.  As such, there was a need to continue discussions and increase transparency and inclusivity.  A global understanding of threats and the ways to mitigate them was needed and must be pursued through the United Nations.  In terms of holding another Group of Governmental Experts meeting, alternatives should be explored to identify the best format.  Meanwhile, a consensual approach allowing for further progress must be found prior to the General Assembly’s seventy‑third session.

Conventional Weapons

LORATO LUCKY MOTSUMI (Botswana), associating herself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said peace was elusive in a world where armed conflicts were on the rise.  Control measures for conventional weapons must limit their illicit trafficking, particularly because they caused the greatest civilian casualties.  Welcoming the adoption of a declaration on improvised explosive devices, she reiterated Botswana’s support for the fifth Review Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects.  Guided by the Maputo Action Plan 2014‑2019, Botswana was committed to efforts to eliminate anti-personnel mines around the world and to working with partners in areas such as arms control and money laundering.

RY TUY (Cambodia), associating himself with ASEAN and Non-Aligned Movement, his country had, after experiencing civil war, famine and starvation, turned to United Nations rehabilitation programmes, adopting confidence-building measures, especially in the fields of conventional arms, anti-personnel mine clearance and the reintegration of mine victims.  Subregional and regional cooperation, information-sharing mechanisms and trans-border customs cooperation and networks must be established or strengthened.  In that vein, Cambodia would host in December a regional seminar for ASEAN members and Timor‑Leste on the illicit trafficking and the diversion of small arms, light weapons and other conventional arms and ammunition.  It was with collaboration and support from the international community and donors that most of Cambodia’s agricultural lands were now mine-free, even though some rural areas remained to be cleared, he said, noting that because of Cambodia’s experiences, ASEAN had established a regional mine action centre in Phnom Penh.

WENDBIGDA HONORINE BONKOUNGOU (Burkina Faso), associating herself with the African Group and Non-Aligned Movement, said illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons threatened international peace, security and stability, fuelling transnational crime and terrorism in many regions and preventing the socioeconomic development of some States.  Noting that more than 877 million such weapons were in circulation, she welcomed the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty, which would complement the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and Other Related Materials, as would the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, and the Register of Conventional Arms.  Implementing such instruments would allow Burkina Faso to thwart trafficking.  Turning to concerns about anti-personnel mines, she called for the universalization of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.  She also called on all States to pool efforts to provide assistance to countries affected by such weapons.  Cluster bombs also hampered access to large fertile land, she said, calling for the universalization of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Mr. AL-RIKABI (Iraq), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the challenges posed by the development of conventional weapons was no different from those posed by weapons of mass destruction.  Having recently acceded to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, Iraq was committed to implementing all of its provisions.  Noting that the indiscriminate spread and trade of small arms and light weapons presented a serious threat to security, he said concerted efforts must continue to reactivate the Programme of Action on Small Arms.  Iraq had been deeply affected by anti-personnel mines, with terrorists having deployed such weapons across large swaths of territory, resulting in destructive effects on the environment and economy.  In that context, he called on donor countries to coordinate with Iraq to provide assistance to help address that grave concern.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said the international community should spare no effort in dealing with the proliferation of conventional weapons.  For its part, Argentina had complied with many international legal instruments, co-authored the Arms Trade Treaty and had created a mechanism for keeping weapon-related materials safe.  Argentina had also joined the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which should be used as a framework to negotiate the prohibition of other arms, including lethal autonomous weapons systems and anti-personnel mines.  The humanitarian consequences of the use of those weapons called for a concerted effort by the international community, he said, adding that Argentina promoted confidence-building measures.

KINGSLEY WEINOH (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group and Non-Aligned Movement, said illicit trafficking and the use of small arms and light weapons had undermined peace and security and caused the displacement of people.  Demanding renewed efforts to prevent and combat the illicit conventional weapons trade, he welcomed the Arms Trade Treaty, which must be robustly implemented, and urged States to join without delay.  Nigeria had redoubled efforts in strengthening its national borders and had signed and ratified related international legal instruments.  Nigeria was ready to work with other delegations in transforming the vision of international peace and security into reality for the future generations.

ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), associating himself with Non-Aligned Movement, said his country’s missile programme was a basic defence requirement that should be viewed in the context of living in a volatile region rather than being assessed in a vacuum.  Iran’s military expenditure had decreased since 2007, indicating a restraint, given the skyrocketing security challenges in the region.  Through that lens, its missile programme had a purely defensive character and would continue with full force, he said, objecting to arguments that considered Iran’s missile launches to be inconsistent with Security Council resolution 2231 (2015).  That resolution only called upon Iran not to undertake activity related to missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, which Iran’s were not, he emphasized.

Mr. ISSA (Niger), said the international community’s efforts to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction and address concerns about conventional weapons had been demonstrated, including through in the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, Programme of Action on Small Arms, Arms Trade Treaty and the establishment of practical confidence-building measures through the Disarmament Commission.  For its part, Niger had good relations with its neighbours and had ratified all legal international and regional instruments on disarmament and international security.  He emphasized that firearms control was crucial in West Africa and the Sahel, areas that had been greatly affected by the uncontrolled circulation and proliferation of firearms due to armed conflicts, terrorism and drug trafficking.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia), associating herself with the African Group and Non-Aligned Movement, said her country continued to suffer from the spread of small arms and light weapons because of porous borders, the presence of refugee camps and vast arid areas.  Domestic terrorist groups had been using the weapons to provoke and instigate unemployed youth to carry out violent activities.  To address those concerns, Ethiopia was raising public awareness and enhancing efforts to boost inter-agency coordination between law enforcement institutions, he said, noting that her delegation looked forward to the third Review Conference on the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument to be held in 2018.  Emphasizing the importance of the Mine Ban Convention, she said Ethiopia was committed to destroying its stockpiles.  However, the shortage and obsolete condition of related equipment had hampered that goal, she said, emphasizing that the main responsibility of completing the destruction of mines lay with States parties and that the full implementation of all Mine Ban Convention provisions depended largely on the availability of resources and technical support.

NOËL DIARRA (Mali) said that while small arms and light weapons did not appear to be as sophisticated as weapons of mass destruction, they were more deadly in terms of casualties.  In Mali, terrorist groups had used small arms and light weapons, attacking women and children and undermining development efforts.  Mali was committed to combating conventional weapons trafficking in West Africa and the Sahel region.  Yet, the activities of terrorist groups and traffickers represented a real challenge when it came to combating the arms proliferation and porous borders that needed to be strengthened to stop illegal weapons transfers.  Highlighting  the link between development and security, as demonstrated in Sustainable Development Goal 16.4., he said Mali had submitted a draft resolution on assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons and collecting them.

ALEX GIACOMELLI DA SILVA (Brazil), noting that his country hoped to join the Arms Trade Treaty soon, said a national export control system currently in place was already operating largely in compliance with the instrument.  To avoid the detrimental effects of unregulated international arms transfers, major weapons exporters must join the Arms Trade Treaty.  He also expressed support for the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which provided a useful framework to address current and future humanitarian challenges in armed conflicts.  Acknowledging the humanitarian challenge posed by improvised explosive devices, he condemned that those devices had been increasingly used against civilians.  On that issue, Brazil had undertaken efforts to prevent the diversion of relevant controlled materials that could be used to produce such weapons, he said, noting the important connection linking the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the Arms Trade Treaty and the Programme of Action on Small Arms.

Other Disarmament Measures and International Security

DANNY RAHDIANSYAH (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, highlighted the important socioeconomic opportunities provided by information and communications technology and expressed concern over the cases of its illegal use that were detrimental to States.  Developing a legal framework to address such violations should be pursued within the United Nations and in full accordance with the principles of sovereignty, non-interference and peaceful coexistence among States.

Turning to the work of the related Group of Governmental Experts, he called for transparency and the strict application of the principle of equitable geographical representation in its membership.  In that context, he regretted to note that a request by developing countries for participation in the recently constituted Group of Governmental Experts had not been considered.

MARWAN ALI NOMAN AL-DOBHANY (Yemen), on behalf of the Arab Group, associated himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, saying that solutions approved within a multilateral framework and the Charter of the United Nations were the only way to deal with disarmament and international security issues.  He also underlined the fact that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction threatened sustainable development for all.

Turning to the preparation and implementation of disarmament and arms limitation agreements, he stressed the importance of observing environmental norms.  Concerned about the possibility of information and communications technology being used to damage the political, economic and scientific efforts of States, he welcomed the United Nations establishment of regulatory principles.  He also emphasized the need for international cooperation and for the United Nations to play a central role in related initiatives.

JOSEPH TEO CHOON HENG (Singapore), speaking on behalf of ASEAN, said members had secured regional peace and strengthened national resilience.  As cyberthreats and attacks undermined trust in the digital future, ASEAN had adopted the Cybersecurity Cooperation Strategy in March and had taken several other steps to foster regional cooperation, including support for ongoing work to promote international voluntary cybernorms of responsible State behaviour and the development of a rules-based cyberspace.  He also supported discussions on the adoption of basic, operational and voluntary norms of behaviour to guide information and communications technology use based on the norms set out in the 2015 report of the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security.

Capacity building was an important aspect to enhancing the region’s ability to respond to threats, he said, welcoming the Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Partnership between ASEAN and the United Nations (2016‑2020).  Cybersecurity required coordinated expertise from stakeholders across different domains, as Governments did not have all the answers.  A large percentage of cyberinfrastructure, resources and expertise was in the hands of the private sector, thus necessitating that sector’s involvement.

Mr. HENG, speaking in his national capacity, said the annual Singapore International Cyber Week had facilitated conversations on key issues such as norms or responsible State behaviour in cyberspace and cybersecurity capacity building.  Singapore had also launched a $10 million ASEAN cybercapacity programme, which was a modular, multi-stakeholder and multidisciplinary initiative to build capacity across policy and technical areas.  Partnering with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, Singapore had helped to develop a flagship United Nations online training course on the use of information and communications technologies and international security.

CARMEN GONSALVES (Netherlands) said the Internet — increasingly regarded as a “global public good” — must remain open, safe and free for all.  Expressing regret that, despite efforts, the related Group of Governmental Experts had failed to arrive at a consensus on views and recommendations regarding norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviour of States, she said its 2013 and 2015 reports were “landmark achievements” and a cause for optimism.  The 2013 report had acknowledged that international law and particularly the United Nations Charter was applicable and essential in maintaining peace and stability and promoting an open, secure, stable, accessible and peaceful information and communications technology environment.  Important progress on the operationalization of the application of international law had been made in the 2015 consensus report.  Both reports had agreed on common norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviour, confidence-building measures and understandings on capacity building that would serve as the building blocks for more stable and predictable interaction among States, she said, urging States to implement the recommendations during the present period of reflection.

JUDIT KÖRÖMI, European Union delegation, expressed regret that the Group of Governmental experts had not reached an agreement on an additional report beyond its 2015 consensus recommendations.  The European Union would continue to implement the consensual views articulated in previous reports and invited other international actors to do the same.  The bloc would continue to promote the establishment of strategic frameworks for conflict prevention, cooperation and stability in cyberspace, which must be based on the application of existing international law, especially the United Nations Charter in its entirety.  It also supported the development and implementation of universal norms of responsible State behaviour, bolstered by targeted regional confidence-building measures between States.

She said States’ information and communications technology use should be guided by principles such as sovereign equality, non-intervention in the internal affairs of other States, the obligation to settle international disputes by peaceful means, the right to respond to internationally wrongful acts, the obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the right to self-defence.  The European Union was committed to addressing cyberthreats globally by assisting third countries in responding to such challenges and increasing law enforcement capabilities to investigate and prosecute cybercrime perpetrators.  In addition, member States had adopted a framework for a joint European Union diplomatic response to malicious cyberactivities, which contributed to conflict prevention, cooperation and stability in cyberspace.

WALTON WEBSON (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of CARICOM, underlined the importance of considering gender perspectives in advancing effort to achieve disarmament goals.  Citing Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and a similar CARICOM-sponsored draft resolution for addressing the vital links between women and disarmament, she said the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons recognized the importance of equal, full and effective participation of both men and women in achieving sustainable peace and security.  Additionally, delegates at the sixth Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms, had agreed to ensure the participation of women in implementation processes and encourage the collection of disaggregated data on gender and illicit small arms and light weapons.

Recognizing those links was particularly relevant and important to her region, she said.  While men were most often the victims of gun crimes, women were left to become the sole bread-winner for families and risked falling into poverty.  For that reason, women must be included in the disarmament discussion at all levels.   While her region was not affected by armed conflict, it faced tremendous challenges in relation to armed violence.  Approximately 70 per cent of homicides in the region involved the use of firearms, and as a result, resources had to be diverted away from development.  A diverse range of perspectives was needed to ensure that decisions reflected global concerns.  She also emphasized that the underrepresentation of lower-income countries at disarmament forums must be addressed in a holistic manner.

SABRINA DALLAFIOR MATTER (Switzerland) stressed the importance of an open, free, accessible and secure cyberspace.  Switzerland, having participated in the recent Group of Governmental Experts meetings, deeply regretted that it had not adopted a consensus report that would have submitted substantive recommendations to the General Assembly.  Despite significant progress on recommendations for confidence-building measures and capacity-building, it had failed to fulfil its mandate with regard to the application of international law and information and communications technology use.  Expressing concern about the hesitation of certain States to recognize the crucial role of international law in promoting a peaceful and cooperative approach to cybersecurity, she said the United Nations should play an active role in that field and provide practical guidance to States on steps they could take to operationalize and implement the recommendations of the 2015 Group of Governmental Experts report, including norms, rules and principles of responsible State behaviour.

VISHAL KAPUR (Canada) noted that small arms proliferation had facilitated and perpetuated violence against women and girls, including acts of sexual violence and domestic abuse.  Due to entrenched gender roles in many societies, women had to bear the primary responsibility of caring for survivors and were often indirect victims.  In times of conflict, women played a variety of roles, including protectors, combatants, arms dealers, smugglers and providers of support to armed actors.  Given those gender dimensions, the international community must strive to increase the meaningful inclusion of women as full partners in security, disarmament and arms control discussions, including in the tracking and analysis of illicit trafficking networks and trends, in all aspects of the destruction of small arms and light weapons and in international negotiations and peace processes.

RACHEL HICKS (United States), noting that creating a climate in which all States could enjoy the benefits of cyberspace was a fundamental goal of her country, introduced a draft resolution on compliance with non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and commitments.  There was broad consensus that compliance with international treaties to prevent further proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was a central element of the international security architecture.  Without the confidence that countries would honour their commitments, the deals made would not be “worth the paper on which they were printed”.  In that sense, she said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had demonstrated unlawful and dangerous behaviour, including its failure to comply with disarmament and non-proliferation obligations.  She then urged the First Committee to make clear that compliance was essential to peace and security, by supporting the draft resolution on the issue.

AMANDEEP SINGH GILL (India), introducing a new draft resolution on the role of science and technology in the context of international security and disarmament (document A/C.1/72/L.52), said the potential of science and technology for resolving the world’s most intractable problems could help the United Nations system progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  However, “the dark side of innovation is moving from the frontier to the front door”, he said, emphasizing that it was critical to ensure a correct understanding of the latest developments in science and technology to allow work in multilateral forums to adjust accordingly.

Asking the Committee to support the draft text, he said provisions would have the General Assembly call for a comprehensive study of such developments, which would be conducted through a science and security panel established by the United Nations Secretary-General.  The panel would be composed of 18 independent experts drawn from relevant areas including scientific research, industry, disarmament and international law and ethics.  By the draft, the General Assembly would request that Under-Secretary-General to submit a final report containing the panel’s assessments for the General Assembly’s consideration at its seventy-fifth session.

ENRIQUE JOSÉ MARÍA CARRILLO GÓMEZ (Paraguay) said access to information and communications technology should contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security and be protected against criminal or terrorist use.  Paraguay had adopted a national cybersecurity programme, which would act as a tool for bolstering the security of critical assets and ensuring a reliable and secure cyberspace.  However, national efforts could only be sustainable with cooperation, he said, emphasizing the importance of international cooperation for the effective implementation of a mechanism to prevent cyberattacks.  Urging delegates to adopt norms that regulated information and communications technology processes in the context of international peace and security, he said that doing so would help to bridge the technological divide between developing and developed countries.

LARISSA SCHNEIDER CALZA (Brazil) said the militarization of information and communications technology and emergence of new systems of related weapons might lead to a new type of arms race.  To ensure the peaceful use of those technologies, Brazil favoured strengthening multilateral norms and principles applicable to the conduct of States.  Those norms should respect to the free flow of information and human rights, she said, urging the international community to examine the need to develop a specific legal framework to address proscribed behaviours, including offensive first use, tampering with the supply chain, intentionally introducing vulnerabilities into systems and networks and compromising information security of other States.  She encouraged all States to consider the adoption of a “no-first-use” norm with regards to offensive operations using information and communications technology.  Confidence-building measures and increased international assistance and cooperation must also aim at achieving an open and secure information and communications technology environment.  Having been active in the Groups of Governmental Experts, she said its format must evolve to be more inclusive and allow for the adequate participation of all countries, including developing countries.

MUSTAPHA ABBANI (Algeria), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non-Aligned Movement, said new information and communications technology products offered many opportunities to bolster socioeconomic development of countries.  However, their use by terrorist groups represented a threat to international peace and security.  Dual-use information and communications technology should not thwart the transfer of those technologies to States that needed them, especially developing countries.  Algeria had adopted a comprehensive approach for cyber- and general disarmament, establishing relevant tools and an entity to stop cybercrime and protect national security.  Having ratified African and Arab agreements on fighting information-related cybercrime and promoting collaboration among countries, Algeria promoted prosperity and human development in many fields.  Yet, using artificial intelligence could pose great humanitarian, ethical and legal challenges.  For that reason, the international community should adopt clear legislation, he said, emphasizing the importance of compliance with environmental standards when preparing and implementing disarmament agreements.

JEHAZEB KHAN (Pakistan), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said lethal autonomous weapon systems were unethical, unable to comply with international law, lowered the threshold for war and would negatively affect progress on arms control and disarmament.  Calling for a pre-emptive prohibition on further developing those weapons, he supported the establishment of a group of governmental experts to discuss those issues in the context of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.  Raising other concerns, he said the transborder unauthorized use of armed drones constituted a violation of international law, he said, citing the Human Rights Council’s opposition to targeting civilians with drones, which amounted to extrajudicial killings.  The threat of non-State actors and terrorists acquiring such weapons was additionally worrisome.  The misuse and unregulated use of information and communications technology also had grave implications for international peace and security, especially as the hostile activities involving cybertechnologies advanced.

Panel Discussion

The Committee held a panel discussion on “Regional disarmament and security”.  The panellists included Mary Soliman, Chief of the Regional Disarmament Branch of the Department of Disarmament Affairs; Anselme Yabouri, the Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa; Melanie Rigimbal, Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean; and Yuriy Kryvonos, Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific.

Ms. SOLIMAN said the centres would continue to foster cooperation with United Nations partners, regional organizations and other stakeholders to prevent the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, in particular their diversion to non-State armed groups.  With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, the centres would work with Member States towards realizing the 2030 Agenda, especially Goal 16.4, she said.  In that vein, they would continue to apply a synergistic approach and cooperate with relevant partners and stakeholders, building on comparative advantages and complementarities.  That would ensure the effective delivery of their mandate with maximum benefit to Member States in their respective regions.  Looking ahead, they would continue to work with Member States to identify strategic priority areas for their respective regions, taking into consideration global trends, developments, challenges and opportunities.  As they depended on extra-budgetary resources, she encouraged all Member States to support them through voluntary contributions.

Mr. YABOURI said work had been done with the African Union Commission to support the implementation of its initiative to “silence the guns by 2020” and of the 2030 Agenda.  In the Sahel, efforts included the implementation of the United Nations integrated strategy for the region through its participation in inter-agency discussions.  In Central Africa, substantive support was provided for the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa at its forty-third and forty-fourth ministerial meetings.  The regional centre had also participated in the annual meeting of heads of United Nations field presences in the Central African region in March 2017.  It had held several joint consultations with ECOWAS and had provided assistance for implementing regional and national action plans to African Member States and relevant civil society organizations related to global and regional instruments to combat the illicit trade and proliferation of small arms and light weapons.  While the sustained number of requests for assistance from Member States demonstrated the importance of its work, more was needed to advance peace and control in Africa given its gloomy peace and security situation.

Ms. RIGIMBAL said activities in 19 different countries in Latin America and the Caribbean had reached more than 2,100 national authorities, security sector agents, and young people, with the highest ever participation of females.  Efforts included stockpile management and weapons destruction, with activities geared toward quantitatively measuring progress and advances made toward the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 16.  Initiatives with Colombia had included the provision of technical assistance to the United Nations Verification Mission in the surrendering of arms.  Collaboration with the private sector was also key to ensuring sustainable security measures were adopted.  Meanwhile, the bulk of efforts focused on developing and imparting specialized trainings to combat illicit arms trafficking and provide tools to strengthen conventional arms control.  To use technology to its advantage, the regional centre created a new tool to facilitate the tracing of weapons trafficked through the postal system.  That preventive tool would aid security sector personnel in their fight against illicit arms trafficking, she said.

Mr. KRYVONOS said 10 projects and three collaborative programmes were among a range of activities undertaken in Asia and the Pacific.  The regional centre had also heavily engaged in the preparation for its relocation back to Nepal, which had concluded in February 2017.  Other activities included co-organizing two conferences on issues and challenges facing disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation.  With respect to national capacity-building, several projects assisted Member States to implement their commitments relating to conventional arms control, particularly regarding the Programme of Action on Small Arms, Arms Trade Treaty and the Security Council resolution 1540 (2004).  The main outcome of the project implementation was the development, approval and submission of three national action plans by Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004).  In addition, outreach activities engaged regional stakeholders.  Thanks to support from sponsors, the centre had again managed to reach its highest annual project implementation rate.

The Chair of the Committee opened the floor to invite delegates to ask questions to the panellists; no questions were posed.

SIMON CLEOBURY (United Kingdom) emphasized his country’s commitment to promoting international stability frameworks for cyberspace based on the application of existing international law, agreed voluntary norms of responsible State behaviour and confidence-building measures, supported by coordinated capacity-building programmes.  The United Nations Charter applied in its entirety to State actions in cyberspace, he said, adding that the law of State responsibility applied to cyberoperations in peacetime, including the availability of the doctrine of countermeasures in response to internationally wrongful acts.  The United Kingdom would promote the operationalization of agreed norms of responsible State behaviour, focusing on practical measures States could take to put voluntary norms into practice, he said.  It would also support efforts in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other forums to implement confidence-building measures that would contribute to transparency and trust between States in cyberspace.

MARJA LEHTO (Finland) expressed regret that the Group of Governmental Experts had failed to reach an agreement.  International discussions on specific aspects of international law in relation to the use of information and communications technology should continue.  The Group’s recommendations on responsible State behaviour constituted a practical contribution to clarifying the steps States should take in the information and communications technology domain to comply with their obligations to not knowingly allow their territories to be used for activities that might cause significant harm to other States.  “It is necessary to be cybersmart in order to keep up with the changes of the global security environment”, she said, adding that developing resilience was essential worldwide and should be supported by appropriate capacity-building efforts.  OSCE had adopted a set of dedicated confidence-building measures in the area, she noted, calling for its implementation.

MINNA–LIINA LIND (Estonia), associating herself with the European Union, said discussions on the Internet should afford the same attention to security as to the freedom of expression.  She regretted that the Governmental Group for Experts had not achieved a consensus report in 2017 and could not make further progress in analysing how international law applied to the use of information and communications technology, particularly the principle of due diligence, the potential application of the right to self-defence and international humanitarian law.  Estonia supported the establishment of a strategic framework for conflict prevention and stability in cyberspace that was based on international law, in particular the Charter of the United Nations.

ANAYANSI RODRIGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba) said the international community should adopt tangible measures to ensure the resources spent on military costs were refocused to promote sustainable development.  Member States should strictly comply with the environmental standards, with multilateralism being used in all disarmament negotiations.  Strict compliance with the United Nations Charter and international law was the only effective means to safeguard international peace and security while establishing a legally binding regulatory framework applicable to information and communications technology.  Denouncing the hostile use of those technologies for subverting legal and political orders of States, she said Cuba was constantly facing attacks from abroad as its communication spectrum had been targeted by the United States.  She called for an immediate end to such aggressive policies that were incompatible with international peace and security.

MARIA THEOFILI (Greece) said safety and security were of the utmost importance as the intertwined foundations of a country’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear material.  Transparent national efforts and strengthened regional cooperation in nuclear power production were critical.  Detailing the international instruments her country had acceded to and the work it had done during its European presidency, she called the Environmental Impact Convention the sine qua non of absolute transparency.  Underlining the centrality of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), she called upon all States to implement the Agency’s nuclear security guidance documents, to use its advisory services and to host peer review and follow-up missions.  As current political developments had created a volatile environment, she called for additional precautions to be taken to enhance the safety of nuclear installations, noting that more and more countries in her region were expressing a strong interest in nuclear power even though such energy had not been an option for the national energy grid of Greece itself.

WANG QUN (China) said that maintaining a peaceful cyberspace was crucial and all should faithfully observe the purposes and principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, particularly the principles of sovereignty and non-interference of internal affairs.  Countries should discuss the application of international law in a manner conducive to maintaining peace so as to prevent an arms race in cyberspace and reduce the risk of conflict.  Cooperation was a win‑win concept, he continued.  No one country was immune from the threats of cyberspace and there was no such thing as absolute security.  Countries should reject the cold war mentality and develop a new security concept featuring coordination and sustainability.  The United Nations should play a leading role on the issue and discussion in the last Group of Governmental Experts had reflected the differences among the international community and further highlighted the need to build a broad consensus.  An open, inclusive process that allowed more countries to participate in global Internet governance should be established, he said.  At the same time, efforts should be made to assist developing countries with capacity‑building to bridge the digital divide.

LOUIS RIQUET (France) said existing international law, including the United Nations Charter, applied to cyberspace.  Should a cyberattack constitute a threat to international peace and security, the case might be referred to the Security Council under Chapters VI or VII of the Charter.  As a major cyberattack could constitute an armed attack under Article 51 of the Charter, States could invoke the right to legitimate self-defence in anticipation of a Security Council decision.  He said that in order to guarantee international stability and security in cyberspace, it was essential to have one standard that encouraged the control of exports of offensive cybertools and techniques and another that aimed at preventing non-State actors, including private companies, from carrying out offensive activities in cyberspace on their own behalf and that of other State or non-State actors.

THOMAS FITSCHEN (Germany), associating himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, said that there were reservations as to whether certain aspect of traditional international law in response to a malicious cyberoperation were really applicable in “cyberspace”.  If a State agent or someone else carried out a cyberoperation in another State to stop an electricity plan, that plan did not happen somewhere in cyberspace, but rather on the territory and in the jurisdiction of that country.  Those relations were governed by international law, he said, adding that some delegations were reluctant to touch upon the lawful counter-measures in cyberoperations.  According to international law, States could be held accountable.  The issue of attributing a certain conduct to a State was not new, he said.  Cyberoperations against territorial integrity of another State could in itself constitute use of force and thus be unlawful.

Ms. LINYAMA (Zambia) said that the increased use of information and communications technology had resulted in increased crimes, such as attacks on computer systems of institutions and terrorism-related activities.  It had also allowed criminal and terrorist syndicates to cross barriers of States to commit crimes, making it difficult to identify the offenders and locate the crime scenes with traditional investigation tools.  The Zambian Government was facing myriad challenges in fighting cybercrime and other criminal activities related to technology.  It had taken various measures to combat cyber- and other technological crime, including through harnessing opportunities offered by information and communications technology for law enforcement, such as electronic surveillance.  Investigation and prosecuting such crimes remained a challenge; it required new skills and procedural tools, including the capacity to collect and analyse digital evidence and to use that evidence in criminal proceedings.  Noting the positive contributions of science and technology, he called for international cooperation in assisting the physical security and monitoring of nuclear facilities and materials.

VLADIMIR YERMAKOV (Russian Federation), recalling that his country had been the first to raise concerns about emerging threats in the global information space, had tabled a related draft resolution to the General Assembly.  It was clear that such threats had become one of the most serious challenges to international peace and security.  That was compounded by the fact that recent discussions on international information security had stalled.  He was vigorously opposed to any attempts to unleash the information arms race, he said.  Together with like-minded countries, his country had repeatedly suggested the that the Group of Governmental Experts develop and submit to the General Assembly universal rules in the information space.  Instead, the Group’s discussion had been emasculated and side-lined for secondary aspects.  Certain countries sought to impose unilateral rules that only served their own interests.  Those rules were designed to ensure the chosen ones had a technological advantage and imposed a very dangerous decision to recognize the digital sphere as a theatre of military action.  He expressed concerns at attempts to discredit the role of the United Nations in tackling cybersecurity.  All Member States should participate in the discussion on an equal basis.  To ensure sustainability in negotiations in international information security, the Russian Federation had introduced a draft procedural decision to keep the item “developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security” on its agenda for the seventy-third session.

Mr. HAJNOCZI (Austria), associating himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, expressed regret that the Group of Governmental Experts had failed to agree on a consensus report this year.  Nonetheless, its previous reports would continue to be the basis for efforts to strengthen stability and security in an open and peaceful Internet where human rights and fundamental freedoms were respected.  Confidence-building measures could enhance trust and assurance among States and help reduce the risk of conflict, he said, noting that OSCE had undertaken significant work in that area in recent years.  Outlining some of those efforts, he said that, under the Austrian chairmanship, OSCE had made rebuilding trust and confidence among its three top priorities for 2017.  In February, his delegation had organized a conference on cybersecurity, and a second chairmanship conference would be held on 3 November in Vienna, offering an opportunity to discuss intensifying cooperation on several key areas.  Calling for a steadfast commitment to applying existing international law to the cyber context, he added that the Budapest Convention was an important tool in combating the criminal use of information and communications technology.

ISAAC MORALES (Mexico) said that the international system had a fundamental role to play in cyberspace to make it “open, safe and accessible”.  That should be enforced by regional and other multilateral forums.  The efforts of the Organization’s international security system should achieve balance in encouraging access and peaceful use of cyberspace as a catalyst for development.  Furthermore, the use of cyberspace as a safe place should be ensured by the private sector and Governments.

VANESSA WOOD (Australia) said the foundation for responsible State behaviour in cyberspace was a mutual commitment to existing international law, including respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The United Nations Charter could be applied in its entirety to State actions in cyberspace, including the prohibition of the use of force, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and the right of States to act in self-defence in response to an armed attack.  To enable agile responses, existing international law was complemented by norms, as established through the Groups of Governmental Experts, among others, of responsible State behaviour, which promote predictability, stability and security.  The international community must now ensure that there were effective and proportionate consequences for those who acted contrary to the consensus on norms.

Mr. AZADI (Iran), associating himself with the statement to be made by the Non-Aligned Movement, said information communication technology played a crucial role in socioeconomic and cultural development.  There was a need to strengthen security and prevent the use of such technology for illegal purposes.  National measures were not sufficient.  Due to both the complex nature and rapid advances in the field, international cooperation was essential.  While it was important there was a common understanding of issues, such an understanding could not adequately emerge through the work of the Group of Governmental Experts.  In that regard, all States must be engaged in an inclusive, interactive debate in a broad-based setting.  Establishing an open-ended working group was an appropriate method to help build upon the work and to discuss issues related to information communication security.

FAIYAZ MURSHID KAZI (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern about the potential misuse of information and communications technology to the detriment of international peace and security.  While it was a key vehicle to further growth and development, normative behaviours and cooperation were needed to ensure information security.  The work of the Group of Governmental Experts was useful, he said, adding he looked forward to it moving forward after its setback during its last session.  He also voiced support for the draft decision tabled by the Russian Federation on the field’s developments in international security.  With threats by terrorists using information and communications technology to compromise security and cause harm, there was a need to strengthen the existing legal regime pertinent to that domain and address the weakest links in the cybersphere.  As well, he expressed support for the draft resolution tabled by India on the role of science and technology in the context of international security and disarmament, co-sponsored by his delegation.

ANGGI SAZIKA JENIE (Indonesia), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated her serious concern over the two decades delay in the implementation of the 1995 resolution on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  Recalling the opposition expressed by the United States, United Kingdom and Canada at the concluding session of the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, the establishment of such a zone in the Middle East had not been achieved.  She emphasised the special responsibility of the co-sponsors of that resolution for its implementation.  Its persistent lack could undermine the effectiveness and credibility of the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a whole.  The Non-Aligned Movement demanded that Israel renounce any possession of nuclear weapons and accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty without any precondition or delay.

MARWAN ALDOBHANY (Yemen), speaking for the Arab Group and associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, stressed the importance of agreements to establish nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  He emphasized the need to take effective and immediate measures as outlined by the Arab Group resolution addressing the threat of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.  He called upon the three co-sponsors of the Middle East resolution adopted in 1995 to bear the responsibility of the text’s implementation and establish that zone.  The Arab States were concerned for the security and humanitarian and environmental impact due to Israel’s rejection to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  He underlined that the continued delay of the implementation of the 1995 resolution was a serious setback to global nuclear non-proliferation efforts.

LOIS M. YOUNG (Belize), speaking for CARICOM, said that bloc’s member States remained committed to confronting the illicit trade in firearms.  They had benefitted from the memorandum of understanding between the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as well as from the implementation of the UNODC Regional Programme 2014‑16.  The United Nations Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean was one of several important partners for the Community in implementing its arms control and non-proliferation obligations.  That partnership had resulted in the successful implementation of the Operational Forensic Ballistic Project, she said, also highlighting six sub-regional training sessions completed in August on the topic of “double casting”, which increased national authorities’ capabilities to establish connections between crimes nationally, regionally and internationally.

She went on to emphasize CARICOM’s support for strengthening the role of women in disarmament, noting Trinidad and Tobago’s leadership of the biennial resolution titled “Women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control”.  The Community was also committed to the CARICOM-Security Council Resolution 1540 Implementation Programme to prevent the transit, trans-shipment, import, export, re-export or brokering of dual-use materials that could be used in the development of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons and related materials.  It had strengthened its partnership with the United Nations Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean in implementing various project activities related to the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, recently launching a Guide on the Development of National Control Lists for the region.  That had assisted CARICOM in reinforcing national export and import regulatory structures for dual use goods, she noted.

JUDIT KÖRÖMI, European Union delegation, said the illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programmes of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea posed a grave threat to regional and international peace and security.  That country should refrain from further reckless provocations and abandon its programmes.  Addressing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, she emphasized the importance of its continued, full and effective implementation.  Facilitated by the European Union, the Plan of Action was the result of 12 years of diplomatic effort.  It had become a key element of the nuclear non-proliferation architecture and was crucial for the security of the region.  She encouraged the United States to maintain its commitment to the Plan of Action and consider the implications for the security of the United States, its partners and the region before taking further steps.

She went on to say that, despite de-escalation efforts, this year had seen the highest number of civilian casualties in Syria.  She condemned the indiscriminate attacks and atrocities perpetrated by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh) and other terrorist groups and the systematic violations of human rights by all parties, particularly the Syrian regime.   The use of barrel bombs, cluster bombs and incendiary weapons in Syria might amount to war crimes.  It was deeply shocking and deplorable that chemical weapons had been used in several cases in Syria.  The findings of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) fact-finding mission, the Joint Investigative Mechanism and the testimonies gathered by the Commission of Inquiry for Syria required strong action by the Security Council.  At the same time, it was also deeply concerning that Syria had not engaged substantively regarding gaps and discrepancies in its chemical weapons declaration with the ongoing investigations of the OPCW Technical Secretariat.

DELFINA JANE ALOYSIUS DRIS (Malaysia), speaking for ASEAN, said she believed that the value of regionalism lay in its inclusivity, rules-based nature, with an emphasis on mutual benefit and respect.  Transparency, confidence-building measures and progress in regional disarmament were indispensable in improving the security environment of the Asia-Pacific region, and in that connection, the Group reaffirmed its commitment to the disarmament treaties to which it was a signatory.  The United Nations Regional Centres for Peace and Disarmament had worked tirelessly to collaborate on various initiatives, she said, reiterating the commitment to preserving the region, not only as a nuclear-weapons-free zone, but a zone free of all other weapons of mass destruction as enshrined in the ASEAN Charter and the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone.

ASEAN continued to undertake various activities on nuclear safety, security and safeguards, including with respect to capacity building, she continued.  The Group was also working towards the establishment of a formal relationship between the ASEAN Network of Regulatory Bodies on Atomic Energy and IAEA and was committed to the full operationalization of the ASEAN Regional Mine Action Centre Permanent Secretariat.  Such developing concrete initiatives, building capacity and ensuring continuity through regional cooperation were crucial in making progress on global disarmament commitments.

ROBERT A. WOOD (United States) said regional approaches provided important avenues to disarmament, security and non-proliferation objectives.  In East Asia, the regional architecture had steadily evolved in the face of growing threats from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.  He reiterated President Donald Trump’s commitment to deny Iran all paths to nuclear weapons.  The United States would work with its international partners to explore options for addressing the flaws in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme.  In closing, he noted that South Asia was a home to two nuclear-weapon States and to the highest concentration of foreign terrorist groups in any region.

ENRIQUE JOSÉ MARÍA CARRILLO GÓMEZ (Paraguay) denounced the use of force in international relations.  Honouring commitments to transparency and accountability, Paraguay provided its military expenditure information.  He called States to cooperate with the United Nations and supported the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development.  Latin America and the Caribbean was a region free of nuclear weapons, he said, noting the valuable contributions of civil society in disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.

Right of Reply

The representative of Israel, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the representative of Iran represented a regime that was one of the world’s biggest sponsors of terror and had committed atrocities against the people of Syria.  As such, it was hard to see how he had any standing to make accusations against his country.

The representative of the United States said Iran supported terrorism and was complicit in the Assad regime’s crimes against its people, had threatened to wipe Israel off the map, had launched cyberattacks against the United States, had committed human rights abuses and continued its ballistic missile programme.  The United States had sanctioned Iranian entities involved in the country’s ballistic missile programme and remained concerned about its military support for Houthis in Yemen.

The representative of Iran categorically rejected remarks made by his counterpart from Israel.  Chronic threats plaguing the Middle East stemmed from the offensive and brutal practices of the Israeli regime.  Israel was the only country in the region possessing nuclear weapons and facilities that were under no safeguards and had refused to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, blocking the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  Israel was one of the world’s biggest military spenders in 2016 and was a huge beneficiary of aid from the United States.  He called on Israel to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty for the sake of peace and stability in the region.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said his country had suffered from natural disasters, including an unprecedented drought, which was why countries such as the United States had voluntarily sent it food.  His delegation did not support the draft resolution presented by the United States on compliance with non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and commitments because of its pure political purpose.  Concerning his country’s nuclear deterrence policy, he said if the United States was afraid of such weapons, then it should get rid of all its nuclear bombs and enter the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear-weapon State.

The representative of the United States said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been isolated and had lost billions of dollars because it was developing nuclear and ballistic missile programmes instead of taking care of its own people’s needs.  Furthermore, he was not shocked by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s plan not to vote for United States compliance resolution.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected what the United States delegate had said.

News

With ‘Dark Side of Innovation’ on Horizon, First Committee Delegates Call for Joint Action in Combating Cyberattacks

New Text Calls for Creation of United Nations Panel to Investigate Potential Role of Science, Technology in Disarmament

States must join forces to combat the rising threat of non-State actors maliciously using information and communications technology to destabilize socioeconomic development, delegates told the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today as they discussed ways to prevent cyberattacks.

Introducing a new draft resolution on the role of science in that regard, India’s representative emphasized that as “the dark side of innovation is moving from the frontier to the front door”, it was critical to ensure a correct understanding of the latest developments in science and technology to allow work in multilateral forums to adjust accordingly.

Asking the Committee to support the draft text, he said it would have the General Assembly request that the Secretary-General create a panel of experts in diverse fields of science and technology to assess current developments and their potential impact on international security and disarmament efforts.

Echoing a common concern, Brazil’s representative warned against the militarization of information and communications technology and the emergence of new systems of related weapons that might trigger a new arms race.  Pakistan’s representative highlighted the growing threat of lethal autonomous weapon systems, calling for a pre-emptive prohibition on further developing such arms.  He also supported the establishment of a group of governmental experts to discuss those issues in the context of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

Yemen’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, welcomed the United Nations establishment of regulatory principles to address concerns about the possibility of information and communications technology being used to damage the political, economic and scientific efforts of States.

Elaborating on that point, the delegate of the Netherlands highlighted the usefulness of recommendations made in the 2013 and 2015 reports of the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security.  Those “landmark achievements” had acknowledged that international law and particularly the United Nations Charter was applicable and essential in maintaining peace and stability and promoting an open, secure, stable, accessible and peaceful information and communications technology environment, she said.

Delegates, including Indonesia’s representative, called for an international legal framework to address malicious acts.  Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, he underscored the importance of developing such a framework within the United Nations and in full accordance with the principles of sovereignty, non-interference and peaceful coexistence among States as fundamental in preventing and mitigating such threats.

Likewise, Paraguay’s delegate urged delegates to adopt norms which regulated information and communications technology processes in the context of international peace and security.  Such guidance would help to bridge the technological divide between developing and developed countries, he said.

Expressing concerns about access to technology, Algeria’s representative said that even though new information and communications technology products offered many opportunities to boost socioeconomic development, their use by terrorist groups posed a real danger.  As such, dual-use information and communications technology should not thwart the transfer of those technologies to States that needed them, especially developing countries, he emphasized.

Other delegates, including the representative of Switzerland, stressed the importance of an open, free, accessible and secure cyberspace.  The delegate of the United States underlined creating a climate in which all States could enjoy the benefits of cyberspace was a fundamental goal of her country.  She also introduced a draft resolution on compliance with non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and commitments.

Briefing the Committee at the outset of the meeting, Karsten Diethelm Geier, Chair of the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security, highlighted the need to continue discussions on information and communications technology.

He emphasized that because each State had a stake in cybersecurity, a global understanding of threats and the ways to mitigate them was needed and must be pursued through the United Nations.  He also highlighted the importance of involving the private sector, civil society and others in developing capacity and confidence-building measures.

The Committee also held a panel discussion on “Regional disarmament and security”.

During the debate on conventional weapons, the representatives of Botswana, Cambodia, Burkina Faso, Iraq, Argentina, Nigeria, Iran, Niger, Ethiopia, and Mali and Brazil delivered statements.

The debate on other disarmament measures and international security featured the representatives from Singapore (also for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Antigua and Barbuda (for the Caribbean Community), Switzerland, Canada, United Kingdom, Finland, Estonia, Cuba, Greece, China, France, Germany, Zambia, Russian Federation, Austria, Mexico, Australia, Iran and Bangladesh, as well as the European Union.

Delivering statements during the discussion on regional disarmament and security were representatives of Indonesia (for the Non-Aligned Movement), Yemen (for the Arab Group), Belize (for the Caribbean Community), Malaysia (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), United States and Paraguay, as well as the European Union.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Israel, Iran, United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The First Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 24 October, to begin its thematic debate on the disarmament machinery.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met to continue its thematic discussion on conventional weapons and hear a briefing by the Chair of the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security.  It also began its thematic debate on other disarmament measures and international security.  For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3571 of 2 October.

Briefing

KARSTEN DIETHELM GEIER, Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security, highlighted its work, noting its inability to reach consensus during its previous two cycles.  During the 2015‑2016 cycle, it had failed doing so, but not for lack of trying.  Still, efforts had helped to increase transparency around the Group and obtain outside input.  Experts based their deliberations on trying to formulate concrete guidance on how to help States to implement recommendations contained in previous reports.  Under discussion on information and communications technology were its increasingly malicious use by non-State actors and how that could impair global information and communications technology systems, and its use to interfere in the affairs of other States and to conduct criminal activities.

He said that in discussing how to take forward responsible norms of behaviours by States and how to respond to attacks on critical infrastructure, members had made suggestions on how to prevent non-State actors from conducting malicious information and communications technology activities.  They also made concrete suggestions related to confidence building, including guidance on points of contact and procedures to request information from other States.  The importance of involving private sector, civil society and others in capacity building was also raised.

Despite convergence on these points, significant differences remained, he said.  During the 2016‑2017 cycle, members had been unable to agree on a consensus report on its last day of discussions, he said, regretting to note that many good points had not been carried forward by a generally accepted document, which would have been useful to Member States.  Pointing out that information and communications technology had been discussed at the United Nations since 1998 and that tremendous progress had been made, he emphasized that previous reports stood unaffected by the current lack of consensus.  Highlighting remaining differences, he said “we do ourselves no favour to paper over divisions”.

Each State had a stake in cybersecurity, he said.  As such, there was a need to continue discussions and increase transparency and inclusivity.  A global understanding of threats and the ways to mitigate them was needed and must be pursued through the United Nations.  In terms of holding another Group of Governmental Experts meeting, alternatives should be explored to identify the best format.  Meanwhile, a consensual approach allowing for further progress must be found prior to the General Assembly’s seventy‑third session.

Conventional Weapons

LORATO LUCKY MOTSUMI (Botswana), associating herself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said peace was elusive in a world where armed conflicts were on the rise.  Control measures for conventional weapons must limit their illicit trafficking, particularly because they caused the greatest civilian casualties.  Welcoming the adoption of a declaration on improvised explosive devices, she reiterated Botswana’s support for the fifth Review Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects.  Guided by the Maputo Action Plan 2014‑2019, Botswana was committed to efforts to eliminate anti-personnel mines around the world and to working with partners in areas such as arms control and money laundering.

RY TUY (Cambodia), associating himself with ASEAN and Non-Aligned Movement, his country had, after experiencing civil war, famine and starvation, turned to United Nations rehabilitation programmes, adopting confidence-building measures, especially in the fields of conventional arms, anti-personnel mine clearance and the reintegration of mine victims.  Subregional and regional cooperation, information-sharing mechanisms and trans-border customs cooperation and networks must be established or strengthened.  In that vein, Cambodia would host in December a regional seminar for ASEAN members and Timor‑Leste on the illicit trafficking and the diversion of small arms, light weapons and other conventional arms and ammunition.  It was with collaboration and support from the international community and donors that most of Cambodia’s agricultural lands were now mine-free, even though some rural areas remained to be cleared, he said, noting that because of Cambodia’s experiences, ASEAN had established a regional mine action centre in Phnom Penh.

WENDBIGDA HONORINE BONKOUNGOU (Burkina Faso), associating herself with the African Group and Non-Aligned Movement, said illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons threatened international peace, security and stability, fuelling transnational crime and terrorism in many regions and preventing the socioeconomic development of some States.  Noting that more than 877 million such weapons were in circulation, she welcomed the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty, which would complement the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and Other Related Materials, as would the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, and the Register of Conventional Arms.  Implementing such instruments would allow Burkina Faso to thwart trafficking.  Turning to concerns about anti-personnel mines, she called for the universalization of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.  She also called on all States to pool efforts to provide assistance to countries affected by such weapons.  Cluster bombs also hampered access to large fertile land, she said, calling for the universalization of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Mr. AL-RIKABI (Iraq), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the challenges posed by the development of conventional weapons was no different from those posed by weapons of mass destruction.  Having recently acceded to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, Iraq was committed to implementing all of its provisions.  Noting that the indiscriminate spread and trade of small arms and light weapons presented a serious threat to security, he said concerted efforts must continue to reactivate the Programme of Action on Small Arms.  Iraq had been deeply affected by anti-personnel mines, with terrorists having deployed such weapons across large swaths of territory, resulting in destructive effects on the environment and economy.  In that context, he called on donor countries to coordinate with Iraq to provide assistance to help address that grave concern.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said the international community should spare no effort in dealing with the proliferation of conventional weapons.  For its part, Argentina had complied with many international legal instruments, co-authored the Arms Trade Treaty and had created a mechanism for keeping weapon-related materials safe.  Argentina had also joined the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which should be used as a framework to negotiate the prohibition of other arms, including lethal autonomous weapons systems and anti-personnel mines.  The humanitarian consequences of the use of those weapons called for a concerted effort by the international community, he said, adding that Argentina promoted confidence-building measures.

KINGSLEY WEINOH (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group and Non-Aligned Movement, said illicit trafficking and the use of small arms and light weapons had undermined peace and security and caused the displacement of people.  Demanding renewed efforts to prevent and combat the illicit conventional weapons trade, he welcomed the Arms Trade Treaty, which must be robustly implemented, and urged States to join without delay.  Nigeria had redoubled efforts in strengthening its national borders and had signed and ratified related international legal instruments.  Nigeria was ready to work with other delegations in transforming the vision of international peace and security into reality for the future generations.

ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), associating himself with Non-Aligned Movement, said his country’s missile programme was a basic defence requirement that should be viewed in the context of living in a volatile region rather than being assessed in a vacuum.  Iran’s military expenditure had decreased since 2007, indicating a restraint, given the skyrocketing security challenges in the region.  Through that lens, its missile programme had a purely defensive character and would continue with full force, he said, objecting to arguments that considered Iran’s missile launches to be inconsistent with Security Council resolution 2231 (2015).  That resolution only called upon Iran not to undertake activity related to missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, which Iran’s were not, he emphasized.

Mr. ISSA (Niger), said the international community’s efforts to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction and address concerns about conventional weapons had been demonstrated, including through in the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, Programme of Action on Small Arms, Arms Trade Treaty and the establishment of practical confidence-building measures through the Disarmament Commission.  For its part, Niger had good relations with its neighbours and had ratified all legal international and regional instruments on disarmament and international security.  He emphasized that firearms control was crucial in West Africa and the Sahel, areas that had been greatly affected by the uncontrolled circulation and proliferation of firearms due to armed conflicts, terrorism and drug trafficking.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia), associating herself with the African Group and Non-Aligned Movement, said her country continued to suffer from the spread of small arms and light weapons because of porous borders, the presence of refugee camps and vast arid areas.  Domestic terrorist groups had been using the weapons to provoke and instigate unemployed youth to carry out violent activities.  To address those concerns, Ethiopia was raising public awareness and enhancing efforts to boost inter-agency coordination between law enforcement institutions, he said, noting that her delegation looked forward to the third Review Conference on the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument to be held in 2018.  Emphasizing the importance of the Mine Ban Convention, she said Ethiopia was committed to destroying its stockpiles.  However, the shortage and obsolete condition of related equipment had hampered that goal, she said, emphasizing that the main responsibility of completing the destruction of mines lay with States parties and that the full implementation of all Mine Ban Convention provisions depended largely on the availability of resources and technical support.

NOËL DIARRA (Mali) said that while small arms and light weapons did not appear to be as sophisticated as weapons of mass destruction, they were more deadly in terms of casualties.  In Mali, terrorist groups had used small arms and light weapons, attacking women and children and undermining development efforts.  Mali was committed to combating conventional weapons trafficking in West Africa and the Sahel region.  Yet, the activities of terrorist groups and traffickers represented a real challenge when it came to combating the arms proliferation and porous borders that needed to be strengthened to stop illegal weapons transfers.  Highlighting  the link between development and security, as demonstrated in Sustainable Development Goal 16.4., he said Mali had submitted a draft resolution on assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons and collecting them.

ALEX GIACOMELLI DA SILVA (Brazil), noting that his country hoped to join the Arms Trade Treaty soon, said a national export control system currently in place was already operating largely in compliance with the instrument.  To avoid the detrimental effects of unregulated international arms transfers, major weapons exporters must join the Arms Trade Treaty.  He also expressed support for the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which provided a useful framework to address current and future humanitarian challenges in armed conflicts.  Acknowledging the humanitarian challenge posed by improvised explosive devices, he condemned that those devices had been increasingly used against civilians.  On that issue, Brazil had undertaken efforts to prevent the diversion of relevant controlled materials that could be used to produce such weapons, he said, noting the important connection linking the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the Arms Trade Treaty and the Programme of Action on Small Arms.

Other Disarmament Measures and International Security

DANNY RAHDIANSYAH (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, highlighted the important socioeconomic opportunities provided by information and communications technology and expressed concern over the cases of its illegal use that were detrimental to States.  Developing a legal framework to address such violations should be pursued within the United Nations and in full accordance with the principles of sovereignty, non-interference and peaceful coexistence among States.

Turning to the work of the related Group of Governmental Experts, he called for transparency and the strict application of the principle of equitable geographical representation in its membership.  In that context, he regretted to note that a request by developing countries for participation in the recently constituted Group of Governmental Experts had not been considered.

MARWAN ALI NOMAN AL-DOBHANY (Yemen), on behalf of the Arab Group, associated himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, saying that solutions approved within a multilateral framework and the Charter of the United Nations were the only way to deal with disarmament and international security issues.  He also underlined the fact that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction threatened sustainable development for all.

Turning to the preparation and implementation of disarmament and arms limitation agreements, he stressed the importance of observing environmental norms.  Concerned about the possibility of information and communications technology being used to damage the political, economic and scientific efforts of States, he welcomed the United Nations establishment of regulatory principles.  He also emphasized the need for international cooperation and for the United Nations to play a central role in related initiatives.

JOSEPH TEO CHOON HENG (Singapore), speaking on behalf of ASEAN, said members had secured regional peace and strengthened national resilience.  As cyberthreats and attacks undermined trust in the digital future, ASEAN had adopted the Cybersecurity Cooperation Strategy in March and had taken several other steps to foster regional cooperation, including support for ongoing work to promote international voluntary cybernorms of responsible State behaviour and the development of a rules-based cyberspace.  He also supported discussions on the adoption of basic, operational and voluntary norms of behaviour to guide information and communications technology use based on the norms set out in the 2015 report of the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security.

Capacity building was an important aspect to enhancing the region’s ability to respond to threats, he said, welcoming the Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Partnership between ASEAN and the United Nations (2016‑2020).  Cybersecurity required coordinated expertise from stakeholders across different domains, as Governments did not have all the answers.  A large percentage of cyberinfrastructure, resources and expertise was in the hands of the private sector, thus necessitating that sector’s involvement.

Mr. HENG, speaking in his national capacity, said the annual Singapore International Cyber Week had facilitated conversations on key issues such as norms or responsible State behaviour in cyberspace and cybersecurity capacity building.  Singapore had also launched a $10 million ASEAN cybercapacity programme, which was a modular, multi-stakeholder and multidisciplinary initiative to build capacity across policy and technical areas.  Partnering with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, Singapore had helped to develop a flagship United Nations online training course on the use of information and communications technologies and international security.

CARMEN GONSALVES (Netherlands) said the Internet — increasingly regarded as a “global public good” — must remain open, safe and free for all.  Expressing regret that, despite efforts, the related Group of Governmental Experts had failed to arrive at a consensus on views and recommendations regarding norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviour of States, she said its 2013 and 2015 reports were “landmark achievements” and a cause for optimism.  The 2013 report had acknowledged that international law and particularly the United Nations Charter was applicable and essential in maintaining peace and stability and promoting an open, secure, stable, accessible and peaceful information and communications technology environment.  Important progress on the operationalization of the application of international law had been made in the 2015 consensus report.  Both reports had agreed on common norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviour, confidence-building measures and understandings on capacity building that would serve as the building blocks for more stable and predictable interaction among States, she said, urging States to implement the recommendations during the present period of reflection.

JUDIT KÖRÖMI, European Union delegation, expressed regret that the Group of Governmental experts had not reached an agreement on an additional report beyond its 2015 consensus recommendations.  The European Union would continue to implement the consensual views articulated in previous reports and invited other international actors to do the same.  The bloc would continue to promote the establishment of strategic frameworks for conflict prevention, cooperation and stability in cyberspace, which must be based on the application of existing international law, especially the United Nations Charter in its entirety.  It also supported the development and implementation of universal norms of responsible State behaviour, bolstered by targeted regional confidence-building measures between States.

She said States’ information and communications technology use should be guided by principles such as sovereign equality, non-intervention in the internal affairs of other States, the obligation to settle international disputes by peaceful means, the right to respond to internationally wrongful acts, the obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the right to self-defence.  The European Union was committed to addressing cyberthreats globally by assisting third countries in responding to such challenges and increasing law enforcement capabilities to investigate and prosecute cybercrime perpetrators.  In addition, member States had adopted a framework for a joint European Union diplomatic response to malicious cyberactivities, which contributed to conflict prevention, cooperation and stability in cyberspace.

WALTON WEBSON (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of CARICOM, underlined the importance of considering gender perspectives in advancing effort to achieve disarmament goals.  Citing Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and a similar CARICOM-sponsored draft resolution for addressing the vital links between women and disarmament, she said the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons recognized the importance of equal, full and effective participation of both men and women in achieving sustainable peace and security.  Additionally, delegates at the sixth Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms, had agreed to ensure the participation of women in implementation processes and encourage the collection of disaggregated data on gender and illicit small arms and light weapons.

Recognizing those links was particularly relevant and important to her region, she said.  While men were most often the victims of gun crimes, women were left to become the sole bread-winner for families and risked falling into poverty.  For that reason, women must be included in the disarmament discussion at all levels.   While her region was not affected by armed conflict, it faced tremendous challenges in relation to armed violence.  Approximately 70 per cent of homicides in the region involved the use of firearms, and as a result, resources had to be diverted away from development.  A diverse range of perspectives was needed to ensure that decisions reflected global concerns.  She also emphasized that the underrepresentation of lower-income countries at disarmament forums must be addressed in a holistic manner.

SABRINA DALLAFIOR MATTER (Switzerland) stressed the importance of an open, free, accessible and secure cyberspace.  Switzerland, having participated in the recent Group of Governmental Experts meetings, deeply regretted that it had not adopted a consensus report that would have submitted substantive recommendations to the General Assembly.  Despite significant progress on recommendations for confidence-building measures and capacity-building, it had failed to fulfil its mandate with regard to the application of international law and information and communications technology use.  Expressing concern about the hesitation of certain States to recognize the crucial role of international law in promoting a peaceful and cooperative approach to cybersecurity, she said the United Nations should play an active role in that field and provide practical guidance to States on steps they could take to operationalize and implement the recommendations of the 2015 Group of Governmental Experts report, including norms, rules and principles of responsible State behaviour.

VISHAL KAPUR (Canada) noted that small arms proliferation had facilitated and perpetuated violence against women and girls, including acts of sexual violence and domestic abuse.  Due to entrenched gender roles in many societies, women had to bear the primary responsibility of caring for survivors and were often indirect victims.  In times of conflict, women played a variety of roles, including protectors, combatants, arms dealers, smugglers and providers of support to armed actors.  Given those gender dimensions, the international community must strive to increase the meaningful inclusion of women as full partners in security, disarmament and arms control discussions, including in the tracking and analysis of illicit trafficking networks and trends, in all aspects of the destruction of small arms and light weapons and in international negotiations and peace processes.

RACHEL HICKS (United States), noting that creating a climate in which all States could enjoy the benefits of cyberspace was a fundamental goal of her country, introduced a draft resolution on compliance with non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and commitments.  There was broad consensus that compliance with international treaties to prevent further proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was a central element of the international security architecture.  Without the confidence that countries would honour their commitments, the deals made would not be “worth the paper on which they were printed”.  In that sense, she said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had demonstrated unlawful and dangerous behaviour, including its failure to comply with disarmament and non-proliferation obligations.  She then urged the First Committee to make clear that compliance was essential to peace and security, by supporting the draft resolution on the issue.

AMANDEEP SINGH GILL (India), introducing a new draft resolution on the role of science and technology in the context of international security and disarmament (document A/C.1/72/L.52), said the potential of science and technology for resolving the world’s most intractable problems could help the United Nations system progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  However, “the dark side of innovation is moving from the frontier to the front door”, he said, emphasizing that it was critical to ensure a correct understanding of the latest developments in science and technology to allow work in multilateral forums to adjust accordingly.

Asking the Committee to support the draft text, he said provisions would have the General Assembly call for a comprehensive study of such developments, which would be conducted through a science and security panel established by the United Nations Secretary-General.  The panel would be composed of 18 independent experts drawn from relevant areas including scientific research, industry, disarmament and international law and ethics.  By the draft, the General Assembly would request that Under-Secretary-General to submit a final report containing the panel’s assessments for the General Assembly’s consideration at its seventy-fifth session.

ENRIQUE JOSÉ MARÍA CARRILLO GÓMEZ (Paraguay) said access to information and communications technology should contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security and be protected against criminal or terrorist use.  Paraguay had adopted a national cybersecurity programme, which would act as a tool for bolstering the security of critical assets and ensuring a reliable and secure cyberspace.  However, national efforts could only be sustainable with cooperation, he said, emphasizing the importance of international cooperation for the effective implementation of a mechanism to prevent cyberattacks.  Urging delegates to adopt norms that regulated information and communications technology processes in the context of international peace and security, he said that doing so would help to bridge the technological divide between developing and developed countries.

LARISSA SCHNEIDER CALZA (Brazil) said the militarization of information and communications technology and emergence of new systems of related weapons might lead to a new type of arms race.  To ensure the peaceful use of those technologies, Brazil favoured strengthening multilateral norms and principles applicable to the conduct of States.  Those norms should respect to the free flow of information and human rights, she said, urging the international community to examine the need to develop a specific legal framework to address proscribed behaviours, including offensive first use, tampering with the supply chain, intentionally introducing vulnerabilities into systems and networks and compromising information security of other States.  She encouraged all States to consider the adoption of a “no-first-use” norm with regards to offensive operations using information and communications technology.  Confidence-building measures and increased international assistance and cooperation must also aim at achieving an open and secure information and communications technology environment.  Having been active in the Groups of Governmental Experts, she said its format must evolve to be more inclusive and allow for the adequate participation of all countries, including developing countries.

MUSTAPHA ABBANI (Algeria), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non-Aligned Movement, said new information and communications technology products offered many opportunities to bolster socioeconomic development of countries.  However, their use by terrorist groups represented a threat to international peace and security.  Dual-use information and communications technology should not thwart the transfer of those technologies to States that needed them, especially developing countries.  Algeria had adopted a comprehensive approach for cyber- and general disarmament, establishing relevant tools and an entity to stop cybercrime and protect national security.  Having ratified African and Arab agreements on fighting information-related cybercrime and promoting collaboration among countries, Algeria promoted prosperity and human development in many fields.  Yet, using artificial intelligence could pose great humanitarian, ethical and legal challenges.  For that reason, the international community should adopt clear legislation, he said, emphasizing the importance of compliance with environmental standards when preparing and implementing disarmament agreements.

JEHAZEB KHAN (Pakistan), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said lethal autonomous weapon systems were unethical, unable to comply with international law, lowered the threshold for war and would negatively affect progress on arms control and disarmament.  Calling for a pre-emptive prohibition on further developing those weapons, he supported the establishment of a group of governmental experts to discuss those issues in the context of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.  Raising other concerns, he said the transborder unauthorized use of armed drones constituted a violation of international law, he said, citing the Human Rights Council’s opposition to targeting civilians with drones, which amounted to extrajudicial killings.  The threat of non-State actors and terrorists acquiring such weapons was additionally worrisome.  The misuse and unregulated use of information and communications technology also had grave implications for international peace and security, especially as the hostile activities involving cybertechnologies advanced.

Panel Discussion

The Committee held a panel discussion on “Regional disarmament and security”.  The panellists included Mary Soliman, Chief of the Regional Disarmament Branch of the Department of Disarmament Affairs; Anselme Yabouri, the Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa; Melanie Rigimbal, Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean; and Yuriy Kryvonos, Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific.

Ms. SOLIMAN said the centres would continue to foster cooperation with United Nations partners, regional organizations and other stakeholders to prevent the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, in particular their diversion to non-State armed groups.  With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, the centres would work with Member States towards realizing the 2030 Agenda, especially Goal 16.4, she said.  In that vein, they would continue to apply a synergistic approach and cooperate with relevant partners and stakeholders, building on comparative advantages and complementarities.  That would ensure the effective delivery of their mandate with maximum benefit to Member States in their respective regions.  Looking ahead, they would continue to work with Member States to identify strategic priority areas for their respective regions, taking into consideration global trends, developments, challenges and opportunities.  As they depended on extra-budgetary resources, she encouraged all Member States to support them through voluntary contributions.

Mr. YABOURI said work had been done with the African Union Commission to support the implementation of its initiative to “silence the guns by 2020” and of the 2030 Agenda.  In the Sahel, efforts included the implementation of the United Nations integrated strategy for the region through its participation in inter-agency discussions.  In Central Africa, substantive support was provided for the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa at its forty-third and forty-fourth ministerial meetings.  The regional centre had also participated in the annual meeting of heads of United Nations field presences in the Central African region in March 2017.  It had held several joint consultations with ECOWAS and had provided assistance for implementing regional and national action plans to African Member States and relevant civil society organizations related to global and regional instruments to combat the illicit trade and proliferation of small arms and light weapons.  While the sustained number of requests for assistance from Member States demonstrated the importance of its work, more was needed to advance peace and control in Africa given its gloomy peace and security situation.

Ms. RIGIMBAL said activities in 19 different countries in Latin America and the Caribbean had reached more than 2,100 national authorities, security sector agents, and young people, with the highest ever participation of females.  Efforts included stockpile management and weapons destruction, with activities geared toward quantitatively measuring progress and advances made toward the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 16.  Initiatives with Colombia had included the provision of technical assistance to the United Nations Verification Mission in the surrendering of arms.  Collaboration with the private sector was also key to ensuring sustainable security measures were adopted.  Meanwhile, the bulk of efforts focused on developing and imparting specialized trainings to combat illicit arms trafficking and provide tools to strengthen conventional arms control.  To use technology to its advantage, the regional centre created a new tool to facilitate the tracing of weapons trafficked through the postal system.  That preventive tool would aid security sector personnel in their fight against illicit arms trafficking, she said.

Mr. KRYVONOS said 10 projects and three collaborative programmes were among a range of activities undertaken in Asia and the Pacific.  The regional centre had also heavily engaged in the preparation for its relocation back to Nepal, which had concluded in February 2017.  Other activities included co-organizing two conferences on issues and challenges facing disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation.  With respect to national capacity-building, several projects assisted Member States to implement their commitments relating to conventional arms control, particularly regarding the Programme of Action on Small Arms, Arms Trade Treaty and the Security Council resolution 1540 (2004).  The main outcome of the project implementation was the development, approval and submission of three national action plans by Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004).  In addition, outreach activities engaged regional stakeholders.  Thanks to support from sponsors, the centre had again managed to reach its highest annual project implementation rate.

The Chair of the Committee opened the floor to invite delegates to ask questions to the panellists; no questions were posed.

SIMON CLEOBURY (United Kingdom) emphasized his country’s commitment to promoting international stability frameworks for cyberspace based on the application of existing international law, agreed voluntary norms of responsible State behaviour and confidence-building measures, supported by coordinated capacity-building programmes.  The United Nations Charter applied in its entirety to State actions in cyberspace, he said, adding that the law of State responsibility applied to cyberoperations in peacetime, including the availability of the doctrine of countermeasures in response to internationally wrongful acts.  The United Kingdom would promote the operationalization of agreed norms of responsible State behaviour, focusing on practical measures States could take to put voluntary norms into practice, he said.  It would also support efforts in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other forums to implement confidence-building measures that would contribute to transparency and trust between States in cyberspace.

MARJA LEHTO (Finland) expressed regret that the Group of Governmental Experts had failed to reach an agreement.  International discussions on specific aspects of international law in relation to the use of information and communications technology should continue.  The Group’s recommendations on responsible State behaviour constituted a practical contribution to clarifying the steps States should take in the information and communications technology domain to comply with their obligations to not knowingly allow their territories to be used for activities that might cause significant harm to other States.  “It is necessary to be cybersmart in order to keep up with the changes of the global security environment”, she said, adding that developing resilience was essential worldwide and should be supported by appropriate capacity-building efforts.  OSCE had adopted a set of dedicated confidence-building measures in the area, she noted, calling for its implementation.

MINNA–LIINA LIND (Estonia), associating herself with the European Union, said discussions on the Internet should afford the same attention to security as to the freedom of expression.  She regretted that the Governmental Group for Experts had not achieved a consensus report in 2017 and could not make further progress in analysing how international law applied to the use of information and communications technology, particularly the principle of due diligence, the potential application of the right to self-defence and international humanitarian law.  Estonia supported the establishment of a strategic framework for conflict prevention and stability in cyberspace that was based on international law, in particular the Charter of the United Nations.

ANAYANSI RODRIGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba) said the international community should adopt tangible measures to ensure the resources spent on military costs were refocused to promote sustainable development.  Member States should strictly comply with the environmental standards, with multilateralism being used in all disarmament negotiations.  Strict compliance with the United Nations Charter and international law was the only effective means to safeguard international peace and security while establishing a legally binding regulatory framework applicable to information and communications technology.  Denouncing the hostile use of those technologies for subverting legal and political orders of States, she said Cuba was constantly facing attacks from abroad as its communication spectrum had been targeted by the United States.  She called for an immediate end to such aggressive policies that were incompatible with international peace and security.

MARIA THEOFILI (Greece) said safety and security were of the utmost importance as the intertwined foundations of a country’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear material.  Transparent national efforts and strengthened regional cooperation in nuclear power production were critical.  Detailing the international instruments her country had acceded to and the work it had done during its European presidency, she called the Environmental Impact Convention the sine qua non of absolute transparency.  Underlining the centrality of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), she called upon all States to implement the Agency’s nuclear security guidance documents, to use its advisory services and to host peer review and follow-up missions.  As current political developments had created a volatile environment, she called for additional precautions to be taken to enhance the safety of nuclear installations, noting that more and more countries in her region were expressing a strong interest in nuclear power even though such energy had not been an option for the national energy grid of Greece itself.

WANG QUN (China) said that maintaining a peaceful cyberspace was crucial and all should faithfully observe the purposes and principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, particularly the principles of sovereignty and non-interference of internal affairs.  Countries should discuss the application of international law in a manner conducive to maintaining peace so as to prevent an arms race in cyberspace and reduce the risk of conflict.  Cooperation was a win‑win concept, he continued.  No one country was immune from the threats of cyberspace and there was no such thing as absolute security.  Countries should reject the cold war mentality and develop a new security concept featuring coordination and sustainability.  The United Nations should play a leading role on the issue and discussion in the last Group of Governmental Experts had reflected the differences among the international community and further highlighted the need to build a broad consensus.  An open, inclusive process that allowed more countries to participate in global Internet governance should be established, he said.  At the same time, efforts should be made to assist developing countries with capacity‑building to bridge the digital divide.

LOUIS RIQUET (France) said existing international law, including the United Nations Charter, applied to cyberspace.  Should a cyberattack constitute a threat to international peace and security, the case might be referred to the Security Council under Chapters VI or VII of the Charter.  As a major cyberattack could constitute an armed attack under Article 51 of the Charter, States could invoke the right to legitimate self-defence in anticipation of a Security Council decision.  He said that in order to guarantee international stability and security in cyberspace, it was essential to have one standard that encouraged the control of exports of offensive cybertools and techniques and another that aimed at preventing non-State actors, including private companies, from carrying out offensive activities in cyberspace on their own behalf and that of other State or non-State actors.

THOMAS FITSCHEN (Germany), associating himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, said that there were reservations as to whether certain aspect of traditional international law in response to a malicious cyberoperation were really applicable in “cyberspace”.  If a State agent or someone else carried out a cyberoperation in another State to stop an electricity plan, that plan did not happen somewhere in cyberspace, but rather on the territory and in the jurisdiction of that country.  Those relations were governed by international law, he said, adding that some delegations were reluctant to touch upon the lawful counter-measures in cyberoperations.  According to international law, States could be held accountable.  The issue of attributing a certain conduct to a State was not new, he said.  Cyberoperations against territorial integrity of another State could in itself constitute use of force and thus be unlawful.

Ms. LINYAMA (Zambia) said that the increased use of information and communications technology had resulted in increased crimes, such as attacks on computer systems of institutions and terrorism-related activities.  It had also allowed criminal and terrorist syndicates to cross barriers of States to commit crimes, making it difficult to identify the offenders and locate the crime scenes with traditional investigation tools.  The Zambian Government was facing myriad challenges in fighting cybercrime and other criminal activities related to technology.  It had taken various measures to combat cyber- and other technological crime, including through harnessing opportunities offered by information and communications technology for law enforcement, such as electronic surveillance.  Investigation and prosecuting such crimes remained a challenge; it required new skills and procedural tools, including the capacity to collect and analyse digital evidence and to use that evidence in criminal proceedings.  Noting the positive contributions of science and technology, he called for international cooperation in assisting the physical security and monitoring of nuclear facilities and materials.

VLADIMIR YERMAKOV (Russian Federation), recalling that his country had been the first to raise concerns about emerging threats in the global information space, had tabled a related draft resolution to the General Assembly.  It was clear that such threats had become one of the most serious challenges to international peace and security.  That was compounded by the fact that recent discussions on international information security had stalled.  He was vigorously opposed to any attempts to unleash the information arms race, he said.  Together with like-minded countries, his country had repeatedly suggested the that the Group of Governmental Experts develop and submit to the General Assembly universal rules in the information space.  Instead, the Group’s discussion had been emasculated and side-lined for secondary aspects.  Certain countries sought to impose unilateral rules that only served their own interests.  Those rules were designed to ensure the chosen ones had a technological advantage and imposed a very dangerous decision to recognize the digital sphere as a theatre of military action.  He expressed concerns at attempts to discredit the role of the United Nations in tackling cybersecurity.  All Member States should participate in the discussion on an equal basis.  To ensure sustainability in negotiations in international information security, the Russian Federation had introduced a draft procedural decision to keep the item “developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security” on its agenda for the seventy-third session.

Mr. HAJNOCZI (Austria), associating himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, expressed regret that the Group of Governmental Experts had failed to agree on a consensus report this year.  Nonetheless, its previous reports would continue to be the basis for efforts to strengthen stability and security in an open and peaceful Internet where human rights and fundamental freedoms were respected.  Confidence-building measures could enhance trust and assurance among States and help reduce the risk of conflict, he said, noting that OSCE had undertaken significant work in that area in recent years.  Outlining some of those efforts, he said that, under the Austrian chairmanship, OSCE had made rebuilding trust and confidence among its three top priorities for 2017.  In February, his delegation had organized a conference on cybersecurity, and a second chairmanship conference would be held on 3 November in Vienna, offering an opportunity to discuss intensifying cooperation on several key areas.  Calling for a steadfast commitment to applying existing international law to the cyber context, he added that the Budapest Convention was an important tool in combating the criminal use of information and communications technology.

ISAAC MORALES (Mexico) said that the international system had a fundamental role to play in cyberspace to make it “open, safe and accessible”.  That should be enforced by regional and other multilateral forums.  The efforts of the Organization’s international security system should achieve balance in encouraging access and peaceful use of cyberspace as a catalyst for development.  Furthermore, the use of cyberspace as a safe place should be ensured by the private sector and Governments.

VANESSA WOOD (Australia) said the foundation for responsible State behaviour in cyberspace was a mutual commitment to existing international law, including respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The United Nations Charter could be applied in its entirety to State actions in cyberspace, including the prohibition of the use of force, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and the right of States to act in self-defence in response to an armed attack.  To enable agile responses, existing international law was complemented by norms, as established through the Groups of Governmental Experts, among others, of responsible State behaviour, which promote predictability, stability and security.  The international community must now ensure that there were effective and proportionate consequences for those who acted contrary to the consensus on norms.

Mr. AZADI (Iran), associating himself with the statement to be made by the Non-Aligned Movement, said information communication technology played a crucial role in socioeconomic and cultural development.  There was a need to strengthen security and prevent the use of such technology for illegal purposes.  National measures were not sufficient.  Due to both the complex nature and rapid advances in the field, international cooperation was essential.  While it was important there was a common understanding of issues, such an understanding could not adequately emerge through the work of the Group of Governmental Experts.  In that regard, all States must be engaged in an inclusive, interactive debate in a broad-based setting.  Establishing an open-ended working group was an appropriate method to help build upon the work and to discuss issues related to information communication security.

FAIYAZ MURSHID KAZI (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern about the potential misuse of information and communications technology to the detriment of international peace and security.  While it was a key vehicle to further growth and development, normative behaviours and cooperation were needed to ensure information security.  The work of the Group of Governmental Experts was useful, he said, adding he looked forward to it moving forward after its setback during its last session.  He also voiced support for the draft decision tabled by the Russian Federation on the field’s developments in international security.  With threats by terrorists using information and communications technology to compromise security and cause harm, there was a need to strengthen the existing legal regime pertinent to that domain and address the weakest links in the cybersphere.  As well, he expressed support for the draft resolution tabled by India on the role of science and technology in the context of international security and disarmament, co-sponsored by his delegation.

ANGGI SAZIKA JENIE (Indonesia), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated her serious concern over the two decades delay in the implementation of the 1995 resolution on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  Recalling the opposition expressed by the United States, United Kingdom and Canada at the concluding session of the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, the establishment of such a zone in the Middle East had not been achieved.  She emphasised the special responsibility of the co-sponsors of that resolution for its implementation.  Its persistent lack could undermine the effectiveness and credibility of the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a whole.  The Non-Aligned Movement demanded that Israel renounce any possession of nuclear weapons and accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty without any precondition or delay.

MARWAN ALDOBHANY (Yemen), speaking for the Arab Group and associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, stressed the importance of agreements to establish nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  He emphasized the need to take effective and immediate measures as outlined by the Arab Group resolution addressing the threat of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.  He called upon the three co-sponsors of the Middle East resolution adopted in 1995 to bear the responsibility of the text’s implementation and establish that zone.  The Arab States were concerned for the security and humanitarian and environmental impact due to Israel’s rejection to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  He underlined that the continued delay of the implementation of the 1995 resolution was a serious setback to global nuclear non-proliferation efforts.

LOIS M. YOUNG (Belize), speaking for CARICOM, said that bloc’s member States remained committed to confronting the illicit trade in firearms.  They had benefitted from the memorandum of understanding between the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as well as from the implementation of the UNODC Regional Programme 2014‑16.  The United Nations Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean was one of several important partners for the Community in implementing its arms control and non-proliferation obligations.  That partnership had resulted in the successful implementation of the Operational Forensic Ballistic Project, she said, also highlighting six sub-regional training sessions completed in August on the topic of “double casting”, which increased national authorities’ capabilities to establish connections between crimes nationally, regionally and internationally.

She went on to emphasize CARICOM’s support for strengthening the role of women in disarmament, noting Trinidad and Tobago’s leadership of the biennial resolution titled “Women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control”.  The Community was also committed to the CARICOM-Security Council Resolution 1540 Implementation Programme to prevent the transit, trans-shipment, import, export, re-export or brokering of dual-use materials that could be used in the development of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons and related materials.  It had strengthened its partnership with the United Nations Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean in implementing various project activities related to the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, recently launching a Guide on the Development of National Control Lists for the region.  That had assisted CARICOM in reinforcing national export and import regulatory structures for dual use goods, she noted.

JUDIT KÖRÖMI, European Union delegation, said the illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programmes of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea posed a grave threat to regional and international peace and security.  That country should refrain from further reckless provocations and abandon its programmes.  Addressing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, she emphasized the importance of its continued, full and effective implementation.  Facilitated by the European Union, the Plan of Action was the result of 12 years of diplomatic effort.  It had become a key element of the nuclear non-proliferation architecture and was crucial for the security of the region.  She encouraged the United States to maintain its commitment to the Plan of Action and consider the implications for the security of the United States, its partners and the region before taking further steps.

She went on to say that, despite de-escalation efforts, this year had seen the highest number of civilian casualties in Syria.  She condemned the indiscriminate attacks and atrocities perpetrated by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh) and other terrorist groups and the systematic violations of human rights by all parties, particularly the Syrian regime.   The use of barrel bombs, cluster bombs and incendiary weapons in Syria might amount to war crimes.  It was deeply shocking and deplorable that chemical weapons had been used in several cases in Syria.  The findings of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) fact-finding mission, the Joint Investigative Mechanism and the testimonies gathered by the Commission of Inquiry for Syria required strong action by the Security Council.  At the same time, it was also deeply concerning that Syria had not engaged substantively regarding gaps and discrepancies in its chemical weapons declaration with the ongoing investigations of the OPCW Technical Secretariat.

DELFINA JANE ALOYSIUS DRIS (Malaysia), speaking for ASEAN, said she believed that the value of regionalism lay in its inclusivity, rules-based nature, with an emphasis on mutual benefit and respect.  Transparency, confidence-building measures and progress in regional disarmament were indispensable in improving the security environment of the Asia-Pacific region, and in that connection, the Group reaffirmed its commitment to the disarmament treaties to which it was a signatory.  The United Nations Regional Centres for Peace and Disarmament had worked tirelessly to collaborate on various initiatives, she said, reiterating the commitment to preserving the region, not only as a nuclear-weapons-free zone, but a zone free of all other weapons of mass destruction as enshrined in the ASEAN Charter and the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone.

ASEAN continued to undertake various activities on nuclear safety, security and safeguards, including with respect to capacity building, she continued.  The Group was also working towards the establishment of a formal relationship between the ASEAN Network of Regulatory Bodies on Atomic Energy and IAEA and was committed to the full operationalization of the ASEAN Regional Mine Action Centre Permanent Secretariat.  Such developing concrete initiatives, building capacity and ensuring continuity through regional cooperation were crucial in making progress on global disarmament commitments.

ROBERT A. WOOD (United States) said regional approaches provided important avenues to disarmament, security and non-proliferation objectives.  In East Asia, the regional architecture had steadily evolved in the face of growing threats from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.  He reiterated President Donald Trump’s commitment to deny Iran all paths to nuclear weapons.  The United States would work with its international partners to explore options for addressing the flaws in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme.  In closing, he noted that South Asia was a home to two nuclear-weapon States and to the highest concentration of foreign terrorist groups in any region.

ENRIQUE JOSÉ MARÍA CARRILLO GÓMEZ (Paraguay) denounced the use of force in international relations.  Honouring commitments to transparency and accountability, Paraguay provided its military expenditure information.  He called States to cooperate with the United Nations and supported the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development.  Latin America and the Caribbean was a region free of nuclear weapons, he said, noting the valuable contributions of civil society in disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.

Right of Reply

The representative of Israel, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the representative of Iran represented a regime that was one of the world’s biggest sponsors of terror and had committed atrocities against the people of Syria.  As such, it was hard to see how he had any standing to make accusations against his country.

The representative of the United States said Iran supported terrorism and was complicit in the Assad regime’s crimes against its people, had threatened to wipe Israel off the map, had launched cyberattacks against the United States, had committed human rights abuses and continued its ballistic missile programme.  The United States had sanctioned Iranian entities involved in the country’s ballistic missile programme and remained concerned about its military support for Houthis in Yemen.

The representative of Iran categorically rejected remarks made by his counterpart from Israel.  Chronic threats plaguing the Middle East stemmed from the offensive and brutal practices of the Israeli regime.  Israel was the only country in the region possessing nuclear weapons and facilities that were under no safeguards and had refused to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, blocking the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  Israel was one of the world’s biggest military spenders in 2016 and was a huge beneficiary of aid from the United States.  He called on Israel to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty for the sake of peace and stability in the region.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said his country had suffered from natural disasters, including an unprecedented drought, which was why countries such as the United States had voluntarily sent it food.  His delegation did not support the draft resolution presented by the United States on compliance with non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and commitments because of its pure political purpose.  Concerning his country’s nuclear deterrence policy, he said if the United States was afraid of such weapons, then it should get rid of all its nuclear bombs and enter the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear-weapon State.

The representative of the United States said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been isolated and had lost billions of dollars because it was developing nuclear and ballistic missile programmes instead of taking care of its own people’s needs.  Furthermore, he was not shocked by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s plan not to vote for United States compliance resolution.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected what the United States delegate had said.