News

Security Council Reiterates its Condemnation of Trafficking in Persons, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2388 (2017)

Secretary‑General Underlines Collective Responsibility to ‘Stop These Crimes’

The Security Council reiterated its condemnation of trafficking in human beings today, particularly the sale of people by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), as well as other violations and abuses by Boko Haram, Al‑Shabaab, the Lord’s Resistance Army and other such groups for the purpose of sexual slavery, sexual exploitation and forced labour.

Unanimously adopting resolution 2388 (2017) ahead of a day‑long debate on that subject, the Council underscored the importance of collecting and preserving evidence relating to such acts so as to ensure that those responsible could be held accountable.  It reaffirmed its condemnation, in the strongest terms, of all instances of trafficking in persons, especially women and children, who made up the vast majority of all trafficking victims in areas affected by armed conflict.

Also by the text, the Council stressed that trafficking undermined the rule of law and contributed to other forms of transnational organized crime that could exacerbate conflict and foster insecurity and instability, thereby undermining development.  The Council underscored the importance of cooperation in enforcing international law in investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases.

The Council also expressed, by further terms of the text, its intention to give greater consideration to how peacekeeping and political missions could help host States combatting human trafficking.  It also requested that the Secretary‑General ensure the inclusion of trafficking in assessments of country situations and in the training of mission personnel, which would help in identifying, confirming, responding and reporting on situations of trafficking.

Briefing ahead of the debate were Secretary‑General António Guterres as well as Yuri Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, and Smail Chergui, the African Union’s Commissioner for Peace and Security.

Secretary‑General Guterres declared “it is our collective responsibility to stop these crimes” by bringing perpetrators to justice, increasing humanitarian aid and strengthening national capacity to protect the vulnerable.  There was also an urgent need to ensure more opportunities for regular migration and to restore the integrity of the refugee protection regime.  “Slavery and other such egregious abuses of human rights have no place in the twenty‑first century,” he stressed.  However, reports from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) showed that increasing numbers of victims trafficked from Iraq, Syria and Somalia were appearing in Asia, Europe and the Middle East, he noted.

A framework of action to counter trafficking, rooted in international law, had been built through Security Council resolution 2331 (2016), the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Convention), and the September 2017 Political Declaration on the implementation of the Global Plan of Action.  Cooperation, mutual legal assistance and the sharing of information were critical to that framework’s implementation, he said, adding that his first report on implementing resolution 2331 (2661) demonstrated the ongoing work carried out by Member States and the United Nations system.  “These efforts need to be intensified,” he said.

Data collection, analysis and technical assistance provided by UNODC and others, particularly actors in conflict situations, must be fully utilized, he emphasized, adding that the same applied to coordination through the Inter‑Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons.  Efforts to end poverty and exclusion must also be stepped up.  More must be done to support victims, he said, underlining that they should be treated as victims of crime and not detained, prosecuted or punished.  He called for contributions to the Blue Heart Campaign and the United Nations voluntary trust fund for victims of trafficking in persons, especially women and children.  “The international community’s commitment is being tested,” he declared.  “We need to show the world our determination to end human trafficking, help its many victims and hold those responsible accountable for their crimes.”

Mr. Fedotov said the UNODC had designed tools for United Nations entities in conflict situations, enhanced data‑collection processes, developed training for police officers seconded to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and helped victims.  It was now considering how to strengthen the work of the Inter‑Agency Coordinating Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons, he said.  In more general terms, he said widespread and systematic violations of people’s fundamental rights during mass movements remained a grave concern.  Thanks to efforts by the Council and the wider United Nations system, there was forward momentum against trafficking, but the international community’s resolve must be translated into action across all regional processes and initiatives, he emphasized.

Ms. Giammarinaro said egregious patterns of trafficking, forced labour and slavery were a strategy for terrorist groups, pointing out that such gross human rights violations were perpetrated systematically by criminal or armed groups taking advantage of the breakdown in the rule of law to carry out the “dirty business” of trafficking and become more powerful and dangerous.  Violations such as trafficking were not only a consequence of conflict, but also a cause, she pointed out, saying the Security Council’s agenda on trafficking should therefore be linked with the processes linked to the Global Compact on Migration and Refugees, as well as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Moreover, it should be addressed in tandem with the women, peace and security agenda, and the Six Grave Violations against Children during Armed Conflict Agenda.  Expressing particular concern about the situation of children, she said they were used as child soldiers or sexual slaves during conflict, and were disproportionally affected by displacement.

Mr. Chergui said interventions to prevent trafficking should include measures to reduce vulnerability, build capacity alongside national Governments and strengthen border security, noting that national legal frameworks were inadequate and often needed strengthening.  Immediate actions should include demolishing camps in Libya and destroying criminal networks, he said, declaring: “Our common humanity is at stake.”

With more than 70 speakers participating in the open debate, delegates affirmed the serious violation of human rights represented by trafficking in persons, with many relating the harrowing stories of victims, particularly women and children.  Some speakers outlined national programmes to help victims and root out trafficking through the three‑part effort of prevention, protection and prosecution.

While most delegates hailed the resolution, many others questioned the expansion of the normative framework, some expressing regret that too many frameworks would fragment anti‑trafficking efforts.  Spain’s representative suggested that the UNODC take the lead in creating a global strategy.

In addition, many delegates called for greater legal migration opportunities to reduce the vulnerability of those to whom borders were now closed.  Bolivia’s representative advocated universal citizenship to reduce the vulnerability of migrants.

Many delegates began their statements by expressing disgust over recently disseminated images of African migrants in Libya being auctioned as slaves.

Libya’s representative, condemning such activity, said the authorities had initiated an investigation and would hold perpetrators accountable.  He called on the international community to help his country address challenges posed by irregular mass migration through Libya rather than using such media misrepresentations for defamatory purposes.

Also speaking today were representatives of Ethiopia, Sweden, Ukraine, Russian Federation, France, United States, Bolivia, Senegal, Japan, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Uruguay, China, United Kingdom, Italy, Venezuela (for the Non‑Aligned Movement), Colombia, Ireland, Spain, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Iran, Pakistan, Brazil, Estonia, Belgium, Peru, Indonesia, Slovakia, Germany, Turkey, Switzerland, South Africa, Qatar, Jordan, Israel, Panama, Norway, Morocco, Sudan, Austria, Philippines, Guatemala, Argentina, Canada, Bangladesh, Iraq, Georgia, Bulgaria, Nigeria, Botswana, Botswana, Maldives, Malaysia, Belize, Portugal, Kuwait, Azerbaijan, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Myanmar, Netherlands and Armenia.

Representatives of the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the International Organization for Migration also spoke, as did the observer for the Holy See.

The meeting opened at 10:08 a.m. and closed at 5:09 p.m.

Briefings

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary‑General of the United Nations, said “criminals and terrorists are capitalizing on, and perpetuating, the disorder and mayhem of conflict”, funding their crimes by brutally preying on the vulnerable.  Sexual exploitation, forced labour, the removal of bodily organs and slavery were the tools of their trade.  Citing Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Boko Haram, Al‑Shabaab and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) as having forced women, boys and girls into dehumanizing servitude, he said such activities constituted serious abuses of human rights, as did the horrific practice of selling African migrants as “goods” in Libya.

“It is our collective responsibility to stop these crimes” by bringing perpetrators to justice, increasing humanitarian aid and strengthening national capacity to protect the vulnerable, he emphasized.  There was also an urgent need to ensure more opportunities for regular migration, to restore the integrity of the refugee protection regime and to increase the number of refugees in the developed world.  “Slavery and other such egregious abuses of human rights have no place in the twenty‑first century,” he stressed.  However, reports from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) showed that increasing numbers of victims trafficked from Iraq, Syria and Somalia were appearing in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

He said a framework of action to counter trafficking, rooted in international law, had been built through Security Council resolution 2331 (2016), the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Protocol) and the September 2017 Political Declaration on the implementation of the Global Plan of Action.  Cooperation, mutual legal assistance and the sharing of information were critical to implementing that framework, he said, adding that his first report on implementing resolution 2331 (2661) demonstrated the ongoing work carried out by Member States and the United Nations system.  “These efforts need to be intensified,” he said.

Data collection, analysis and technical assistance provided by UNODC and others, particularly actors in conflict situations, must be fully utilized, he continued, adding that the same applied to coordination through the Inter‑Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons.  Efforts to end poverty and exclusion must also be stepped up.  More must be done to support victims, he said, underlining that they should be treated as victims of crime and not detained, prosecuted or punished.  In that regard, he called for contributions to the Blue Heart Campaign and the United Nations voluntary trust fund for victims of trafficking in persons, especially women and children.  “The international community’s commitment is being tested,” he declared.  “We need to show the world our determination to end human trafficking, help its many victims and hold those responsible accountable for their crimes.”

YURY V. FEDOTOV, Under‑Secretary‑General and Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said the draft resolution due for adoption today would set new goals and targets in combatting human trafficking.  Condemning slave markets in Libya, “where people are sold like commodities”, he said he took note of the assurances by that country’s Government that such cases were being investigated.  “Our collective horror at this news serves an important purpose:  it can quicken the pace of our actions and encourage a global partnership against human trafficking,” he said.  As part of its response, UNODC was prepared to help strengthen Libyan law enforcement’s capacity to investigate and prosecute criminals; align national laws with the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Convention) and its protocols on trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants; build partnerships among States in the region and improve the capacity of authorities in Libya and other countries to investigate the finances flowing from such crimes.

In more general terms, he continued, the widespread and systematic violations of people’s fundamental rights in mass movements remained a grave concern.  Al‑Shabaab, Boko Haram, ISIL/Da’esh and other terrorist groups were exploiting boys and girls as sexual slaves or soldiers, but thanks to the efforts of the Security Council and the United Nations system, there was forward momentum against the trafficking of persons in conflict situations.  However, the international community’s resolve must be translated into action across all regional processes and initiatives, he emphasized, encouraging States parties to the Palermo Convention to strengthen international cooperation, develop comprehensive legislation and ensure that no offender escaped justice.  Early warning and early screening initiatives must be deployed proactively, and victims protected and assisted.

Describing the UNODC response to resolution 2331 (2016) as extensive, he said the Office had, among other steps, designed tools for United Nations entities in conflict situations, enhanced data collection processes, developed training for police officers seconded to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, assisted victims under the umbrella of the United Nations voluntary trust fund for victims of human trafficking, and held States to implementation of the Palermo Protocol.  Welcoming contributions to the voluntary trust fund, he appealed for greater coordination within the United Nations family, noting that UNODC was considering a meeting at the principals level in 2018 that would give new impetus to the work of the Inter‑Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons.

MARIA GRAZIA GIAMMARINARO, United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children, said the trafficking of people in armed conflict or fleeing conflict, and the protection of the rights of victims, demanded concerted and effective action.  Citing a recent video disseminated by CNN showing an auction of young migrants, she said trafficking for purposes of exploitation and slavery was a tragic reality.  Noting that trafficking was fuelled by political instability and occurred regularly in the context of large migration flows, she said that, as a form of gender‑based violence, it disproportionately affected women and girls, while also targeting children and young adults on a massive scale.

At the same time, egregious patterns of trafficking, forced labour and slavery were a strategy for terrorist groups, she continued, pointing out that such gross human rights violations were perpetrated systematically by criminal or armed groups taking advantage of the breakdown in the rule of law to carry out the “dirty business” of trafficking and become more powerful and dangerous.  That was one of the reasons why the prevention of trafficking was directly linked to the maintenance of international peace and security, she explained.  In that light, a human rights perspective was crucial.

She went on to emphasize that violations such as trafficking in persons were not only a consequence of conflict, but also a cause.  The Security Council agenda on trafficking should therefore be linked with the process of the global compact on migration and refugees, as well as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Moreover, it should be addressed in tandem with the women, peace and security agenda, and with the Six Grave Violations against Children during Armed Conflict Agenda.  Expressing particular concern about the situation of children, she said they were used as child soldiers or sexual slaves during conflict, and were disproportionally affected by displacement.  She underlined the obligation of States to ensure that victims of trafficking were protected from further exploitation and harm, and to prevent, respect and fulfil the human rights of human tracking victims, including by holding non‑State actors accountable at all times.

SMAIL CHERGUI, Commissioner for Peace and Security, African Union, noted that the regional bloc was currently engaged in 15 conflict situations, and in each case, trafficking was eroding human dignity.  Although much of it was below the radar screen, sexual abuse and the recruitment of child soldiers were rife.  Slavery was common, and reports from Libya caused a loss of words.  The business of smuggling migrants in that country had become so lucrative that criminals were fighting over it.  Outlining the African Union’s efforts to alleviate the situation, he said the prevention and resolution of conflict were the most important elements of the bloc’s partnership with the United Nations.

Interventions to prevent trafficking should include measures to reduce vulnerability, build capacity alongside national Governments and strengthen border security, he said.  National legal frameworks were often inadequate and needed strengthening.  Describing regional arrangements to tackle trafficking in various parts of Africa, he said the bloc was also developing assistance initiatives, emphasizing that the entire effort must be linked to sustainable development.  However, there had been difficulties in moving beyond the normative framework to action, he said, adding that there were also missing links in partnerships between various actors.  Immediate actions should include demolishing camps in Libya and destroying criminal networks, he said, declaring:  “Our common humanity is at stake.”

Statements

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said that the sale of migrants as slaves in Libya was the latest despicable act to come to life and must sound the alarm for action by the international community.  He called for swift action to identify the perpetrators of the slave trading.  Root causes such as poverty and conflict must be addressed, and more attention focused on the vulnerabilities of women and children, he emphasized.  In addition, much more must done by transit and destination countries to increase the opportunities for legal mixed migration.  Recognizing the positive aspects of migration, he emphasized that it was crucial to respect the rights of migrants.  The goal was well‑regulated migration with human rights at its centre, irrespective of the status of individuals.  Victims of trafficking must also be helped to reintegrate, he said, adding that existing international instruments could form the basis for cooperation on all those issues.

IRINA SCHOULGIN-NYONI (Sweden), aligning herself with the statement to be made by the European Union and the Nordic countries, said the chilling reports of outright slave trade in Libya were appalling, and she called on authorities to investigate those activities.  Because sexual violence and exploitation were linked to trafficking, women and children were often the most vulnerable.  Thus, it was essential to provide proper aid to the victims and secure evidence of such crimes so that the perpetrators could be brought to justice.  The United Nations presence in conflict situations could play an important role in the response to trafficking through capacity‑building, national support and protection of civilians.  The Council could also include relevant criteria for the listing of traffickers in sanctions resolutions.  Building strong rule of law institutions was essential, as was the cooperation between global and regional organizations such as the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and UNODC.  Because trafficking was in essence a criminal business model, such criminal assets must be targeted to effectively interrupt organized crime networks and terrorist groups.

VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said trafficking in persons was a curse and a disgrace of modern times.  Moreover, it was a gross violation of human rights and an extremely complex form of organized crime.  Numerous ongoing conflicts had generated the exploitation of civilians, with terrorist and other armed groups forcing victims into sexual slavery and compulsory labour.  As such, trafficking was a transnational threat requiring a transnational response, he said.  In that regard, Ukraine was encouraged that the Council had addressed the issue in two recent resolutions, and fully supported the Political Declaration on the implementation of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.  On the financing of such activity, he called on the international community to cut the profits enjoyed by traffickers, who viewed other human beings as mere commodities.  Ukraine had made significant progress towards establishing a national human trafficking response framework, he said, but Russian aggression had displaced 2 million people, leaving them particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) described the Ukraine delegate’s insinuations against his country as absurd.  Calling for a holistic approach covering prevention, criminal prosecution and assistance to victims, he expressed support for the leading role of the United Nations in consolidating efforts to combat trafficking in persons, and welcomed the measures adopted within the UNODC framework to provide targeted assistance to States.  He called for continued building of capacity to implement the United Nations Global Action Plan, describing it as the compass that set the direction for State efforts to combat human trafficking.  However, he cautioned the Council to be careful about attempts to change approaches or develop alternative platforms to deal with the issue, which could weaken the relevant international regime.  At the same time, the Council should avoid duplication of efforts and deal with the trafficking issue only in the context of its agenda, he emphasized.

ANNE GUEGUEN (France), associating herself with the European Union, said human trafficking was one of the world’s most widespread and profitable forms of trafficking.  It was employed as a tool for financing and even recruitment by armed groups and terrorists, she said, adding that such actions were not only abhorrent, but constituted crimes against humanity and even genocide.  The perpetrators must be held accountable, she said, stressing that Member States had a duty not only to protect civilians, but also to uphold international law and principles.  Calling for robust national action plans, she said France was helping the most vulnerable States, particularly in Africa, to address trafficking in persons.  She urged all States to come together with the aim of preventing such activity, underlining that it was the collective responsibility of Member States to punish those responsible for such actions.

NIKKI R. HALEY (United States) said the scenes of people being sold like cattle in Libya should shock everyone, and the practice must be stopped.  Trafficking had deleterious effects well beyond its victims and was a prime example of human rights violations occurring in conflicts where terrorists held sway, she stated, relating the harrowing stories of people captured by Boko Haram and others.  Describing her country’s activities to prevent trafficking, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators, she said a victim‑centred approach was critical to the success of law enforcement efforts, welcoming the Council’s call for a mechanism to investigate trafficking abuses.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), expressing horror at images of individuals auctioned in Libya, strongly condemned such activity and called urgently for the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators.  Noting the widespread displacement that had occurred in the past decades, he urged cooperation among all States in the implementation of the Palermo Convention and its related Protocol.  Poverty and interventions in the affairs of States were major causes of migration flows, as were closing borders to migration and the possibility of profiting from money raised through crimes flowing into the international financial system.  Bolivia supported the establishment of universal citizenship to reduce the vulnerability of migrants, he said.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal) called for a full inquiry into the modern slavery in Libya that had recently reached the media.   Calling for a full inquiry and action to ensure the end of such crimes, he said the resolutions passed by the Security Council provided the tools with which to fight them.  Africa was active in countering trafficking since it was home to many conflicts, he said, pointing out that trafficking was found in all corners of the world, particularly in theatres of war where terrorists were present.  Human trafficking must be addressed as a priority in all conflict zones because it funded further terrorist and criminal activity.  Senegal had ratified all international instruments relating to human trafficking in addition to having strengthened its legal framework for that purpose and for the protection of victims.  Stressing also that accountability for violations was critical, he said international mechanisms must take over where national justice was not up to the task.  Countering trafficking must be a regular part of all efforts to combat the ills of humanity, he added.

KORO BESSHO (Japan), citing Security Council resolution 2331 (2016), said that armed and terrorist groups were using human trafficking for fundraising and recruitment.  Despite the international community’s increasing awareness, those non‑State actors had continued to recruit boys and girls for combat or support functions and, in some cases, were radicalizing them to commit terrorist acts by using deception, threats and promises of rewards.  The resolution encouraged Member States to use refugee registration mechanisms, as well as early warning and screening frameworks, to identify potential trafficking victims.  Identification of victims was the first step towards protecting them and prosecuting perpetrators.

BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan) called for urgent measures to address human trafficking, including harmonizing legislation across countries, ending impunity, enhancing cross border controls, blocking criminal assets and expanding international cooperation with regional affiliates.  Because peace and development were also essential factors in the eradication of trafficking, he called for strengthened cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the African Union, the League of Arab States and other regional organizations.  Kazakhstan had participated with the Commonwealth of Independent States and with OSCE as part of that Organization’s Alliance against Trafficking in Persons.  It had also established a national referral mechanism, implemented the “STOP traffic” preventative campaigns and was regularly monitoring mass media and the Internet to detect traffic‑related materials.

IHAB MOUSTAFA AWAD MOUSTAFA (Egypt), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said combating trafficking was a priority for his country’s Government.  Egypt was among the States that had ratified the relevant resolutions and protocols, and had established a legal and institutional framework to guarantee its international obligations.  He called upon the international community to redouble efforts to cut off all sources of funding for terrorist organizations, using all available mechanisms to do so.  Emphasizing that human trafficking was not related to any religion, nationality or civilization, he said religious leaders could play an important role in dismissing the links that some extremists tried to spread.

LUIS BERMÚDEZ (Uruguay), noting that 60 per cent of trafficking victims were female foreigners, called upon States to guarantee the fundamental rights of victims by strengthening protection mechanisms.  He stressed the principle of non‑criminalization of irregular migration, calling upon Governments to provide the victims with the tools necessary to cope in transit countries by making them less vulnerable to traffickers.  Overall, there was need for a broad, multidimensional approach involving determination and political will, he said.

WU HAITAO (China) said protracted armed conflicts had led to rampant criminal activities by armed groups and terrorist organizations.  Such crimes were on the rise in conflict situations, and the international community must address such “hotspot” issues with urgency and help settle disputes peacefully.  At the same time, the root causes of conflict must be addressed so as to create a sound protective environment for women and children in such situations.  He called for efforts to completely cut off the terrorist funding chain, as well as the means for spreading their ideology.  As for the plight of refugees, he called for joint efforts to address the problem using the 1951 Refugee Convention as a guiding framework.  In that connection, States must also promote sustained development in the origin countries of refugees, he said.  While respecting national sovereignty, the international community must provide assistance to vulnerable countries in such areas as border control and judicial assistance.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) noted the shock caused by the video of slave trading in Libya and expressed deep concern over trafficking abuses occurring in conflict zones.  Data gathering and information‑sharing, highlighted in the Secretary‑General’s report, were critical in combatting trafficking, as was improving coordination among and between United Nations entities.  The full range of mechanisms meant to counter terrorist financing must be applied to trafficking, he said, emphasizing that transparency must be enforced in supply chains, and peacekeeping missions more fit to counter trafficking.  “Let us stand together to end exploitation of human beings,” he urged.

VINCENZO AMENDOLA, Under‑Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Italy, welcomed the adoption of today’s resolution, noting its provisions on victim protection, greater coherence within the United Nations system and other ways in which it complemented the first resolution on the issue.  Condemning human trafficking, he said Italy fought it every day while prioritizing the human rights of migrants and other persons in the massive movement of human beings affecting the Mediterranean region.  Links to organized crime must be better explored, and all States must ratify the Palermo Protocol, he emphasized, adding that a comprehensive approach was needed to address root causes of vulnerability such as conflict and poverty.

SAMUEL MONCADA (Venezuela), speaking for the Non‑Aligned Movement, stressed that trafficked persons should be treated as victims of crime and, in line with domestic legislation, should not be penalized or stigmatized.  It was also imperative to break any existing impunity cycle and hold accountable those responsible for committing such crimes which, in some circumstances, could be defined as war crimes or crimes against humanity.  Human trafficking must be addressed both collectively and comprehensively, including by examining its root causes and drivers, as well as its multidimensional nature.  Addressing such a complex issue required a preventive rather than military approach, including through enhanced international cooperation.

He expressed concern about the growing links between human trafficking and transnational organized crime, with trafficking being used as a means of financing and recruitment for terrorist activities.  In the Sahel‑Saharan region, hostage‑taking and terrorist acts represented a threat to regional security and stability.  He urged all States to address the issue through cooperation and dialogue, highlighting the importance of the Palermo Convention.  Moreover, he underlined the historic opportunity provided by the 2018 International Conference on Migration, expressing the bloc’s commitment to the negotiation process for the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.  The international community should refrain from taking any measures stigmatizing certain groups or individuals, including third‑country nationals and their families.  Instead, it was necessary to consider tailored and nationally owned strategies to prevent and combat human trafficking.

MARIA EMMAN MEJIA VELEZ (Colombia), expressing horror over images of slave trade in the Mediterranean, said that her Government had had to assist many victims of trafficking.  She welcomed the growing international framework to fight the scourge, observing that gaps were being filled and lessons learned were being exchanged.  She joined those who called for the universal ratification of the protocol to the Palermo Convention and added her support for the role of UNODC.  All Member States should come together to put an end to the human rights abuses that constituted human trafficking, she said.

BRIAN FLYNN (Ireland), associating himself with the European Union and noting that his country was a co‑sponsor of resolution 2388 (2017), said trafficking for sexual exploitation was a form of gender‑based violence, and called for an increased focus on prevention programmes.  His country’s commitment to the issue could be seen in its national action plan and financial contributions to fight human trafficking, including its support to the European Union’s Emergency Trust Fund for Africa and the OSCE National Referral Mechanism on anti‑trafficking.  Ireland also provided funding to a range of international organizations and civil society partners.  Noting the importance of public awareness, he emphasized the critical role of civil society in preventing and combating human trafficking.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) said that human trafficking was the modern face of slavery, emerging in situations of conflicts where there was a clear breakdown in the rule of law.  The Security Council needed to take action, he said, welcoming resolution 2331 (2016).  As for the issue of fragmentation in combating human trafficking, the international community lacked a single comprehensive strategy.  In that regard, he proposed that UNODC devise a comprehensive strategy that all bodies could follow.  Recalling the horrors occurring in places such as Libya, he urged that the full use of peacekeeping and special political missions address the phenomenon.  States could not simply point to the failings of others.  All bore responsibility, and the international community had a long way to go in fulfilling that responsibility.  To combat human trafficking, his delegation had suggested setting up a global network of anti‑trafficking coordinators that could share best practices.  That recommendation had been received favourably by the European Union and he expressed hope that others would follow.

KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary), expressing dismay at recent news reports showing migrants in Libya being sold as slaves, commended the Secretary‑General for calling on authorities to investigate those auctions.  She outlined a number of steps that could address the global threat of human trafficking more effectively, including a human rights and survivor‑centred approach.  She also called for the effective implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions.  Along with the Netherlands and Belgium, her country had established a transnational referral mechanism to make the identification, referral and assistance of victims more efficient.  There needed to be a greater compliance with international humanitarian law and for accountability by ending impunity and bringing the perpetrators to justice.  However, it was not enough to bring perpetrators of trafficking to justice; those who supported and enabled their activities must also be held accountable.  Furthermore, the international community must explore what role existing mechanisms tasked to investigate violations of international humanitarian law could play in ensuring that such crimes were investigated by the competent authorities.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said a strong law enforcement response to human trafficking was imperative, reiterating his country’s call to contribute to the universal acceptance of the Palermo Protocol. He also pointed out that some of the issues on the Council’s agenda illustrated the drastic consequences that resulted from the lack of regular migration channels.  Libya was one case in point where the recurrence of the crudest and most brutal forms of modern slavery had exacerbated the situation in that country and had “put us all to shame collectively”.  Resolution 2331 (2016) had recognized that offences associated with trafficking in persons might constitute war crimes, and, in some contexts, crimes against humanity.  That implicitly pointed to the potential role of international criminal justice systems, he said, underscoring the importance of the International Criminal Court in situations where it had jurisdiction, as it did in the case of Libya.  The Security Council itself had created jurisdiction by referring the situation to the Court, he noted.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that human trafficking must be addressed comprehensively and collectively.  A close look at its root causes needed to be taken, including foreign aggression and intervention, occupation, war and protracted conflicts, political instability, terrorism, genocide and ethnic cleansing, all of which created conditions under which millions became displaced in their own countries or sought refuge overseas.  The current situation in Libya and the concerns over reported enslavement were the result of focusing on symptoms rather than root causes, he added.  Member States whose destructive military options had left millions of people at the risk of exploitation and trafficking were not in a position to produce politicized reports, labelling others while denying their own responsibilities, he said.

ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya) said that anticipating and preventing the outbreak of armed conflict and using preventive diplomacy were the best ways to avoid untold tragedy and human suffering.  Unfortunately, however, those hopes were all too often impeded by negative foreign interventions motivated by contradictory interests that were often the reason behind the conflict.  That created serious hardships reaching far beyond national borders and eventually causing growing international concern.

Regions suffering armed conflict and instability were the most vulnerable to trafficking in human beings and Libya was no exception, but it was keen to address such violations, he continued.  Dismayed that media outlets were reporting the sale of migrants into slavery in Libya, he condemned and denounced such actions as inhumane as well as incompatible with national legislation and societal values.  The authorities had initiated an investigation into those allegations and would hold the perpetrators accountable, he vowed.

A transit country for large and continuous flows of illegal immigrants, Libya was going through difficult times, he said, adding that it was unfair to expect it to assume responsibility for the consequences of migration.  All agreed that the burden exceeded national capacities, and the practical solution was to consider the reasons why people were driven from their home countries, and develop solutions.  Rejecting any attempt to settle immigrants in Libya on the grounds of possible dangers and repercussions to the country’s social and cultural fabric, he called upon the international community to help his country address the challenges posed by irregular migration rather than exploiting misrepresentative media investigations for defamatory purposes.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan), condemning the use of African migrants as slaves in Libya, called for enhanced international cooperation among countries of origin, transit and destination.  Underscoring his country’s commitment to fight the crime of trafficking in persons in line with various international instruments, he highlighted the Palermo Convention, the Palermo Protocol and Security Council resolution 2331 (2016).  Pakistan had implemented a national action plan for combating human trafficking and smuggling, along with a strategic framework and a strengthened trafficking‑related legislation.  Concerning the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, he expressed hope that the adoption of that instrument would help strengthen the existing global legal framework.  Long‑term political and financial commitments and support, as well as the Security Council’s efforts, were critical to help build States’ capacities to address the root causes of conflict.

ALEX GIACOMELLI DA SILVA (Brazil) said that terrorism, as a threat to international peace and security, should be addressed by the Security Council.  Organized crime remained primarily a domestic public security issue, which might require international cooperation, pursuant to the framework established by the Palermo Protocol and other relevant international legal instruments.  Whereas human trafficking might occur in some armed conflict scenarios, there were no intrinsic or automatic linkages between those phenomena.  Trafficking also took place in situations that were not related to threats to international peace and security, such as displacements following natural disasters.  For trafficking to be effectively addressed by the United Nations, the Security Council should be mindful of the mandate and technical expertise of the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission, as well as the role of UNODC.

MINNA-LIINA LIND (Estonia), speaking for Latvia and Lithuania, aligned herself with the statement to be made by the European Union.  Expressing concern about the increase of connections between armed groups and human trafficking, she also stressed the importance of countering the criminal misuse of information and communications technologies while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.  In addition, it was imperative to investigate, prosecute and convict perpetrators of human trafficking crimes and end impunity.  An increased focus on prevention was central in addressing root causes and vulnerabilities.  Enhanced efforts were needed to actively combat the demand for trafficked people in destination and transit countries.  She expressed support for UNODC and its implementation of the Palermo Convention and the Palermo Protocol.  She also called for greater cooperation at the international level, particularly through the Inter‑Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons.

KAREN VAN VLIERBERGE (Belgium), associating herself with the European Union, said that human trafficking undermined rule of law and flew in the face of the principle of human dignity.  Instability and precariousness created hotbeds for trafficking, and it was necessary to ensure the continuity and comprehensiveness of the multilateral system that aimed to combat trafficking.  Its efforts should span prevention, identification and interception of existing networks, and bring perpetrators to account.  Turning to the need for awareness‑raising, she stressed the necessity to train various stakeholders, including international and national personnel deployed in areas where there were human crises.  Belgium had organized training for military personnel deployed in humanitarian context.  Given the military victory over Da’esh, the international community must redouble its efforts to fight the connection between trafficking and terrorism.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said that trafficking was a complex phenomenon that deprived people of freedom and dignity.  The unanimous adoption of resolution 2388 (2017) would enable the international community to combat the problem more consistently, in line with the Palermo Convention and its protocols.  Highlighting the “perverse dynamic” wherein terrorist groups benefited from lucrative transnational organized crimes such as trafficking, he also noted the intrinsic link between trafficking in persons and trafficking in migrants.  Migrants and refugees, in their search for a better life, tended to become easy victims for traffickers.  Particular focus should also be placed on women and children, he said, adding that it was necessary to improve the mechanism for protecting victims.

JOANNE ADAMSON, European Union delegation, said that the complex interplay between supply and demand must be addressed if human trafficking were to be eradicated.  She expressed her support for the Secretary‑General’s recommendations focused on addressing the nexus between trafficking in persons and conflict‑related sexual violence, including by terrorist groups.  The European Union had built an ambitious and comprehensive legal and policy framework to combat human trafficking.  The approach was human rights‑based, victim‑centred, gender‑specific and child‑sensitive, focusing on prevention, criminal prosecution and victim protection.  The framework also considered the specific assistance needs of the most vulnerable, especially women and children.  In addition, the bloc had promoted national mechanisms for early identification and victim assistance based on the principle of non‑punishment and unconditional assistance.

In September, the European Union and the United Nations had launched the Spotlight Initiative, aimed at eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, she continued.  The initiative was backed by an initial dedicated financial envelope of €500 million.  As well, the bloc would work towards implementing commitments made under the Call to Action on Protection from Gender‑based Violence in Emergencies.  She called for greater coherence across the United Nations, emphasizing the essential role of the Inter‑Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons in ensuring that efforts were not duplicated.  The European Commission would shortly publish its priority actions to address human trafficking.  Those actions would build on ongoing work, take stock of the achievements of the European Union Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012‑2016 and ensure continuation of those efforts, including coordinating with stakeholders, increasing the knowledge base and strengthening victim protection.

Ms. JARBUSSYNOVA, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said that it was imperative to adopt and implement a multidisciplinary, cross‑sectoral and transnational approach.  That initiative must incorporate inclusion and collaboration as watchwords to ensure more effective investigations and timely prosecutions.  Action should not be limited to the development of policy and legislative frameworks.  To date, OSCE had trained 200 law enforcement officials, prosecutors, labour inspectors, financial investigators and civil society representatives in an intensive simulation exercise to combat trafficking along migration routes.

Such practical initiatives were critical, not only to foster better synergies, but to achieve long‑lasting results, she continued.  There was often a sophisticated system of recruitment, along with a number of worrying trends, including the steadily increasing number of recruits of girls and young women who joined terrorist organizations to serve as “wives”, and the engagement of young high school graduates for exploitative purposes.  That information had led to a research project, launched in 2017, to better understand the links between recruitment and exploitation patterns of traffickers and terrorist groups.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said that, despite joint efforts, human trafficking remained one of the gravest challenges to humanity.  Refugees were particularly vulnerable, and their welfare and safety needed to be ensured to prevent them from becoming victims.  At the same time, it was critical to strengthen efforts to implement all anti‑trafficking instruments.  Cross‑border collaboration aimed at investigating, disrupting and dismantling networks must also be prioritized.  At the regional level, his Government was working to implement the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Convention against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and was committed to the Bali Declaration on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime.  He advocated for better training of peacekeepers in the area of human trafficking and held up the 2030 Agenda as a means to counter the instability and economic desperation that amplified the problem.

MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia), associating himself with the European Union, said that having ratified all major international treaties, as well as implementing European Union legislation, his country had also strengthened its national laws in order to increase the protection of victims.  Less than two months ago, Slovakia had agreed on the Political Declaration on the implementation of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.  He stressed the need to address the factors that increased vulnerability in trafficking, including poverty, unemployment, inequality and conflict.  Prevention rather than response must be focused upon, and the protection of victims and the prosecution of perpetrators should be timely, accurate and comprehensive, he said.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany), associating himself with the European Union, said that, because collecting physical evidence in armed conflict remained a significant challenge when addressing human trafficking, his Government supported the Secretary‑General’s approach to identify additional evidence outside conflict zones.  It was critical to make such crimes unprofitable, he said, emphasizing the importance of tracking financial flows and transactions derived from trafficking, including through the Financial Action Task Force.  Furthermore, if the rule of law was not upheld, and trafficking in persons was allowed to thrive in situations of conflict, such crimes could contribute to the destabilization of societies and States.  At the national level, Germany had undertaken victims‑focused measures, including support through social services and psychological support.  Other measures were supporting law enforcement and the criminalization of clients who knowingly used sexual services from trafficked persons.  The participation of civil society was also encouraged, including through Germany’s 2016 national action plan on business and human rights.

FERIDUN H. SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey) said that human trafficking was a global problem that required a global response, including the four pillars of prevention, prosecution, protection and partnerships.  Due to its geographical location, Turkey had been adversely affected by the rising trends in human trafficking.  Criminal and terrorist networks were resorting to different forms of exploitation, ranging from gender‑based sexual violence to forced recruitment of adults and children.  His country was actively fighting against terrorist organizations in its region, and had also introduced comprehensive administrative and legal measures to combat human trafficking.  At the international level, Turkey was a party to the Palermo Convention and its relevant supplementary protocols.

OLIVIER MARC ZEHNDER (Switzerland) said that the Secretary‑General’s report provided an excellent baseline of activities undertaken by the United Nations to fight human trafficking, giving insight into best practices developed by Member States.  Noting that forced displacement and migration increased the risk for trafficking and exploitation, he added that, while the absence of security was favourable to the business model of traffickers, peaceful countries with strong rule of law were by no means exempted.  For its part, Switzerland was working on strengthening measures for identification and protection of persons in the asylum procedure.  Also highlighting the importance of fact‑finding mechanisms, he said the combination of reporting and monitoring helped build a knowledge base on trafficking.

EPHRAIM LESHALA MMINELE (South Africa) said that illicit trafficking in drugs, stolen antiquities and light weapons often followed the same routes used by human traffickers.  Those activities threatened international peace and security, including by sustaining terrorism.  The appalling reports over the last few days that showed African migrants in Libya being sold as slaves was a clear indication of the urgent need for the commitment to eradicate human trafficking.  One of the highest risks to displaced persons was the threat of being trafficked, particularly for refugees fleeing conflicts.  Trafficking operations often flourished when Government institutions and law enforcement capacities were eroded by sustained conflict.  The ultimate objective should be to address the conflict that gave rise to human trafficking.  Development challenges should be addressed, as should the dangers of external interventions which had been witnessed in Libya, Iraq and Syria, and had led to the proliferation of refugees and internally displaced persons.

SIMON KASSAS, observer for the Holy See, said that to eradicate human trafficking, its economic, environmental, political and ethical causes must be confronted.  Wars and violent conflicts had become the biggest driver of forced human displacement.  Such conflicts enabled human traffickers to exploit such environments and target refugees.  Efforts to end conflict should be accompanied by measures to protect affected populations from traffickers, in particular the most vulnerable, including women and children.  He highlighted the importance of implementing the responsibility to protect in the context of the migration and refugee crisis.  The criminalization of forced migrants and of undocumented and irregular migrants in general exacerbated their vulnerabilities and drove them further into the clutches of traffickers.  It also rendered them less likely to collaborate with law enforcement authorities to catch and punish traffickers.

TARIQ ALI FARAJ AL-ANSARI (Qatar) said that the Secretary‑General’s report contained important recommendations that would enable the international community to combat human trafficking, especially in conflict‑prone regions.  The indicators showed an increasing numbers of victims, especially among women and children.  Terrorist groups were using human trafficking to recruit soldiers and raise funds.  His country would focus on addressing the root causes of trafficking, whether social, economic, cultural, political, ideological, or due to the absence of rule of law.  At the national level, there were a number of legislative measures in place to punish perpetrators and provide rehabilitation for victims.  Qatar was also a member of the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking, and was one of the biggest supporters of UNODC.

SIMA SAMI BAHOUS (Jordan), expressing alarm about the revolting images of human trafficking in Libya that had recently surfaced in the news media, said that human beings continued to be sold like merchandise, despite the best efforts of the international community to combat the problem.  It was necessary to have a holistic vision of the issue.  Instead of focusing solely on the hotspots, the international community must combat underlying causes.  Security and development issues were inextricably linked and it was crucial to redouble efforts to fight human trafficking perpetrated by terrorist groups.  Calling for a global preventive strategy that would empower young people and build capacity in developing countries, she noted that Jordanian law criminalized all forms of human trafficking.

NOA FURMAN (Israel) said that, due to a serious trafficking problem throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s, her country had introduced a comprehensive anti‑trafficking law in 2006 with the goal to make every Government official, student, business executive, police officer and citizen aware of trafficking and its victims.  Israel’s National Anti‑Trafficking Unit provided more than 50 training sessions for officials annually.  Lawyers in the State Attorney’s Office received special training to enhance the law enforcement side of anti‑trafficking.  For the general public, lectures and interviews with survivors at universities and in the media were offered.  Leaflets were distributed to raise awareness and efforts had been made to reduce the stigma that could accompany human trafficking.  On the international level, Israel worked with other countries to combat trafficking on a global scale, she said, adding that it had not been spared from the cruelty of human trafficking, but it was doing its best to combat it on all fronts.

ISBETH LISBETH QUIEL MURCIA (Panama) said that human trafficking recognized no borders and affected all countries.  It was a degrading practice and a violation of human rights, which stripped away the humanity of victims for the benefit of criminal networks.  She echoed the condemnation of the United Nations Secretary‑General, following reports in the media that revealed the existence of markets of human beings in Libya.  The auctioning of migrants and refugees was a shocking reality, she noted.  As conflicts generated migrant flows, she urged international cooperation efforts to focus on the problem through a unified approach.  In‑line with the Global Plan of Action, Panama had rolled out specific actions for the prevention of human trafficking and the prosecution of traffickers.  In the area of data collection, it had created a biometric database that prevented individuals with criminal ties from entering the country.

TORE HATTREM (Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic Countries, acknowledged the dual nature of human trafficking as a cause and consequence of conflict and instability.  Terrorist groups such as ISIL, Boko Haram, Al‑Shabaab and the LRA were using trafficking as a tactic of terror and war, while also raising money for their operations and criminal infrastructure.  Women and children were particularly exposed, often in the form of sexual slavery, and forced labour as soldiers and spies.  Welcoming the adoption last week at the margins of the United Nations Peacekeeping Ministerial conference in Canada, of the Vancouver principles on the prevention of the recruitment and use of child soldiers, he said it was necessary to improve data sharing and monitoring between countries and the Organization’s entities.

Mr. ELKHADIR (Morocco) said that in 2013, his country had adopted a national policy for fighting human trafficking that focused on a humane approach that would shelter migrants from being trafficked.  Morocco had also demonstrated its commitment at the international stage by adhering to the relevant conventions.  Extreme poverty and conflict, among other causes, had spawned vulnerabilities that criminals could exploit, and a security approach was not enough to fight that.  What was needed was a multi‑sectoral approach that involved cooperation between countries of origin, transit and destination, he stressed.

Mr. MAFADAL (Sudan) said that the heinous pictures and news about the African refugees in Libya should provide impetus to the international community in confronting the problem.  Criminal networks were profiting from humanitarian crises, especially by exploiting vulnerable groups for sexual trafficking and organ trade.  Calling for international and bilateral cooperation in intercepting illegal financial flows, he said that the unprecedented mass movements of refugees and migrants had led to huge problems, including in his country.  Recalling Sudan’s recent progress in combating transnational organized crime, he said that its police forces had managed to liberate thousands of victims of smuggling on their way to Libya and eventually Europe.

JAN KICKERT (Austria), aligning him with the European Union, welcomed the adoption of resolution 2388 (2017) and highlighted the vulnerability of women and children in conflict situations.  Terrorists were capturing women and girls to sell or offer as rewards to fighters, and children were being recruited by armed groups and then being used as child soldiers and human shields.  In combating human trafficking, Austria was following a victim‑centred approach based on rights and rule of law.  It was crucial to focus on preventing trafficking, identifying and protecting victims and ending the climate of impunity.  In view of the transnational nature of the offence, all stakeholders, both at the national and international level, needed to work together, he said, encouraging States to make use of the expertise offered by UNODC.

KIRA CHRISTIANNE DANGANAN AZUCENA (Philippines) said that armed conflict and unstable peace and order situations increased the vulnerabilities of children and youth for recruitment into civilian armed groups and rebel groups.  The Philippines’ efforts were focused on preventing recruitment, holding perpetrators accountable and training frontline officers on appropriate methods to assist children rescued from armed groups.  Examining trafficking corridors and business flow was critical in addressing how human trafficking was being used to finance terrorist activities, armed groups and transnational organized crime networks.  That approach had enabled her Government to locate victims and traffickers throughout the entire process, especially at critical points of intervention.

JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala) said that armed conflicts and humanitarian crises amplified the risk of trafficking, and victimized refugees and internally displaced persons.  There was growing proof of the link between trafficking and terrorist groups.  The Council had witnessed the high cost in human life due to conflicts, and the work it did could have an impact on that area.  A year ago, it adopted resolution 2331 (2016), which condemned all acts of trafficking in persons.  That resolution also focused on the importance of collecting evidence in relation to those acts, to ensure the accountability of those responsible.  He said he deplored that most victims of such crimes had been children, and condemned the fact that migratory women and children had become vulnerable to trafficking and crime networks.  The Council should not fail to address such violent and inhumane acts, he said.

GABRIELA MARTINIC (Argentina) said that she believed that combatting trafficking should involve a comprehensive approach, and it was relevant that it was discussed within the framework of the General Assembly.  Terrorist groups were using trafficking as a weapon of terror and a source of financing, she said.  At the national level, combatting trafficking in persons was dealt with by Argentina’s executive committee, which also provided protection to victims.  It coordinated the actions of a variety of Ministries, and the Federal Council had been tasked with drafting the country’s strategy.  The Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of National Security had promoted the gender perspective across the board, by providing training and preventing gender‑based violence.  Conflict could only be tackled when respect for international humanitarian law was safeguarded, she said.

LOUISE BLAIS (Canada) said that her country’s new Feminist International Assistance Policy aimed to reduce poverty, inequality, violence and conflict, all of which increased vulnerability to human trafficking and led migrants towards smuggling.  Human traffickers could be deprived of funding and access to the international financial system by using tools developed to combat financial crime.  In that context, the Canadian project PROTECT, established in 2016, was a unique public‑private endeavour involving the country’s financial intelligence unit, law enforcement and financial institutions committed to tracking money‑laundering associated with such activities.  She also drew attention to the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers, launched at the recent United Nations Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial.  Canada had endorsed the Principles and looked forward to working with others to implement them, she said.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) said that, since 25 August, his country had witnessed an unprecedented influx of 620,000 people, mostly Rohingya, from Myanmar’s Rakhine State, in the wake of the atrocious crimes committed against them.  He expressed concern over the possibility of the large number of women and children among them falling prey to traffickers.  With sea routes becoming safer during the current season for operating makeshift boats, it was likely that those elements would try to take advantage of the forcibly displaced persons from Rakhine State still entering Bangladesh on an almost daily basis.  Those who claimed that the situation on the ground in Rakhine State had stabilized were either deliberately ignoring the reality or had a vested agenda of their own.  The Secretary‑General was expected to brief the Council in December on the situation in Rakhine State, and he urged him to make practical recommendations for addressing the threat of trafficking in persons.

MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq), underscoring that human trafficking undermined rule of law and stoked further instability, stated that his country had ratified the Palermo Protocol and had adopted legislation which set up a mechanism to assist human trafficking victims and hold perpetrators accountable.  The Government had also participated in the exchange of information with various competent bodies, international organizations and neighbouring States and was working with civil society organizations and religious circles.  Iraq had suffered enormously, with Da’esh abducting thousands of its citizens, including women and children.  Calling upon countries of destination not to treat trafficking victims as illegal immigrants or criminals, he said that all Member States must implement all the relevant texts, including resolution 2331 (2016), resolution 2379 (2017) and the resolution just adopted that would enable a coordinated response.

ASHRAF ELNOUR MUSTAFA MOHAMED NOUR, International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that while legal frameworks for victims of human trafficking had been strengthened in recent years, there had been less progress in preventing human trafficking from occurring in the first place.  The demand for cheap goods and sexual services drove trafficking, he noted, adding that the number of people benefiting from protection schemes for victims remained small.  It was important to increase Governments’ and civil society’s capacity to identify and assist all migrants in vulnerable situations.  More investment was needed to learn and draw on the experience and expertise acquired by the anti‑trafficking community to date.  Underscoring the importance of the collection, standardization and analysis of data, he highlighted the agency’s Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative, which was a multi‑stakeholder, open data publishing platform.

KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia), aligning himself with the European Union, said trafficking was being used by criminals as a weapon of terror and the growing number of refugees and migrants would only exacerbate the problem.  The root causes of migration must be addressed, he said, urging the international community to do more to help the Government of Libya.  Taking action against trafficking required a sustainable political commitment, legislative framework, multisectoral approaches, proactive investigations and awareness raising initiatives.  The Russian Federation’s illegal occupation of the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions remained an obstacle to the Government of Georgia, affecting the full implementation of counter‑trafficking measures, he said, adding that there were no mechanisms to effectively identify, investigate and prosecute alleged cases in occupied regions.

GEORGI VELIKOV PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria), associating him with the European Union, stressed the importance of accelerating the international commitment to eliminate human trafficking through a comprehensive, multidisciplinary and cross‑border approach.  Reaffirming a commitment to the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols therein as well as to Security Council resolution 2331 (2016), he added that the draft under consideration today emphasized the protection of children.  Bulgaria was among the pioneers in Europe to adopt specialized anti‑trafficking legislation back in 2003 and currently had one of the most comprehensive legal and institutional frameworks to combat trafficking in persons, he noted.

TIJJANI MUHAMMAD BANDE (Nigeria) said terrorist groups, such as ISIL/Da’esh and Boko Haram, had introduced a new dimension to human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and girls.  Although Boko Haram had been militarily defeated and some success had been achieved in liberating a number of women and girls held as hostages, a great amount of work still remained to be done until all hostages were freed.  The situation in Libya further confirmed the complexity of trafficking networks and the dehumanizing treatment of the victims.  The United Nations system should work in concert to fight human trafficking in conflict situations and in the context of terrorism.  A coordinated approach among the agencies would enhance the overall effectiveness of the United Nations in the fight against trafficking and terrorism.  Further, Member States should further commit to the implementation of relevant international legal instruments such as the Palermo Protocol.

EDGAR SISI (Botswana) said no country was immune to human trafficking, which had been exploited by terrorist groups and networks to finance illegal activities.  A State party to the Palermo Convention, Botswana had passed the Anti‑Human Trafficking Act of 2014 and established a committee to prohibit, prevent and combat the phenomenon and protect and assist victims.  He expressed appreciation for continued UNODC support in training prosecutors, law enforcement and judicial officers on human trafficking, terrorism and money laundering.  Through such assistance, Botswana had conducted awareness campaigns and capacity‑building and training workshops.  Looking ahead, he called for strengthening international cooperation, partnerships and technical assistance.

ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) said his country had criminalized trafficking in persons in 2013 and continued to implement strict measures.  Noting the Security Council’s increased role in confronting human trafficking in conflict situations, he said the best strategy to end such crimes was through a culture of respect for human dignity, human rights and the protection of rights for persons in vulnerable situations.  Partners must work with national Governments in strengthening the implementation of national and international laws and norms.  The Maldives hosted a large number of migrant workers and recognized the importance of protecting the rights of its expatriates.  Efforts to halt trafficking included a five‑year national action plan and, at the international level, joining the Palermo Convention in 2013.  In that regard, he called for stronger global cooperation and coordination to identify effective solutions.

MUHAMMAD SHAHRUL IKRAM YAAKOB (Malaysia) said that, given the multi‑faceted dimensions of trafficking in persons, it was crucial that the international community mobilized complementary legal means to investigate and dismantle trafficking networks.  He expressed support for UNODC and other relevant bodies in providing technical support to Member States to build and enhance their law enforcement capacities.  Because Malaysia was a country of destination and transit, cooperation and coordination with neighbouring countries and the international community were essential to combat trafficking.  He called on the Council to better utilize its tools to monitor trends in human trafficking in armed conflicts areas, identify perpetrators and hold them accountable.  He also underscored the role played by local communities, civil societies and religious leaders in ensuring the reintegration and rehabilitation of survivors.

LOIS MICHELE YOUNG (Belize) said her country had benefited from regional, international and civil society support in providing ongoing training to build up its prevention, protection and prosecutorial capacities to address trafficking in persons.  The training was targeting sectors like tourism and agriculture, businesses such as utilities companies and inspectors of the Social Security Board to help identify potential victims.  With support from IOM, it had also trained prosecutors, with a special focus on the rights of victims and the role of the judiciary and prosecutors in upholding them.  However, the country lacked the financial and human resources to address long‑term victim assistance that would reintegrate them into the workforce and away from the protection system.  Her country had found that language and low levels of literacy were major barriers to victims being retrained and accessing gainful employment.

FRANCISCO ANTÓNIO DUARTE LOPES (Portugal) said that any effective intervention regarding human trafficking must be based on common efforts in terms of prevention, awareness and support.  He urged all who had not yet done so to accede to and ratify the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, which provided a broad basis for action against traffickers as well as protection and assistance to victims.  Portugal had developed its first national plan against trafficking in 2007, involving the public sector as well as civil society.  Its third national plan was currently being implemented, entailing policy measures focused around prevention, awareness, research, education, criminal investigation and cooperation.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH A ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, noted the effect of conflict in his region on forced migration and subsequent vulnerability to trafficking.  Such migration must be dealt with in a humane way that addressed underlying causes.  Slavery, which was particularly reprehensible, and other such crimes were serious violations of human rights that could be defined as crimes against humanity or war crimes.  Efforts to stem human trafficking must be linked to sustainable development goals.  His country had adopted laws to outlaw human trafficking and had signed onto international instruments.  The international framework must be strengthened, with wider international cooperation within existing instruments.  Paying tribute to all the specialized agencies that had taken leading roles in fighting the scourge, he reaffirmed his country’s commitment, including by continuing to strengthen its legal regime.

HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) said that root causes of such crimes must be addressed, perpetrators must held accountable and the necessary legal, psychological, material and other assistance must be provided to victims.  Strengthening State authority and the rule of law was also critical.  Welcoming the growing international framework, he noted that his country had ratified the Protocol to the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and had adopted related national action plans to cover actions over the past 14 years.  The legal framework for liability for trafficking had been inserted into the criminal code, mechanisms had been developed to coordinate the work of ministries and bilateral and multilateral agreements had been signed with some 40 countries, in addition to other activities at the international level.

AMIERA OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates), said that human trafficking had become a matter of deep concern in her region, particularly in regards to the harm caused to women and girls who were prey to Da’esh and other violent extremists.  Since 2007, the United Arab Emirates had developed legal frameworks, policies and social infrastructure to fight those crimes.  Prevention had been pursued through education programmes and other means; law enforcement had been trained; and prosecutorial capacity had been strengthened.  As well, survivors were being provided with counselling, shelter and resettlement, among other assistance.  Multilaterally and internationally, the country was cooperating with countries of origin, having signed agreements with five such countries to help address related conditions there.  She called for the development of an integrated, holistic response with cooperation between public and private sectors and linkages to sustainable development for all.  She also called on Member States to engage in the process that would encourage safe and orderly legal migration.

MACHARIA KAMAU (Kenya) said that the kidnapping of the school girls in Chibok, Nigeria by Boko Haram was a chilling reminder of how trafficking had evolved into a weapon of terror.  He drew attention to the abhorrent situation in Libya, where Africans were being auctioned in open slave markets.  Nothing could be more distressing than slavery being practiced in broad daylight in front of news cameras.  The adoption of Security Council resolution 1973 (2011) had significantly contributed to the breakdown of law and order in Libya.  That resolution, which had been passed against the will of the African Union, remained a stigma and an indictment of the Security Council.  In its short‑sightedness, it had caused more suffering and distress than it sought to address.  Further, it was the Council’s action that had led to Libya’s coastline becoming an open border for traffickers and smugglers who had become merchants of death.  The Council, therefore, had a special obligation to address the situation in Libya.  Tragically, the plight of migrants crossing through that country had been exacerbated by the European Union’s policy of financing, training and equipping undefined groups in Libya to intercept migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.  He demanded an end to the European Union’s inhuman policy and called on the Union to seek sustainable solutions for migrants in detention camps in Libya, including solutions dealing with those who had been sold into slavery.

HAU DO SUAN (Myanmar) welcomed the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons and UNDOC’s Technical Assistance Programmes for Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants.  Myanmar had enacted the Anti‑Trafficking in Persons Law in 2005 and continued to conduct awareness‑raising activities across the country.  It was also cooperating with other countries in the region by signing bilateral agreements, including ratifying ASEAN’s Convention against Trafficking in Persons.  While humanitarian crises due to natural disasters or conflicts left people living in affected areas vulnerable, persistent poverty in less developed countries was also a root cause of the issue, he/she said, noting the importance of private sector engagement and efforts to reach the relevant goals of the 2030 Agenda.  Regarding the situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and the potential exploitation of the people who fled across the border, Myanmar was working with Bangladesh on the voluntary, safe and dignified return of that population.  The repatriation process would start in three weeks after signing a bilateral agreement for the arrangement of repatriation, he/she said.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) stressed that prevention was of the utmost importance, while there was also a need to enhance the international community’s understanding of the relationship between human trafficking and the financing of terrorism.  Trafficking in human beings was an act that constituted a gross human rights violation, which made it crucial for the United Nations and its Member States to prioritize the protection of victims.  Human trafficking thrived in climates of impunity, which underscored the need to arrest, detail and prosecute perpetrators.  Partnerships were at the heart of the shared responsibility to stop human trafficking, and in that context, the Netherlands encouraged the Security Council to address irregular migration, including human trafficking, in mission mandates and reporting, where appropriate.

MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia) said that trafficking of human beings was a global challenge that needed to be addressed collectively and holistically.  His Government, along with international cooperation, had initiated numerous national reforms, including implementing four national action plans to combat that phenomenon.  While its initial aims were to create a sound legislative framework and carry out assistance projects for victims, the focus had shifted towards prevention‑related activities.  A strong partnership between national authorities and civil society organizations was especially important in that regard.  He went on to highlight the need for adequate training of all stakeholders, including peacekeepers and humanitarian personnel to help identify and tackle the risks of trafficking, especially related to women and children.

Resolution

The full text of resolution 2388 (2017) reads as follows:

The Security Council,

Recalling presidential statement 2015/25, resolution 2331 (2016),

Taking note of the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2017/939),

Recalling its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations,

Taking note of the efforts undertaken by United Nations entities and international and regional bodies to implement resolution 2331 (2016), including the development of a thematic paper on trafficking in persons in conflict situations, the establishment of the Task Team on anti-trafficking in humanitarian action within the Global Protection Cluster, the development by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) of a structured system of data collection on trafficking in persons in the context of armed conflict, including through the publication of the 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, and the inclusion by the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), within the existing mandate, under the policy guidance of the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), and in close cooperation with UNODC and other relevant entities, in its country assessments, as appropriate, of information regarding Member States’ efforts to address the issue of trafficking in persons where it is committed for the purpose of supporting terrorism, including through the financing of or recruitment for the commission of terrorist acts,

Recalling the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which includes the first internationally agreed definition of the crime of trafficking in persons and provides a framework to effectively prevent and combat trafficking in persons, and further recalling the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons,

Recognizing that trafficking in persons in areas affected by armed conflict and post-conflict situations can be for the purpose of various forms of exploitation, including exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs; further recognizing that trafficking in persons in armed conflict and post-conflict situations can also be associated with sexual violence in conflict and that women and children in situations of armed conflict and persons forcibly displaced by armed conflict, including refugees, can be especially vulnerable to trafficking in persons in armed conflict and to these forms of exploitation,

Recalling the Political Declaration on the implementation of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, adopted by the General Assembly on 27 September 2017, and further welcoming the resolve of Member States expressed therein to take decisive concerted action to end trafficking in persons, wherever it may occur,

Reiterating deep concern that despite its condemnation of acts of trafficking in persons in areas affected by armed conflict, such acts continue to occur,

Reiterating its solidarity with victims of trafficking in persons in armed conflict and post-conflict situations andnoting the importance of providing them with appropriate care, assistance and services for their physical, psychological and social recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration, in full respect of their human rights and in a manner that takes full account of the extreme trauma they have suffered and the risk of further victimization and stigmatization,

Reaffirming that trafficking in persons in the context of armed conflict, especially women and girls, cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality or civilization,

Recalling resolutions 2359 (2017) and 2374 (2017), which express concern over the serious challenges posed by different forms of transnational organized crime, including trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants in the Sahel region, and recalling also resolutions 2240 (2015) and 2380 (2017), which express concern that the situation in Libya is exacerbated by the smuggling of migrants and human trafficking into, through and from the Libyan territory, which could provide support to other organized crime and terrorist networks in Libya,

Reiterating the critical importance of all Member States fully implementing relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolutions 2195 (2014), 2253 (2015), 2199 (2015) and 2368 (2017), which express concern that terrorists benefit from transnational organized crime in some regions, including from trafficking in persons, as well as 2242 (2015), which expresses concern that acts of sexual violence and gender-based violence are known to be part of the strategic objectives and ideology of certain terrorist groups used as a tactic of terrorism and an instrument to increase their finances and their power through recruitment and the destruction of communities; and further reiterating the connection between trafficking in persons, sexual violence and terrorism and other organized criminal activities, which can prolong and exacerbate conflict and instability or intensify its impact on civilian populations,

Recognizing the need to continue to foster a global partnership against trafficking in persons among all stakeholders, including inter alia, through bilateral, multilateral and regional processes and initiatives,

Recognizing that trafficking in persons entails the violation or abuse of human rights and underscoring that certain acts or offences associated with trafficking in persons in the context of armed conflict may constitute war crimes; and recallingfurther the responsibilities of States to end impunity and to prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes as well as other crimes and the need for States to adopt appropriate measures within their national legal systems for those crimes for which they are required under international law to exercise their responsibility to investigate and prosecute,

Condemning in the strongest terms continued gross, systematic and widespread abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law by ISIL (also known as Da’esh); and abductions of women and children by ISIL, ANF, and associated individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities and expressing outrage at their exploitation and abuse, including rape and sexual violence, forced marriage and enslavement by these entities, encouraging all State and non-state actors with evidence to bring it to the attention of the Council, along with any information that human trafficking and related forms of exploitation and abuse may support the perpetrators financially, emphasizing that States are required to ensure that their nationals and persons within their territory do not make available any funds, financial assets or economic resources for ISIL’s benefit, and noting that any person or entity who transfers funds to ISIL directly or indirectly in connection with such exploitation and abuse would be eligible for listing by the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011), 2253 (2015) and 2368 (2017) concerning ISIL/Da’esh, Al‑Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities,

Recognizing that persons affected by armed conflict and fleeing conflict are at great risk of being subjected to trafficking in persons, and stressing the need to prevent and identify instances of trafficking in persons among those forcibly displaced or otherwise affected by armed conflict,

Expressing grave concern over the high numbers of women and children subjected to trafficking in armed conflicts, and recognizing that acts of trafficking in persons are often associated with other violations of applicable international law and other abuses, including those involving recruitment and use, abduction and sexual violence including, inter alia, rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution and forced pregnancy; and calling on all Member States to hold perpetrators accountable and to assist victims in their recovery and reintegration,

Reiterating its grave concern over the abduction of children in situations of armed conflict, the majority of which are perpetrated by non-State armed groups, recognizing that abductions occur in a variety of settings, including schools, further recognizing that abduction often precedes or follows other abuses and violations of applicable international law against children, including those involving recruitment and use, killing and maiming, as well as rape and other forms of sexual violence, which may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, and calling on all Member States to hold perpetrators of abductions accountable,

Expressing deep concern over the heightened vulnerability to exploitation and abuse of children forcibly displaced by armed conflict, particularly when separated from their families or caregivers, andunderlining the need to ensure protection of all unaccompanied children who are victims of or those vulnerable to trafficking in persons through their prompt identification and immediate assistance taking into account their specific needs,

Condemning all violations and abuses against children in armed conflict, including trafficking in persons and recalling all its resolutions on children and armed conflict that call for the protection of children, and in particular Resolution 1261 (1999) as well as resolution 1612 (2005), establishing the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on children and armed conflict,

Noting measures taken by UN peacekeeping and special political missions in accordance with their mandates, to assist host States in exercising their primary responsibility to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, also noting measures taken by Member States to provide pre-deployment training on trafficking in persons to personnel that will be deployed in UN peacekeeping missions and encouraging further action in this area,

Noting the initiative by Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Department of Field Support and the UNODC to develop a training module on human trafficking and smuggling of migrants for in mission training of police personnel in selected peacekeeping missions, where applicable,

Underscoring the need for improved collection, also through relevant data base systems managed by international organizations, including UNODC and INTERPOL, of timely, objective, accurate and reliable data on trafficking in persons in situations of conflict, disaggregated by sex, age and other relevant factors, as well as on financial flows associated with trafficking in persons,

Reaffirming the need to ensure organization and coherence in the efforts of the United Nations System to address trafficking in persons in areas affected by armed conflict or in post conflict situations and further recognizing the need to continue to work towards an enhanced comprehensive and coordinated approach to prevent and combat trafficking, which can contribute to sustainable peace and stability,

“1.   Reaffirms its condemnation in the strongest terms of all instances of trafficking in persons, especially women and children, who make up the vast majority of all victims of trafficking in persons in areas affected by armed conflicts, and stresses that trafficking in persons undermines the rule of law and contributes to other forms of transnational organized crime, which can exacerbate conflict and foster insecurity and instability and undermine development;

“2.   Urges Members States to consider, as a matter of priority, ratifying or acceding to, and for States Parties to effectively implement, the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its supplementing Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, as well as all relevant international instruments;

“3.   Calls upon Member States to reinforce their political commitment to and improve their implementation of applicable legal obligations to criminalize, prevent, and otherwise combat trafficking in persons, and to strengthen efforts to detect and disrupt trafficking in persons, including implementing robust victim identification mechanisms and providing access to protection and assistance for identified victims, including in relation to areas affected by armed conflict; underscores in this regard the importance of international law enforcement cooperation, including with respect to investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases and, in this regard, calls for the continued support of the UNODC in providing technical assistance to Member States upon request;

“4.   Further calls upon Member States, where appropriate, to review, amend and implement anti-trafficking and related legislation to ensure that all forms of trafficking in persons, including when it is committed in situations of armed conflict or by armed and terrorist groups are addressed, and to consider establishing jurisdiction to end the impunity of offenders in line with Article 15 of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime;

“5.   Also calls upon Member States to step up their efforts to investigate, disrupt and dismantle networks engaging in trafficking in persons in areas affected by armed conflict and to take all appropriate measures to collect, preserve and store evidence of human trafficking;

“6.   Calls upon Member States to combat crimes that might be connected with trafficking in persons in areas affected by armed conflict, such as money-laundering, corruption, the smuggling of migrants and other forms of organized crime, including by making use of financial investigations in order to identify and analyse financial intelligence, as well as by reinforcing regional and international operational law enforcement cooperation;

“7.   Calls upon Member States to strengthen compliance with international Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism standards and increase capacity to conduct proactive financial investigations to track and disrupt human trafficking and identify potential linkages with terrorism financing;

“8.   Urges Member States, while addressing trafficking in persons in areas affected by armed conflicts, to adopt a multi-dimensional approach that includes incorporating information on the risks of trafficking in persons into school curricula and training programs;

“9.   Encourages Member States to increase efforts to collect, analyse and share through appropriate channels and arrangements and consistent with international and domestic law data relating to financial flows associated with human trafficking and the extent and nature of financing of terrorism activities through human trafficking activities, and to provide, where applicable, CTED and the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team with relevant information pertaining to linkages between human trafficking and terrorist financing;

“10.  Reiterates its condemnation of all acts of trafficking, particularly the sale or trade in persons undertaken by the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL/Da’esh), including of Yazidis and other persons belonging to religious and ethnic minorities, and of any such trafficking in persons crimes and other violations and abuses committed by Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and other terrorist or armed groups for the purpose of sexual slavery, sexual exploitation, and forced labour, and underscores the importance of collecting and preserving evidence relating to such acts in order to ensure that those responsible can be held accountable;

“11.  Requests the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, when consulting with Member States, to continue including in their discussions the issue of trafficking in persons in areas of armed conflict and the use of sexual violence in armed conflict as it relates to ISIL/Da’esh, Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities and to report to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011), 2253 (2015) and 2368 (2017) on these discussions as appropriate;

“12.  Requests the CTED, within its existing mandate, under the policy guidance of the CTC, and in close cooperation with UNODC and other relevant entities, to increase its efforts to include in CTED’s country assessments, as appropriate, information regarding Member States efforts to address the issue of trafficking in persons where it is committed for the purpose of supporting terrorism, including through the financing of or recruitment for the commission of terrorist acts;

“13.  Calls upon Member States to enhance the capabilities of professionals interacting with persons forcibly displaced by armed conflict, including refugees, such as law enforcement, border control officials and criminal justice systems personnel of refugee and displaced persons reception facilities, to identify victims or persons vulnerable to trafficking, to adopt gender and age sensitive assistance, including adequate psychosocial support and health services, regardless of their participation in criminal investigations and proceedings;

“14.  Recognizes the need to strengthen the identification, registration, protection, assistance for forcibly displaced persons, including refugees and stateless persons, who are victims of trafficking or at risk of being trafficked;

“15.  Encourages Member States to use refugee registration mechanisms to assess vulnerability and identify potential victims of trafficking as well as their specific assistance needs, and in this regard, encourages Member States to develop informative material to explain to victims of trafficking in persons who are refugees their rights and avenues for assistance, so as to enable them to engage with relevant authorities and access services and psychosocial support that are available to them;

“16.  Encourages Member States, in particular transit and destination States receiving persons forcibly displaced by armed conflict, to develop and use early-warning and early-screening frameworks of potential or imminent risk of trafficking in persons to proactively and expediently detect victims and persons vulnerable to trafficking, with special attention to women and children, especially those unaccompanied;

“17.  Urges Member States thoroughly to assess the individual situation of persons released from the captivity of armed and terrorist groups so as to enable prompt identification of victims of trafficking, their treatment as victims of crime and to consider, in line with domestic legislation, not prosecuting or punishing victims of trafficking for unlawful activities they committed as a direct result of having been subjected to trafficking;

“18.  Strongly condemns violations of international law, especially those which affect children in situations of armed conflict, including those involving killing and maiming, sexual violence, abduction and forced displacement, recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, attacks against schools and hospitals, denial of humanitarian access and trafficking in persons;

“19.  Urges Member States to identify children who are victims of trafficking and those who are unaccompanied or separated from their families and caregivers, to ensure, where relevant, their timely registration and to consider their particular protection needs, including, as appropriate, by referring them to the relevant child protection authorities regardless of their immigration status;

“20.  Recognizes the importance of providing timely and appropriate reintegration and rehabilitation assistance to children affected by armed conflict, while ensuring that the specific needs of girls and boys as well as children with disabilities are addressed, including access to health care, psychosocial support, and education programmes that contribute to the well-being of children and to sustainable peace and security and encourages relevant international organizations and civil societies organizations to assist Member States’ efforts in this regard;

“21.  Urges Member States to refrain from the use of administrative detention of children, especially those victims of trafficking in persons, for violations of immigration laws and regulations, unless as a measure of last resort, in the least restrictive setting, for the shortest possible period of time, under conditions that respect their human rights and in a manner that takes into account, as a primary consideration, the best interest of the child and encourages them to work towards the ending of this practice;

“22.  Requests the Secretary-General to further explore, as appropriate, links between the trafficking of children in conflict situations and the grave violations against children affected by armed conflict as determined by the United Nations, with a view to addressing all violations and abuses against children in armed conflict;

“23.  Welcomes further briefings on trafficking in persons in armed conflict, as necessary, by relevant United Nations entities, including the Executive Director of UNODC, UNHCR, and other international and regional bodies such as International Organization for Migration (IOM), and encourages Member States to provide to UNODC information on victims of trafficking from areas affected by conflict or victims trafficked into conflict areas for inclusion within the existing reporting obligations;

“24.  Requests the Secretary-General to ensure that the thematic paper on trafficking in persons in conflict situations developed by UNODC in consultation with relevant United Nations agencies and other international bodies is disseminated within the UN system, and encourages relevant United Nations agencies and entities to use it in their respective activities in accordance with their mandates and develop their capability to assess and respond to situations of trafficking in persons in armed conflict;

“25.  Expresses its intention, to give greater consideration, where appropriate, to how peacekeeping and special political missions, can assist host States in exercising their primary responsibility to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, and requests the Secretary-General to ensure that assessments of country situations conducted upon the Security Council’s request on such missions include, where relevant, anti-trafficking research and expertise;

“26.  Requests the Secretary-General, in consultation with Member States, to ensure, where appropriate, that training of relevant personnel of special political and peacekeeping missions include, on the basis of a preliminary assessment and taking also into account the protection and assistance needs of the victims of trafficking in persons, specific information enabling them, within their mandates, to identify, confirm, respond to and report on situations of trafficking in persons;

“27.  Reiterates its intention to integrate the issue of trafficking in persons in areas affected by armed conflict into the work of relevant Security Council Sanctions Committees where in accordance with their mandates, and expresses its intention to invite all relevant Special Representatives of the Secretary-General, including the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, to brief these sanctions committees, as necessary, in accordance with the Committee’s rules of procedure and to provide relevant information, including, if applicable, the names of individuals involved in the trafficking in persons who meet the committees’ designation criteria;

“28.  Also requests the Secretary-General to ensure that members of the monitoring groups, teams and panels supporting the work of relevant sanctions committees build their technical capacity to identify and report on instances of trafficking in persons encountered in the discharge of their duties and in accordance with their respective mandates, and further requests the Secretary-General to ensure that the monitoring and reporting arrangements on sexual violence in areas affected by armed conflict systematically collect data on conflict-related trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual violence or exploitation;

“29.  Invites the Secretary-General to ensure that the work of the investigative team established pursuant to resolution 2379 (2017) is informed by relevant anti‑trafficking research and expertise and that its efforts to collect evidence on trafficking in persons offences are gender-sensitive, victim centred, trauma-informed, rights-based and not prejudicial to the safety and security of victims;

“30.  Calls upon Member States to cooperate with the investigative team established pursuant to resolution 2379 (2017), including through mutual arrangements on legal assistance, where necessary and appropriate, and in particular to provide it with any relevant information as appropriate they may possess pertaining to its mandate under that resolution;

“31.  Calls upon United Nations system organizations to enhance transparency in their procurement and supply chains and step up their efforts to strengthen protections against trafficking in persons in all United Nations procurement and to that effect request major suppliers to establish and implement anti-human trafficking policies and disclose information on measures taken to counter trafficking in persons in their operations and supply chains;

“32.  Welcomes efforts aimed at developing a coordinated response within the United Nations System to prevent and counter trafficking in persons in situations of armed conflict and to protect its victims, and requests all United Nations entities involved in combating trafficking in persons to actively participate in the regular work of existing mechanisms, especially the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons which was established to foster coordination among United Nations entities and other international organizations;

“33.  Invites the Secretary-General to include in relevant regular reports on special political and peacekeeping missions, information on efforts undertaken, within their mandates, to assist the host-State’s institutions in preventing and combating trafficking in persons and in protecting and assisting victims of trafficking, in particular women and children;

“34.  Requests the Secretary-General to follow-up on the implementation of this resolution and report back to the Security Council on progress made within 12 months;

“35.  Decides to remain actively seized of this matter.”

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, 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

States Share Tactics for Tackling Social Customs Hampering Economic Equality, as Third Committee Concludes Debate on Women’s Advancement

Social customs and norms often erected barriers to women’s access to the resources needed for them to gain economic independence, speakers today told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), concluding discussions on the advancement of women.

Economic independence required access to labour markets, resources, such as funds and land, and social services, such as education and flexible work schemes, many delegates said.  Unfortunately, those resources were often out of reach for women because of deeply rooted social customs, said Eritrea’s representative.  That point was echoed by Namibia’s delegate who said societal norms continued to present barriers despite the significant legislative progress made in his country to benefit women.

However, the obstacles to economic independence were felt most acutely by rural women, speakers said.  Cabo Verde’s representative said rural women played important roles in agricultural production, land resource management and climate resilience but were affected disproportionately by poverty.  In the same vein, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See said a large proportion of young women in rural areas often bore the greatest burden when access to clean water and sanitation was not readily available.  Rural women were also more susceptible to risks of violence, sexual exploitation, child marriage and other violations, he added.

Elaborating on challenges, Zimbabwe’s delegate pointed out the majority of women in Africa worked in the agricultural and informal sectors where their rights were not fully protected.  Canada’s speaker highlighted that indigenous women, many who lived in rural and remote areas, tended to experience low income levels and high unemployment rates.

The delegates said societal norms that condoned gender discriminatory work policies had to be changed in order for women to exercise their rights to fair employment.  Costa Rica’s speaker said women were often overburdened by unpaid labour and there was a need to redistribute non-paid work between men and women.  Highlighting the issue of unequal pay between men and women, Iceland’s representative said her country was taking measures to require companies and institutions to certify that they paid all employees the same, adding that Iceland’s Equal Pay Standard had the potential to be used universally.

However, delegates stressed it was also important to recognize the strides that countries had made to ensure economic empowerment and independence of women.  Botswana had introduced a national gender programme that supported capacity‑building for gender equality and Tajikistan had developed an action plan to strengthen their employment and entrepreneurship while Kenya had rolled out programmes on gender and agriculture.

Many speakers described how they made progress.  Indonesia had implemented pro-women policies such as the National Programme for Community Empowerment and microloans and organized a women business network which had more than 30,000 members across 34 provinces.  Similarly, Namibia had introduced a national policy on micro, small and medium-sized enterprise which focused on economic empowerment of women.  To promote more inclusive workplaces, the Maldives had made it mandatory for all Government agencies, commissions and enterprises to fill corporate boards with 30 per cent women.  Likewise, Panama had established a gender equality stamp that established private sector policies which aimed to achieve equal participation of men and women and bridge the gender pay gap while fostering equal opportunity of men and women.

Some delegates pointed out that women had risen to leadership positions in the public sector.  Qatari women had been appointed ambassadors and ministers.  Tonga’s speaker said women made up about 54 per cent of the head officers of ministries and 50 per cent of the heads of diplomatic missions and consular posts.  In addition, in national elections to be held in November, there were more than 10 women running for office, an increase from previous years.

Afghanistan’s representative said there had been an unprecedented involvement of women in socioeconomic and political realms.  There were 69 elected women in Parliament, four female ministers, nine female deputy-ministers and five female ambassadors.  Similarly, in Burundi, women occupied more than 30 per cent of seats in Government.

Also speaking today were representatives from Monaco, Cuba, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Dominican Republic, Spain, Chile, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan, Bolivia, United Arab Emirates, Georgia, Turkey, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, Thailand, Bahrain, Jordan, Tunisia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Algeria, Rwanda, Madagascar, Azerbaijan, China, Guatemala, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, Hungary, India, Mauritania, Denmark, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ukraine, Congo, Nicaragua, Oman, Mali, Burkina Faso, Sudan, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Nepal, Bulgaria, Malawi, Kuwait, South Africa, Armenia, Timor-Leste, Libya, Ghana and Morocco, as well as the State of Palestine.  A representative of the Red Cross/Red Crescent societies also spoke, as did a representative of the International Labour Organization, and a representative speaking on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization, International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme.

Representatives of Japan, Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea spoke in exercise of the right to reply.

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Monday, 9 October, to begin its consideration of the rights of children.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian & Cultural) continued its debate on the advancement of women today.  For background information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4198 of 5 October.

ISABELLE F. PICCO (Monaco) said the numbers were clear: one woman in three had suffered physical or sexual violence during their life.  Statistics also showed that it was often the people closest to women who inflicted such suffering upon them.  Monaco had mobilized against this scourge by, among other measures, signing the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention).  Her country commended priority given to the elimination of violence against women, and welcomed the holding of a fifth world conference on women.  Noting that the United Nations had just held a high-level conference on trafficking of persons, she underscored that only the full implementation of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime would allow the international community to keep the promises made in the declaration.

EDGAR SISA (Botswana), associating himself the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said his country had established a national commission to ensure effective implementation, monitoring and evaluation of gender instruments and commitments.  The Government had also introduced other measures to promote gender equality and empowerment of women such as: a national gender programme which supported capacity-building for gender equality, women economic empowerment programmes which received a budget allocation of $3 million in 2017 and initiatives to fight gender-based violence while introducing a law to recognize sexual harassment.

Ms. AL-EMADI (Qatar), associating herself with the Group of 77, said promotion of women was central in her country’s policies.  Qatar’s Constitution ensured that women were not discriminated against and that they could participate in economic activities and political life and have access to social protection.  Her country was committed to fulfilling its commitments to international agreements which upheld the rights of women including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).  She added that Qatari women had made huge strides in society and had taken leadership positions such as becoming ambassadors and ministers.

MAHMADAMIN MAHMADAMINOV (Tajikistan), associating himself with the Group of 77, said his country had been undertaking comprehensive efforts to implement its gender policy aimed at providing equal rights and opportunities for women.  Tajikistan had among other measures adopted a law on the prevention of domestic violence, and had also developed an action plan to strengthen women’s employment and entrepreneurship.  Those measures demonstrated Tajikistan’s commitment to the implementation of the provisions of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.  As the Sustainable Development Goals were related to gender issues, it was incumbent upon the international community to work together to solve the problems hampering the attainment of those goals.

ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba) associated herself with the Group of 77, and said illiteracy disproportionately affected women, which was only one of the challenges facing women.  Cuba had made strides forward in advancing women, having enacted laws and other legal provisions guaranteeing rights and possibilities for women and men, redefining the role of women in society and in the family.  Cuba was also working to eliminate gender stereotypes.  Universal and free education was a right for all in Cuba, and that made it possible to significantly move forward with the eradication of all violence against women, including in the workplace.  Women’s rights to freely make choices about fertility were guaranteed in Cuba, and measures adopted in that sphere had never worked to the detriment of women’s rights.  Cuba desired to continue developing according to the principles outlined in the United Nations Charter.  Eradication of violence against women and girls required the end to all unilateral coercive measures.

MAYTHONG THAMMAVONGSA (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said his country was pursuing the empowerment of women and gender equality as a top priority through laws that provided guarantees of equality between men and women in politics, the economy, culture, society and the family.  It had also mainstreamed those efforts into its “Five-Year National Socio-economic Development Plan”, set up a national commission for the advancement of women, mothers and children, and reflected the goal of gender equality in policies relating to population, health and human resources.  In addition, the national budget law was amended in 2016 to allocate support for efforts to empower women in all public agencies and sectors.

ZEBIB GEBREKIDAN (Eritrea), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that despite normative and legislative progress in protecting the rights of women around the world, deeply rooted social customs stood in the way of empowerment of women and gender equality.  A lack of social services and multidimensional poverty was prevalent in rural areas and women and children were affected the most.  She said Eritrean women continued to face challenges such as climatic factors, social attitude and lack of human and institutional capacities in the implementation of programmes.  External factors such as regional insecurity, occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories and sanctions were also challenges.

NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon) said that women often bore the brunt of armed conflicts and highlighted the need to protect all rights of women from reproduction to education.  He said his country was committed to empowering women and eliminating violence against them.  It had tabled a draft law on sexual violence and amended its penal code which had previously allowed rapists to avoid prosecution if they married their victims.  Underscoring the country’s determination to work towards gender equality, he said that Lebanon was ready to work with international partners to achieve that goal.

LUZ DEL CARMEN ANDUJAR (Dominican Republic), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said her country had a vast array of public policy instruments which contributed towards solving the problems faced by women.  The Dominican Republic had taken great strides, having introduced working policies which had a crucial role to play in reducing gender gaps, as well as a number of policies in the field of employment and self-employment.  Regarding the issue of violence against women, a campaign, entitled “This Has to Change”, aimed to raise awareness of the issue.  As part of efforts to ensure gender was a cross-cutting issue, the Dominican Republic had undertaken a forum on the Sustainable Development Goals to present information to stakeholders on the role women could play in achieving Goal 5.  Women’s issues were human rights issues, and all people had to make an unstinting commitment to ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment.

SUSAN WANGECI MWANGI (Kenya), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that her Government’s ministries were obligated to mainstream the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goals on gender equality into all policy, planning and budgetary processes.  She described policies on economic empowerment, maternal health and access to education, particularly for vulnerable girls.  Programmes on gender and agriculture had enhanced joint decision-making, leading to reduced workload for women, access to and control over production resources and increased overall production.  Commenting that eradication of gender-based violence should be a priority for the international community, she stated that legal progress had allowed thousands of prosecutions of such violence.  Legislation was not enough, though.  Her country was also increasing awareness and strengthening protection of survivors.  With many challenges to gender equality remaining, there remained a need to address structural barriers that hindered women’s advancement and security.

INA HAGNININGTYAS KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said the responsibility to deliver the unfulfilled promise of gender equality was not only that of men or women, but of society.  Every country and society should have its own space to determine the best approach.  Women empowerment was a must, but empowerment through quota was only a starting point.  A greater role of female leaders in supporting leadership capacity for women was a vital component.  Indonesia’s Ministry for Women Empowerment and Child Protection had launched the 3ENDS programme.  That initiative aimed to end violence against women and girls, stop trafficking in persons and eradicate barriers to economic justice.  Pro-women policies had been implemented through the National Programme for Community Empowerment and microloans.  A women business network was being developed through the Indonesian Women’s Business Association (IWAPI), which now had more than 30,000 members across 34 provinces.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, emphasizing that poverty and location remained the greatest threats to the inclusion of girls in education, said rural women and girls living in poverty were at the greatest disadvantage in that regard.  In working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and promote the integral development of the poor, the basis material needs of every school-aged girl in rural areas must be addressed.  Young women in those areas were disproportionately involved in unpaid domestic work, bore the greatest burden when access to clean water and sanitation were not readily available and were most exposed to risks of violence, sexual exploitation, child marriage and other violations.  The global migration crisis and the vulnerability of migrant women were of major concern, he added, noting that while the global community bore a responsibility to protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees, millions of women and girls were still exploited by traffickers and manipulators along perilous routes and even within host communities.

Mr. BASTIDA (Spain) said his country was committed to ending violence against women and ensuring the empowerment of women and girls.  That could be seen in the formation of national strategies addressing violence against women and a plan for equal opportunity which ensured that rural women received help to progress in life.  On an international level, Spain was committed to enhancing the role of women in peace and security.  It had coordinated an international network in that regard and hoped that more members would join the network.  However, he noted that more work must be done to ensure gender equality.  To that end, Spain was committed to ensuring equal presence of men and women in decision-making positions and working multilaterally to achieve the goal of gender equality.

MAHMOUD SAIKAL (Afghanistan) said his country witnessed unprecedented involvement of women in the socioeconomic and political realms.  There were 69 elected women in Parliament, four female ministers, nine female deputy‑ministers and five female ambassadors.  At the international level, Afghanistan promoted the work of its national Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the Commission on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Attorney General’s office for combatting violence against women and the independent human rights commission.  The country also recently passed an anti-harassment law, criminalized harassment of women and was furthering efforts to reform the family law to increase the age of marriage to 18.  Afghanistan’s commitment to women was also exemplified in the national action plan on Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), the national peace and development framework and a national priority programme.

SAHAR ABUSHAWESH, State of Palestine, said countries all over the world had joined in solidarity with her people as they marked 50 years of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.  The impact of that had been catastrophic, and Palestinian women and girls faced additional hardships in the form of gender‑specific human rights violations stemming from Israel’s occupation.  Yet the State of Palestine continued to exert efforts aimed at implementing projects related to the rights of Palestinian women.  However, to truly protect women and achieve goals of their advancement, the international community had to assist Palestinian women and their families.  They had endured decades of suffering, and the international community needed to pave the way for Palestinian women and their families to live a life of freedom and dignity in their own independent State.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said his country was committed to making progress on Sustainable Development Goal 5.  Chile supported the appointment of the Ombudsman for Victims of Human Trafficking, he said, also noting the importance of fostering the equal participation of women and men within the United Nations system.  Women and girls should be empowered to achieve equality for all, and equal opportunities were a fundamental pillar of the work of the Chilean Government.  His country had enacted a law decriminalizing abortion on three specific grounds, and other achievements included gender quotas for candidates for political office.  Chile was aware of the role women played as architects of peace, and his country had been working to comply with Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000).

HELEN INGA S. VON ERNST (Iceland) said her country had experienced first‑hand the enormous potential of gender equality to reduce poverty, prevent crises, and end gender-based violence.  Iceland was concerned at the high number of reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and urged States to narrow or specify those reservations.  The international community needed to make use of women’s resources and talents, because without half the world’s participation, there would be no real progress.  Gender equality would not be achieved by 2030 if the issue continued to be discussed mainly among women, she said, adding that men needed to be involved.  Iceland was taking measures including requiring companies and institutions to certify that they paid all employees the same.  Iceland’s Equal Pay Standard had the potential to be used universally.

NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia) said his country had made significant legislative progress to benefit women, however, societal norms continued to present barriers. The prevalence of gender-based violence was estimated to be 33 per cent.  In response, Namibia enacted several laws and policies, including the 2003 Combating of Domestic Violence Act and the National Gender Policy for 2010 to 2020.  Through its Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, the Government prioritized campaigns to sensitize communities, including a “zero‑tolerance” campaign and the annual 15 days of activism against gender-based violence initiative.  The judiciary strengthened the prosecution process by imposing stiffer sentences for offenders, and victims were supported through a multisectoral intervention process.  The Fifth National Development Plan increased financial and human capacity of service providers for integrated prevention, protection and response services.  The Government also introduced a National Policy on Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprise for 2016 to 2021 which emphasized the economic empowerment of women, as well as numerous income generating programmes.

AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that the importance of gender mainstreaming had become even more urgent with recent rapid changes, including a sharp increase in natural hazards and the onset of bloody conflicts.  Women and children remained the most vulnerable to such events, while the former were also the key to change for the better.  In that context, Sri Lanka had taken significant steps to empower women as it emerged from its long civil conflict.  Multiple programmes were launched to benefit women-headed households.  In addition, women participated strongly in the national reconciliation process.  The Government had increased women-centred training in disaster preparedness and, during recent floods, partnerships between Government and women’s civil society groups boosted women’s leadership in recovery efforts.  He reaffirmed the country’s commitment to ensure women’s participation and leadership in all economic and social sectors.

JOSÉ LUIS FIALHO ROCHA (Cabo Verde), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said protecting the rights of women in rural areas deserved special attention.  They played an important role in agricultural production, land resource management and climate resilience.  However, women in rural areas were affected disproportionately by poverty.  He called on Governments to introduce policies which reflected the needs of rural women such as ensuring access to education and health service.  To that end, Cabo Verde   had ensured that its Constitution respected the rights of women and it had implemented policies and introduced institutional and legal frameworks to provide universal education, family planning and reproductive health-care services.  At the same time, gender parity was also deeply rooted in the country’s history.

AZAT SHAKIROV (Kazakhstan) said his country was committed to its progressive gender-and women-oriented State policy and programmes, including through its national commission on gender and family demographic policy.  Kazakhstan implemented a joint technical support programme, the outcomes of which would provide necessary indicators to further measures to prevent violence against women.  The country also undertook efforts to ensure women’s political participation and economic empowerment, and as a result, women hold 55 per cent of all State public offices, held 30 seats in Parliament and represented 48.4 per cent of total employment.  His country also successfully implemented its national plan of action and the strategy on gender equality for 2006 to 2016.  In 2017, the Government would adopt the 2030 concept of family and gender policy.

Mr. ZAMBRANA (Bolivia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said the feminization of poverty hindered the realization of rights of women.  States needed to implement the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, among other measures, and recognize that even within the United Nations, women were not yet fully empowered.  Over the last 10 years, Bolivia had made progress on the rights of women, with the introduction of gender‑neutral legal language.  Bolivia now had a law to guarantee women a life free of violence.  Recently, women could not vote, and they also had very little political representation.  But now, Bolivia had 67 women members of Parliament.  His country was looking to guarantee sustained peace, and aimed to achieve gender equality as well as women’s ability to access leadership positions.

Ms. AL JABRI (United Arab Emirates) said her country aimed to support women in all walks of life, and her nation’s current strategies were in line with international commitments.  Social and legal protection of women was provided through rules and legislation, which were particularly relevant in workplace relations.  A women’s union played an important role in the empowerment of women, and her country also tried to achieve a gender balance in leadership positions.  A supportive environment for women at work included the provision of all facilities to ensure their participation in the economy.  International efforts for the promotion of women within the field of peace and security included a foreign policy which considered the empowerment of women of prime importance.

MAHE’ULI’ULI SANDHURST TUPOUNIUA (Tonga) noted that economic empowerment was a priority issue for his Government, as evident by the higher percentages of women in the labour force.  Women made up about 54 per cent of the head officers of Government ministries and 50 per cent of the heads of diplomatic missions and consular posts.  In the national elections to be held in November, there were more than 10 women running for office, an increase from previous years.  The ongoing support of the Tongan Government to end violence against women was also a priority, and in that context, he highlighted the Tonga – UN-Women capacity-building project titled “Ending Violence Against Women” programme.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said countries had an important role to play in empowering women and eliminating all forms of violence.  To that end, Costa Rica’s Government had introduced national policies which aimed to achieve the full of integration of women in the workplace and provide equal political participation while ensuring access to social services such as reproductive services.  On the issue of work, he noted that women were often overburdened by unpaid labour and there was a need to redistribute non-paid work between men and women.  The Government had also reached out to specific groups of women such as those from indigenous communities to ensure that they could advance by participating in the labour market.  In addition, the Government recognized the link between violence and poverty and had introduced programmes to boost economic independence among women.

Ms. KIPIANI (Georgia), associating herself with the European Union, said her Government had introduced reforms to protect human rights and empower women.  Georgia had introduced national legislation to combat discrimination against women, which was in compliance with international standards such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  In addition, an inter-agency commission had been established to combat violence against women while legal framework and action plans had been introduced to address domestic violence and gender equality.  She said her country was committed to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  However, she noted that women living in occupied areas of Georgia were left out of programmes for sustainable development as they lacked access to medical services and education and faced obstacles to their freedom of movement.

MURAT UĞURLUOĞLU (Turkey) spoke of his Parliament’s commission for equal opportunity which worked to protect and develop women’s rights at the national and international levels, including through assistance to the United Nation’s Women’s Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia Region housed in Istanbul.  Similarly, Turkey carried out extensive legislative and practical protective work for combating violence against women.  The Government actively contributed to the elaboration of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.  Furthermore, it had established a national action plan on combating violence against women for 2016 to 2020, and created shelters, counselling centres and hotlines for victims.  Turkey also provided humanitarian, education and health needs for women and girls under temporary protection in the country, and undertook measures to prevent human trafficking.

ALBERT SHINGIRO (Burundi), associating himself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said his country had always shown a willingness to improve the representation of women, having promoted the development of a national gender policy and a national strategy to combat gender-based violence.  Women occupied more than 30 per cent of seats in Government, he said.  In education and training for women, a policy to reduce gender disparity had produced satisfactory results.  In health care, the extension of medical networks had contributed to reducing infant mortality.  Burundi reiterated its firm commitment to the promotion of equality between the sexes.

ALEXANDER TEMITOPE ADEYEMI AJAYI (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group, said the empowerment of women was vital to the transformation of the global economy.  No country could achieve its potential without women.  Nigeria had embarked on developing gender-based policies to enhance the position of women and girls.  Gender-responsive budgeting had positively impacted 3.6 million beneficiaries, he said, adding that the Government had established programmes for rural women, too.  Government empowerment measures had also led to the establishment of loan guarantee programmes, and pilot projects disbursed money to local trade associations with the aim of poverty reduction among rural women.  Policies being implemented aimed to promote women’s welfare, he said, adding that the international community should ensure cross-board gender parity and empowerment.

SHIUNEEN RASHEED (Maldives) said her country selected the advancement of women as a key policy priority, as seen in its national gender equality action plan and the Gender Equality Act.  Since 2014, it was mandatory for all Government agencies, commissions and enterprises to fill corporate boards with 30 per cent women.  The Maldives also introduced special loan schemes and women’s development committees to promote a more inclusive workforce.  Her country performed well on several gender parity indicators.  In regards to sexual and gender-based violence, it had enacted stringent laws and policies, such as the Domestic Violence Prevention Act of 2012, the Sexual Harassment and Abuse Prevention Act of 2014 and the Sexual Offences Act of 2014.  The Government also criminalized marital rape in 2014 and supported the call by the Special Rapporteur on violence against women for a global implementation plan on violence against women.

LAURA ELENA FLORES HERRERA (Panama), associating herself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said her country was committed to fostering gender equality.  Panama had established a gender equality stamp which established private sector policies which aimed to achieve equal participation of men and women and bridge the gender pay gap while fostering equal opportunity of men and women.  In the public sector, the Government was committed to ensuring that 30 per cent of public administration seats were occupied by women.  Her country had also made sure that domestic legislation to prevent gender-based violence was in line with international standards.

KANG SANGWOOK (Republic of Korea) said her country had enhanced women’s representation in public entities, reinforced the legal and policy architecture to combat gender-based violence and fostered public awareness for gender equality.  Several women ministers were appointed, including the first-ever female foreign minister, thereby meeting the initial target of a 30 per cent female cabinet.  On the international level, the Republic of Korea ensured a gender perspective in its development cooperation programmes while seeking to increase its overall official development assistance (ODA).  Sexual violence in conflict remained a priority concern, and to that end, the Government would spare no effort to prevent that heinous crime.  Similarly, her country contributed to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) and the Peacebuilding Support Office’s building back better project.  As the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, the Republic of Korea would additionally seek to better reflect gender perspectives in the advisory body’s activities.

Ms. KANJANASOON (Thailand), aligning herself with ASEAN, said it could never be overemphasized that gender equality and empowerment of women were indispensable to sustainable development.  Her country continued to improve domestic legislation and programmes to implement international standards and instruments and its Constitution gave priority to mainstreaming gender perspectives.  Thailand had been making progress in developing a gender-sensitive curriculum in education, collecting sex-disaggregated data and promoting gender-responsive budgeting.  Women accounted for 64 per cent of the workforce but there was still a need to increase their representation in the public sector, particularly at the executive level.  The problem of gender inequality must be addressed at its roots and discriminatory values and attitudes must be changed.

Mr. ALGHAREEB (Bahrain) said his country had sought to fulfil its international commitments regarding women.  Bahrain’s consolidated family law preserved the fabric of the family.  A supreme council would be the reference for all to implement a national plan regarding women.  Bahraini women had a great presence in the financial and banking sector, he said, adding that the high education levels of women enabled their participation in public life.  An award had been launched reflecting the pioneering role of Bahraini women and aimed at expressing the importance of women’s participation.  Bahrain looked forward to further work with the international community.

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), associating himself with the Africa Group and SADC, said his country had witnessed significant gender gaps in political, economic and social development programmes.  Most women in Zimbabwe and Africa were employed in the agricultural sector, where they constituted 80 per cent of the workforce.  Women employed outside of agriculture were confined to the informal sector, where they constituted 60 per cent of the workforce.  Zimbabwe had made several legislative, policy and administrative changes to ensure gender equality and the economic empowerment of women, including the establishment of a national gender commission.  The Government also established a domestic violence act in 2007.  Furthermore, it had victim-friendly police units at every police station and community-based shelters for survivors.  The Zimbabwe land reform and resettlement programme reserved a 20 per cent quota for women.  In the future, Zimbabwe hoped to launch a women’s microfinance bank and promote gender, media and technology as an objective in its national gender policy for 2017.

SAMAR SUKKAR (Jordan) said that her country had adopted several legislative amendments since 2015.  Those included new laws on parliamentary elections, decentralization and military retirement, as well as a regulation governing women’s shelters and legislation on protecting victims from domestic violence.  Her Government had recently endorsed a law on flexible working hours and was working to achieve gender pay equality.  Jordan’s Department of Statistics had also updated its national health sector database to prepare comprehensive sex‑disaggregated data.  Her country’s anti-trafficking unit played a key role in addressing human trafficking and the newly opened “Karamah” shelter provided care for trafficking victims.  The Jordanian Parliament also abolished the controversial article 308 of the penal code which allowed sexual assault perpetrators to escape punishment by marrying their victims.

Ms. ELMANSOURI (Tunisia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said gender equality was crucial to achieving a peaceful and prosperous world.  Her country worked towards that cause by putting in place a Constitution that guaranteed gender equality and introducing a law to combat all forms of violence against women.  In addition, her Government had used a gender-based approach when drawing up national policies on areas such as the labour market, professional advancement and training.  She said public-private partnerships and involving the civil society had been useful in empowering rural women.  Those partnerships had resulted in programmes which increased rural women’s access to work and technology.  In addition, a national plan on the economic advancement of rural women had been developed.

Ms. BOUCHER (Canada) said her country had for the first time begun to use a gender-based approach in its federal budget.  That meant that the budget was focused on the impact of Government investments on different groups of women and men and included measures to support greater gender equality.  In June, the Government had also announced a new strategy to prevent and address gender-based violence.  On the international front, Canada launched a feminist assistance policy placing women and girls at the heart of the country’s international efforts.  The policy entailed the advancement of sexual and reproductive health and rights while protecting them against acts of sexual- and gender-based coercion and violence.  Canada looked forward to working with Member States on advancing the rights of rural women, she said, noting that women living in rural and remote areas had lower employment rates and tended to have low income levels.  She said those challenges were particularly pronounced for indigenous women in Canada who made up a large part of the population living in rural and remote areas.

Mr. ALI (Pakistan), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the Constitution guaranteed equal rights for all citizens, with the Pakistan Vision 2025 serving as a blueprint for long-term and inclusive development.  Pakistan’s had mainstreamed a gender perspective into its sustainable development strategy and policies on education, climate change and disaster risk management.  Noting remaining challenges, he said Pakistan would continue to foster greater female participation in the workforce, expand social safety nets to women and enact legislation to protect them.

TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Group of 77, said remarkable success in the advancement of women included a national plan of action based on the Beijing Platform for Action.  Government sectors employed a significant number of women, and they also made up a significant proportion of the work force.  Bangladesh was building social awareness around violence against women and forced and early marriage, he said, adding that it had tabled the historic Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.  Women and girls were particularly vulnerable in any crisis situation, including the current situation involving hundreds of thousands of Myanmar nationals, he said, emphasizing that Member States needed to comply with their international obligations towards women.

NORA IMANE BELLOUT (Algeria), associating herself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said her country had acceded to the most important international human rights conventions and commitments related to women.  On the national level, various legal amendments ensured women’s increased chances of representation in elected assemblies, among other improvements.  All forms of violence were criminalized, including verbal abuse and psychological violence, she said.  Turning to economic issues, she noted that rural women contributed to many income-generating activities.  To develop public policy in that area, her Government had established a national council for the family and women.

Mr. KAYINAMURA (Rwanda), associating himself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said the Beijing Platform for Action remained the most comprehensive global policy framework for the full realization of women’s human rights.  However, deficiencies remained in the implementation of all 12 critical areas of concern.  In Rwanda, women made up a significant portion of all decision-making positions and were important contributors to the development of the nation.  Nevertheless, important gaps needed to be addressed.  Moreover, gender equality was not only part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but a business case worth trillions of dollars to the private sector.

HANTASOA FIDA CYRILLE KLEIN (Madagascar), associating herself with the African Group, said gender perspectives were prioritized in national development strategies.  In addition, legislative programmes were being enhanced to promote women’s empowerment and numerous legal aid services were being offered.  The Government also encouraged greater coordination with the private sector to raise awareness of women’s rights.  Every ministry had a gender focal point to mainstream gender issues into their programming, including at the community level.  Other initiatives included funding education grants, professional training centres for women and girls, awareness campaigns to combat early marriage and health programmes.  The Government had enhanced its five-year plan, enacted a new gender bill and strengthened its national action plan to fight trafficking.

LALA MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan) said the under-representation of women in public life and decision-making processes and other barriers continued to prevent women from reaching their full potential in all arenas of life.  Reaffirming Azerbaijan’s commitment to uphold all related international instruments, she said the 2030 Agenda and the Beijing Platform for Action had linked women empowerment to overall social development and economic growth.  For its part, Azerbaijan had adopted several initiatives, including increasing the number of female representatives in the National Assembly to 17 per cent in 2015 from 11 per cent in 2005.  At the municipal level, women represented 35 per cent of elected candidates in the 2014 elections.  Legislation was focused on providing equal access to education and health regardless of gender and guaranteeing equal opportunities and treatment in the workplace.  Violence against women was being tackled, she continued, adding that the creation of an online database on cases had helped to streamline data collection and analysis on the issue.

YAO SHAOJUN (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the full realization of gender equality had a long way to go.  The international community should formulate and improve strategies for women’s advancement and implement, in a comprehensive and balanced manner, those objectives in the 2030 Agenda.  It should also increase assistance to developing countries and give greater attention to the care and protection of special groups, including women with disabilities, elderly women and female victims of human trafficking.  In China, the Government ‑ having set gender equality as its basic national policy – was putting greater emphasis on the comprehensive advancement of women through legislation, regulations and initiatives to improve women’s health and equal access to education.

JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala), associating himself with CELAC, said nationwide, 50 per cent of the economic population was women and 53,000 women were business owners or partners.  A presidential secretariat for women had strengthened legal mechanisms to protect them and guarantee equal wages.  The Government also provided training and educational programmes, promoted the rights of female migrants, raised awareness of women’s rights in the workplace and aimed to end the practice of early and forced marriage.  Highlighting further progress stemming from laws against sexual violence and human trafficking, he said a new criminal code had ensured that human trafficking was considered a crime.  The Government sought to bolster women’s roles in peace and security operations and, to that end, had established an institutional bureau on the issue, and developed a national action plan.

KAMBA DOUTI (Togo) said the rights of women, particularly in education and health initiatives, had been prioritized in national programmes.  Citing examples, he said a tuition-reduction project had resulted in an 83 per cent educational completion rate for women and subsidies had aimed at providing employment and training opportunities, particularly for women in rural areas.  The country also created literacy centres and libraries to bolster women’s literacy rates, and had intensified economic growth through women’s increased participation in employment programmes.  A national female entrepreneurship programme had been launched and access to financial services had been enhanced.  The proportion of seats occupied by women reached 15.3 per cent in the National Assembly.  Highlighting health gains, he reported a decrease of 30 per cent in maternal mortality.

BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire), associating himself with the African Group and with the Group of 77, said that where they once had been disadvantaged, women were now seeing significant progress, even if challenges still existed.  Nationally, women’s access to credit had been facilitated with a support fund.  Important reforms in education included a law making it obligatory for girls to go to school.  Gender equality had been established in Côte d’Ivoire’s Constitutional Council.  Meanwhile, the Government intended to eliminate all forms of discrimination and improve women’s legal status and rights.  The problems of gender equality should be approached from a perspective of human rights, as equality between women and men was needed to break down stereotypes.

MAGDOLNA PONGOR (Hungary) associating herself with the European Union, noted her country’s support for international efforts toward ensuring a future where women were safe from violence and empowered through education.  Some of Hungary’s achievements included a programme providing specialized psychological and legal advice and another offering protected accommodation for women in need.  Eliminating poverty and reducing inequality were prerequisites for women’s empowerment, she said.  Hungarian action on individual Sustainable Development Goals included a programme aimed at keeping Roma girls in school and efforts to partner with local authorities and the private sector to create an enabling environment for the advancement of women in society.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) said the principle of gender equality and empowerment of women in its Constitution and more than 1.3 million elected women representatives at the local Government level were helping to formulate and implement gender-sensitive policies.  Women also held several key positions, such as the Speaker of the Lower House of the Indian Parliament, and ministerial positions, serving as role models.  Various programmes for poverty eradication and financial inclusion had focused on empowerment and women comprised more than 70 per cent of beneficiaries of credit to small enterprises.  India was also committed to eradicating violence against women and girls through several protection and prevention measures while initiatives had been launched to curb trafficking and sexual exploitation.  India also promoted cooperation with the United Nations system and contributed to the voluntary fund for UN-Women since its inception.

EL KHALIL EL HACEN (Mauritania), associating himself with the African Group and Group of 77, said women were given special places in national social programmes and the Constitution stipulated that gender equality was law, guaranteeing women’s equal rights.  The Government had adopted all relevant international instruments and conventions, while strengthening legal mechanisms to empower women.  It had also criminalized all forms of violence against women and ensured equal retirement rights.  Women also played a key role in the executive, legislative and judiciary branches, including in the armed forces.  On economic empowerment, women had easy access to the labour market and business credit, particularly in rural areas.  The Government also undertook initiatives to promote women’s health and education.

Ms. HALVORSEN (Denmark), associating herself with the European Union, said the Government promoted progressive and human rights-based approaches for women’s equal rights, particularly in sexual and reproductive matters.  Denmark was one of the founding members of the She Decides movement and Government efforts addressed a range of issues, including youth empowerment.  The Danish Youth Council had worked in partnership with numerous Government agencies and local youth stakeholders, promoting a gender perspective in all its programmes.  To that end, she called for greater linkages between gender and youth empowerment initiatives, as the fields remained intertwined.

JA SONG NAM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said women were making significant contributions to social development.  Recalling that Japan had forced 200,000 Korean women and girls into sexual slavery during the Second World War, he said Japan must duly admit its State and legal responsibility for that crime against humanity, make an official and sincere apology and provide compensation.  He also said that two years had passed since gangsters of the Republic of Korea’s intelligence service abducted 12 women citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea abroad.  If those authorities sincerely wished for national reconciliation, unity and reunification, they must apologize and return the abducted women without delay, he said.

DARYNA HORBACHOVA (Ukraine), associating herself with the European Union, highlighted improved and strengthened national legislative and policy frameworks with regard to gender equality.  The Government efforts included raising gender-related issues at a higher political level.  Women’s participation and leadership must also be included in all aspects of peace and security initiatives, as well as post‑conflict recovery and reconstruction.  Ukrainian women had become critical agents of change in the face of the Russian Federation’s aggression.  The inter-party caucus, Equal Opportunities, continued to lobby legislative initiatives to defend equality in Parliament.  Advancing women’s rights, and particularly empowering them economically, was vital not only to women, but for the national security and economic growth of every country.  “We are convinced that none of the world’s most pressing economic, social and political problems can be resolved without full participation of women,” she added.

LAURIA NGUELE MAKOUELET (Congo), associating herself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said empowerment of women and girls and the elimination of violence against women were national objectives.  Legislative, local and senatorial elections had shown commitment to Congolese women, she said, as a quota for their inclusion had been set.  In spite of encouraging results, the entire population needed to act against inequalities.  Congo was committed to the advancement of women and to combat all forms of discrimination against them, she said.  The Government would continue to combat stereotypes to achieve the objectives of sustainable development, as they were linked to gender.

JUANA SANDOVAL (Nicaragua), associating herself with CELAC and the Group of 77, said her Government was committed to all international obligations arising from instruments her country was party to.  In Nicaragua, important and significant changes were occurring, and women were central to those changes.  Laws and public policies ensured that women had more and more rights, she said, adding that 52 per cent of civil servants were women.  Among a range of actions, Nicaragua had improved their quality of life and health care for those in rural areas.  Her Government continued striving to achieve women’s empowerment, she said, as that was crucial for social and economic development.

SULAIMAN SALIM MOHAMED AL-ABDALI (Oman) said that nationally, women constituted the majority in education programmes and labour markets.  Oman celebrated a national day of women each year on 7 October.  Women held posts in public administration, and in the private and public sectors.  Women also held the right to vote and to run as political candidates.  They benefited equally from governmental housing assistance, and the Government upheld numerous laws to protect them from all forms of discrimination.  In addition, women were also awarded 50 days of paid maternal leave.

NOËL DIARRA (Mali), associating himself with the African Group and Group of 77, said numerous measures had been adopted to improve the legal, economic and social status of women.  The Government passed a national gender policy that encouraged greater representation of women in decision-making policies, public administration and in the security and armed forces.  A law required a minimum of 30 per cent of elective and normative posts be held by women, thus they made up 31 per cent of candidates in the 2016 communal elections.  The Government continued numerous initiatives to eradicate discriminatory sociocultural practices, established a fund for the empowerment of women and a programme to support women in business and trade.  In March 2017, the country launched a competency programme to foster women’s participation in business management.  Among other efforts, Mali also adopted several policies to strengthen the social protection of women, namely through obligatory health insurance and assistance programmes to facilitate access to services.

MARIAME FOFAMA (Burkina Faso), associating herself with the African Group and Group of 77, said that as women made up half the population of most countries, there was a fundamental need to ensure that harmonious development was inclusive.  Burkina Faso had committed itself to the empowerment of women, prompting outstanding progress, including the adoption of a law in regard to rural property and a national education strategy for women and girls.  Those achievements should not obscure the need for further progress and a plan of action was now promoting women’s entrepreneurship and other initiatives.  No development could be sustainable without the inclusion of women, and all actors needed to work together to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ms. MUKHTAR (Sudan), associating herself with the African Group and Group of 77, said strategies were promoting the role of women in society and a section of the national development plan focused specifically on women.  A national policy to promote women dealt with issues including economic development, conflict resolution and the protection of rights.  The State guaranteed equal rights for men and women, including equal pay for equal work.  Sudan had a strategy to fight violence against women, with a special police unit protecting women and children.  The Government had also created a unit within the demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration commission to support women.

MAYRA LISSETH SORTO ROSALES (El Salvador), associating herself with CELAC and the Group of 77, said a national law prohibited discrimination of women and the number of institutions with gender policies has increased by 22 per cent, with several undertaking awareness-raising campaigns to promote gender quality.  Similarly, the Government disseminated information about relevant gender-related laws to the public.  In June 2017, El Salvador had launched a national action plan on women, peace and security to advance their participation in peacebuilding initiatives.  As a member of the CELAC working group on the advancement of women, El Salvador enhanced efforts to address the needs of vulnerable and migrant women and youth access to health care, including sexual and reproductive health services.  Despite significant progress made in eradicating gender-based discrimination, she called for greater coordination on that issue on national, regional and international levels.

HAILESELASSIE SUBBA GEBRU (Ethiopia), associating himself with the African Group and Group of 77, said the Constitution had guided the second growth and transformation plan, which included a gender perspective to ensure women’s participation in governance and socioeconomic and development processes.  Harmful traditional practices continued to negatively impact the conditions of women, however, the Government undertook a number of initiatives to criminalize and raise awareness of such practices.  An all-inclusive strategy and action plan was designed to prevent and eradicate violence against women and girls, while ensuring justice.  Due in part to policy interventions, about 52 per cent of urban condominium apartments were owned by women and urban development packages reserved 50 per cent of job opportunities for women.  Policies in education and health sectors had resulted in significant gains for girls at all education levels.  An ongoing health extension programme succeeded in deploying over 41,000 health extension workers, of which 98 per cent were female.

NIRMAL RAJ KAFLE (Nepal), associating himself with the Group of 77, said gender disparity continued to grow and violence against women persisted despite enormous progress in protecting their rights.  Rural women were more susceptible to gender disparity and violence as they lacked access to social protection.  Nepal was committed to ensuring the rights of women in areas such as education and employment.  The Constitution ensured that 33 per cent of women held positions at the federal Government level while recent elections had resulted in women winning half of the offices at the local level.  Nepal was also implementing a national plan of action to ensure that it met requirements set out by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and had made significant progress in improving literacy rates and maternal health as a part of the Millennium Development Goals.

GEORGI VELIKOV PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria), associating himself with the European Union, said gender equality had been mainstreamed into national legislation, policies and programmes.  In 2016, the Government had adopted a law on equality between women and men and had signed the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.  Bulgaria had increased the participation of women in the labour market, including through legislative and policy measures.  Those achievements had resulted from long-term, sustained and coordinated policies, he said, adding that civil society had also played a crucial role by participating in the elaboration of legislation.

LOT THAUZENI PANSIPADANA DZONZI (Malawi), associating himself with the African Group, Group of 77 and SADC, said strong commitments had been made to achieve gender equality and women empowerment through the implementation of various national initiatives.  Outlining some achievements, he said efforts had included disseminating gender-related laws to traditional authorities, rolling out a module on gender-based violence as part of an integrated information management system, implementing a nationwide strategy to enhance HeforShe initiatives and training 389 groups of women in business skills.

Ms. ALFUHAID (Kuwait), associating herself with the Group of 77, and noted a policy of empowerment had been adopted alongside the 2030 Agenda.  Kuwait encouraged women to participate in all sectors of society, including civil society, and more than 55 women held senior Government positions and increasing numbers in the public sector.  Kuwait had sought to revitalize the role of women by implementing projects for their empowerment and reviewing all legislation.  Development in societies could not be done with just one gender’s participation; Kuwait was keen to support women’s equal status with men to enhance national development through cooperation with all relevant international agencies.

Mr. HENDRICKS (South Africa), associating himself with the African Group, Group of 77 and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the advancement of women had been a priority for the Government since the advent of democracy in the country.  As women continued to be disproportionately affected by poverty, South Africa prioritized policies that aimed at assisting them, particularly those facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.  Ending violence against women should be a priority for all.  For its part, South Africa had a range of legislative measures to address domestic abuse, sexual offenses, trafficking and other forms of violence, he said, calling for intensified implementation efforts of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

LILIT GRIGORYAN (Armenia) said national efforts included executive and legislative reforms and an action plans related to the advancement of women.  Recent amendments to the electoral code had also reinforced measures to promote the participation of women in decision-making processes.  In addition, laws had aimed at identifying and assisting victims of trafficking and human exploitation and ensure the equal rights and opportunities of women.  In 2016, by a decree of the Prime Minister, a working group had been set up to draft a law on domestic violence and protection of victims.  That law had been finalized in August and submitted to the President for consideration.

MANUEL DA COSTA E SILVA (Timor-Leste), aligning himself with ASEAN and the Group of 77, said he was encouraged by the increased participation of women in decision-making processes, which had increased their influence and presence in all sectors of development.  Outlining national progress on the empowerment of women and the promotion of gender equality, he said gains included the adoption of laws to protect women’s rights and to encourage their involvement in politics.  Meanwhile, to combat violence against women, Timor-Leste had enacted a law against domestic violence, which codified it as a public crime.  Nevertheless, changing societal attitudes and stereotypes was a long process that required generational change, he said, noting the importance of education in that regard.

Ms. ALAMIN (Libya), associating herself with the African Group and Group of 77, said Libyan authorities were committed to fighting discrimination against women.  Women had the right to enjoy their rights, as enshrined in international instruments, she said, emphasizing that Libya was committed to implementing all relevant international commitments.  She condemned of all forms of violence against women, including in the workplaces, as it affected women in all societies.  Raising other concerns, she said human trafficking, especially of migrant women, was a crime against humanity.  Mentioning areas that were receiving special attention, she said Libyan women’s participation in decision-making was still not as high as could be desired, but the new Constitution would help to eliminate discrimination between men and women.  In addition, training and education were critical.

FAWAZ ALIU (Ghana), associating himself with the African Group and Group of 77, said policies to enhance women empowerment and advancement of women across sectors had been established.  In addition, the Government had implemented special measures to assist rural women, providing them with access to credit, loans and skills development programmes.  Other measures included campaigns against child marriage and female genital mutilation.  As part of a free senior high school education policy, thousands of young people would get access to secondary education.  Ghana’s health sector gender policy offered access to free maternal care services, which had contributed to a decline in maternal mortality.

Ms. HAIDOUR (Morocco) said several challenges stood in the way of gender equality and empowerment of women.  She pointed out that significant disparity in school enrolment rates existed between boys and girls while some women lacked crucial health-care services such as maternal health which had led to high infant mortality rates.  She also highlighted the prevalence of HIV and AIDS among women.  However, it was also important to recognize the progress that had been made in protecting the rights of women from all strata and regions in Morocco, she said.  The Government had made protecting the rights of women a priority and introduced measures such as reforming the family code and enshrining gender equality in the Constitution while also outlawing discrimination in the country’s legislation.

ANNE CHRISTENSEN of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the debate on the advancement of women had to recognize the imperative of supporting women and girls to “survive, thrive and transform” in all countries.  The international community had to do better in reaching those in fragile settings, and one approach could be through investing more in the institutional capacity of local actors.  Turning to the issue of protecting women and children on the move, she described some programmes implemented at the national level, such as a cash-transfer programme in Greece that included identifying gender-related needs.  States should ensure that vulnerable migrants received assistance and protection, regardless of their legal status.  The distinct needs of women and girls needed to be addressed as part of the new global compact on refugees and for safe, orderly and regular migration.

KEVIN CASSIDY of the International Labour Organization (ILO) said the significant progress that women had made in educational achievements had not translated into comparable improvement in their position at work.  In many regions around the world, women were more likely to remain unemployed, had fewer chances to participate in the labour force and were more likely to accept lower quality jobs.  Even in many countries where gaps in labour force participation and employment had narrowed, the quality of jobs taken up by women remained an issue.  The ILO had launched research initiatives to better understand the status and work conditions of women and teamed up with Gallup World Poll to develop a first-ever account of global perceptions and realities of men and women regarding work.

Ms. ELLIOTT, speaking on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and World Food Programme (WFP), said discrimination, particularly in rural areas, directly impacted the health, well-being and economic situation of women and their families, and perpetuated cycles of poverty and hunger.  Environmental degradation and climate change disproportionately impacted poor rural women, and they were also more at risk of hunger and malnutrition.  In responding to those challenges, women were more likely to resort to negative coping strategies.  He called upon the international community to acknowledge the strengths, capacities, networks and resiliency of women.  The work of the Rome-based agencies promoted the engagement and leadership of rural women and their communities, including through successful initiatives to address food waste, and invigorate gender-responsive climate-smart agricultural practices and interventions.

Right of Reply

The representative of Japan, responding to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said that allegations and figures cited by that country were totally groundless.

The representative of Republic of Korea, responding to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said that through the assistance of Seoul, more than 30,000 North Korean defectors had settled in his country.  Pyongyang was urged to improve the human rights situation of its people rather than pursuing nuclear development.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, responding to Japan, said it was universally accepted that that country forced thousands of women to be sex slaves during the Second World War.  He called on Japan to unconditionally admit that heinous crime.  Turning to the issue of the abduction of 12 women from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by the Republic of Korea, he said that Seoul had refused to provide information on the victims.  He called on the United Nations to uphold its human rights mechanisms and hold the South Korean authorities accountable for their crimes.

The representative of Japan said he refrained from going into a detailed rebuttal.  However, he reiterated that, for more than 70 years, since the end of the Second World War, Japan had become a democratic and peace loving nation committed to the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region.

The representative of the Republic of Korea urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to change its policies to improve the human rights situation and to implement United Nations resolutions regarding the issue of human rights.

The representative of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that Japan was engaged in deceptive behaviour to cover up brutal sex slavery crimes.  As long as it denied the crime, Japan would not be accepted by the international community as a real, peace-loving country.  Turning to the Republic of Korea, he said it was South Korean authorities which had committed the real human rights violations, citing the existence of “fascist evil laws” and world records in high numbers of suicides.  South Korean authorities should put an end to the human rights campaign against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and focus on its own behaviour.