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Holy See: More Must be Done to Protect Women in Conflict

UN Intervention Delivered by Monsignor David Charters

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On November 4, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, gave a statement before the United Nations Security Council during the Open Debate dedicated to “Women, Peace, and Security” The intervention was delivered by Monsignor David Charters.

He said that next year marks the twentieth anniversary of the Security Council Resolution 1325, focused on Women, Peace, and Security. He welcomed the progress that has been made but said that more needs to be done to ensure that the contribution of women is recognized and valued. He spoke about the difficult situation faced by girls and women living in war-torn areas of the world who often suffer through sexual violence being used as a weapon of war and from forced displacement and lack of access to healthcare, sanitation. Resolution 1325 recognizes the unique role and abilities of women in promoting reconciliation, he said and encourages their participation both within their local communities as well as on a national and international stage. He recalled the selfless and tireless work of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the work of the sisters of the Talitha Kum network, underlining how the efforts of such women help to build a culture of peace and to foster the recognition of the unique dignity of all human persons.

The Archbishop’s Full Intervention

Madam President,

My Delegation would like to thank the Presidency of the United Kingdom for reconvening today’s Open Debate on Women, Peace, and Security.

Next year will mark the twentieth anniversary of the landmark Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security. Progress has been made during the years that have elapsed since its adoption. Women’s voices are increasingly heard and, in many places, more space is being given for their unique contribution in the pursuit of peace and reconciliation. However, much remains to be done to increase women’s representation in this important area. Pope Francis has recently commented on “the great differences that still mark the condition of women in the world, which stem mainly from socio-cultural factors.[1]

In situations of conflict, women, who are seldom the cause or the perpetrators of violence, are often the first to be victimized. They bear the brunt of the negative effects of conflict such as forced displacement and lack of basic goods and essential services, such as clean water and adequate sanitation. This has a detrimental effect on their health and well-being and that of those in their care. They also find themselves frequently excluded from the conversations and programs that seek to work out solutions that serve the cause of lasting peace.

Madam President,

We know of the impact of armed conflict on women and girls. Sadly, our attention is all too often drawn to the problem of sexual violence used as a weapon of war. This must be, at all times and in all places, firmly condemned. More effective efforts must be made to ensure that such heinous crimes are not committed. Perpetrators must be brought to justice. Widespread impunity for such actions, as is still the case in situations of conflict, must be addressed if such crimes are to decrease.

In situations of conflict and tension around the world, however, we must never forget that women are not only victims. Women also have an essential and irreplaceable role as protagonists in the promotion of peace and reconciliation at the grassroots level, especially within the family and local community. Their uniquely feminine sense for the pulse of difficult situations makes them capable of expressing the concerns and aspirations of those communities in ways that complement and improve upon the contributions made by men. It is important that their irreplaceable genius and expertise be harnessed in national, regional and international decision-making. To exclude the full participation of women at every stage and aspect of the peace processes would be to fail the commitments made since the passage of Resolution 1325. In this regard, the Holy See takes note of the decision to make UN Peacekeeping Operations more sensitive to the basic needs of women and girls, both to ensure the protection of those who find themselves in situations of conflict as well as to facilitate the presence of uniformed women within the peacekeeping missions. As Pope Francis affirmed recently, “If we take to heart the importance of the future [and] if we dream of a future peace, we need to give space to women.”[2]

Madam President,

It has been forty years since Mother Teresa of Calcutta won the Nobel Prize for Peace. She was known for her selfless work and for her tireless commitment to the poorest of the poor, the abandoned, the unborn, the dying and others whom society leaves behind today. Each day, in often very hidden and humble ways, all around the world, thousands of Catholic women religious work to ensure the promotion of the dignity and advancement of women and girls; an important, albeit unsung element of building and maintaining peaceful societies. The work of the women in these religious institutes also answers the needs and challenges of the horror of human trafficking and the other abuses that women, men, boys and girls endure. Amid very complex and tragic situations, the “Talitha Kum” international network of Catholic sisters, since its founding 10 years ago, has assisted more than 15,000 victims and reached out to some 200,000 more through its awareness-raising and prevention initiatives.[3] These women of peace and solidarity, inside and outside of situations of conflict, race to assist those who suffer the consequences of wars and underdevelopment and give an example to the entire international community of grappling with the root causes of conflict and inequality.

Madam President,

In fulfilling its critical responsibility to promote and maintain international peace and security, the Security Council must ensure that the women, peace and security agenda receives more than verbal commitments. Instead, it must ensure that policies and programs are founded and implemented at all levels to foster the incorporation of women into the peace processes and bring deeper, more profound, lasting results for the good of all.

Thank you for your kind attention.

1. Pope Francis, Address to the Participants in the First General Assembly of “Talitha Kum”, the International Network of Consecrated Life against Human Trafficking, Vatican, 26 September 2019.

2. Pope Francis, Address to Members of the American Jewish Committee, 8 March 2019.

3. Pope Francis, Address to the Participants in the First General Assembly of “Talitha Kum”, note 1 supra.

Copyright © 2019 Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, All rights reserved.

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