Nordic statement by H.E. Ms. Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden,in the Security Council on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

Mr. President,

I have the honour to speak today on behalf of the Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

First, let me thank the Assistant Secretary-General Kyung-wha Kang and Dr Helen Durham from the ICRC. I would also like to thank, in particular, Ms Ilwad Elman from the Women, Peace and Security working group. The role and influence of civil society in preventing conflict and building peace are essential and must be supported.

For more than 150 years, the international community has been in agreement that warfare should be made less inhumane, through the rules and principles of international humanitarian law. Civilians should be protected in armed conflict. We need to prevent and to respond to mass atrocity crimes, in accordance with the Responsibility to Protect. However, these rules and principles are challenged and sometimes even ignored. Civilians are particularly exposed in today’s complex and often protracted conflicts, as we have seen in the Middle East and in West and Central Africa. This is for instance the case in Syria (and Iraq) where hospitals and schools are being made the actual targets of warfare. This must stop.

Women, men, girls and boys face different threats and difficulties during and after conflict. International humanitarian law does not always assist in addressing these threats and difficulties. The laws of war were written during a time when only men were defined as combatants and the responsibilities of women were seen as far distant from the battlefield. A stronger gender perspective needs to be applied to international humanitarian law.

Mr. President,

Women and especially girls are particularly exposed to violence in conflict. Violence against women affects a third of all women globally. The violence is often amplified in areas affected by conflict. As we see in many parts of the world today, extremism and terrorism are prominent features of conflict situations, often constituting new kinds of threats to women’s rights and lives and causing flight and displacement.  We need to prevent and combat these violations of women and girls’ fundamental human rights.

Gender inequalities lie at the heart of the issue. Progress on gender equality and women’s rights is a goal in its own right but it also remains a critical factor in achieving poverty reduction and sustainable development. Furthermore gender equality helps to prevent sexual violence in/and armed conflicts. We must therefore firmly address the root causes of gender inequality. This includes changing laws, norms, practices and attitudes in societies that are denying women and girls’ human rights. It also means pursuing laws, including equal rights to inheritance, and policies that ensure women’s political and economic empowerment, secure sexual and reproductive health and rights and policies that improve women’s security. And not least, we must guarantee the right to quality education for all women and girls.

The fight against impunity for sexual and gender-based violence is also crucial. Each state has a duty and a responsibility to investigate and prosecute such crimes. It is primarily at the domestic level that solutions to the impunity gap must be found. The role of the International Criminal Court is complementary, but nevertheless crucial in ensuring that accountability is achieved. We therefore welcome and support the undertakings and in particular the special policy of the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in in order to more efficiently investigate and prosecute SGBV crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court. We furthermore recall the unique capacity of Justice Rapid Response, in close cooperation with UN Women, to address situations where expertise is needed for investigating SGBV crimes.

Mr. President,

Women are first and foremost actors and agents of change. Sustainable peace and security can never be achieved if half the population is excluded. In excluding women, we are also excluding the contribution of those sectors of society which are considered as feminine or to be women's duties. These often include raising children, education, health care, and taking care of the elderly. When these sectors, which are vital to the long-term success of nations, are not adequately represented in decision-making, it is to the detriment of peace and security. We need the participation of both women and men in formal and informal processes, in mediation, peace negotiations, and humanitarian and peace-building efforts to bring in new angles, solutions and perspectives to problems.

Mr. President,

This year provides an unique opportunity to assess and accelerate the implementation of the WPS agenda. Currently, several critical reviews are under way, including the UN Secretary-General review of peace operations, the review of the UN’s peacebuilding architecture, the review of the Beijing Platform for Action and the High-level Review of Resolution 1325. In order to ensure coherence, all these reviews and especially their recommendations and outcomes should take into account the implementation of 1325 objectives in a coordinated manner. To promote the Women, Peace and Security agenda is not an isolated issue. On the contrary, it is a major part of the Peace and Security agenda.

Mr.President,

Although there has been an increase in the number of mandates of UN missions that include references to women, peace and security, this is not enough. All mandates should be based on a gender-sensitive conflict analysis in order to also be tailored to the security needs and ensuring the participation of women and girls. Gender issues should be part of reporting requirements and all UN missions should have a gender advisor at the strategic level, supplied with resources respective to his/her tasks. Leadership is critical in ensuring progress on this agenda, at the highest levels of the UN, as in member states.

Lastly, I would like to underline the importance of the Post-2015 Agenda. Among others, the Nordic countries support the gender equality goal (Goal 5) and the goal on freedom from violence and peaceful societies (Goal 16) proposed by the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development, which together includes targets concerning the prevention of all kinds of violence, including violence against women and girls. We believe that the Post-2015 Agenda represents a unique opportunity to address violence against women, including sexual violence, on a fundamental level. It is a chance to make real progress!               

Thank you.